A small group of dedicated, farsighted, and hardworking nail technicians, active in the youngest chapter of the nation’s largest cosmetology association, is beginning to have their impact … and in so doing, appear to be offering a “home” for nail technicians interested in finally joining the family to diverse professionals that make up the National Cosmetology Association.
This group, officially entitled Nail TechniciansAmerica, represents the nail care segment of the beauty industry to the association, and is one of five specialty group enveloped by the parent organization. Others include: HairAmerica, SchoolsAmerica, SalonAmerica, and EstheticsAmerica.
What makes this group noteworthy is the respect earned from the NCA board and membership, and the effort put forth to entice the nail professional to join their growing ranks.
Officially instituted less than two years ago, the NTA, under the guidance of committee chairwoman Lynn James, has quietly taken the NCA’s wealth of benefits and added an educational program specifically tailored for nail technicians that may give it, in the long term, a strength to rival any of the NCA’s larger and more visible segments.
The successful entry of this group of professional into the “mainstream” of the beauty industry speaks well of the persistence and tenacity of Ms. James, and to the strength and appeal of the NCA’s impressive benefits. Both emerge in discussions with NTA members about the story behind their triumphs, as does what they all describe as the NCA’s “clout.”
“Why work with the NCA?” Lynn asked, anticipating the question. “Because no other association had the basic benefits of the NCA, and none and the established clout, the ability to get things done.
“When the NCA goes to lobby for something of importance to the beauty industry, they go with the power of 60,000 members. The legislative and lobbying power cannot be ignored.”
That one word, “clout,” seems to epitomize the NCA and the actions of its five subgroups. In fact, “clout” is written in large, bold and boisterous letters throughout the NCA’s promotional literature and is a theme they take seriously: Clout as in salon management training, as in educational training the opportunities, as in economical insurance option, as in effective legislative and lobbying efforts.
What Is the National Cosmetology Association?
The NCA, previously known as the National Hairdresser’s and Cosmetologists Association, is a national professional organization of more than 50,000 licensed cosmetologists and salon owners from all 50 states, and is widely recognized as the largest, most influential group of beauty and grooming professionals in the world.
Founded in 1921 by the leaders in the beauty industry concerned with the future of cosmetology, the NCA is now the official voice of the cosmetology profession in the United States and is the USA affiliate of the Confederation Internationale de la Coiffure, the worldwide cosmetology organization with branches in over 40 nations.
The association itself features the five professional divisions, each responsible for establishing programs for their specific fields of interest. Membership into these separate families, such as the NTA, is achieved by passing extensive tests and by remaining active within the association. These individuals make up the NTA; they then establish committees to update the NCA board on their unique needs. As such, they are the most active in setting and developing programs for the membership in general.
Membership in the NTA is not limited by numbers, but has two other specific requirements: the licensed nail technician must be an NCA member for at least a year, and must spend one-half of their working time either doing or teaching nail care.
To the nail professional, the importance of the NCA and its fledgling NTA is the evolving acceptance by the association of the unique needs of the manicuring profession ... and their ability to do something about it. But in plain language there are specific membership benefits worth reviewing.
Among them, a licensed professional who joins the NCA:
- Automatically qualifies for $1,000 in life insurance and $2,000 double indemnity for accidental death;
- Can qualify for malpractice liability insurance coverage, based on the number of employees (part and full time) with limits as high as $500,000 per person (or $1 million per year) for annual premiums ranging between $30 and $40 per person per year;
- Can take advantage of the premises liability insurance coverage up to $1 million for approximately $1 30 per year;
- And can qualify for group, hospital and medical coverage, as well as income protection and life insurance.
In addition to insurance programs, the association has established an impressive format for education, coordinated by the five separate divisions, including:
- National, state and local seminars on topics ranging from product application to salon management;
- Advanced cosmetology and nail care courses;
- Technical video cassettes, books and instruction aids. The one aspect of the NCA’s clout that may seem the most obscure is the legislative power the association is capable of wielding.
For example, the NCA was founded primarily to protect the legislative interests of licensed professionals. Some of the more recent battles fought and won by the NCA include:
- The elimination of royalties and licensing restrictions for permanent waves;
- The avoidance of cosmetic taxes.
- Allowance of specific tax deductions.
- Relieving of price control restrictions.
To accomplish this watchdog role, the NCA has established legislative “pyramids” throughout the country that look out for the well-being of cosmetology professionals in each state. Full time legal counsel is maintained in Washington, D.C. To advise and protect members.
Such a structure, according to those in the NTA, can easily work for the betterment of the nail industry by lobbying for licensing in states that do not currently license nail care professionals.
The NTA is the most recent and youngest member of the NCA family. Almost three years ago, Tom Berger, then president of the association, recognized a growing need to address specific nail care concerns. Succumbing to demands from the membership, he appointed an initial steering committee to establish the groundwork for what was to become the NTA.
