From construction engineer to florist, eight salon owners and nail technicians recount what they did before discovering their niche in nails.
Herman Paez, co-owner of Lovetouch Nails (Denton, Texas): While I was in college I was in banking. After I received a business degree I stayed in banking for a few months. At the time, my wife, Sloane, was working at a nail salon and eventually opened her own salon. After banking, I opened a European clothing store. I was always into fashion, and I wanted to do something creative and artsy. I owned the store for a year --it was difficult for a small boutique to compete with clothing store chains.
Sloane suggested I do nails, but I was only interested in managing the salon and doing nail repairs when needed. But I wanted to become a manufacturer's educator and to I travel doing show's; I needed a manicuring license to do that, so I went to beauty school. Surprisingly to me, after three months al the salon I had a full clientele. I really enjoy the people. I don't think I would have been ready to do nails earlier because I had this macho image. When the time was right, everything blended together.
Bonnie Heck, owner of Bonnie’s Nail Salon (Barefoot Bay, Florida): I graduated from college with a degree in political science and was a licensed paralegal. My dad owned a construction company and I was interested in construction law. After college, I went to work for him reviewing contracts and proposals. After awhile, I became more interested in the actual building aspect of the business, so I went back to college and took drafting and construction-related courses. Then I started working as a construction field supervisor. I eventually went to work for a company that specialized in bridges, roadways, and complete building sites as a construction engineer.
I was working very long hours and I wasn't home much with my family so I knew I had to make a choice. Since my family comes first, I decided to make a career change. My sister-in-law had attended beauty school so she was an inspiration to me. I was also getting my nails done regularly and I've always enjoyed painting, so I thought it would be easy for me to learn how to do nails.
I researched beauty schools in New Jersey, and when I found the school for me, 1 quit my job and went to manicuring school full-time.
My only reservation was whether or not I could handle sitting indoors at a workstation all day alter working outside for so many years. It was a bit of a transition, but I adjusted (it helps that my work table faces a window) and my home life has definitely improved. After doing nails for six months, I opened my own salon because there wasn't enough space to accommodate my clientele.
My only regret about not getting into nails sooner (I've been a nail technician for eight years now) is that I wasn't around when the nail business was just beginning.
Denise Boger, owner of Beyond Nails (Florence, Mass.): In high school, I worked as a salon receptionist and learned how to do acrylic nails. After high school, I went to college to study archaeology, but I eventually quit because I realized couldn't make a good living at it. My landlord, Patty Coursey, owned a hair salon and she taught me how to do a basic manicure. For years, she bugged me to do nails. Finally, at age 27, I went to nail school because 1 got led up working 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at a desk job. I received my nail technician license and that same year I opened Beyond Nails in my friend's hair salon.
I love doing nails — it’s very rewarding and I feel that I am moving in a positive direction. There is a new interaction with every client. I don't have any regrets about not getting into nails sooner. With all of my past experiences — salon work, accounting courses, sales-related jobs, management — I have gained new lessons and values. For me, everything has come full-circle.
Jill Robertson, nail technician at The Sculpture Shop (Escondido, Calif.): I was a quality control inspector for Sony for 12 years when they offered early retirement to employees who had been then 10 years or more — I took it. This happened around the time of my 10-year high school reunion. I wanted my nails to look nice for the reunion so I had a full set of acrylics put on.
After seeing my nails, my husband said I should try doing them myself. So I went to the beauty supply house' and bought $125 worth of products. Anyway, it took me live hours to do a fill — bloody cuticles and all — and my nails were1 a mess. But my husband was still optimistic and had a lot of confidence in me.
After doing my nails for about three months, I was down to two hours for a fill. It wasn't long before I started doing a couple of girls from work. Pretty soon 1 had at least 20 people coming over to get their nails done. So I went to manicuring school four hours a day while working the late shift at Sony. It took me about five months to finish school. When I passed the state board test, I quit Sony and have been doing nails for nine years. 1 have been at the salon 1 am currently at for live years. What I enjoy best about my job is the people interaction — clients and coworkers.
