Tran Wills is a Born Entrepreneur

Tran Wills, founder of the nontoxic Base Coat Nail Salon, saw a need and decided to fill it


The Wills family. Photo by Tatum Olsen

Picture a businesswoman who has launched three companies, and you might not imagine Tran Wills, founder of Base Coat Nail Salon. A mom of four married to her high school sweetheart, Josh Wills, she has been exceeding expectations since she was 16 years old, homeless and pregnant with her first child, Noah.

“I was abused growing up and, by 15, was basically a gypsy,” she says. “When Josh, my now husband, and I found out I was pregnant, his parents took me in. I knew the statistics and was determined to not be part of them. When I started getting looks at school, I thought, this is just a bump in the road—I’ll show you all … Growing up like that was hard, but it’s what made me who I am today.”

Wills is an entrepreneur. At 19, she and Josh opened Fabric Lab, the first boutique in Denver to showcase exclusive fashion from local designers (it helped that renting space for the business was cheaper than daycare for their kids). In 2013, they opened Svper Ordinary (now closed) in The Source, a gallery and boutique that hosted monthly workshops and events. That same year, Tran, whose parents moved here from Vietnam, founded Denver’s first nontoxic nail spa, now in four locations.


The interior of the Stapleton Base Coat Nail Salon. Photo by Chandler Kim

“I was pregnant with my youngest and wanted to get a mani and pedi before I had him,” she recalls. “I walked into a salon and my nose started bleeding. I thought I was being hypersensitive, but then I thought about how my mom would come home with headaches from doing nails all day. I looked for a nontoxic salon that was middle of the road, not a luxury spa, and couldn’t find one. That’s how Base Coat came to be.”

Josh, a graphic designer, has been the perfect partner: “We never expected we’d own businesses together, but it’s because of him that I was able to do this. At Fabric Lab, he’d get off work and come help me paint or he’d do graphic design work and then go to his real job.”

And her kids are her ultimate motivators. “I want them to see that you can actually make a living doing what you love,” she says. “It’s going to be hard just like any job, but being an entrepreneur isn’t scary.”

1. Keep a pumice stone in the shower and scrub calluses every other day.
2. Buy a great body or foot scrub and exfoliate your feet and legs once a week.

1. Stay hydrated inside and out. Drinking plenty of water keeps skin soft and nails strong.
2. A great unscented moisturizer and cuticle oil should be your best friends year-round, but especially during the summer, when your feet are out in the open. They will help keep polish from chipping.
3. Avoid going barefoot as much as possible.
4. Don’t dip your toes in a pool for long. Chlorine can cause polish to crack and dry out your cuticles.

1. Use a solid top and base coat, removing as much oil from your nail bed as possible with alcohol before applying the base coat.
2. Paint the top edge of your nails when polishing.
3. Remember that even though your polish may be dry to the touch, it takes a full 12 to 24 hours to fully harden and set. Keep your feet free from shoes to avoid smudging. 

Locations: LoHi: 3244 Navajo St.
Stanley Marketplace: 2501 Dallas St., Aurora
Downtown Los Angeles Fairfax, Los Angeles

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