Self-admittedly strong-willed, Maggie Boyd says she tells her clients how their nails will look, not the other way around. “If I let them tell me what to do, then I’m not the professional,” she affirms.

The way Maggie Boyd sees it, the world is full of great opportunities for men. The nail industry, she says, is a great one for women.

Boyd should know. She has gone from a temporary job as a manicurist working for grocery money to becoming a successful nail studio owner with a reputation as a smart businesswoman. She just bought the building that houses Avanté, her salon in Barrington, III., an affluent, far-northwestern suburb of Chicago.

 “I don’t have a husband or boyfriend who bought it for me. My nail business bought it for me,” Boyd says proudly.

Boyd is known for saying what she thinks. By her own account, she is outgoing, assertive, blunt, and honest.

Her clients sometimes think she’s bossy. Her passionate views on industry issues have earned her the nickname “Mad Dog Maggie” from her students. She’s a slender, trendy dresser, who might show up in a red fringed skirt with matching boots, and hair that is white one time you see her, and blonde or red the next, says Barb Wetzel, a friend and former student.

 “She’s kind of a nut. You either love her or you hate her,” says Wetzel, who now owns a nail studio and school of her own in La Grange Park, III. Boyd has strong views on improving professionals status in the industry, increasing nail technician’s earning potential, and helping nail technicians learn how to gain respect from customers and the rest of the beauty industry, Wetzel says.

If Boyd ran the world, prospective nail technicians would take a test that measures their dexterity and personality. Only those who are people-oriented and love working with women would pass. Boyd believes the training course would take 700 hours, 500 hours of which would be devoted to practical, hands-on learning.

 “You can be artistic and still not be good at this business. To be a good nail technician, you need to show up, you need to like people and have some artistic ability. You can do well at this with a people-personality,” she says.

But nail technicians need good training, too, Boyd believes, and they need to get it from qualified instructors. To that end, Boyd was part of the group that wrote legislation to require licensing of Illinois nail technicians. The group lobbied for the bill for four years, only to have it vetoed by the governor. They did not give up and eventually saw the governor’s veto overridden.

The law has been passed but not yet enacted. The number of training hours, however, had to be dropped to 350 to get the final bill passed. Boyd said she pushed for stronger education requirements because of “rip-off educators” who teach what they feel like and often expose students to only one product.

In addition to chairing NailsChicago, a team of nail technicians that puts on educational programs with the Chicago Cosmetologists Association (CCA), Boyd is active in state and national industry associations. She’s also a founding director of the Nails Industry Association. She is as tireless in her devotion to her clients as to professional nail technicians. Until a few years ago, she worked 60 hours a week. Now, with five employees to help her, she works three days a week.

Boyd considers herself a nail sculptress. What she does is natural nail enhancement, sculpting light-cured composites onto nails (she doesn’t like to use the word “gels” saying it’s too generic). The goal is to grow out the natural nails and maintain them. Boyd’s clients pay $85 for a full set---which buys them nails that look natural, won’t yellow, and adhere well, she says.

Then there’s the state-of-the-art studio, with full-spectrum lights, sometimes called “happy lights” because they are supposed to improve your state of mind, Boyd says with a laugh. The studio is vented, with two exhaust hoses at each station and table hoods that Boyd designed herself. There are smoking and non-smoking sections in the studio, and the exhaust system works so well you can’t smell smoke or chemicals anywhere, she says.

Boyd is constantly talking classes to improve her own knowledge of the industry, and she’s expanding her business into skin care and body treatments. She’s on the cutting edge of nail salons, says Patrick O’Keefe of the CCA.

And, just like Old Blue Eyes, she did it her way.

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