Each year NAILS and The Nailco Group have the honor (and pleasure) of awarding the top salons, nail technicians, and this year, the educators of our industry. We recognize them for their fierce dedication to the industry and raising the bar of professionalism, while offering the utmost in services to their clients, an educational work environment for their staff, and contributing to their community. We know it's a tall order, but this year's 12 finalists met the challenge. Along with a record crowd, they met us at The Nailco Group's Great Lakes Beauty Show in Dearborn, Mich., in October to celebrate a year of amazing achievements and to start the new year with renewed dedication.




School: Harry S. Truman College in Chicago

Years doing nails: 14

Accomplishments: NAILS Educator of the Year (1996), co-founder and president of the Nail Care Association, Nail Technology Training Program coordinator and instructor for Truman College, instructor for Milady Publishing’s Nail Technology video series.

Continuing Education: In the last two years, Buford has taken just under 88 hours, including classroom training for teachers, as well as nail-specific courses such as reflexology, aromatherapy, spa services, marketing and airbrushing.

Student Advocate

When April Buford sent in her entry for Educator of the Year in 1996, judges said the touching letters her students had penned about her brought a tear to their eyes. This year; her entry left another indelible mark on the judges. “Next to the face, the hands are the most expressive part of the human body,” she writes. “Caring for someone’s hands should be a labor of love. It is for me, and I try every day to communicate this to my students and those who I meet in the industry.”

Many of Buford’s students come from the inner city where the school is located. Because of that, she sometimes faces special challenges, which she welcomes. “Probably the most rewarding feeling is working with students who have never really accomplished or finished anything in their entire lives,” she explains. “Nothing feels better than contributing to someone else’s accomplishments or successes.”

In fact, much of what she teaches are skills that aren’t found in the textbooks, but are designed to prepare her hard-working students for the reality of the nail industry. “Ms. Buford puts great emphasis on what we’ll need to know once this class is over” writes one student. “It gives me an advantage over someone who hasn’t had the same preparation.”

Her desire to help her students, while elevating the industry, has culminated in a number of projects. As co-founder of The Nail Care Association and part-time proficiency specialist at Truman College, she is committed to seeing that nail technicians and salon owners are in compliance with state regulations and maintain high standards of professionalism. She also edits her association’s newsletter and actively participates in its annual salon owner/technician roundtables, which she finds are a “treasure trove of information and inspiration.”

Most of all, she is a dedicated teacher and advocate for her students She rules with iron will and doesn’t coddle unwilling or unenthusiastic students. Instead, she inspires them to strive for more. “I consider it my duty to challenge my students and to let the cream rise to the top,” she says. “Passing students who are not enthusiastic about the profession or who aren’t willing to aim high would perpetuate the lingering negative stigma that surrounds our profession.”

And though it may sound harsh to some, Buford admits that her purpose is not to be loved by students, but to produce great professionals — something she does with great success, according to students like this one: “Ms. Buford is an inspiration to me ... she proves the point that you can do anything you set your mind to.”




School: Advanced Nail Education, Key Biscayne.Fla.

Years doing nails: 11

Accomplishments: Co-owner/operator of California Nails Boutique; senior educational sales consultant/detail specialist/main stage presenter for Creative Nail Design; award-winning competitor; competition judge.

Continuing Education: Major trade shows, including IBS Long Beach and Ace Beauty, two business workshops, and Creative’s Global Nail Summit workshops.

In addition to being a main stage presenter, when it comes to education, Louis Mattassi likes to focus on building beginning students’ self-esteem and technical skills in small group settings.

Prescription for Success

Louis Mattassi’s interest in teaching began shortly after he received his license. “I observed my mother, a salon owner and educator herself, and I was inspired,” he says.

His other motivation? Filing the void for nail technicians. “Our profession demands more than just technical expertise,” he explains. “It requires prescriptive abilities, that is, matching technical knowledge with the individual needs of clients. Realizing all of this made me want to help fill that void in others.”

Mattassi uses what he calls his “Prescriptive Technique” to help convert his students into consummate, moneymaking professionals. “This area is my favorite to teach because I believe it is the most important area of a nail technician’s work,” he says. “Many artists are technically skilled, but only some can match that with client needs.” Mattassi says that with its use his clients have been more loyal and satisfied — and that his skills are most appropriately utilized.

