Oh, What a Night! NAILS Salon of the Year Awards

The only industry awards of their kind, the Salon of the Year Awards are our way of giving back to those individuals who elevate our industry with their actions and contribute to a growing number of successful, professional businesses.


Each year NAILS and The Nailco Group have the honor (and pleasure) of awarding the top salons, nail technicians, and this year, the educators of our industry. We recognize them for their fierce dedication to the industry and raising the bar of professionalism, while offering the utmost in services to their clients, an educational work environment for their staff, and contributing to their community. We know it's a tall order, but this year's 12 finalists met the challenge. Along with a record crowd, they met us at The Nailco Group's Great Lakes Beauty Show in Dearborn, Mich., in October to celebrate a year of amazing achievements and to start the new year with renewed dedication.




School: Harry S. Truman College in Chicago

Years doing nails: 14

Accomplishments: NAILS Educator of the Year (1996), co-founder and president of the Nail Care Association, Nail Technology Training Program coordinator and instructor for Truman College, instructor for Milady Publishing’s Nail Technology video series.

Continuing Education: In the last two years, Buford has taken just under 88 hours, including classroom training for teachers, as well as nail-specific courses such as reflexology, aromatherapy, spa services, marketing and airbrushing.

Student Advocate

When April Buford sent in her entry for Educator of the Year in 1996, judges said the touching letters her students had penned about her brought a tear to their eyes. This year; her entry left another indelible mark on the judges. “Next to the face, the hands are the most expressive part of the human body,” she writes. “Caring for someone’s hands should be a labor of love. It is for me, and I try every day to communicate this to my students and those who I meet in the industry.”

Many of Buford’s students come from the inner city where the school is located. Because of that, she sometimes faces special challenges, which she welcomes. “Probably the most rewarding feeling is working with students who have never really accomplished or finished anything in their entire lives,” she explains. “Nothing feels better than contributing to someone else’s accomplishments or successes.”

In fact, much of what she teaches are skills that aren’t found in the textbooks, but are designed to prepare her hard-working students for the reality of the nail industry. “Ms. Buford puts great emphasis on what we’ll need to know once this class is over” writes one student. “It gives me an advantage over someone who hasn’t had the same preparation.”

Her desire to help her students, while elevating the industry, has culminated in a number of projects. As co-founder of The Nail Care Association and part-time proficiency specialist at Truman College, she is committed to seeing that nail technicians and salon owners are in compliance with state regulations and maintain high standards of professionalism. She also edits her association’s newsletter and actively participates in its annual salon owner/technician roundtables, which she finds are a “treasure trove of information and inspiration.”

Most of all, she is a dedicated teacher and advocate for her students She rules with iron will and doesn’t coddle unwilling or unenthusiastic students. Instead, she inspires them to strive for more. “I consider it my duty to challenge my students and to let the cream rise to the top,” she says. “Passing students who are not enthusiastic about the profession or who aren’t willing to aim high would perpetuate the lingering negative stigma that surrounds our profession.”

And though it may sound harsh to some, Buford admits that her purpose is not to be loved by students, but to produce great professionals — something she does with great success, according to students like this one: “Ms. Buford is an inspiration to me ... she proves the point that you can do anything you set your mind to.”




School: Advanced Nail Education, Key Biscayne.Fla.

Years doing nails: 11

Accomplishments: Co-owner/operator of California Nails Boutique; senior educational sales consultant/detail specialist/main stage presenter for Creative Nail Design; award-winning competitor; competition judge.

Continuing Education: Major trade shows, including IBS Long Beach and Ace Beauty, two business workshops, and Creative’s Global Nail Summit workshops.

In addition to being a main stage presenter, when it comes to education, Louis Mattassi likes to focus on building beginning students’ self-esteem and technical skills in small group settings.

Prescription for Success

Louis Mattassi’s interest in teaching began shortly after he received his license. “I observed my mother, a salon owner and educator herself, and I was inspired,” he says.

His other motivation? Filing the void for nail technicians. “Our profession demands more than just technical expertise,” he explains. “It requires prescriptive abilities, that is, matching technical knowledge with the individual needs of clients. Realizing all of this made me want to help fill that void in others.”

