Last year, nail tech and entrepreneur Maisie Dunbar traveled to Ghana to attend Mercedes Benz Ghana Fashion Week and to gauge interest in her Bluffa Jo cosmetics line. While she waited to begin a demonstration of the cosmetics at one busy salon, she had an opportunity to observe. She saw that the nail techs were all quite skilled, but thought they could use a bit of refinement. When she offered to do an advanced training, the owner jumped at the opportunity. “They had never had any training beyond what they learned in school,” says Dunbar. “I planned to focus on filing techniques, liquid-and-power application, and the difference between gels and gel-polish.”

When she arrived at the salon a few days later to begin the training, she found 12 manicurists from the salon’s eight locations waiting for her. “The training was scheduled for 7 a.m., yet they were all on time — despite the crazy traffic and their very limited resources. The techs had different skillsets, ranging from two years to 11 years’ experience, yet they were all still willing and eager to learn. I showed them Vicki Peters’ filing techniques, which I learned 20 years ago and still use, along with the CND filing technique. I also taught them some reflexology techniques to take their pedicure skills to the next level and to enable them to add to their ticket price.” Dunbar’s students also questioned her about the top polish brands in the U.S.

After the two-hour training, most of the techs returned to their respective locations, but Dunbar stayed on to observe the remaining techs at that location. “When they finished with a guest, they would come get me to look at their work, concerned about how they did,” she recalls. While she observed, Dunbar was struck by a few things, starting with the fact that the Ghanaian techs didn’t talk to their clients. “They don’t even know their names. They refer to them as ‘madam’ or ‘aunty.’ I thought, ‘Wow, that is crazy.’ They looked at me strangely because I was laughing and talking with clients.” Manicures were done without a cuticle pusher or orangewood stick. “They use a pterygium remover on the cuticle and I must say they are excellent at it. I would have had blood everywhere,” she says.

Dunbar was also surprised by the number of services each client received. “Every client who came to get her hair done also got a manicure, pedicure, and waxing or skin care,” she says. “This may be in part because the prices are affordable. The salon where I did the training was pretty high-end, and they charged 35-40 Cedis per service, which is about $10-$12. 

“My Ghanaian experience really made me realize that beauty is a universal language and if you’re skilled, you can get a job anywhere in the world. No matter where you go, beauty really does change lives.”

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