Judy Michaels, nail technician at Sea Chele’s Salon (Malibu, Calif.): I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and my first job out of high school was working at a bank while attending art classes at a junior college.
After that I did some waitressing and bartending. During that time, I began to do freelance camera-ready graphic artwork for T-shirts and album covers. Eventually, I actually supported myself for awhile just doing I he artwork. Then I moved to Northern California and played music professionally for five years. I did everything from lead vocalist to bass guitar to background vocals. I moved back down to Southern California and got a job with a telephone answering service company. A friend of mine who was a manicurist suggested I do nails because of my attention to detail. She drove me to (he beauty school whore she graduated from, and the rest is history. After graduating from beauty school, I worked full-time at Pepperdine University as a campus operator for two years while working part-time doing nails to build a clientele.
I have no regrets about not doing nails sooner because I believe that things happen to you when you're ready. As the saying goes, "When the student is ready, the teacher appears."
Brenda Whitmore, nail technician at Individually Yours (Wichita, Kansas): I worked as a bookkeeper and an estimator for a construction company for seven years. It was such a “boy’s network” mentality that I got tired of fighting it and having to prove myself. I had also moved up the ladder as far as I could go.
At the time, my husband was working in the counseling field and I found it interesting. I went to college to study sociology. While in college, I started working as a teaching parent at a substance abuse center for adolescents. I quit after a year because I was burning out. My husband had also reached burnout at his job and had decided to go to cosmetology school to become a hairstylist. Through helping him study I became interested in the beauty field as well. At the time, I couldn't afford not to work for 10 months while gelling a full cosmetology license so I opted for a manicuring licenses which only took me about nine weeks. I had a job lined up in a salon even before I received my license, which was three years age). There are a lot of similarities between my counseling work and being a nail technician. Both involve people, being a good listener, and attentiveness.
Cathryn Myers, owner of The Nail Shop of Carrollwood (Tampa, Florida): While I was in college I worked in sales. After leaving college, I worked as an advertising and marketing director. At the time, I was in my early 20s and making an extremely good living. I was doing so well, in fact, that the owner of the company reduced my commission amount as well as my territory. Right then and there I knew I wanted to own my own business.
A friend of mine was renting space in a salon and she told me how lucrative the nail business was. Since painting was a hobby of mine, I didn't think learning how to do nails would be too difficult, though I never had my nails done before. The first artificial nails I ever did was on a paying client, and it took me lour hours. Not surprisingly, she never came back. I definitely learned how to do artificial nails on the job, and I kept notes on the condition of each client's nails. After owning a salon for five years, I moved to Florida. Now, my salon has 16 technicians, including myself. I really enjoy the artistic side of doing nails. I've found that with owning your own business, hard work directly affects your bottom line.
Debbie Wyngarden, nail technician at Tomorrow’s Hair Salon (Zionsville, Ind.): After high school, I wanted to become a cosmetologist but I couldn’t afford school and I wanted to be out on my own. My uncle owned a flower shop so J went to work for him. I ended up in the floral business for 20 years, owning my own floral shop for eight of those years.
After four years of owning the business with my husband, he passed away. I wanted to go to law school, but once again, the lack of money stood in the way. I was working night and day, running the business myself, for about four years until my son was at the age where lie wanted to play sports and J had no free time to give him. I knew things had to change.
I had been going to the same nail technician for about five years and I asked her opinion about doing nails. She thought it was a great idea since I am so creative. I sold the flower business and went to manicuring school while working as a salon receptionist. I was promoted to nail technician after I got my license.
What I enjoy most about my job is the people interaction and making them feel good. It’s very fulfilling to provide a service for people that puts a smile on their laces. Since I've switched careers, I have more time for my son and my life. Doing nails has afforded me the lifestyle I like.