Mattassi also stresses to his students that continuing their education throughout their careers, they will be able to offer their clients more — commanding higher prices for their services. He offers seminars and tapes for those who may not have the time or money to travel.

Mattassi says his greatest reward has been watching and tracking the success of his students. “I find it personally motivating when I observe former students who have taken my teachings and have found success,” he says.



School: Ultima College of Cosmetology, Westminster, Colo.

Years doing nails: 15

Accomplishments: Director of education at Ultima, where 98% of her students pass their state board test the first time; tutors the learning disabled to achieve licenses and work; tutors students who need help in a particular area of weakness

Continuing Education: 10 classes in the last year, including OPI, Tom Holcomb’s Academy, Too Much Fun, Amoresse, Strata, and Tammy Taylor

In addition to technique skills, Jackie Savage feels it is important for her students to have good customer service skills, so she teaches a class on professional image, personality assessment, client retention, and people skills.

Building Futures

It’s a challenge helping students prepare for I and pass their state board exams, not to mention making sure that they’re ready for a future in their career. It is especially challenging when the student is learning disabled.

“Knowing that you’ve helped someone who everyone said couldn’t learn to do nails to pass her state board exam (with a score of 88% on her first try) was one of the highest highs I have ever experienced,” says Jackie Savage of former student Diane Venditti. “I will always remember the feeling of euphoria I had when she called to tell me she’d passed. I remember thinking, ‘Now, this is what it’s all about!’”

Savage’s passion for education has helped her develop partnerships with salons in the area to benefit both students and salons. The Partners in Education program puts her students in a local salon to learn from professionals about the reality of the nail and hair professions. The extra training and product knowledge then excels the student’s progress toward being a successful, entry-level employee.

Most of all, Savage’s success seems to be in her interpersonal dealing with her students and staff. “She shares her knowledge and is always there to listen and understand the students and instructors with all of their questions and concerns,” says a letter signed by Ultima’s nine instructors.

The interpersonal talent has always been a part of Savage’s skill as a teacher. “When looking back at some of the student surveys, one comment was consistently expressed: ‘Ms. Savage can explain concepts while remembering that we’re students just learning the ropes — she’ll always let you know that it’s OK to ask the ‘stupid’ question,’” writes Nancy J. Lease, vice president of operations of Columbine Beauty Schools, where she worked from 1994-1998. “Students respect and respond to Jackie.”




Salon: Nails Naturally in Chicago

Years Doing Nails: 11

Charities: 36th Ward Youth Foundation. Mentor for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and other local youth mentoring organizations

Accomplishments: President of Nails Naturally nail spa, which has more than 250 clients, field tester and educator for Creative Nail Design, educator for Backscratchers Salon Systems, and nail technician for movie and TV production sets and for recent Milady Publishing educational video, advisory board member for the Nail Care Association and member of Cosmetologists Chicago (formerly the CCA)

Sanitation Procedures: Hand washing, clean towels, new abrasives and sanitized implements for each client

Continuing Education: Bioelements, Creative Nail Design, Jessica, Nail Mentoring Institute, OPI, Nail Tek, Masterworks, and more

Great Nails, Naturally

It was just nine months ago that Lá Shaun Brown-Glenn walked up to a NAILS editor at an industry event and told her about her attempt to enter the Nail Technician of the Year awards the previous year. “I started putting my entry together, but I never actually finished it or mailed it,” she remembers. “I think I was afraid of failing.”

This year, after some encouragement from various friends and colleagues, Brown-Glenn not only completed her package, but mailed it in to us in plenty of time to make the deadline. Her efforts secured her the top honor in her category.

It is obvious that learning is Brown-Glenn’s top priority. By October 1999, she had accumulated more than 38 hours of continuing education credits that year. “It is not uncommon for her to work a 60-hour work week and then dedicate her weekends to attending nail seminars. She goes for her own personal growth or her role as a manufacturer’s educator so that she can then teach other nail technicians,” says loyal client Karen Noonan.


The time in the classroom has been rewarding. “One of the classes I took most recently on time management has substantially improved my ability to serve my clients more effectively,” says Brown-Glenn, who also credits the decrease in her service times with the expansion of her service offerings.

