Friday, August 29, 2008

Are You Full Service?

Some drastic changes are happening in the USA Nail Industry. Back when I first started doing nails, acrylic nails was very popular. Back then I could get $65 for a full set and $35- 40 for a fill. Acrylic nails were something that only middle to upper class customers could afford.

We opened ourselves up to the Discount Nail Salon. By creating such a high priced market, we just opened the door and said, "come on in and take over". We gave discount salons plenty of room to come down on their prices and under cut us. Of all the countries I have traveled I can say, England is on it's way to having our same problems. Cost of service is still high there and their door is wide open!!

But, the positive side of this... it quadrupled the industry as a whole. Now, people that could not afford to have their nails done ARE having their nails done.

This has brought on a very important social change. If a woman had on a beautiful set of pink and whites (say 14 years ago) she could easily be looked upon as 'having money'. Now, just anyone can have beautiful pink and whites at a discounted price.

So how has this affected the Industry? More and more clients are asking for Spa Manicure (and Pedicure) services as well as Gel services. To have long beautiful natural nails has become the upper and middle class service. It takes time, commitment and caution to maintain a long natural nail.

My question (in the title), "Are you a full service tech?". Do you do Acrylics, Gels, Fabrics (Fiberglass, Silk and Linen) and several levels of Manicure / Pedicure? If you said no to any of these services you really need to rethink your actions. More and more clients are going to walk through the door of your Salon or Spa and request Gel. Will you be prepared to service them? Or will you turn them away only to feed your competitions business? Seek out continuing education and learn these services. Practice and promote them. Use, "I'm a full service tech" or "full service Spa" on your marketing literature. Keep the products on hand. And be prepared to provide the service.

It's all about getting them in the door. Once you have them, you can start to educate them on the services you prefer. By then they will trust your skill and knowledge and consider your suggestions.

In a time when the economy is painful and the dollar is so weak, every customer counts towards keeping your business alive.

(writing from Valencia, CA today)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Clients Would Never Wear That!!

"My clients would never wear that!!". When ever I hear this statement my instant reply is, "Bull! If you really believe that, you are missing out on some serious money.".

I got my start in the nail industry in Maine. If you have never heard of Kennebunkport, Maine... let me paint a picture for you. First, George Bush Sr. has a prominent summer home there. Some of the richest business people, movie stars and musicians own summer homes there as well. The remaining locals, are an interesting breed. They're down to earth (we're talking about Maine here) but VERY conservative. My salon that I owned with my dad was just "a stones throw away" from KBP.

At a very early age, I discovered I had a natural gift for painting and art. It didn't take long before I was painting anything and everything on a nail while in school. My first job was in a hair salon in Kennebunk (not the port). I built my entire clientel by displaying my little works of art under my glass table top. Back then most of my artwork was requested for the holidays. My clients were proud to have me hand paint designs and wanted no part of quick stick ons.

Later in my career I discovered color and glitter acrylic. I even created and made my own glow in the dark acrylic. And guess what? 90% of my business was wearing it. Maybe the most conservative didn't have it on their fingers, but you better believe they had simple designs with crystal rhinestones on their toes.

My only mistake back then, was I was too detailed. I needed to book more time on my appointments in order to do my nail art. I wasn't as business minded then, as I am now. If I were back in my little Maine Salon today, I would use the amazing array of designs that stick on fast. Time is money folks. If you can add designs without adding time to your books, you've just increased your income.

The line of nail art that I have done for my company "Cina and Cinapro" has all been created so that the nail art can either go on top of polish or even inside acrylic or gel. So Stickers take on an amazing roll in a set of acrylic nails. You can do a design set of permanent acrylic nail art in less time than it takes to do a set of Pink and White french...and make MORE money!!

Have I got your attention yet? Now for any of you that think your clients won't go for it, you're not even giving them a chance with that mode of thinking. Try introducing them to something very soft and simple. Crystal Rhinestones are a given. Do a little five petal flower on their big toe and put a rhinestone in the middle. Before you know it, that nail art will have a permanent place in their service. But the first step is up to you. Unless you expose your clients to something new, they'll never know it exists.

