I swear I was put on this earth to help people," says Kim Patterson, director of nail education For Professional Use Only (Farmington Hills, Mich.). When asked what she likes best about teaching, Patterson responds, "Seeing the light bulb go off in someone's head — when it totally makes sense in a way the nail technician understands."
Patterson's passion for teaching stemmed from the lack of nail education available when she was a novice technician 19 years ago. "We were doing paper wraps back then, and acrylic nails were relatively new. Nail tips weren't around yet, and neither was nail glue," Patterson recollects. Then, in 1986, she joined the competition circuit so she could learn how to do nails better. "I would ask the judges why I received my score and how could I improve," she says.
"Competition is the best class you'll ever get.
"I think over the past 20 years the nail industry has paralleled the automobile industry as far as advancements in technology," says Patterson. "When I first started competing, competitors wanted a whiter white powder as well as a clearer pink powder, which were not available. We actually added baby powder to the white to make it whiter. I think it was the competitors who pushed the envelope, and the manufacturers listened."
As a kid, Patterson was exposed to routine nail care by her mother. She explains: "My mom always manicured her own nails on Sunday night — it was a ritual. When 1 was 14, she let me manicure my own nails and wear clear nail polish. Then, when I began doing nails professionally at age 20, I didn't think it would be a lifelong career, and now 19 years later I'm still here!"
In those early years, Patterson was a part- time technician and a full-time disc jockey. She majored in speech and broadcasting in college, and when she realized she could make more money doing only nails, she made it a full-time career. "I never thought I would use my degree, but I've been teaching in the nail industry for 14 years, so I'm putting my motivational speaking skills to good use," she says.
Currently, Patterson is on a mission to get all states to require continuing education units for nail technicians. "The industry changes so fast — there are always new products on the market and new techniques to learn," she says. "If I hadn't taken continuing education classes all these years, where would I be? Unemployed," she says with a serious smile.