After being named runner-up in last year’s Salon of the Year Awards, Shelly Morley, a nail technician at Salon Elite in Prescott, Ariz., was determined to take the top prize at this year’s awards. Not that she didn’t like being named one of the top three nail technicians in the country. It’s just that coming so close to being Nail Technician of the Year – one point away from winning, in fact – only fueled her desire to obtain the top spot.

After receiving the judges’ scoresheets last year, she used them as a guide for the following year’s entry. After pinpointing what areas she needed to improve in – including more involvement in an industry organization – she began working on her entry little by little. “I set a list of goals for the coming year and I stuck to them,” Shelly says.

Putting together the actual entry took here about two weeks, but working to prepare for it took a lot longer, so long in fact, that Shelly began to wonder if she should even re-enter. “I didn’t know if I could do it again, but then I figured I should at least try,” she says.

Shelly did enter – and she wound up with the top prize. But even though she had wanted to win, she wasn’t setting her hopes too high. “I saw some of the other entries and I thought mine wouldn’t be able to compete. It didn’t seem as big,” she says. In fact, she hadn’t even prepared a speech as had been requested. So when she went up to the podium to give her acceptance speech, the first thing that popped into her head was a phrase she had read on an airplane flight: “You will find true success in those efforts that captivate your heart and soul. Belief fuels passion, and passion rarely fails.” That, combined with her tears of joy, moved many in the audience to burst into tears along with her. “The next day, people kept coming up to me telling me how much my speech had inspired them,” she says.

It’s not only Shelly’s speech that inspires others, however. After doing nails for 11 years, her passion for the industry is still visible.

She has a strong presence in her community and she has even worked with a TV reporter to educate local consumers about the dangers of MMA and how to recognize the substance before it is used on their nails. And she’s is in the process of starting a local nail technicians association.

After going through the phone book and calling local salons, she’s been able to recruit about 15 nail technicians who have already met a couple of times. Shelly says the association’s purpose is to have nail technicians network and obtain education, become motivated, and create some sort of cooperative advertising that will give smaller salons a chance at broader marketing.

Shelly is also an educator for Creative Nail Design and has even has been able to take part in its research and development division as a product tester. She has direct input on product development and formulations. Despite her busy schedule, she still finds time to do what she loves best: nails. “Doing nails isn’t just a job for me, it’s my passion,” she says.

A Passion for Education

For Gari-Dawn Tingler, being involved in the nail industry doesn’t just mean doing someone’s nails. It also means teaching other to do the best set of nails they possibly can. And while we’re on the subject of nails, Gari-Dawn likes to showcase her handiwork on her business cards. It’s just one more way of letting people know just how seriously she takes her job.

Salon: Designs-N-Dimensions

Location: Kansas City, Mo.

Years Doing Nails: 11

Specialities: Sculptured pink and whites, nail art

Accomplishments: Attends at least 15 trade shows a year because, according to her, “Once you stop learning, you stop growing”; placed ninth in NAILS’ Top 25 Competitors of 1999; 1997-1998 director of the Missouri Association of Cosmetology School

Why she stands out: Gari-Dawn definitely has a full plate. As director of education for EZ Flow Nail Systems, she’s constantly traveling all over the globe with the sole purpose of educating other nail technicians about proper product use. In fact, she wasn’t able to attend the Salon of the Year Awards because she was in Australia working for EZ Flow. And she trains nail techs to conduct product classes and continuing education classes and implements training courses for new educators.

Gari-Dawn is also a consultant and substitute cosmetology instructor at Paris II Educational Center in Kansas City, Mo. Implementing two nail program curriculums at the school that are NACCAS approved. She also developed a testing program to prepare nail techs for national exams and developed practical training to include manicuring, pedicuring, and all aspects of artificial nails.

Despite her busy schedule, Gari-Dawn still finds time to take on clients. And she’s made a commitment with them in mind: “I have a commitment to learn all there is to learn about nails and apply it to my clients, my salon practices, and teaching.”

And she doesn’t just act as a nail tech. She also plays friend and confidante to her clients. “I have held their hands and silently given clients a sense of security that they come to depend on,” she says.

Ultimately, inspiring others is what Gari-Dawn says is the ultimate reward. “If I can inspire a single nail technician in the industry today, that technician would understand the value of education and know that it is one of the best careers in the world,” she says.

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