These techs held interesting jobs before they ventured into the beauty industry. Read about what they did before life in the salon, and what it is they love about doing nails.
Middleton Salon and Spa, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Previous Job: Office Supervisor
I held jobs in medical billing for many years, moving my way up to office supervisor for the Coronary Care Unit and Cardiac Step Down Unit at the county hospital. I watched how the nurses treated the patients, and I realized I wanted to work with people, treat them with compassion, and help them smile. When my position at the hospital looked like it might be affected by layoffs, I thought, “It’s now or never.” I had thought about doing nails since I was 19, so I took the risk and enrolled in school. When I graduated, I approached a local salon, and even though its policy is to hire people with two years of experience, it gave me a chance. It’s a dream come true.
What I like best about doing nails: Leaving the medical field was a difficult decision, but it’s the best decision I have made. I am living the dream, my daughters are happier, I am happier, and my clients are happy. The stress is gone, and I am giving back to people the way my nurses taught me.
The Wild Hair, Clovis, Calif.
Previous Job: ServiceMaster RestorER
I would go into a facility after a fire and clean up the damage from fire, smoke, and water. I would clean walls, furniture, household items, and carpets. I’m a physical person, so the job fit me. In 2006, my nail tech told me I should get my license. At first, I thought the job was too “girly” for me, but then I thought it might be a good idea because it looked like fun, and I thought I had the right personality for the job. I played around with it for a year and a half and then finally went to school.
What I like best about doing nails: I love the people I’ve been able to meet. I like being able to educate women about both the glamorous side of nails and about the dangers of some products, such as MMA.
Julie Pecanty Perry
Strands Hair and Nail Salon, Brookhaven, Miss.
Previous Job: Office Manager
I worked at car dealerships for 17 years, starting off as a cashier and moving up to office manager. For many years while I was working at the dealership, I would say to my hairdresser, “You need a nail tech here.” But she never hired one. One night, during a late-night hair appointment, I had a meltdown. I told my hairdresser how bad my job was getting. We sat there, alone in the salon, and she said, “Why don’t you go to school and be my nail girl?” Mississippi allowed for an 11-week, 600-hour licensing course. I evaluated my budget and determined I could go without a paycheck for 11 weeks. So I quit my job and went to school. The day after I graduated, a local car dealership called to see if I could fill in for a woman on maternity leave, so it worked out perfectly. I was able to work part time at the dealership and part time at the salon as I built my clientele.
What I like best about doing nails: I love the social atmosphere. I love pampering people and making them feel good. I love the relationships with clients. Some clients will stop in just to give me a hug, even if they don’t have an appointment. I also love doing nail art. I entered a fantasy nail art competition and placed First in State with my Mardi Gras-themed nails!
Integrity Nail Spa, Waldorf, Md.
Previous Job: U.S. Army ENLISTEE
It’s funny how I got into doing nails. I was getting my nails done, but it became too expensive. So I went to the drugstore and bought a kit and did my own. I remember thinking, “I like doing this!” When I looked at my nails, I had done a good job. I went to school to be a nail tech, but never worked in the salon. I enlisted in the army and served in Desert Storm in the 498th Support Battalion. I provided support to the front line troops. I drove an 18-wheeler through the desert, bringing parts to repair helicopters and other transportation. While I was in the service, I asked if I could do nails in the salon at the PX, which is like a mall on the base. It was fun; I would be in uniform and boots during the week, and then dress up and do my hair and makeup on the weekends. When I got out of the service, I went into the nail industry full time and now own my own salon.
What I like best about doing nails: I like making my clients look and feel good. I like that I was inspired by an educator from CND and now I’m an educator myself. I like that I can provide technical and mentoring support to other techs through my school, Integrity Nail Institute.
Nailz by Amber, Hendersonville, N.C.
Previous Job: Administrator
I worked in an assisted living facility, a 60-bed unit that housed adults ages 26-93 who had physical or mental health issues. I decided I wanted to be a nail tech after a friend of mine shared her nail stripers with me. I started polishing the nails of the residents and realized I wanted to do nails for a living.
What I like best about doing nails: I love the creativity and the freedom of being my own boss. However, I do miss the residents, so now I visit two facilities with a mobile salon and do the nails of the residents there.
Tips by Andrea, Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada
Previous Job: Tech Support PERSONNEL
I worked for a company that developed software; I was the person people would call if something wasn’t working or if they needed help learning the software. While I worked for them, I took the class to learn to do nails. One day I was getting my hair colored, and when I walked up to pay, one of the computer company’s shareholders was in the reception area. My hairdresser, having no idea the shareholder was there, said, “Yes, Andrea, we want you to work here! Bring your resume.” A week later I was laid off from the computer company! Now I do nails out of my home, I teach nail art classes, and I’m a sales rep for Nubar.
What I like best about doing nails: I love the creative side of doing nails. I love when a nail biter comes in and leaves with nails that look beautiful instead of looking like Chicklets. Working with computers is boring; working with people is rewarding.