After flipping through her Nail Technician of the Year entry and seeing makeover shots taken before, during, and after her work (using nine different products and applications!), we were understandably impressed with her technical skills.

And Brown-Glenn’s nail skills and her dedication to learning and teaching is evident to all who meet hen even clients. “I was immensely impressed with her level of nail knowledge and genuine desire to educate me,” says Eboni Kelly. “I am equally impressed with her posted accomplishments and sanitary working areas. She has a passion for her craft.”

Most recently, Brown-Glenn’s technical skills and educator background came in handy when she was sought out to be the nail technician for Milady Publishing’s nail technology educational video line.

Brown-Glenn sums up her talents well by explaining that it is her goal to lead by example. “As a mentor to youth in local support groups, I stress the importance of education in all aspects of life; in the industry, I lead through association memberships and teaching; as a member of The Nail Care Association’s Advisory Board and Education Committee, I help make positive change with regard to continuing education for nail technicians,” she says. “In all aspects, I ensure that my life and career reflect the values I impart to others.”




Salon: Salon Elite in Prescott, Ariz.

Years doing nails: 10

Charities: Services provided to local nursing home, Arizona Women’s Employment Education, and Faith House Shelter for Abused Women

Accomplishments; Manages salon, educator and research and development technician for Creative Nail Design, award-winning competitor

Sanitation procedures: Before any service, hard surfaces disinfected with an EPA-registered, hospital-grade disinfectant. Both she and client wash hands and follow with a hand sanitizer at the station. Files, Implements, and buffers ore washed with soap and water and then disinfected for at least 10 minutes and then rinsed and stored in an airtight container

Continuing education: Classes from Creative Nail Design, European Touch, Galaxy, IBD, OPI Products, Pro Finish, and Tammy Taylor, extensive competition experience, and business seminars

“I have found ways to include my family in this wonderful industry and teach them the joy of giving to others,” writes Michelle Morely, who adds that while she performs simple manicures, her daughter sings and dances for the residents of the local nursing home.

The Whole Package

Ten-year veteran Michelle Morely truly believes that in order to be a great nail technician, you have to develop the whole package. “It is good to give your clients the best you can during a service, but I see being a nail technician as more of a complete thing,” she says.

What does she mean? “I feel fortunate that I’ve found something that I am really good at. I want to use this talent to help others,” she explains, adding that it gives her great pleasure to use her nail skills to give something, such as self-esteem or a little “TLC,” to others. Currently, she works with three local charities (a local nursing home, the Arizona Women’s Employment Education, and the Faith House Shelter for Abused Women) in the hopes of giving someone a new start at life or helping to brighten someone’s day. She feels it is the part of her career (which also includes being an educator, salon manager, competitor, and a product tester) that completes the circle. “I feel fortunate to be able to give something to others,” she says.



Salon: Nail Care in Laurel, Md.

Years doing nails: 20

Accomplishments: Appointed to the State Board of Cosmetology in 1999; member of the NCA; 1998-1999 Runner Up, Nail Technician of the Year; researched three new Maryland state cosmetology laws passed in 1999 that included raising the educational requirements for licensing; works with local TV news to inform viewers about nails

Sanitation procedures: Hospital-grade disinfection products and heat sterilizers — done right in front of the client

Continuing education: Averages about 180 hours of education each year and 1999 included classes and competitions at IBS Long Beach, IBS New York, and Hair Care Nail Supplies Show

The Legislator

Last year Nancy King was an informal advisor to the Maryland State Board. This year; she’s upped her commitment to her industry and to other nail technicians in her state by becoming one of its members. As an outspoken advocate for sanitation, safety, and education, King works tirelessly to make herself a model for others in her industry. “After 17 years of doing nails in Maryland, I became frustrated with the industry,” she explains. “Nobody seemed willing to take the initiative, so I did.”

This year, she’s helped to enact three new state laws regarding nail technicians. One of the pieces of legislation more than doubles the number of hours of instruction required for a license from 100 to 250.Another banned the use of MMA in Maryland salons and still the third changes the title of those in her occupation from manicurists to nail technicians. And King didn’t stop at Maryland’s borders. She offered her expertise to the state of Connecticut which then enacted its first nail license to take effect in June 2000.

