The Second Time Around

Some nail techs have known from the start that doing nails was their calling. 

Terri Taricco pictured here with her Air Force squadron, followed in her family's military footsteps. 
<p>Terri Taricco pictured here with her Air Force squadron, followed in her family's military footsteps.&nbsp;</p>

It’s common to feel burned out when you’re on the job. After doing, the same thing for 40 hours (or more) a day, five days a week, your mind can start to wander. Instead of focusing on the task in front of you, you find yourself thinking of that much- needed vacation to Hawaii. For the most part, these feelings are normal and go away just as fast as they come up. But for some people, the only thing that will get them going again is a whole new career path.

While many people decide to make nails their career right out of high school, there are many more who decide to enter this field later on in their working lives. We spoke to several nail techs and salon owners whose previous jobs have run the gamut from typical office jobs to the not so run of the mill. In one way or another, some of their former occupations helped prepare them for their current job in the nail world — a job they feel so passionate about.

Caring for Others from the Start

Undoubtedly, one of the most common job moves is from nails to nursing and vice versa. After all, the two occupations have many things in common, including high sanitation and sterilization standards. Rosemary Weiner, owner of The Brass Rose Spa & Salon in Blairstown, N.J., is one who made the switch from nursing to nails (and the whole spa scene).

Weiner started off in the nursing industry in 1965. “My career flourished and took me through all aspects of the health care system, including outside the typical hands-on nursing role,” she says.

Around 1997, Weiner found she was getting tired of the trappings of the corporate world. She was an avid spa goer at the time and had paid special attention to how these businesses were run, as well as their salon practices.

“The serenity and the outcomes of the services were attractive to me,” she says. “I began to think that this type of business would be 180 degrees from my current career — and an attractive alternative.”

After doing some research, Weiner discovered the similarities between nursing and spa services. “Both are nurturing and caring, and there’s a lot of direct contact with people,” she says. In January 1999, The Brass Rose Spa & Salon opened its doors.

Today, the salon boasts more than 10,000 clients and Weiner couldn’t be happier. Not only is she incorporating the skills she learned as a nurse, such as being a stickler for sanitation, she’s also meeting new people and learning new things every day in the process.

The nursing industry also caught Milagros Hernandez’s eye early on in her life. Hernandez, who now owns Milly’s Nails in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, always enjoyed working with the elderly, and decided to make it her career.

After obtaining her nursing aid license in 1985, Hernandez began working at a Jewish elderly home in New Haven, Ct. “I loved working with them,” Hernandez remembers. The only thing she didn’t enjoy, she says, was that if one nursing aid would do something wrong, they would all get reprimanded for it.

Soon, 10 years came and went, and Hernandez found she no longer wanted to have a boss. Not only that, she also felt it was time for something new. That’s when the prospect of being a nail tech entered her mind. She had been thinking of returning to Puerto Rico, and thought it would be a good idea to begin a totally new career there.

Hernandez obtained her license in 1996 and the rest is history. She now owns her own salon, which is adjacent to her home. And like Weiner, she makes sure to incorporate the things she learned before into her new profession. “Hygiene is very important to me. I always make sure to disinfect my clients’ nails before I begin any service” she says.

It’s been five years since Hernandez last stepped into the elderly home in Connecticut, and she’s realized that despite her love for doing nails, she also has fond memories of her old job. That’s why she decided to go back to school to renew her nursing aide license. She plans to di­vide her time between nails and working in retirement homes in Puerto Rico.

“I want to work in both occupations because I just love working with people in general, and I get to do that with both of these jobs,” Hernandez says.

Not So Ordinary

Some people find themselves attracted to careers that are less than ordinary. Take the case of Jenny Markakis, a nail tech who lives in Melbourne, Australia. At the ripe old age of 17, Markakis began a stint as a professional wrestler.

“I was a huge wrestling fan and one day, I asked a female wrestler how to get into it. She took me to her gym, where I trained with her,” Markasis says.

She eventually traveled throughout Malaysia, Australia, and the Philippines, competing in tournaments. However, her days of body slamming opponents soon came to an end when she found out her best friend had joined a religious cult and fled to New York. “I dropped everything and went looking for her,” Markakis says.

