On My Mind: Making a Difference — One Tech at a Time

In a special guest column, salon and school owner Tina Caton talks about training nail techs to be the best they can be.

“Why did you decide to open a nail school?” That’s the question always asked by my clients when they see how busy I am running a salon, working as a nail stylist, and trying to take care of my family. The answer is simple — there are not enough educational events and classes in nail technology in my area. I’m sure everywhere else in the country nail techs feel the same way.

Every time I interviewed a nail technician for a position at my salon, I always got the same answer when I asked them about products and skills: “I could use a little more education or training and then I can do it.” And it’s true, the skills aren’t there for many nail techs coming out of school. Some can polish and do natural nails, but enhancement skills and product knowledge are totally lacking. New techs really need a lot of training in those areas. My salon is simply too small and my time is too limited to put them through a complete training course before they go on the floor.

I’m a second-generation nail tech and when I was younger I always told my parents, who were nail techs in the ’90s, that I would never want to be a nail tech, because they had no continuing education, product knowledge, or customer services skills. They simply did what everyone else did and worked 65 hours a week to make ends meet. That’s not what I wanted to be.

In time, I realized I wanted to be a nail stylist and educator, so I opened my own salon. I continue to learn and advance myself in this industry through nail shows and networking events with people I love and respect for their work. I saw the need for a nail school that focuses on training future nail techs to become the best they can be, from technical skills and product knowledge to business ethics and customer service skills. I take pride in my work and I am now a nail stylist, salon owner, an educator for Essie, and an instructor at my own school — yet I am still learning.

My proudest moment was when my daughters said they wanted to grow up and become nail techs like me. I give credit to my parents for putting me in this field, and I am sure if given more opportunities to learn and advance themselves, they would have taken that road too, but there wasn’t enough communication, education, and support there before. My hope is that future nail technicians who graduate from my school will make a difference.

If every nail tech or salon owner who reads this page sets a goal to take one class this year or help another tech learn something new, we’d all be adding to the development of our industry — one tech at a time.

 — Tina Caton

 A nail tech for 18 years, Tina Caton is the owner of Polished Nail Lounge and Artistry Academy in Richmond, Va. Read more from Tina at

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