So what's the state of the Nail Art Segment of the Nail Industry? Well, 14 years ago my clients were coming to my salon with their little girls. After mom's manicure, I would paint their little girls nails and add nail art. She is now grown up with her own disposable income and has already been exposed to nail art. It's not a stigma to her.

It's up to you. Keep thinking they'll never go for it and watch. In the coming years as nail art gets increasingly popular...your clients will be going to the competition for it... and you'll be losing money!

(writing from Valencia, CA today)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Right now you have got to be asking yourself where I am going with my Blog today. Last week I picked up my new iPhone 3G. For those of you that do not know me very well, I am a gadget junkie. My real reason, for switching companies and getting the iPhone, was to have mobile service in all these countries I travel to. It's pretty isolating to travel to another part of the world by yourself and be cut off from the part of the world you know. But the Gadgets....HUGE bonus.

The first thing I immediately hated and was very disappointed in, that the screen did not react the way my Palm Pilot or my other PDA Phones did. I couldn't tap the screen with my beautiful, pink and white acrylic nails. DAMN you Apple for making the screen work by skin touch and not the nail (or stylus).

What's this got to do with Misogyny? Well, for those of you that don't know what Misogyny means:

–noun hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women.

Now that's pretty harsh to say about a company that made this wonderful gadget and decided only short nail people will enjoy touching the screen. Surely, the men with big fingers have got to be feeling our pain as well. Anyway, Erica Watson-Currie from Newport Beach, California (no relation to me btw) spoke with Times writer Michelle Quinn and said, "Considering ergonomics and user studies indicating that men and women use their fingers and nails differently, why does Apple persist in this misogyny?" adding that she's reluctant to cut her nails for the purpose of using her iPhone. "It's the machine's job to accommodate its users, not the other way around."

Compromise? Quinn actually spoke to ergonomic consultant Anthony Andre who came up with a compromise: nail polish that can interact with the iPhone screen like your fingertip does. Quinn's name suggestions, 'Touch Screen Taupe' and ' iPhone Indigo'.

On behalf of all us ladies that don't wear polish, I say, "Booooooo". Apple, come down out of that tree to the real world and fix your damn screen. If Palm can make it happen 10 years ago, so can you!!!!

(writing from Valencia, CA today)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Real Deal about Nail Strengtheners and Hardeners

From time to time I'm going to take my blog down to the Client level. I would love to know that a nail client is using this Blog as a tool to learn what is good or bad, just as much as the techs.

What makes a strong nail? Is it thickness? Is it firmness?

The Reality of most Nail Strengtheners and Hardeners is, they do nothing to change the thickness of your nail. Truthfully, the only way to do this is by ingesting healthy food, taking vitamins and drinking lots of water.

So why do you notice nearly instant results? Well, the formaldehyde (and usually there is a high concentration of this to get the results) and Toluene basically suck the moisture out of your nails and leave them dry and ridged. This fools you into thinking, "My nails are stronger and thicker!". However, there is a very frightening side of this practice that you really need to know about. Both formaldehyde and toluene can cause adverse reactions. You can suddenly become allergic due to exposure to the high concentration that is found in most strengtheners and hardeners. Once you're allergic, you'll likely never be able to wear polish again because you'll be allergic to the TINY amount of formaldehyde that is used to preserve polish. Another end result of the over exposure to these chemicals, your nail (or nail plate) can actually release from the nail bed eventually falling off.

That is why most companies sell their Strengtheners and Hardeners in three level systems. They don't want you to stick with the formula high in chemical for fear of the reaction. Only problem is, most customers don't want to switch to the maintenance formula. They feel, "it's working, why should I switch?".

