Erin Zobrak-Rathburn met her husband Army Staff Sergeant Aaron S. Rathburn 11 years ago while she was working at a salon and already three years into her nail career. They have since had two children while relocating to no less than four different cities, one of which was overseas in Stuttgart, Germany, and Erin has had to reinvent her nail career with each move she makes.

“I must say that keeping and maintaining a nail business during and after big moves is quite difficult and hectic,” says Zobrak-Rathburn, “And finding a space and transferring a license are probably the biggest time consumers.”

The process of acquiring a license can be lengthy depending on the different state requirements. On average, Zobrak-Rathburn had a four-week turnaround time for contacting state boards, inquiring about reciprocity, and obtaining a new license for that state.

Some states issue reciprocity with very little hassle, requiring nothing more than a copy of your current license, while others ask you to provide school transcripts, work history verification, and even further testing if the hours are not adequate for the new state.

And some states don’t offer reciprocity at all, or at least not with the state your original license is from, and this means having to return to school, which can be difficult to endure because it can feel like a step back.

Back to School Blues

When JoAn Perez relocated to Pensacola, Fla., to accompany her husband, she learned that Florida didn’t offer reciprocity for the license she earned in her native Puerto Rico, so she would be going back to school to earn a new license.

“It was hard to hear, because I had been a nail technician for more than six years and I had worked in salons in Puerto Rico and was good,” says Perez. “But I made the most of it. I worked really hard to get all my credits done and made it through school enjoying every minute of it — even though it hurt inside a little to do full sets for free.”

Wendy Floyd, director of admissions at the Bellus Academy in Poway, Calif., recommends techs first contact the state board in the state they are moving to as early as possible to find out what is required to get a new license there. Then contact a local school near the city you are relocating to and find out about schedules and enrollment.

“The main thing is to hang on to all your paperwork,” says Floyd. “You want to have proof of your education. So you’ll want to hold on to any transcripts, licenses, or advanced training courses you have completed so you can show it to your state boards and beauty schools.” Floyd also recommends contacting your original school to help clear up any questions or concerns regarding reciprocity.

Leaving Your Clients in Good Hands

Once the issue has been ordered for reassignment, it can be tricky to break the news to loyal clients because they might start looking for a replacement before you are ready to leave. Having a planned exit strategy can help smooth things over with clients you are leaving behind.

Zobrak-Rathburn tries to give her clients about a month’s notice before she leaves. “I’ve always been lucky to find a grateful and talented nail professional to apprentice and learn the methods of my madness just before taking over,” she says.

This gives her clients the opportunity to get to know the person who will be taking over and get them comfortable with the transition. “This truly prevents me from losing clients after breaking the bad news,” she says. “I’ve always made the same amount of money up until the very last day of moving.”

Back Into Full Gear

Andrea Martinez moved to Fort Walton Beach, Fla., from Italy four years ago to follow her husband. Having trained originally in her native Hungary, she found great success in setting up and establishing a new clientele.

“I first started working in a beauty salon off base in Florida, and for me it was quite easy to build a clientele.” Martinez has been doing nails for seven years and has actively pursued advanced education and training courses. With her proficiency in both acrylics and gels, she was able to offer a quality and range of services that set her apart from the local salons.

Martinez also uses a website ( with pictures of her nail art, copies of educational certificates, and her complete service menu, so clients can find out about her quickly and easily.

On top of offering quality services to build clientele, techs should look to their local military community of which they are a part. Postings in military buildings with lots of foot traffic or on-base newsletters can bring in other military wives as well as military men themselves.

Martine Mayo joined the Air Force in June 2000, and met her husband there while they both were stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base outside of Great Falls, Mont. Mayo didn’t start doing nails until after she left the Air Force, but her husband was still in when they were reassigned to North Carolina. Once there Mayo marketed herself directly to the military personnel.

“This really helps spread word-of-mouth advertising, and because military members and spouses are constantly coming and going, having an active referral program helps let the brand new ones on base know about you right away.”

Emotional Support

Having a loved one in the military can be hard to deal with emotionally, as they are often stationed overseas in harm’s way and away from you and your family for long periods of time. Work can become a great outlet for idle, worried hands, and reaching out to other military wives and the community will help the rough times pass a little smoother.

“Being married to someone in the military has been an amazing ride with so many benefits,” says Zobrak-Rathburn. “We have been able to travel extensively at a young age for very little money, and we even got to go to a Broadway musical for free through the United Service Organization.

“My husband is currently deployed for a year in Iraq, and words cannot express how proud we all are of him. He’ll be home this summer, and I’ll be welcoming him with my very own, brand new nail salon, Perfectly Polished, in Monson, Mass. I couldn’t have done it without him.”

States and Licensing Reciprocity

A great resource for licensing and reciprocity is the NAILS Big Book. It comes out every year and has listings for state board contact information and license requirements for all 50 states (and the Canadian provinces). It also shows whether each state allows for home salons and mobile services. You can find the most up-to-date listings online at

Make Use of Military Benefits

Though more for overall quality of life then directly for nail business, it’s important to remember all the help the government offers for military families. For those married to military members, the government provides discounts on health insurance, auto insurance, life insurance, and home owner’s insurance, and has opportunities for scholarships and grants. A good resource to check out online is There is a benefits guide tab on the left to help explain the details of military benefits.

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