Mattassi uses what he calls his “Prescriptive Technique” to help convert his students into consummate, moneymaking professionals. “This area is my favorite to teach because I believe it is the most important area of a nail technician’s work,” he says. “Many artists are technically skilled, but only some can match that with client needs.” Mattassi says that with its use his clients have been more loyal and satisfied — and that his skills are most appropriately utilized.

Mattassi also stresses to his students that continuing their education throughout their careers, they will be able to offer their clients more — commanding higher prices for their services. He offers seminars and tapes for those who may not have the time or money to travel.

Mattassi says his greatest reward has been watching and tracking the success of his students. “I find it personally motivating when I observe former students who have taken my teachings and have found success,” he says.



School: Ultima College of Cosmetology, Westminster, Colo.

Years doing nails: 15

Accomplishments: Director of education at Ultima, where 98% of her students pass their state board test the first time; tutors the learning disabled to achieve licenses and work; tutors students who need help in a particular area of weakness

Continuing Education: 10 classes in the last year, including OPI, Tom Holcomb’s Academy, Too Much Fun, Amoresse, Strata, and Tammy Taylor

In addition to technique skills, Jackie Savage feels it is important for her students to have good customer service skills, so she teaches a class on professional image, personality assessment, client retention, and people skills.

Building Futures

It’s a challenge helping students prepare for I and pass their state board exams, not to mention making sure that they’re ready for a future in their career. It is especially challenging when the student is learning disabled.

“Knowing that you’ve helped someone who everyone said couldn’t learn to do nails to pass her state board exam (with a score of 88% on her first try) was one of the highest highs I have ever experienced,” says Jackie Savage of former student Diane Venditti. “I will always remember the feeling of euphoria I had when she called to tell me she’d passed. I remember thinking, ‘Now, this is what it’s all about!’”

Savage’s passion for education has helped her develop partnerships with salons in the area to benefit both students and salons. The Partners in Education program puts her students in a local salon to learn from professionals about the reality of the nail and hair professions. The extra training and product knowledge then excels the student’s progress toward being a successful, entry-level employee.

Most of all, Savage’s success seems to be in her interpersonal dealing with her students and staff. “She shares her knowledge and is always there to listen and understand the students and instructors with all of their questions and concerns,” says a letter signed by Ultima’s nine instructors.

The interpersonal talent has always been a part of Savage’s skill as a teacher. “When looking back at some of the student surveys, one comment was consistently expressed: ‘Ms. Savage can explain concepts while remembering that we’re students just learning the ropes — she’ll always let you know that it’s OK to ask the ‘stupid’ question,’” writes Nancy J. Lease, vice president of operations of Columbine Beauty Schools, where she worked from 1994-1998. “Students respect and respond to Jackie.”




Salon: Nails Naturally in Chicago

Years Doing Nails: 11

Charities: 36th Ward Youth Foundation. Mentor for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and other local youth mentoring organizations

Accomplishments: President of Nails Naturally nail spa, which has more than 250 clients, field tester and educator for Creative Nail Design, educator for Backscratchers Salon Systems, and nail technician for movie and TV production sets and for recent Milady Publishing educational video, advisory board member for the Nail Care Association and member of Cosmetologists Chicago (formerly the CCA)

Sanitation Procedures: Hand washing, clean towels, new abrasives and sanitized implements for each client

Continuing Education: Bioelements, Creative Nail Design, Jessica, Nail Mentoring Institute, OPI, Nail Tek, Masterworks, and more

Great Nails, Naturally

It was just nine months ago that Lá Shaun Brown-Glenn walked up to a NAILS editor at an industry event and told her about her attempt to enter the Nail Technician of the Year awards the previous year. “I started putting my entry together, but I never actually finished it or mailed it,” she remembers. “I think I was afraid of failing.”

This year, after some encouragement from various friends and colleagues, Brown-Glenn not only completed her package, but mailed it in to us in plenty of time to make the deadline. Her efforts secured her the top honor in her category.

It is obvious that learning is Brown-Glenn’s top priority. By October 1999, she had accumulated more than 38 hours of continuing education credits that year. “It is not uncommon for her to work a 60-hour work week and then dedicate her weekends to attending nail seminars. She goes for her own personal growth or her role as a manufacturer’s educator so that she can then teach other nail technicians,” says loyal client Karen Noonan.

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