How I Got Started in Nails

Straight out of high school…

In high school, I had to do the daunting task of choosing a lifelong career; you wouldn’t believe my aspiration. I wanted to be an architect. Yes, like I really did.

Before I could ever build anything, I had to take some challenging college courses, including calculus, physics, physics with calculus, and some bio and chem classes.

Science was not my forte, so I struggled, but I got through it. Then I began my lower-level architecture classes before I could even apply to an architecture college, and that’s where I stopped. 

Those classes were some of the most challenging courses of my life. During the first month of school, I was getting up to 2 hours of sleep, and my stress levels were through the roof. 

After 3 years of dedication and focus, though it was hard, I had to think more pragmatically. I needed to think of a career that could get me going in the real world much faster and whose curriculum I could compete in while still getting my sleep. Nope… that’s not when I went into nails.

After quitting the architecture thing, I decided to be a nurse, but guess what? Even after successfully completing my course work for nursing, as life would have it… I had to take a break from school (and it was actually timely; I was burned out and just wanted a big break from it).

But I still wanted to “grow up,” and growing up for me didn’t come in the form of a degree. I gave it a good shot; I took some damn intense classes… 

“Big Girl Things”

So, I got married, moved out, got a job, got a dog… you know, “big girl things.”

At that time, I was a waitress, and as life would have it again, I had to be off from work for about 2 or 3 months… AND that’s when I really gave the nail thing some thought.

I did a little research, found a local program, gave them all my savings, and began nail school.

Now at that point in my super young nail journey, I was only 23. I started getting an affinity toward gel nails, but I was super open to anything. Really anything about nails excited me, even the acrylic monomer smell. To me, that smell was the smell of nails.

I finished my schooling as soon as I could. I got licensed… and nope, I did not go and get hired in a salon… your girl picked up another waitressing gig because I was broke. You know, I needed it capital, ok? 

Doing Nails and Hustling

For whatever reason working for someone else doing nails just did not excite me, and even though I had just 1 client, I was going to make this work for me one way or the other.

So in the daytime, I would waitress, and in the evenings, I would do nails or at least go sit at my station and pretend to be waiting for my 6’oclock…

That was at my 1st space, anyways, that I rented for like one month before being put out… Yeah, my first renting experience was a total misfit.

But thanks be to God because soon after, I found the best salon owner to rent from and stayed there permanently. 

As a renter, you should have access to your stuff 24/7, so as often as possible, I’d go and hang out at my happy place, my little nail station.

Sitting there, I quickly learned that telling yourself and a few other people you are open for business does not drive clients in droves. 


Because I was desperate to be booked, I did something I would not recommend now, and that was…running a Groupon.

Now, if you don’t know what Groupon is, it is a site where you, as the consumer, can get products and services from like 40-70% off. 

So I could say to Groupon, Hey! I want to run a gel manicure special with you, and they usually would be like, Ok, what you got?? It was really that easy.

As a new account, I would have to do at least 50% off of my services, and then the other 50% Groupon and I would split… yeah, you can essentially do the math… lunch money. 

But Instagram was barely taking off, and all of the posh new nail studios were not really yet a thing. I feel like marketing for brick and mortar was at a weird transitioning place… Like Yellowpages was obviously not a thing, Yelp was booming, so yes, that was that. 

So I did Groupon. In my head, at that time, being a successful nail tech was being slammed with appointments. I thought… boy did I learn a thing or two with that Groupon promotion.

Big Lessons from doing Groupon.

When the promotion ended about 6 months later, I learned a few big lessons. 

  1. I did not want to work 12-14 hours days! Doing nails literally became painful!
  2. I was barely being profitable.
  3. I also learned that, unlike when I first started doing nails, I wanted to find my niche. I did not want to do it all.

The acrylic monomer was no longer a pleasant thing for me. 

It’s different when you’re a customer and smell it for an hour, but working in the smell for 8 hours was literally nauseating for me.

