Being the best he can be has always been the motto of Tom Bächik, a nail technician at The Look in Bakersfield, Calif., and the current leader in the NAILS 1995 Competitors Ranking. “Competition is in my blood,” says the husband, father of 18-month-old son, Gage, and former high school athlete. He also coaches high school roller hockey, rides a jet ski, and plays indoor soccer.
“I wanted to do more than just sit at a table and do nails,” says Bächik. And he has. Inspired by the award-winning nails of Tom Holcomb and former competitor Kym Lee, Bächik has placed in numerous competitions ever since he began competing shortly after finishing nail school about two years ago.
His latest victories were at the June 1995 NAILS Magazine Show in Las Vegas, where he won first place in four nail competitions. To stay focused during each competition, Bächik “thinks” nails the entire time. “I’m constantly visualizing my technique and the finished nails,” he says. If he places in the top three, he’s happy. “At the awards ceremony, when the announcer calls out the second-place winner, you think to yourself, ‘I either did really well or really badly’” he adds.
For Bächik, competing is a way to make a name for himself in the industry. “It also makes you more valuable in the salon,” he says.
Before joining the nail industry, Bächik, who majored in design and production art at a technical school, worked with his dad as a dental technician. On the side, he did custom graphics on helmets, motorcycles, and jet skis. “I wanted to stay working in the art field because of the money, but I knew the type of artwork I was doing was probably just a passing fad,” says Bächik. At the time, his cousin was going to cosmetology school for hair and told him how lucrative doing nails was. Looking for a career change, Bächik evaluated how much it would cost to go to school and how long it would take, and decided to go for it. “Everything fell into place — I had the art as well as the dental [acrylic] background,” he says.
So what’s it like being a male in the female-dominated world of nail technicians and clients? “I think because I am a male technician, I am a novelty to many curious clients. Though my gender may land them in my chair the first time, it’s the quality of my work that keeps them as clients,” says Bächik. At previous salons he worked at, the technicians were either eager to learn a technique he had to share or they had the attitude that “I’ve been doing nails for five years and I know everything there is to know,” he says. “I don’t know whether their negativity stemmed from the fact that I’m a male or that I’m an accomplished competitor.”
In addition to competing, Bächik is an educator for EZ Flow Nail Products. “While I was in school, EZ Flow offered free manufacturer classes on campus. They asked if I would use their products at my first competition. I said yes, and I won second place. Then they offered me an educator position,” he says.
Bächik, who at one time contemplated starting his own nail company, put the brakes on when he realized how much work is involved in running a business. A possibility, though, he says, is having his own product line marketed through an established company. “This way, the distributors are already in place and the marketing is being taken care of,” says Bächik.
Another prospect, one he feels strongly about, is to write an instructional manual on the proper use of electric drills. “There is not enough education available on the proper use of drills,” he says. “I think they’ve gotten a bad reputation because many technicians don’t know how to use them safely.” For Bächik, no mission is impossible.