It was in New York that she discovered her passion for nails, after watching her roommate getting a fill and getting her own nails done. That’s when she decided that it was time to leave wrestling behind. After all, she had a severe knee injury, and it would have only gotten worse had she kept on with it So Markakis stayed in New York and obtained her license, where she worked for a few years as a booth renter in various salons. Five years later, in 1989, Markakis returned to her native Australia, where she’s been doing nails ever since — in her own shop, nonetheless.

Markakis admits the switch from wrestling to nails was strange, but she doesn’t regret it. “Recently, I was asked to return to the ring but I couldn’t handle the thought of taking my nails off,” she says.

Then there’s Judy Jensen. Jensen, who is now a nail tech at Studio 302 in her hometown of Las Vegas, was into taking care of her body and staying fit. Since she was already working out regularly, she decided to give professional bodybuilding a try. “My life was all about body­building,” she says. “I was eating, training, and sleeping it” She did manage to squeeze in some time to drive a catering truck, though.

Jensen participated in a few competitions, even managing to snag some second and first- place awards. One night she had a dream about doing nails and when she woke up the next day Jensen knew she had to enroll in nail school. She’d been interested in art as a child, and knew she had the skills to create a set of great-looking acrylic nails.

After obtaining her license in 1985, Jensen continued to participate in bodybuilding competitions for a while. There were some things she didn’t like about that whole scene, though. “I didn’t want to do the drugs that are involved with bodybuilding,” she says.

That prompted her to focus more on nails. Soon she found something else she could participate in: nail competitions. Jensen had been teaching art classes and she felt confident about going into the nail competing arena. In 1987, she took part in her first nail competition, and in 1996, she was crowned WINBA champion. “I love nail competitions because I get to show off my artwork,” says Jensen, who specializes in airbrushed and handpainted designs.

Jensen says both types of competitions are similar in that she gets the same feeling of excitement when the winners are about to be announced.

Nowadays, Jensen focuses more on working in her salon, and she recently started making jewelry. But she still proudly displays around her desk the numerous awards and trophies she’s received as a nail competitor.

Continuing Education

Some people make the move from one career to another while still continuing to do something similar to what they were previously involved in. Leticia Gonzalez, owner of Letty’s Uñas y Algo Lares, Puerto Rico, not only does nails, she’s also a manufacturer’s educator.

Before she became a nail tech, Gonzalez was also involved in education — elementary school education. “Even before thinking about what university I wanted to go to, I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Gonzalez says.

So Gonzalez attended college and even graduated with honors. She was sched­uled to attend an awards night for her graduation and wanted to look her best, so she made an appointment to get her nails done.

After the nail tech charged her $65 for a set of acrylics, Gonzalez realized there was money to be made in the nail business. However, she decided to remain in the teaching field.

But the interest in doing nails didn’t go away. After teaching for 10 years, Gonzalez decided to pursue her next dream. “I wanted to be my own boss, set my own hours, and make as much money as I wanted to,” she says.

So Gonzalez went to cosmetology school, where she once again graduated with high honors. She says she’s learned a lot from her old job. “Being a teacher really helped me work with people,” she says. “Even though they were just children, they were all different.”

And Gonzalez finds she’s still teaching. “I’m always teaching my clients how to take care of their nails and I answer all their questions,” she says.

Teaching is also nothing new to Cheryl McCowan, a nail tech at Secrets Salon in Long Beach, Calif.

McCowan’s first love was always dance, and she even majored in it in college. After college, she set up her own dance studio, where she taught everything from jazz to tap and ballet. When the lease on the building became too high, she decided to teach part time at another studio. The rest of her time was spent working as a statistical typist.

After going through the same routine for 10 years: statistical typist by day, dance instructor by night, McCowan decided to look for something new.

“The typist job was too much of an office job, and I’m just too social to be in that kind of environment,” she says. “Plus, I was getting burned out.”

A friend who she had done a set of acrylic nails on before suggested she give nails a try. After all, many of her friends were involved in the industry, and McCowan had done a good enough job on her nails to be deemed a natural.