She also spoke at the national Interstate Council of State Boards about problems on the regulatory side and helped institute programs and certification on proper drill use.

“The most important lesson I have learned is that you can never know enough about your clients, your industry, or your business,” she says. “As the industry evolves, so must you. If you feel like you know it all, it’s time to change professions.”




Location: Auburn, Calif

Owner: Nancy Lawrence

Years in business:

Staff size: 9 full time; 3 part time (3 nail technicians)

Charities: 2 to 3 events annually

Sanitation Procedures: hospital-grade disinfectants

Operational details: monthly staff meetings, policies and procedures manual

Continuing Education: 2-3 classes or trade shows annually, bimonthly in-salon classes

Savoir Faire Means Smart Business

The interior of the salon was decorated with the principles of Feng Shui in mind, including the use of mirrors, arches, rounded corners, and flowing water (there’s a fountain in the reception area).

So much for Nancy Lawrence’s intuition. When she found out that her salon was one of three Salon of the Year finalists, she was absolutely certain she had come in third. “We were so stoked just to be nominated. When they announced our name as the winner, I didn’t really hear it I was in shock,” she recalls.


Shocked though she was, Lawrence hasn’t hesitated to capitalize on her win. “I’ve already sent press releases out to five newspapers and two local TV stations,” she says, “Now that we’ve won, they’re considering giving us some coverage.”

Unlike many of our winners, Lawrence is primarily a hairstylist and not a nail tech. The  other salon personnel may outnumber the nail techs, but they don’t outrank them in any way, shape, or form,” she says, believes that as the owner; she has to know all about nails and can even put on a nice-looking set of acrylics in a pinch. She keeps up her nail skills by attending classes frequently and even has a Creative Master’s certificate.

The decor of her 1,350-square-foot salon incorporates soft shades of gray, burgundy, and teal with the classic salon black and white. The faux gray marble manicure tables, hair styling stations, and front desk are strong, yet elegant, creating just the right feel for both men and women. She and her husband designed the 2½-year-old salon using the principles of the Chinese art of feng shui.

“When I first took a look at the raw space with the property manager; a woman came up to me and introduced herself as a feng shui expert I did some Internet research, bought a few books, and ended up hiring her. The first thing clients say is how comfortable and relaxing the salon feels,” she says.

Client Nancy Guerland says it’s more than the decor that impresses her. “While the physical environment, availability of full-service care, and reputation for quality gets you in the door, it’s the warm and pleasant staff that keeps you coming back. The entire staff does a nice job of making the client feel important” she explains.

To compete with the many lower-priced salons in the area, Savoir Faire offers a heavy dose of pampering in addition to their scrupulous sanitation procedures. Every nail service includes a 15-minute hand and arm massage. The salon caters to teens from two nearby high schools by offering a $10 discount off the regular $40 full set price.

Retailing is also an important factor of the salon’s success. “When I was first in business, I carried a few partial lines but didn’t want customers to feel I was pushy. Then I took a class and the instructor emphasized making every square foot count. ‘Forget about the living room feeling, you’re in business,’ he said. So I took out seating and put in shelving. Since then, retailing has doubled the salon income,” says Lawrence.




Location: Northfield Center, Ohio

Owners: Kris Monaco and Kim Monaco-Crevar

Years in business:

Staff size: 7

Charity Involvement: Donate money or volunteer time at Nordonia’s Chamber of Commerce, Power of Women, and various local community and charity events

Operational details: Employee handbook, bimonthly staff meetings

Sanitation procedures: All implements are sterilized, stations are sanitized between each client, owners clean salon daily by disinfecting the dispensary, floors, bathrooms, and tanning facilities

Higher Learning

Kris Monaco and Kim Monaco-Crevar strongly believe in educating their nail technicians along with themselves. “It’s essential for our staff to have the opportunity to extend their education in order to receive the knowledge needed to perform to the best of their ability,” says Monaco.

They attend trade shows, go to classes, and hold workshops at the salon. Some of the classes that they’ve attended include airbrushing, brush-on fiberglass system, backfills, French manicures, pedicures, and salon coordinator training. The sisters attended coordinator training because they believe in improving their leadership and managerial skills. They received training on such areas as proper phone technique, rebooking customers, increasing retail sales, customer service, and supporting a salon team.

