Educator of the Year: April Buford

The winner of Educator of the Year is crowned. 

Owner: The Nail Consultants

Educator: Truman College

Location: Chicago, III

Years doing nails: 10

Age: 28

But She Is Number One

On April Buford’s business answering machine, she says, “Remember, we're not number one… you are.” Buford, a nail technician for 10 years, is an instructor at Truman College in Chicago. She spends her days teaching students and also runs The Nails consultants, an educational company that provides trained, licensed nail instructors for school and continuing education programs. In many of the letters of recommendation sent in with Buford’s nomination for the NAILS Industry Award’s Educator of the year award, students are told of how Buford always puts other before herself. But on June 19, 1996, she found the tables had turned. Buford was selected by the judges as educator of the Year, an achievement especially distinguished because it was the first time NAILS ever gave out the award. A stunning or poised young woman dressed in an elegant black and gold evening gown, Buford was overcome when her name was called and she could barely speak.  “ I can tell you how thrilled I was", Buford says. "It was such honor to be recognized in a field I love so much.”

<p>The moment April Buford (right) heard her name called as NAILS Industry Educator of the Year, she burst into tears. The audience of nail professionals, friends, relatives, and well-wishers nearly did too.&nbsp;</p>

For Buford the award was wonderful way to measure how far she had come. Two years, Truman College did not offer nail courses, In fact Truman’s director has no knowledge of the field. Buford, who by then had started her company, sent the director proposal that outlined a nails program of 604 hours (254 more than the state’s minimum requirement to acquire a nail technician license), and included market research that showed how big the industry was. “he got very excited about the idea.” Buford recalls. She started by teaching one course now she and her consultants teach four.

“We teach people who weren’t born with silver spoon in their mouth,” says Buford when describing her students. The thrill for her is seeing of her students build careers for themselves. To date, four of her students have started their own salons; two other students that Buford sponsored have won the first place award in several local nails competitions. “Many of these people started class with no job and no direction; now they are bettering their lives.”

Buford’s reputation, as well as of the nails consultant, has moved beyond the Chicago area, and Buford has been asked to set up courses and train educators in Canada, New York, Georga, Michigan and Indiana. Besides being licensed as a nail technician and nail instructor, Buford also holds Bachelor of Science degree in business management. She knows what it takes not only to make a business successful, but to make a career successful as well.  Buford draws on her marketing expertise to get students excited about nails. “Every class starts off with my students listening to motivational tapes for at least 20 minutes or by sharing success stories about salon ownership, ” Buford explains. After that, it’s a full day of courses in theory of nail care, sanitation, business classes (opening your business, how to write resume cover letters), fibreglass, gels, acrylic, and nail art.

<p>Clad in crisp green uniforms, the nail students at Truman College gather around April Buford (standing, in white) to get training in everythign they need to become professional nail technicians.&nbsp;</p>

Buford often puts in 12-hour days, which means her business takes its toll on her personal life. Still, Buford insists that the time commitment doesn’t bother her, “Ask my family and friends and they’ll tell you all I like is to do is nails, nails, nails,” Buford says. She is there for her friends, however. In fact, Buford had to excuse herself from the awards banquet in Las Vegas when news came that the father of one of her colleagues had passed away. She in turn was comforted by staff and friends when her stepmother passed away a few days later. "I’ve been all over the place emotionally,” Buford says of that week’s events. But after a long days’ work or a personal tragedy, Buford at least is assured that in the eyes of the nail industry, she is always in first place.


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