It is because of all these scary reasons that responsible companies, like Cuccio Natural, have changed to 'Strength in Flexibility'. By taking out the chemicals (formaldehyde and toluene) and replacing them with Horse Tail Grass extract , we are now able to stop nails from dehydrating. Think of it this way, when your nail is dry and rigid it is also brittle. One good hit and you're going to lose that beautiful free-edge you've been working so hard to grow. Forte with Horse Tail Grass locks the moisture in the nail creating a strong yet flexible free-edge. Now, when you hit your nail, it will bend and flex back. The greatest bit is, no adverse reactions to harmful chemicals due to long term use.

So the next time you are shopping for a really good nail strengthener, check the ingredients. If it contains Formaldehyde and/or Toluene, save your nails and just don't go there.

If you are interested in more information about Cuccio Naturale's Forte or any other Cuccio Products just goto the website or call the toll free number 1.800.782.7624. Customer Service can provide you all the necessary information to get Cuccio Products.

(writing from Valencia, CA today)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fill In the Gaps

Not just the gaps in those grown out full sets, but the gaps in your schedule. What are you doing to fill in openings last minute? I wanted to use todays Blog to share an idea that I learned about. Being internet savvy can help you fill in those last minute appointments. There is a business on the net called "Constant Contact" or . They help with email marketing and surveys. However, there is one vital area that techs could utilize.

You basically create a mailing list of your customers email addresses. The night before your work day use the mass mailing system to send your clients "last minute openings". You'd be surprised how many clients may not call you assuming you are already fully booked. You can even take this idea a step further and offer a discount on last minute appointments by including a code they can use when they call to book (to prove they got the email and called because of it).

There are so many other ways you can utilized Constant Contact. You could create a weekly newletter to educate your clients on why your services are so much better than your competition. Remember to say positive things about yourself and your services while avoiding negative remarks about the competition. You can also educate your clients on things like diversion or MMA. Keeping your clients informed of what is safe and what isn't will also keep them loyal for life. Tell them why your products, techniques won't damage your nails.

Lastly, use that survey. Find out what your clients like and dislike. Being able to handle their comments will make you a better tech, booth renter or salon owner.

(writing from Valencia, CA today)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Reality of International Travel for Work

This is what my desk looks like. I remember my first opportunity to travel for work. I was still living in Maine and in my salon working on clients when I got a call from my friend Lysa. She was getting ready to travel to Amsterdam, Holland for a beauty show and found out she was one educator short for the event. Being that I had a passport and flexible schedule I offered to help. The downside was, I had to leave NOW. So in a hurry I handed my appointment book to my sister Janis, to call all my clients for that day and those that followed as I ran home to power pack.

I was on an international flight that night. Because the flight was booked the only available seat was in first class. Now first class on international is quite different than national flights. Your seat is like a baby basinet . It could be layed out flat to sleep while the hood gave you some privacy. They also give you several course meals and call you "Miss Watson" for everything.

The trip was a success and I loved every minute of it. I'll always thank my lucky stars for the path my career has taken.... however.... here's the reality. Now, when I travel, it's usually anywhere from 4-7 days. A typical trip consists of two countries.

Day 1 Travel day. For anyone that does not do this on a regular basis, this day really stinks. This is where I collect lots of mystery bruises as I am constantly tossing luggage around. Once you are through security and in your seat on the plane, you have a bit of a sigh of relief. Typically, we get in to our rooms either super early in the morning and goto our customers office. Or late at night.

Day 2 or day of travel. Business meeting at our customer's office, educator training, which continues into a dinner where, hopefully, I don't fall asleep in my soup due to the time difference.

Day 3 is the Day we conduct our seminar. This usually is from 9-5 and winds up ending in another dinner.

Day 3 or 4 is travel to the next country and ends the day with office meeting, educator time and dinner. Again, not falling asleep in my dinner is a big accomplishment. Part of the job is pushing back the exhaustion and giving our customers our full attention.

Day 5 another Seminar.

Day 6 Travel day which results in arriving home on day 7. On one of my most recent trips, traveling home from Romania through London took a total of 28 hours!