To stay competitive with the latest techniques, the owners make every effort to bring the classroom to the salon. “Club Monaco believes education is the key to success. We provide workshops on everyday tasks to ensure services are performed to the best of our ability. “The staff works on each other’s hands and is critiqued by the Monacos. Practice really makes perfect for the owners, when they have their workshops, they do a lot of critiquing practice timing and filing, and do a lot of trouble-shooting. “We expect everyone to share knowledge since they are all experts in their specific areas.”



Location: Indialantic, Fla.

Owner: Faith R Glionna

Years in business: 4

Staff size: 4

Charity involvement: Donate money and volunteer time at local women’s shelter, college radio, teacher associations, project graduation, churches, and The Jewish Federation

Operational details: Salon meetings once a quarter, detailed lease agreement, salon newsletter

Sanitation procedures: Hospital-grade disinfectant to soak all implements. Towels and pedicure baths are washed with bleach. Desks are cleaned and towels are changed for each client. They also use disposable sundries.

It Takes Communication

Faith Glionna runs a professional, well-managed salon that encourages communication with a smile. Giionna has salon meetings every quarter or as often as needed. She tries to be proactive with the salon and employees’ needs by making it a point to inform every potential staff member of her responsibilities from the start of employment. For instance, it is all written down in a detailed lease agreement, which outlines the various duties that she will be responsible for such as cleaning detail, sanitizing implements, and maintaining records.

Cuticles also offers many benefits to its employees. Each booth renter receives one week’s rent free once she has been with Cuticles for one year. There is an air purification system and a telephone installed at every station. And nail technicians don’t have to hassle with phone calls since the salon provides a full-time receptionist. Each station receives an added scrub-down through the salon’s weekly cleaning service. Plus, nail technicians can sell their own retail products.

Cuticles is a success today because the salon and its employees communicate and work together in harmony. Having an organized salon is nothing without a professional staff. “We look for precise knowledge of artificial nail products as well as natural nail care, continuing education on the products and services, and a well-rounded, enthusiastic personality” says Glionna.




Location: Bloomington, III.

Owners: Jennifer and Carol Perdue

Years in business: 7

Charities: Nails from the Heart in benefit of the Susan G. Komen breast Cancer Foundation, provided free manicures for Mother’s Day Out church program

Operational details: Monthly staff meetings, employee handbook, optional retirement plan

Sanitation procedures: Hand washing by clients and staff before and after each service, use hospital-grade sanitizer on implements and work surfaces

Continuing education: Attend trade shows and local classes. Carol provides in-salon training for staff and other local salons and schools. Several staff members are on a national technician referral system.

From the Heart

Clients not only appreciate the staff’s commitment to community involvement, they love the salon’s warm, earthy colors that cater to both males and females.

Charity involvement is something very near and dear to the hearts of Details Nail Salon’s staff members. From arranging a dog walk fund-raiser for a local animal shelter to participating in a golf outing benefiting breast cancer awareness and research, staff members tend to support causes that directly affect the people in their community. “We’re attracted to the charities that make a direct impact on a social level and help build awareness,” Jennifer Perdue says. The salon’s charity involvement goes back to the time it first opened its doors to the public. Perdue says it’s a good way to support the community and meet a new client or two along the way, since the salon does not have much of a budget when it comes to advertising.

In a world where so many people only look out for themselves, it is refreshing to see a group that takes such an interest in helping others. “We believe in the philosophy of doing unto others as you would have done unto you,” Perdue says. One cause that is especially important to the staff is the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, which opened a local chapter in 1999. In February 1999, the salon hosted “Nails from the Heart.” Nail technicians went to the salon on a Sunday — their day off — and gave $10 manicures, raising $850 for the association. “The motivation came from the impact breast cancer has had on our clients and their families, friends, and coworkers,” Perdue says. “We wanted to do something to show our love and support of these people.”