Lynn James, an outspoken, active and relentless promoter for the nail industry was chosen to chair the committee. A licensed nail technician, salon owner and product manufacturer, Ms. James chaired a committee that included within its membership Renee Weisberg, Dana Malpass and Ann Mordini.
This committee, chosen by Ms. James with approval from the NCA director, was formed to establish procedures and operating policies: Their direction was first to develop an educational program that would help promote an understanding of nail care and its different application techniques. Also, two specific committees were established: a legislative committee to interact with the association’s legislative committee, and an attendance committee to establish procedures and requirements for membership into the NTA.
Ms. James has since continued in that role as president of the NTA, nearing the completion of her second year in that position.
“After EstheticsAmerica was formed,” Lynn recalled, “the association turned its attention to the nail care segment of the beauty industry, after some careful prodding from many in the association,” she added with a hint of a smile.
When she started working toward a committee, there were less than 200 nail members out of the 50,000 membership.
“The most recent roster shows over 800, which is not a tremendous growth, but a good amount to gain in a short period of time,” said Lynn.
In general, the NCA membership has been supportive of the NTA and its efforts, reported Lynn, who suggested that their impact has been not only in the education of the technician, but the education of the salon owner.
“Full service salon owners especially are moving toward nail services and are coming to the NTA education to learn all about nails and nail technicians: to learn about hiring, what to offer them, how to train them and how to keep them.”
According to Richard Swinney, president of the NCA, the efforts and direction of the NTA and the association’s commitment proves to many skeptics that nail care is a viable service, and that the NTA is a professional group interested in their skills and industry.
“From its inception,” suggested Swinney, “the manicurist/nail technician has always been accepted into the association as a member.
“But now, with the organization and the ability of the NTA, the nail technician in general will have a collective, political voice and clout they never had.”
As the NTA grows in stature and numbers, added Swinney, “the NTA’s influence will spread into state and local chapters, and into the state boards of cosmetology ... an area where this group is already having an impact.
“Our input is felt at the state and local levels because of the NCA’s overall influence on state boards and due to their lobbying efforts,” added Ms. James. “With the existence of the NTA, we extend that influence to the salon owner. Now they have someone they can call. They have all heard the so-called nightmares about nails. Now we can waylay fears about having nail technicians in the salon.”
Membership in the NCA ranges from about $45 to $85, depending on the state and its individual membership benefits.
To become an NTA member, the technician must be active within the local or state chapter for at least one year and successfully complete a five-hour exam.
“When we finalized the NTA,” she explained, “not all of the existing NCA members could be ‘grandfathered’ into the NTA. The criteria we established was a minimum of three years of experience, plus the fact that at least one-half of the income must be in the service or the teaching of nail care.
“Resumes were also required for review, and then we certified those qualifying members with appointment by the NCA board.”
There are currently over 100 NTA members ... and qualifying exams will be offered bi-annually at the NCA’s shows and conventions.
“The basic purpose of the NTA is to provide education, and to continue to be educated,” Lynn emphasized. “This means coordinating educational seminars, hosting the seminars and coordinating the information. Additionally, platform work is available for those interested.” The NTA also sponsors nail competitions, with the long-term goal to establish a competition circuit similar to the one for Hair-America.
Lynn’s emphasis and diligence regarding education is a life-long commitment, and in fact, her background was in education and teaching prior to establishing her career in nail care.
“My first love is education,” she claimed. “No industry can survive without it. Years ago, people didn’t know about nails, or even what a sculptured nail was. They had no clue.
“But now they know and they want to know more. They’re asking questions about application, about product ingredients. Also, many clients are starting to ask questions of their technician, and they are becoming more specific. In order to stay ahead, the nail technician must keep up with new products and information about the industry. And that is what the NTA is all about.”
Recognizing that this is a long-term project, Ms. James often speaks in long-term answers, as if such goals are easily attained. But she is also a bit of a realist.
“It sounds trite, but I feel that any career you have committed your life to, you must give something back. You just can’t continually take or the industry will die. That’s basically why I got involved ... also I wanted to get involved on the ground floor so that I knew things would be organized the right way. My way,” laughed Lynn.
Now that the NTA is growing in numbers, and the NCA is picking up additional nail members, future plans and goals must be addressed. And currently that is exactly what this group is doing. Of primary importance, according to Lynn, is licensing.
“We have grown, as an industry, to the point where we deserve this recognition,” she explained, “and to not use this influence would be a mistake. So currently we are looking at establishing Nail Fashion Committees at the state levels (in the past only California had one, now we have 12), and to evaluate and develop licensing and regulations for nail technicians.”
Lynn is a bit cagey about her own future, and about whether she will pursue a third term as president of the NTA in July.
“Whether I will be appointed or accept is still up in the air,” she remarked. “I’ve served two terms, but another ... well I’m still undecided.
“And it’s not just the work. That can be gratifying even though it can be an S.O.B. I’m more concerned about what happens when one is involved for too long. I don’t want to look like I’ve put a stranglehold on the NTA.”
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