For techs who live and work in populations under 55,000, the challenges of finding and retaining a full clientele can be balanced by the personal relationships formed and small-town kindness shown by area residents.
Kathy Smith Wagner
Casper, Wyo., was an early oil boomtown around the 1890s and has a steeped pioneering and cowboy culture that continues to this day. Nestled in the foothills of the Laramie Mountains, Casper is home to Kathy Smith Wagner, who works at the salon Franks on First. She moved to Casper eight years ago and initially had a problem finding a salon. “I switched salons four times in as many years until I found my right fit,” she says. After that, Wagner gave discounts to any client who brought in a referral so she could quickly build a full book, and since then it’s been her continuing education that keeps them coming back.
“It gets tough because I have to travel so far to get the education I need and it can get expensive. But I do it because, for me, if you stop learning you stop living,” Wagner says. She attends one major trade show every year, as well as the HRTE networking event in Omaha, Neb., and says she is blessed with a clientele that lets her try out some of the new styles and trends she sees through her travel. And Wagner loves knowing that from time to time, separate clients will run into each other during the day and say, “Hey, we have the same nail lady!” Wagner says, “That makes me smile.” Established in 1843, Philippi is best known for its rolling green hills that held the first land battle of the Civil War and for its historic covered bridge. For nail tech Susan Jones, Philippi is an example of small-town values at their best. “My greatest experience of working in a small town comes from the love my clients have shown me,” says Jones. “In the last few years, I have had major surgery and lost my mother-in-law and my brother. My clients have taken turns bringing food to my house and calling me to make sure I have everything I need. And for me this comes from the fact that I know all my clients and they know me — beyond just a name. I don’t think if I lived in a large city I would be able to have the relationships I have with my clients.”
Jones has lived in Philippi for 25 years, and she started her nail career only seven years ago. She attended the closest beauty academy in Clarksburg, W. Va., (one of the state’s larger cities) and felt like she received a good education even though the nail enrollment was small with only four in her graduating class.
Jones keeps current on nail trends through industry trade magazines and talks frequently about products with the local beauty suppliers. West Virginia has recently mandated all techs receive at least four hours of annual continuing education, which Jones feels is a great opportunity to keep educating herself and learning more for her clients.