Another event that stands out in staff members’ minds is the “Paws for a Cause” fund-raiser Carol Perdue arranged. “Carol came up with the idea after hearing of a similar fund-raiser in Florida and she and a friend spearheaded the dog walk,” Perdue says. Carol spent hours planning, promoting, seeking supporters, and even making miniature doghouses from wood and other materials for a silent auction the night before the event. Despite all of their involvement, Perdue says they wish their busy schedules would permit them to donate more time. “Time for planning and the money involved is all given in love anyway, so you find the time,” she says.

The salon’s clients are certainly thrilled with all of the involvement they see. Perdue says she has the world’s greatest clients, and they are all very supportive. “Many of our clients are also involved in fund-raising and charity events so they help motivate us as well,” she says. However all of that involvement would not be possible if the salon did not have the staff it does. “I realize how lucky Details is to have the staff it has and the loyalty everyone has shown,” Perdue says. “We are like a little family”




Location: Blairstown, N.J.

Owner: Rosemary Weiner

Years in business: 1

Charities: Women in Need Foundation, Project Graduation, and American Heart Association, among others

Operational details: Monthly staff meetings, employee manual

Sanitation procedures: Hospital-grade autoclaves, negative-nail enhancement room, and localized running water at each station

Continuing education: Subsidizes costs of travel and tuition for additional certification and training

Rosemary Weiner has always prided herself on the fact that her salon maintains high sanitation standards.

Keeping It Clean

When clients step into The Brass Rose Spa & Salon, they might just be getting the most germ-free manicure of their life. That’s because Rosemary Weiner makes it a point to maintain her salon and services as sanitary as possible — hospital-grade clean, in fact. The salon boasts ventilated nail stations with localized running water and autoclaves. Anything that cannot be sterilized after use — buffing blocks, nail files, etc. — is offered to the client to take home, and all metal implements are sterilized at the nail station and individually wrapped in a sealed pouch. The salon’s cleanliness can certainly be attributed to Weiner’s nursing background, but she says she would have emphasized that regardless of her past. “I would have been adamant about sanitation no matter what. My background simply gave me a leg up on how I wanted to do things,” she says.

Weiner and her staff of six nail technicians make sure to educate their clients about their services. In fact, the salon offers a free brochure titled “Infection Control and Nail Services” that explains its penchant for sanitation. That effort to educate clients has been a big part of the salon’s success. “We’ve been open less than a year and we’re already booked solid,” she says.


Location: Lansing, Mich.

Owners: Karen Lampani, Megan Arambula

Years in business: 7

Charities: Donating a Christmas tree to benefit local medical center’s cardiovascular department, Lee National Denim Day in benefit of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation

Operational details: Weekly newsletter informing staff of new products, events, and changes taking place, as well as staff meetings every three months

Sanitation procedures: Technicians and clients must wash hands before any service, autoclave is used to sterilize skin-cutting implements; all other tools are disinfected

Continuing education: NCA member, participate in various nail events, Lampani is an educator for EZ Flow Nail Systems

Although moving into a new facility was stressful for Patrick’s Salon owners Megan Arambula and Karen Lampani, they knew the end result would be a much larger salon that would be able to better accommodate their staff and clientele.

Built from Scratch

Not too many salon owners have the distinction of saying they actually built their salon from the ground up. Karen Lampani and Megan Arambula do. It all started when the owners realized their original location was not big enough to house all of the nail technicians and hairstylists occupying it. Lampani came upon a prime location just around the corner from the salon, and on March 2, 1998, construction on the future — and much larger — Patrick’s Salon began.

Construction on the salon was no picnic for the two owners or their staff. Patrick’s was originally set to open in July 1998, but the roof collapsed and its debut was delayed for another few months. Moving all of the equipment and supplies was also stressful, yet elating at the same time. “It was exciting watching everything be put in,” Lampani says. “We wanted everything new.” In fact, the salon sold most of its old belongings, from ventilated nail stations to neon hair and nail signs.

Staff members joined forces and packed their supplies and equipment in boxes, all while servicing clients, two days before the salon was scheduled to open. The following day was spent unpacking and setting up shop. On October 26, 1998, Patrick’s finally opened its doors to the public. Today, the 4,000-sq.foot salon boasts 16 nail technicians and 14 hairstylists. Despite all the months of hard work, Lampani and Arambula wouldn’t have it any other way.

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