It was with some dread that I approached the judging of this year’s NAILS Industry Awards. We were late getting started because of the volume of entries we received, plus I had already been working many late nights to get many other projects on track, and I knew from past experience that it was a very time-consuming process. But we rallied and one night, all five NAILS editors sat down at our conference table and started reading. Not more than two or three minutes passed before someone found an interesting item in one of the essays and read it aloud to the others. Another editor shared a poignant letter written by a client of one of the Nail Technician of the Year entrants. Pretty soon, we were reading and sharing, laughing and crying — and agreeing that projects like these were what we loved most about working on NAILS Magazine. Time flew that night as we plowed through the piles, and although the night ended before the judging did, we looked forward to getting back to it. I want to salute — and thank — every one of you who took the time to put together your entry for these awards.
The presentation of your packages was magnificent, the warmth and sincerity of your essays and letters was deeply touching, and the chance to get a glimpse into your businesses and your lives was a rare and special opportunity for all of us.
Never satisfied, we decided to make some changes to this year’s awards. First, we set higher expectations for submissions, asking all entrants to create a binder of all the materials submitted. We wanted more “documentation,” including personal essays, responses to a detailed questionnaire, letters of recommendation, and photographs — as much information as we could possibly gather to ensure that the finalists were truly the most exceptional salons, nail technicians, and educators in the industry.
We also raised the stakes on the prize package this year: We doubled the prize money (winners received $1,000 each; finalists got $500), and we added an all-expenses-paid trip to California to do a NAILS Magazine cover for the Nail Technician of the Year I believe that the prize package and the honor of being recognized by the magazine and in front of their peers was the reason that every single finalist attended the awards banquet at the NAILS Show in Las Vegas, and we’re delighted that everyone did.
The mood at the show was one of high energy and anticipation (our own team was running non-stop making sure every detail — from the confetti on the table to the ribbons around the gifts — was taken care of). I ran into Ruth Gurry, winner of the Salon of the Year with 1-3 technicians, at the hotel, and she was so nervous and excited she was visibly trembling when she introduced herself. When one of the nail technicians at Finger’s Nail Studios (finalist for Salon of the Year with 8+ technicians) learned that the salon was a finalist, she rescheduled her wedding (which was to take place in December) and got married the night before the banquet. (We’re pleased that NAILS Shows can now be considered a “honeymoon destination.”)
Several other finalists, including Debbie Shoaff (Nail Technician of the Year) and Gary Krakalovich (two-category winner for Salon of the Year) hit the slot machines big and took home bags of money! And I think there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when April Buford heard her name called as Educator of the Year and broke down and cried (reading her entry and the letters from her students had a similar effect on the awards judges). Frankly, I was pretty nervous myself there on stage!
I was in awe of the talent on display from the salon professionals who were guests and finalists and all the luminaries present for the evening’s event. We even had Debbie Doerrlamm, who many of you know by her e-mail code name “Wicked Wich,” holding her regular Sunday-night chat group at the dinner table!
It was a night to remember for us all. As the party and the awards ended, everyone moved on to more celebrating. The NAILS Magazine and show staffs, our feet aching, headed for the swimming pool and spent hours talking about all the people we had met and how special the night had been (and we sang a bunch of songs we all knew from high school).We were so moved to listen to how many people credited NAILS Magazine with playing such a pivotal role in their own education and career:
I want to let you all know that you play an important role in OUR careers and we thank you for allowing us to be part of your lives.