When Herman Paez shut down his clothing store a few years ago and took up managing his wife’s nail salon in Denton, Texas, he swore he would never do nails.
“I put my foot in my mouth, big time,” admits Paez.
A college graduate who went into banking and then retail clothing , Paez never expected to make a career out of doing nails, And when he did make the switch, he never expected his new career would let him travel the world, either. But that’s exactly what he’s done.
Paez has been a nail technician and educator for three years. It is his work as an educator that has taken him to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Italy, Germany, France, and Belgium. Creative Nail Design Systems named him Educator of the Year in 1993.
“A lot of people think nail technicians just sit behind a chair and do nails day long, but there are lots of opportunities to capitalize on in this industry,” Paez says.
Born in Guatemala, Paez came to the United States when he was three years old. He grew up in Texas, Speaking Spanish and English, and went to Texas Tech. on a tennis scholarship. Later, he transferred to North Texas Univerity, where he majored in business. His mother wanted him to go the banking route and he tired it. But that was at a time when banks were going under, he says.
One good thing about working at a bank: he met his wife, Sloane Smith-Paez
“She kept coming through the drive-through window asking for change for $ 10 bills. It took me a while to catch on. She finally asked me out to a sorority mixer,” he says with a chuckle.
Smith-Paez, who good-naturedly admits to primping for 15 minutes before she made those drive-through trips, opened Lovetouch Nails in1987 and built the business. When Paez got out of banking, he opened a European clothing store, but closed it after a year to manage his wife’s nail salon.
Now, he divides his time between working as an educator, managing the salon, and doing nails. Smith-Paez is still co-owner of the salon but works in Chicago as a regional manager for Creative Nail Design System. The two see each other a couple of times a month and try to do the same shows.
“The thing that makes it work when I’m in Chicago and he’s in Texas is that we have so much in common. We share the same interests,” says Smith-Paez.
Hard work and natural charisma are the reasons Paez has been so successful in the nail industry in such a short time, says his wife.
“He’s like a people magnet. He’s so good with people and they feel comfortable with him. He’s also a very thorough businessman, but he knows how to have fun,” Smith-Paez says.
Smith-Paez gives says. Smith-Paez gives her husband credit for taking the nail business seriously at a time when most men wouldn’t consider it.
“What he’s done in the nail industry is comparable to a woman climbing the corporate ladder. They have to try so much harder,” she says.
There were one or two other well-known male nail technicians when Paez started. Now, he says he’s constantly reading stories about male nail technicians. Soon, he believes, male nail technicians will be as common as male hairdressers.
Being a male in the nail business is a double-edge sword, he says. “You’re either great or you’re horrible because you’re a man.”
There’s a curiosity factor: A lot of people wonder if a guy can do nails. “Being a guy in this industry, you definitely get noticed,” he says.
-By Lynn O’Dell
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