Open since 2010, Elite Nail School is a highly successful nail school located in Madison, Wis. The school thrives largely because of its dedication to quality education and staying on top of cutting-edge technology and trends. NAILS recently spoke with owner and director Georgianna Halverson to learn more about Elite’s winning formula.
Q: What sets your nail program apart from that of other schools?
A: Elite Nail School is set apart because our mission is to see every student become successful in both their career and life. Every day, our students walk into the school and see written on the wall, “The World’s Best Nail Techs Start Here,” and it’s true. We accomplish this through our combined theory and hands-on curriculum. As our students learn the theory, they immediately are applying the techniques. This provides our students the most hands-on experience possible within the state-required 300 hours (131 theory and 169 practical) of instruction.
Secondly, all of our senior instructors have been licensed and working in the industry for over 25 years. We believe that to teach nails it is imperative that the instructor has previously worked or currently works as a nail technician. Our instructors are passionate about the industry and regularly attend advanced technique classes throughout the year, keeping them in rhythm with the latest trends. Additionally, our motto is, “our ceiling is their floor.” It is our desire that our students will go far beyond where we have gone. We also treat our students like family, so once they graduate, our door is always open to assist them with any help they may need.
Q: What are some of the highlights of your curriculum?
A: The most exciting aspect of our curriculum is our e-learning. We were the first in the state of Wisconsin to offer part of our theory class online. This allows the student to watch videos, play study games, take chapter review quizzes, and study for their state board exam (even after graduation).
Our curriculum is also designed to not only exceed state requirements, but to develop “salon ready” graduates. As the students learn the theory and techniques, our experienced instructors give real-life situations about how these techniques apply to life in a salon. The students “learn the ropes” while being given the tools to succeed in this industry. An example of this is that the state of Wisconsin does not require that students learn gel-polish techniques, yet this is a very popular trend in the industry. We ensure our students are thoroughly educated on gel-polish techniques. All of this results in well-trained nail techs who then go out and add value to any salon they end up working for.
Q: Are you an instructor yourself? What is your favorite lesson to teach and why?
A: Yes, I am an instructor. It is part of how I am able to accomplish our mission of seeing every student become successful. I find being involved with all aspects of my business helps me keep a solid pulse on the health of the school. I really learn a lot from our students about how Elite Nail School is preparing them when I facilitate a class.
Communicating for Success and Life Skills are both favorite lessons of mine and they both go hand-in- hand. These lessons can make or break your success, both in your career and your life. We are not inherently born with the skills taught in these lessons and if you have been taught poorly, then your life/career and any difficulties you may face will reflect this. But if we can learn to master these skills, then we can be successful in all areas of our lives!
Q: What is your career background and the history of the school over the years?
A: I first became a manicuring instructor in 1998 when I opened my first school, Wisconsin College of Nail Technology, with a friend/mentor of mine, Gina Krupsky. After running that school for three years, we parted ways and I went on to teach at Madison College for a number of years. In 2009, Madison College decided to shut down their nail program to focus on their cosmetology program. I knew there was still a strong need for a nail school in Madison, so in January 2011 I opened Elite Nail School. My school has been growing and evolving ever since, and business has increased every year. When I started out, my first class was four students and we only offered a night class. Now we offer a day course and an evening course. Our Spring 2014 class total was 17 students. We will only take 20 students total, so we have almost met our maximum. At the end of each class, we have our students fill out an anonymous survey so they can safely share what worked and what didn’t work. We use this valuable feedback to improve our curriculum and student experience, ensuring we continue to be Madison’s premier nail school.
Q: Why did you decide to open a school?
A: There are many reasons, but let me start with the fact that there is a great need for talented and skilled nail technicians. Secondly, I love helping people achieve their personal and professional goals by launching them into a career that brings them financial stability, flexibility for their family life, and most importantly helps them develop self-confidence. The truth is that many students who come through our doors have very complicated lives, struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, dealing with bad relationships, have low self-esteem, and the list goes on. By the time they leave, many will have seized the opportunity to make huge changes in their lives, and I have the privilege of being a part of truly remarkable transformations. Every student has a beautiful story to tell about how they overcame adversity while a student at Elite Nail School. That is my biggest reward!
Q: What are some challenges you’ve encountered in managing your school?
A: One of our greatest challenges is keeping instructors. We pay very well, far above what the average school pays, and we work closely with our instructors allowing them to pick hours and days that work for them. So you might wonder, what’s the problem? I believe that a lot of it is the fact that teaching can be very taxing. You need a lot of patience working with lots of people who are all uniquely different, with different needs and expectations. Burnout is a real concern, so it is essential that our instructors have good conflict resolution skills, good boundaries, and can manage their class. The last thing you want is for your class to manage you.
Q: How do you assist your students in finding jobs after graduation?
A: There are a lot of opportunities for motived, skilled nail technicians who love what they do and are passionate about the industry. By creating this atmosphere in our classroom, we are actually preparing them for success after graduation. Elite Nail School has a great reputation with regional salons as a reliable place they can come to find students. We just recently started running a job board on our website where salon owners can post positions for our students to apply for. We are also gearing up to offer a job fair coming later this summer.
Q: Do you typically keep up with students after they graduate? Where have they ended up?
A: Again, we really see our students as part of our Elite Nail School family, so we regularly have former students stop in to chat, or send emails and text messages just to stay connected. We love to hear from them and they do have access to us if they ever need help. We have had several students go on to start their own business and we are always glad to help with any questions they may have about getting started. It comes back to our mission to see all our students become successful.
Q: How do you stay abreast of what's happening in the nail/beauty industry?
A: One of our core values is that continuing education is essential, so all our instructors, myself included, continue to take advanced classes every year. We are at the forefront of the newest and latest trends in the industry. It is very important for the success of our students that we remain on top of changes in the industry. Elite Nail School is generally offering services and products that too many salons or nail technicians aren’t. The reason is simple: Many nail technicians are not continuing their education. We teach our students that it is important to continue to take classes after they graduate so they can stay on top of industry trends and changes. It also helps fuel the fire of passion for this industry. There are so many amazing products and services being developed that will allow our students to attract more clients.
Q: Any future school plans you would like to share with our readers?
A: Our goal is to franchise Elite Nail School, and we have just recently started taking applications. It isn’t an easy process because someone really needs to be passionate about the industry and be committed to seeing others become successful. We provide the core values and framework so future franchisees don’t have to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. We have such a breadth of experience, from owning two schools to working for a technical college, so we have found solid principles that are proven to work. We have learned how to keep things exciting, even while learning dry theory, and also techniques on how to reach each student based on her unique style of learning. We will continue to improve our curriculum and graduate talented and motivated “salon ready” students. The best is yet to come!
Owners: Georgianna Halverson and Gary A. Halverson
Square Footage: 1,600 sq. ft.
Opened in (month/year): January 2010
Number of Employees: 2
Number of hours to complete the nail course: 300
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