Business Management

Salon School Shows Students the "Real World"

Flexible hours, a realistic curriculum, and a salon environment allow Jan Studesville to give employees and students what they really need – real-life training.

Flexible hours, a realistic curriculum, and a salon environment allow Jan Studesville to give employees and students what they really need – real-life training.

Ten years ago, it was hard to find an in-depth nail care course in the Madison, Wis., area – in fact, there weren’t even any nails-only salons. The situation created both an opportunity and a challenge for Jan Studesville, who became passionate about nails in 1983 and filled her spare time learning all she could about them. By 1984, Studesville had not only opened her nail salon, Just Nails, but she had also trained the nail technician who worked with her. By the next year, Just Nails had expanded to five technicians, all trained by Studesville.

In-salon training has been a part of Studesville’s nail care career since the beginning. Out of her desire to give her clients the best service possible, and because of the scarcity of qualified licensed nail technicians, Studesville continuously refined her training program for employees. In 1988, when a new Wisconsin law required that a salon have a school license to do in-salon training, Studesvilled was ahead of the game. In 1990, she became Wisconsin’s first licensed manicuring school.

The Just Nails Training Center is designed to meet everyone’s needs – people new to nail care industry, just-hired nail technicians who need a little extra training, veterans who want a workshop to refine a particular skill.

Almost every Just Nails employee has been trained by Studesville. “I can count on one hand those [new employees] who could sit down and do nails within a week for full price,” she says. “I opened my training center out of a need to educate my employees.”

The main reason many licensed manicurists at first don’t measure up to Studesville’s standards is that Wisconsin does not require students to learn artificial extensions. Many nail technicians learn manicuring basic in beauty school, then go to manufacturer-sponsored classes to learn what they can about artificial extensions. Studesville aims to fill any gaps in their learning. The mission of the Just Nails Training Center is to do everything possible to help students realize their potential as professional nail technicians, not just graduates who can perform basic manicures only.


To date, three classes have graduated and obtained their licenses, and Studesville is assembling a fourth beginner’s class. Most often, these new students are recruited from clients who decided to pursue a career in nail care. Two recent graduates (now current employees), Jennifer Wise and Pat Blaschka, were once Just Nails clients. Other students are relatives of Just Nails clients, and a few are respondents to a one-line yellow pages ad, the center’s only form of advertising.

Studesville’s “brush-up” students are often referred by clients who spread the word in other salons. “Unfortunately, we’ve been asked to correct nails that have been poorly done at other salons. I always ask these customers to go back to the salon – difficult as it may be – and explain why they weren’t satisfied so the technician has an opportunity to improve. And of course, I ask them to tell the salon that I’m available for training,” Studesville says.

About twice a year, Studesville send a letter to all prospects inviting them to an evening salon tour. “I hold open houses before starting a class and check with interested students to see if the scheduling is okay,” she says. Studesville want only serious students because, in her own words, she is “always hiring.”


Training for currently licensed and newly  employed technicians is one-on-one, but beginner classes aren’t much bigger. These classes range from two to four students, which allows Studesville to offer flexible hours, usually from 5 p.m to 9 p.m on weeknights and all day Saturday. Unlike the two beauty schools in her area, she offers weeknight and weekend classes for students who work.

Beginning students are permitted to complete the 300-hour course in seven to 20 weeks. Studesville’s course offers 131 theory hours and 169 practical hours. Students are responsible for bringing their own models. “Schools do a lot of advertising for models, but I put the responsibility of finding models on the students, so they learn to recruit models and clients right from the beginning,” explains Studesville.

Studesville takes previous education into consideration so that more experienced students can finish the course faster. Experienced nail technicians may need only a few hours of training. “Each technician I hire goes through what I call an audition,” she explains.

“I have her perform the service on me to evaluate her skill level. If she needs a little extra training, I’ll train her. I’m a pretty good judge of a person’s skill level. One nail technician Studesville hired could do manicures and sculptured acrylics, but had not learned silk wraps, gels, and pedicures. “She was up and running within a week. Last spring, I had another cosmetologist who was ready to work within two weeks,” says Studesville.

Beginning students average 20 to 25 hours a week doing class-work and homework, spending  the majority of their time in the studio. Studesville assigns heavy reading during the first few weeks, heavy hands-on work during the final weeks. The salon setting means first-time students gain a valuable benefit they wouldn’t ordinarily gain in beauty school – a chance to perfect their skills in a real-life situation.


The training center also provides information on housing, budgeting, transportation, and day care. “If students have concerns that impact their ability to apply for training or stay in training, or if the training will impact their ability to keep their job, we want to help,” says Studesville. “We’ve been in Madison for quite a few years, and we know a lot of people. We can help them find a roommate, find child care, learn the taxi or bus system, or even start savings accounts with credit unions. Between our clients and various agencies we know of, we can find a way to help.”

This help isn’t limited to students only – employees also find help getting a babysitter or finding a roommate. “I want my nail technicians to be successful, because if they’re not successful, I’m not successful,” says Studesville. “I try to remove obstacles from their paths to success.”