I still preferred gel, but I didn’t like the bulkiness of hard gel and how it would pop off from clients.. and gel polish was such a temporary service also.

And right about now, I was ready to throw in the towel. 

After all, the first and fundamental reason I got into nails was to learn how to give myself the best set of nails… but I was passed that. 

I had gained enough experience to do that by now, after 400 Groupon redemptions. So now, I wanted to find a product or nail system that would work across the board with all clients. 

If this product didn’t exist, I think I was ready to walk away from it all.

You don’t have to offer it all to be successful. Heck, You don’t even have to do pedicures if you are uncomfortable doing them. 

Ready to give up…

Again, by this point, I had fallen out of everything I had used and was tired of being in the complaint department. With nails lifting, chipping, breaking, etc. 

And so I got kind of desperate, but also very business minded. And I think this is when I really had a mindset shift regarding my business. I knew it was a business because Hey! I was the boss… But on paper, as far as revenue went, it was not a business. 

It was time for a heart-to-heart with myself because this nail thing I thought was supposed to be super fun, yet it was so hard, so I gave it one more shot.

Soft Gel Potted Systems Saved my Business!

I invested in a $400 program hoping this would be the solution. To me, niching down, not offering it all, having consistent wear on clients, no more lifting nails, and really just being able to master my craft, specialize and make money.

This program I invested in was training with my first soft gel potted system. Yes, soft gel potted systems saved my business.

The company I started with was Bio Sculpture gel, the inventors of soak-off gel. Yep, 1988 in South Africa.

Soft potted gel systems are a game changer. They have ranging flexibilities to fit all nail types.

They are usually high-quality hypo-allergenic formulas that are relatively expensive.

Now while this soft potted gel movement began in South Africa, it was deeply embraced in Japan.

And yep, you bet, that is how AND why I got so involved with Japanese gels, and over time I just preferred them a bit more than Bio Gel… but it has a little special place in my heart and always will.

Tear moment.

Ok. So because of the superb adhesion components to the nail and incredible flexibility, soft potted gel systems, including Japanese gels, last extremely well on clients’ natural nails. And bingo! These systems were genuinely what saved my business.

The Benefits of niching down.

After niching down, specializing in soft potted gel systems or Japanese gel, I was able to do the following,

1) Increase my prices, 

2) Save a bunch of money by not buying into all sorts of nail systems, and 

3) Filing my books with clients and doing nail services that I genuinely enjoyed.

Now I’m sharing my story with you.

I think sharing this today is crucial because perhaps you are in the same place today…

You might be really frustrated by all the nail systems “you’re supposed to use”; perhaps you’ve also become the nail complaint department with nails chipping, lifting, or “mysteriously popping off.” Or maybe you’re not sure whether or not you’re actually making money doing nails. Listen, I get it, and I promise YOU can do what I did.

Because of time restrictions, I’ve left some key details out of this story. Still, I have put everything you need to know in a free training available for you to watch immediately. You can find the free training link HERE… make sure to check it out after this reading!

Thank you so much for listening, and if you’re feeling stuck, I want to know exactly what it is you’re struggling with, so drop a comment in the comments section, and I hope to get back to you soon.

Bye for now.

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Content written by Paola Ponce

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2 thoughts on “How I Got Started in Nails”

  1. I love your story! Picking a career for myself was so hard as well. I went to beauty school right after I finished high school thinking I could do nails while I was in college studying art history. Unfortunately where I am from almost all jobs in the nail field were independent contractor jobs. I started from zero renting a place and you know what, it didn’t work for me. I was waitressing for 5 years after that and I would do nails for my friends but I wasn’t making any money doing that. When I moved to Chicago though, there were so many opportunities here so I started from the bottom again and eventually I had my own studio space. Funny thing now is that I’m going back to school to study dental hygiene. I don’t think everyone is made to have the same job their whole life though. At least not me. ?

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