When Art Meets Business, Work’s a Vacation

Eimsuk Arminio combines a background in commercial art and a love of nails to make her work successful beyond the salon.

Eimsuk Arminio's nail art has captured media attention, including that of television shows 2 on the Town and Ripley's Believe It Or Not.
<p>Eimsuk Arminio's nail art has captured media attention, including that of television shows 2 on the Town and Ripley's Believe It Or Not.</p>
Walking into Eimsuk Arminio’s Nail, Hair & Skin Care Gallery in Downey, Calif., is like walking into a Beverly Hills boutique. The interior — black, white, and red furnishings, plenty of space devoted to retail, and original artwork on the walls — evokes an air of elegance topped only by the professional, friendly service of the receptionists, nail technicians, and hairstylists. A client entering the salon is welcomed as part of the family.

Responsible for that warm, friendly environment is Eimsuk Arminio, who believes that staff happiness builds solid client relationships and encourages employees to stay with the salon. “Do what you love, love what you do, and deliver more than you promise,” is Arminio’s motto, which is the first thing each new employee reads in her handbook.

“Happiness is more important than money,” Arminio says. ‘You can have a lot of money and feel really good, but if you’re happy with your work, its as if you’re paid double.”

Arminio, sitting in her high-tech black and white office with a Rivera Diego print on the wall, says she works round the clock to manage her business. In addition to overseeing salon finances and training technicians, she spends a lot of time designing fliers for her line of decals, painting portraits of her staff, and — her real love — creating nail art.


This salon owner has come a long way in more ways than one. A student in commercial art, Arminio came to fie United States from Korea in 1976. Because she didn’t know English well when she first arrived, she was unable to get a job in commercial art. “At one point I considered working at Disney doing cartoon characters,” Arminio says. Her own nails being naturally long, she painted art on them and consequently found her current career path.

“People asked me where I got my nails done. When I told them I did them myself, they said, “You should go into the business. You could make a lot of money,’ “Arminio says. She planned to paint and photograph her own nails and use them to get employment with a salon, but before she could carry out her plans, one of her nails broke. “I waited a month for the nail to grow back,” she laughs. “I didn’t know there was such a thing as artificial extensions because we didn’t have them in Korea.”

Once her nail grew out, she got a job with a salon doing nail art, and the owner encouraged her to get her manicuring license. While at that first salon, Arminio won first place in the Nail Art division at the Long Beach Hairdressers’ Guild competition seven years in a row. Although she liked working at the shop, she wanted to have her own salon, run it her own way and decorate it as she pleased. The ascent to becoming a full-service salon owner was a matter of learning and using what she’d learned. “I got smart from talking to all the people, because there wasn’t a topic we didn’t cover. When they came back in two weeks, they would give me a continuing story,” Arminio says. “I don’t think you can learn about people more deeply or bet­ter in any other business.”

Once she became a business owner, Arminio found out the hard way how much it cost to run her own business. “I didn’t even think of some of the things I’d have to pay for,” she says. “For example, I know people go to the bathroom, but I didn’t know I had to pay $120 for toilet paper in bulk.

“When you’re in business you also have to calculate that you won’t have the time for the customers,” Arminio continues. ‘You have to have employees to take over and who will do the same work you do.”


Arminio encourages a professional attitude in her employees. “People don’t need to have their nails done like they need to have food,” she explains. ‘They come to the salon to be happy and to relax. If they don’t want to come back, you are making a mistake.”

Arminio wants to keep her employees happy as well. Although she is strict about punctuality and professionalism, she allows each employee to be a star in her own right. Arminio paints a portrait of each employee, which is used on her business card, and occasionally provides surprise staff lunches.

As for herself, Arminio tries to balance management with artistry to stay happy with what she’s doing. ‘You have to balance management with the creative side of the business. That’s the hard part. Just like there isn’t a perfect marriage, there’s not a 100% balance; you have to do the best you can and realize it will be that way. Sometimes I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing, but the business is growing every day so it must be okay,” she says.

Owning a salon doesn’t mean that Arminio has peaked. For one thing, the salon itself is growing. Arminio bought one third of a building to start her salon and employed five nail technicians and one esthetician. Her salon, now 4,000 square feet, offers skin and hair care as well as nail care and employs 27 people.

Second, the media has been aware of Arminio’s talents almost since she began putting art on nails. She and her work were featured on 2 on the Town and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! A little more than a year ago, she was in­terviewed for a show called Making It: Minority Success Stories.

Clients who see Arminio on a videotaped copy of the first two shows and who see her now say she’s toughened up. She’s learned to balance work with pleasure, art with business, and she’s happy during every minute of it.


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