Does this sound fun? Note the lack of time for being a tourist. Most of my images of foreign countries are shot from my hotel room window or a moving car to our next destination. I will never forget a comment our Rep in England (Stuart or as I affectionately call him, Stewie) made when I asked if we'd have time to see some of Romania. I've always wanted to travel there and hoped to see Dracula's castle. "You will have just enough time to blow your nose and take a wee." Don't you just love the English? Wee! I said I would forgo blowing my nose.

Lastly, while we are gone, there are no elves that come to do all the work that is waiting for our return. It just piles up. The picture I chose for today's blog is exactly how I feel about my desk right now. I can scarcely type without getting Post It notes stuck to my arms. I have 200 emails in my inbox to return and a Nail Art line to manage.

And you know what? I wouldn't change it for all the tea in China.

(happy to be writing from Valencia, CA today)

Monday, August 18, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

The lengths I will go to for an internet connection. I'm sitting here in the Hotel Lobby. It's wifi and it's free so I honestly can't complain. But man how we can take such a luxury for granted (in America). I have to watch my little wifi computer graphic before I can get or send information. So I hover over the send button on my email as I watch that little computer. Sometimes it takes a few minutes too. So now I'm like this freak willing the connect to stay long enough to hit send.

No business chat today. I've just finished several long days of business in Panama and I just don't have the urge to make another suggestion on how to increase your business. haha. I'll get back into that when I get home.

This is my first time to Panama. It's very beautiful here. My hotel is smack dab in the middle of the rain forest but not far from downtown Panama complete with skyscrapers. While we've gotten a lot of work accomplished, I have to admit it's be a fun trip. Once a year Tony and I get together with our Export customers from Central and South America. We call it our annual Summit. What's amazing is how all our customers from many different countries come together to do business with us, but end up making personal and professional friendships. It's really inspiring to see them helping one another and offering suggestions to grow their business.

For anyone that has never attended anything like this let me give you an idea of one of my days.
Wake up, shower and get all of my beauty regimen done (early), talk, talk, talk, talk and talk some more. Throw some meals in there with more talk, talk, talk...then off to bed (late). Now multiply that times 3 days. As always, while offering all the knowledge I've learned from Tony for so many years, I've learned some more from each of our Customers here about the things they are facing in each of their countries.

I did get about three hours today to be a tourist. I went on a great walk with Claudia (from our office whom came on this trip with us). I got to see three Monkeys in person for the first time in my life. Claudia and I even reached out and touched the sweetest little female Monkey. Call us nutty but it was a really neat experience. pray for me and my connection. I'm about to send this one off. I'll have more blogs to post from here complete with pictures once I am back to a serious connection.

(writing from Panama, Central America today)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Consumer Terrorism

I bet the title of this entry got your attention! About seven years ago I was working back in Maine in the salon I owned with my Dad. At the time he was reading this book and would not stop talking about it. It was called "Consumer Terrorism: How to Get Satisfaction When You're Being Ripped Off" written by Elinor Burkett. Without realizing it I learned a lot as I listened to him tell each hair client about this book. In a nutshell, it teaches you (the consumer) how to stand up for yourself when you are not being treated fairly. My favorite ditty that I have used many times, "Now, what are you going to do for me?" and then zip your lip. It forces them to come up with a fair solution to your problem. It's worked for me numerous times.

Recently, a group of co-workers and I ordered lunch from a delivery service because we were just all too busy to run out. Unfortunately, they got one of the lunches wrong. It became an interesting topic of our lunch conversation. Jill said, "It happens to me all the time. If they screw up I usually just give up going to that place." It got me thinking. How many times could this have happened in your Salon or Spa? Maybe, if Jill had read the book my Dad did, she may have looked at the situation differently. She may very well have ended up with a free lunch next time and the establishment might not have lost a customer.

Are you keeping the lines of communication with your clients open? And I don't mean all the juicy details of their sorted divorce or crazy families. I mean, do you portray yourself to your customer as open to criticism? Or does it peeve you to the point that maybe you give a little attitude back?