Studesville makes sure her curriculum complies with Wisconsin standards, but also adds items not required by the state, but required in the nail salon – artificial extensions, nail art, and nail jewelry. While beginning students complete the entire course, experienced nail technicians are trained only in the subjects they need. Wise and Blashcka took the entire course before graduating, getting licensed, and beginning work at Just Nails.

Introduction, Laws and Codes, Bookeeping, Business Management, History, and Ethics

To teach the laws and codes regulating Wisconsin, Studesville copies pages of regulations that apply directly to nail technicians. Students learn the laws that pertain to the nail technician, the nail salon, and to cosmetology in general.

Studesville emphasizes what she calls “personal bookkeeping” in this segment. “I encourage students to keep books on their customers and retail each day, set goals for themselves, and track their progress on a daily basis,” she says. Students are also taught how to do the bookkeeping if they open a salon and what tools are available to make keeping the books easier.

Business management us a relatively new segment required by the Wisconsin State Board. “I try to discourage thinking that just because you have a license, you’re automatically a salon owner,” says Studesville. “You need a business background before you open a salon.”

The business management segment covers promotions, scheduling, writing up sales slips, and how to handle customer complaints and no-shows. At this point in their education, students “earn” a column in the Just Nails appointment book and can start logging their own models’ appointments.

History lectures show students the growth of the nail industry and potential for the future nail technician. “In the ethics segment, I teach students professionalism and ethical behavior,” says Studesville. “We discuss tipping, how to treat customers, and ethical questions such as, Who does the client belong to? Does he belong to the owner because she spent her ad dollars to bring in the client, or to the nail technician whose care made the client a regular?”

Safety, Snaitation, First Aid, and Bacteriology

Studesville’s calss begins its safety segment by going to the supply cabinet and reading product labels. “Students learn which products are flammable, which are toxic, and how to store them,” Studesville explains. She shows students a videotape about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations and about employees’ right to know if the products they are using contain toxic chemicals. Manufacturer Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) also are examined. Basic first aid education is provided, as well as how to use a fire extinguisher. Studesville discusses the importance of traffic flow in the salon and common hazards to be avoided, such as cords stretched across the floor.

At Just Nails, nail technicians use a soak to disinfect implements and an antibacterial soap for handwashing. Studesville teaches students the difference between pathogenic and non-pathogenic organisms and the importance of cleanliness in a profession that requires constant hand touching.

Nail and Skin Disorders

“There’s a danger in teaching nail technicians what nail disorders and diseases look like,” says Studesville. “Often, so much time is spent on what unhealthy nails look like that the technician is tempted to try to diagnose them. I focus on the healthy nail and the things that commonly happen to them that the nail technician can work on. I tell students that if they’re not sure, they should always refer the client to a doctor.”

Anatomy and Physiology

A few hours are spent on anatomy and physiology as it relates to nails. Studesville explains how cells form and reproduce and covers sections on the digestive, muscular, and circulatory systems.

Manicuring and Pedicuring

As expected, Studesville spends a large chunk of time – more than 112 hours – on technique. While Wisconsin’s manicure licensing examination tests only a basic manicure without massage or polish, Studesville teaches students everything they’ll need to know to work in the salon. During this segment, students begin with basic manicures and pedicures, hot lotion manicures, and paraffin treatments. “The first artificial extension I teach them is tip application,” says Studesville, “and then we move on to fiberglass, because it’s easier to do a good nail extension with fiberglass. Once the student has developed her eye for what a good finished nail looks like, she will do better with acrylic nails.” Not only do students learn nail maintenance, but also when to do a fill, when a polish change is enough, and when to remove all product and start over. Studesville finishes by teaching UV-light gels and familiarizing students with silk wraps.

Introduction to Advertising

Advertising was another segment added to Wisconsin requirements in 1988. Students become acquainted with different kinds of advertising – yellow pages, newspapers, radio, television – and learn from Studesville the ideas and promotions that did and did not work for her. Studesville explains the issue of cost versus ad effectiveness, the best way to reach the target clientele, what information is needed to make an advertising decision, and how to track the amount of new business an ad brings in. “One important topics is deciding what your image is,” says Studesville. “But no matter what your image, your best advertising is word of mouth, and that is generated by your happy customers.”

Individual Student Needs & Electives

This catch-all learning phase allows Studesville time to teach basic nail art and nail jewelry application as well as meet any individual student’s needs.


As continuing education for Just Nails’ nine current technicians is very important to Studesville, shye encourages them to attend classes and tradeshows regularly. Just Nails technicians attend an average of three to four classes per year and Studesville picks up part or all of the tab.

Occasionally, Studesville asks a manufacturer’s educator to teaches at Just Nails. Or, if one technicians is experienced with a new product, Studesville will ask her to demonstrate it to the others. Technicians are encouraged to take classes that aren’t beauty-oriented, such as client relations and motivational seminars. “I feel strongly that to promote an employee to master nail technician, she needs thorough training in management and customer relations,” says Studesville.

Whether teaching new students or helping skilled technicians sharpen their techniques, Studesville lives by the belief that however knowledgeable a nail technician is, there’s always more to learn. That attitude makes a beauty professional not only first but foremost, in her field.

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