The Signature Salon,
Previous Job: Dental Assistant
I did crowns, bridges, fillings, and implant surgery. After I had children, I stayed home for seven years, then I went to a community college and took a cake class, making wedding cakes, birthday cakes, etc. I also made handcrafted jewelry and sold it in local salons. When my youngest went to preschool, I went to school and got licensed as a nail tech. Now I work for OPI, and I’ve owned my own salon for 12 years.
What I like best about doing nails: Doing nails was a perfect job when the children were younger, because I could make my own schedule and attend the children’s functions. I love meeting people, and I love educating them on their nails, hands, and feet.
Indira Salon and Day Spa, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Previous Job: Pharmacy Tech
I did inventory control, medication compounding, and customer service. The job taught me accuracy, how to treat clients well, and record keeping. I also learned about medical conditions, ingredients of chemicals, retailing, cleanliness, and good inventory counts. I became a nail tech three years ago because, as a single mom, I wanted a job where I could control my hours, work with the public, and continue to educate myself.
What I like best about doing nails: I love experimenting with new products, helping clients feel great about themselves, and having control over my hours.
Sydney Albert Salon and Spa, Princeton, N.J.
Previous Job: Clerk
I worked at the arts and crafts store AC Moore. Some days, I was paid to color or paint merchandise for display. I was also able to do face painting for events. I’m an artist, so I spent most of my money buying things in the store, but I found the job to be fun. While I was working at AC Moore, I began beauty school, thinking I would do hair. However, when I graduated, I was hired at a salon where they needed someone to do nails; there was a mentor there to help me get started. The more I did nails, the happier I was that it worked out for me to do that instead of hair.
What I like best about doing nails: I love my clients; I love knowing that I made someone’s day. When clients tell me that they look forward to seeing me or they tell me I give the best pedicures, it makes my day!
Nail Lab at Kuts & Kurls Beauty
Salon, Shaker Heights, Ohio
Previous Job: 911 Dispatcher
Before I was a nail tech, I was a 911 police dispatcher in a high-crime area of East Cleveland, Ohio. I loved the job and was great at it, but it was stressful. I would answer emergency calls, dispatch officers, enter warrants, and even act as a female corrections officer. If a female was arrested and only male officers were on duty, I would have to perform the cavity search! It was not only dangerous, it was nasty. I started doing nails on the side as a hobby, but my nail clientele grew so much that I went down to part time as a dispatcher, and in 2004, I was able to honorably resign and do nails full time. This has been a great year. I won my first nail competition, my work made it to the cover of NAILS, and I became a Young Nails mentor!
What I like best about doing nails: The money is great, I like the instant gratification of doing nails, plus I’m no longer responsible for the lives of citizens and police officers! I do miss the camaraderie of working at the station; we were like family.
Parisian Nails of Sequim in Hair Trix, Sequim, Wash.
Previous Job: Limited Practice Officer
I have always loved dressing up, playing beauty parlor, and playing with makeup and jewelry. Whenever I would go to the salon, I loved the busy atmosphere, the creativity, and being able to visit with people. But as a career, I chose something completely opposite. I was a limited practice officer, which means I am licensed under the Bar Association to close land deals. Even though it was a good job, I would dream about switching careers. But I didn’t feel like I could without the support of a second income. When I met my husband, I looked into nail school, but classes were on the weekends, and being busy every weekend isn’t great for the first year of marriage, especially since I was working full time. After having two children, I tried again, but this time classes would be in the evenings — again, a bad schedule for a mom working full time. Then the economy plunged, and I was laid off; I was 48 years old. On my 49th birthday, my husband and kids took me to “Angeles Academy of Hair and Nails” and signed me up to nail school. My husband is a teacher, so as soon as school was out in June, I started classes.
What I like best about doing nails: I love just what I loved when I was a client: the busy atmosphere, visiting with people, and the creativity. I also love being my own boss. I never have a crabby customer. Even if someone feels bad when she arrives, she feels better when she leaves and that makes me happy. I do a lot of pedicures on elderly people. I often think, “Who knows when they were hugged last, or when their hands or feet were rubbed.” It makes me feel good to know I’m helping them.
Freelance, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Previous Job: Animal Care Technician
I worked for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center at one of the experimental facilities. I handled 800 animals a day, feeding them and cleaning their cages. I hated the job, but loved the money. I had done nails for a year before I ever worked at Sloan, and after doing monotonous work that required a hair net, scrubs, and sometimes even full-body coveralls, I decided I wanted to get back to a job that allowed for creativity. I went back to doing nails, and now I work as a freelance artist, doing nails in different shops in Brooklyn. I was an assistant to celebrity manicurist Dawn Sterling during New York Fashion Week, and I just did my first magazine cover!
What I like best about doing nails: I love the response you get from the clients. I aim to mesmerize and to educate the clients on the services they are receiving.