The Customer is always right. What a HUGE pill to swallow sometimes! But it could be the difference between keeping a client or losing your business. Keeping a smile and talking calmly to even the most irate customers can win them over. I do it ALL the time at Star Nail. And don't forget, it's not always what you say, but how you listen.

In closing, I have one more little story that happened just last night. I went to my favorite Spa to have my mani / pedi (yes I go get it done now, I'm just way TOO busy to do it myself!!) and I happened to have my attention swayed to the chair next to me. A woman had her pedicure finished and flip flops on. Yet she still required her Nail Tech to tote over his electric nail file to work on her nails at the pedicure chair. Forget ergonomics, this poor guy had to work in the least comfortable condition. She kept blowing under one nail and asking him to keep filing underneath to get some dirt. Five times she blew and handed that nail back. I wanted to smack her for him. To his credit, he remained calm and sweet. I wanted to pat him on the back when it was all over.

Use your judgment wisely. This blog is about giving good customer service. "Not getting taken advantage of" is a whole new blog.

(writing from Valencia, CA today)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Birth of Ideas

Yesterday's topic was just way too heavy. So today I felt like lightening the mood. Two questions I am always asked, "How do you come up with your ideas?" and "How do you create the idea?".

First, you have to consider what you are doing. Is it for an ad, article or cover. If it is a cover shoot, I usually work with a creative director from the magazine and we discuss the theme of the cover and ideas. Then I take those ideas and sketch them out on paper. From there I take it to the nail and do a few practice runs and take digital pictures to seed to the CD. That's when we decide it's great or tweak a few things.

If it is for an article, again you are working with an editor whom is writing the story. For this, I usually have creative freedom. I just take the theme into consideration and dig through my magic folder and box of bits and baubles I've collected through out the years.

Lastly, ads and catalogs. These are the easiest of all. I have just about full creative freedom at Star Nail International. Being a member of the Marketing Team and a tech makes it very easy to suggest ideas and work together to get what we want for the shoot. I do have to say, we've got an amazing group of people. If you have seen any of our marketing work over the last few years, I would hope you'd agree that it's pretty hot.

For this blog, I used images from a project I did a few years ago. The owner of the publication, "Nails International" asked me to do the cover of his first issue. I worked with photographer, Brooks Ayola and model Michelle Sandquist. Naturally we wanted an international theme since the submission in the issue came from actual techs all over the world. Flags was the easy idea. However, I felt it was a little too simple and decided to give it my own touch. I have a collection of currency from every country I have visited. What I did was choose ten flags from ten countries I've been to. I then took the currency and used a heart shaped hole puncher to make little nail art bits to insert into the flag designs. The last element was the globe. I didn't want to favor the United States or any particular country so we basically kept spinning the globe like a basketball and shooting it where it landed. We were surprised to discover that Michelle's left pointer nail (containing the Scotland Flag) is actually pointing at Scotland on the Globe.

(writing from Valencia, CA today)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wake Up Call

If you are not already feeling the effects of our weak economy you will soon. Gas prices and interest rates go up while family incomes go down. We're seriously in a financial crisis right now. Here's my prediction, if you're a salon owner or a booth renter, your rent is about to go up...while you're likely losing clients. Or your work space is getting smaller to make room for retail. As our financial situation worsens our clients either put their nails off longer, stop getting them done all together OR they head to a salon with cheaper prices. Either way, it hurts your income.

What's worse is as an American Nail Technician your battling those discount salons on every street corner.

It's sink or swim. So what can you do to keep your business going? First, be a smart shopper. Nail Glue is Cyanoacrylate. If you're paying for fancy, shmancy glue, check the ingredients. There are so many sundries you can be smart about shopping for. I'm not saying to get rid of that reliable acrylic or gel system you have. I'm saying all the bits and bobbles like files, sticks, blocks, glue, dappen dishes, on. You can save lots of money by being smart and finding the best price.