Six years later, McCowan is a booth renter and she’s happier than she’s ever been before. “I love my job. I really get to know my clients, and they become my friends,” she says. “I don’t think there are many jobs like that out there.

“If I had started doing nails when I was 18,I think I would’ve gotten burned out. I’m glad I was more mature when I got into this business.”

All in the Family

It’s pretty common to go into a field that has been introduced to you through your family. That’s exactly what happened to Terri Taricco, a beauty industry consultant and owner of TLT Solutions in Westboro, Mass.

Nine months after graduating from high school, Taricco joined the United States Air Force. All of her family was in the Navy, stationed in the San Diego area, and although she got into a similar field, she tried to be a little different by joining the Air Force’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal (or Bomb Squad, as it’s also known).

Taricco was stationed in Germany for three years and was then sent to Las Vegas for a year. After that, Taricco decided to leave military life behind. “Military life was always about moving around, and it was very structured,” she says. “I had moved around all my life and wanted to stay in one place.”

Taricco moved to Massachusetts with her husband and three-month-old daughter. For the next year, she sat at home and tried to figure out what exactly she wanted to do with her life. She decided to enroll in cosmetology school, but wasn’t impressed at first. “Some of the girls were using artificial nail products. They gave me headaches and looked thick and horrible. I hated them,” she says.

Then one day, a manufacturer’s educator paid a visit to the school. Taricco was enthralled with the beautiful nails the educator had brought to the class. “Then another educator came in and showed us nail art. After that, I was hooked,” she says. She put her hair hours on hold and completed the manicure course. Eventually, she also got her hairdresser license.

After working at various salons for a few years, Taricco opened up her own shop. Nowadays, she works as a consultant and admits she has an obsession with nails. “I found my perfect fit and it is my hope that my daughters someday will find a profession that they love to go to in the morning and have to be thrown out of at night,” she says.

Catering to Clients

According to Diana Bonn, owner of Color Classiques in Muncie, Ind., if a new nail tech has ever worked as a waitress, hostess, cook, or anything else in the restaurant business, she will make it in the nail business.

“They understand service, they understand the customer, and they know what it takes to make tips,” she says Bonn should know. She actually went to college for restaurant management and spent 15 years of her life working with food.

While she attended school, she also worked as a waitress and was promoted to various levels. She was promoted to manager before she graduated and stuck with it, never opening the catering service she had dreamed of.

One day, an aunt who had started a cosmetic company that had evolved into a nail and facial business announced that she was selling her business. “She had built the business up for 10 years but had to sell it because she was ill,” Bonn says.

Bonn and her husband decided to buy the business. “I had always wanted to have my own business and the nail and facial salon had a good reputation and was thriving,” she says.

Today, that salon has evolved into Color Classiques, which Bonn owns and works in. And like the others we spoke to, Bonn loves her current job.

“Being in the nail industry is a breeze compared to the restaurant business,” she says. “The restaurant business is all about long hours, cleaning, and working nights.

“So if she’s already used to hard work, a future nail tech already has what it takes because she knows what it takes.”

Banking on Nails

The corporate world can be rewarding, but it can also be tiring. That’s why Kathryn Simon, a nail tech at Image Accents in Ontario, Canada, made the switch from banking to nails.

Simon started taking business courses in high school and was certain she didn’t want to be a secretary. “Banking seemed a logical choice and the bank I dealt with was hiring, so I applied, was hired, and worked my way up to an account manager,” she says.

After working in the bank for more than 20 years, there was downsizing and Simon was caught in the movement. She had always been interested in the beauty industry and knew that her second career would have to be in a stress-free atmosphere. She also knew she wanted her second career to be in a field where she’d be helping busy women. “I took a long, hard look at my life and noticed a pattern. I kept coming back to the beauty industry,” Simon says.

So Simon contacted a friend who was a teacher at a cosmetology school, and she promptly registered for nail courses. That was 18 months ago, and she says she couldn’t be happier with her decision. She currently works out of her home and has contract work with another nail tech one day a week.

“My advice to anyone looking into changing careers is to go for it,” she says. “Do something you enjoy, have fun, and you’ll never work another day of your life.” Definitely words to live by.

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