Next, retail. If you say, "Ya I retail" I say...BULL. Nail Techs in America fall short on retail. What if I told you that by adding a few really good items, you could pay your rent on retail alone? You could. Take Cuccio Natural for example (one of my companies product lines). We offer retail banners that you put in your waiting area that lay down the sales foundation for you. Not to mention great point of purchase displays that make it easy for your customer to pick out retail items without your help. Things like these examples will boost your sales and help you out.

Make yourself known. Offer to do nails on your supermarket cashiers, bank tellers and anyone that works with customers. Offer to do their nails for substantially less if they agree to give out your card if someone inquires about their nails. That is basically free advertising. And personally we all know word of mouth is great. That potential client wants to know your fantastic before she tries you out.

Times are a changing folks. My prediction is that those discount salons are not going to be so discount for long. Ride out the rough times because the Second Generation is growing up and about to take over the family business. Those kids are now Americanized and won't want to work for so little. What you do now, can determine your future in this industry.

(writing from Valencia, CA today)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Nailpro Italy

I was really excited to learn, today, that one of my "off the wall" sets of nails made the cover of Nailpro Italy. Italy always has been and always will be the fashion capital of the world. To see that they liked my work and used it on their cover is REALLY flattering. Anyway here is the link but I am sure it will only work for Aug 08

If you've ever been interested in doing a cover of Nailpro or Nails Magazine, it is actually not as difficult as you may think it is. They are always looking for qualified technicians to grace their covers. I got extremely lucky for my first cover. Nails magazine gave Tony Cuccio a cover to show his new system Acrygel (November 2004) so naturally he asked me to do the nails for the cover shot. So call that #1. Get with a manufacturer as their educator and the opportunity might just fall in your lap.

#2 I highly suggest joining Beauty Tech's Nailtech board or Mailing list. My very first article came from an editor reading a post of mine about my custom manicure table. She emailed me directly and we because fast chat friends. She later left writing for Nails to work with Animal rights. About 8 years later I met her at Nails. Believe it or not, we recognized each others voices and went..."are you??". You just can't make this stuff up.

#3 ASK! No one ever moved forward in their career if they were afraid to ask for what they want. Just do some fabulous sets, take really great quality pictures and send them to the editors. Stephanie (Nailpro) and Hannah (Nails) are great. These women are so warm and inviting.

#4 talk to Cover Techs and ask them how they got into doing the shoots.

#5 be extremely thankful. Those magazines can launch your photoshoot career. I'm not saying you should give everything away, however recognize what you're getting in return. I have never gotten paid for a cover, nor have I expected to. The Publicity is totally worth it. Because, to this day, I am still thankful... I know that I make their job easy. Don't walk on set with the attitude that you're a super star. Be as flexible as possible because things can and will go wrong. You've got to adapt.

My last bit of advice.... get trained for print work. The camera really does add ten pounds. Salon nails are not Print nails. You are only looking to make that set stay on for a day. Not until her next fill. Work super thin (before the point of breaking) and super wet! Working wet creates less air bubbles.

As promised here's the image from the Italy Cover. It was also the Nailpro USA Cover in August of 2007.

(writing from Valencia, CA today)

Friday, August 8, 2008

You're going to do what?!?!

Start a Blog.

I'm not usually one to follow trends, so the idea of starting a blog when it really isn't a new concept took a lot of consideration. I've never even been one to have journals or a diary. I've tried. I have bought beautiful journals, written about three days worth, only to set it aside to collect dust.

Why now? And what's different?

I have a lot of really cool things going on in my life that I just don't want to pass by without documenting them. For example, my passport is full and has had pages added. But have I got lots of images in photo albums to show for it? Nope. I do have a baggie full of foreign currency. And I do buy my Niece a new magnet in every new country I visit. But that is basically it.

So I'm going to use this opportunity for two main purposes: As a tool to reflect back on all the amazing places I've gone or will go. And also, to hopefully inspire someone in this industry to aim for something beyond the nail table.

I can get down right goofy at times. So don't expect this to be all poo poo business either.

(writing from Valencia, CA today)