“Originally I wanted to be a fashion designer because I’ve always been good at drawing but I hated the technical side of the course. I switched to an NQV Level 2 in Beauty Therapy but found I only really enjoyed doing facials and nails. So, in 2000 I studied for my Nail Technician NVQ Level 2 and started working as a mobile tech.”
2002–2004 freelance nail tech at LFW
“I was asked to work the nail bars at London Fashion Week (LFW) and because I was pretty new to the industry I knew it would be a great opportunity to develop my skills, working for brands Rococo, Revlon, Maybelline and Crabtree & Evelyn.
“LFW is very different to mobile work. You work alongside make-up artists and hairdressers in hectic back rooms, having to create distinctive looks in limited time with a minimal amount of space. Despite the high-pressure environment, these shows opened me up to the different forums available to nail techs while I built up my mobile business.”
2002–2004 Nails Inc technician
“Although I love freelance work, I needed something more financially stable because I was a single mum with a threeyear- old daughter. I joined Nails Inc as a full-time tech and learned a lot about how to bring in new business by upselling services and treatment packages to clients. But there wasn’t much focus on developing my technical skills, so I took courses in advanced manicures and nail art – because it was becoming more popular – in my own time. I’m a big believer in continually learning.”
2004–2009 Cuticles franchisee
“I saw an advert about Cuticles – a nail, beauty and tanning franchise which was creating a UK-wide mobile salon network – in a magazine and approached the founders, Ros Lewis and Cathy Stewart, about it. I wanted to run my own business but I didn’t know how to go about it or what the logistics would be, which is why this franchisee set-up was perfect.
“After an initial £1,500 payment, I paid a monthly fee, which the company used to promote my services and help me with supplies. As a franchisee, they kitted me out with tools and uniforms and sent me on loads of training. This is where I achieved my CND Master level and learned how to do make-up and waxing.
“As one of Cuticles’ London-based techs I got busy quickly, to the point where I had to turn people away. I did a lot of high-end clients, such as royal associates, and soon realised I could make more money by doing one of these clients than five regular clients. So I started doing a lot more of this type of work.”
2008–2012 trainer/manager at Wah Nails
“It was around this time that Cuticles closed but by this stage I was doing a lot of freelance work, helping at fashion shows and on editorial shoots for Tiffany & Co and Vogue magazine, so I was OK to go it alone. Plus, my clients were extremely loyal and followed me.
“Sharmadean Reid, the owner of Wah Nails, needed some freelance techs for a pop-up nail bar she was hosting in Selfridges and asked if I could work it. Wah Nails is an art-led business and I was good at design, which I think is what impressed her because she offered me a part-time job. At first I wasn’t sure; I liked being my own boss, but the business’s concept was interesting and she gave me flexible hours so I could still do my session work. I learned a lot about nail design there.”
2009–present agency work
“In 2009 I joined Camilla Lowther Management (CLM) and the agency quickly started booking me in for celebrity clients, including singers Jessie J and Rihanna. For this kind of work, you have to be readily available; I once had to accompany Jessie J on her UK tour. It’s busy work but the kind of thing that really gets you recognised.
“I didn’t have much say in the nail designs – they were powerful women who knew what they wanted – but the looks were fun to create. The first time I did a gel manicure for Jessie J she asked for stick men and smiley-face nail art, while Rihanna always opted for long, solidcoloured nails.
“In 2012, I left CLM for my new agency LMC Worldwide. My biggest clients to date here have been Spice Girl Mel B, actress Michelle Keegan, who I did a baby pink gel manicure for, and singer Adele, who wanted olive-green nails with Gelish Olive You for her Glastonbury gig last year.”
2009–present Nail Harmony UK master educator
“I’ve always wanted to teach and I thought if I was going to do it then I would want to do it for a company like Nail Harmony, the UK distributor of Gelish and All That Jazz. I’ve known [director] Georgie Smedley for years and she is hands down one of the best teachers around.
“As a master educator, I train techs in manicure, pedicure, gel polish, hard gel, and liquid and powder at a kitted-out training room in my house, which used to be my dining room. I only train two to three people at a time because I want my students to go away feeling confident in what they’ve learned.
“I teach, on average, twice a week, work with the Nail Harmony team backstage on TV shows such as The X Factor and continue to do my session work in between. My goal for the future is to open my own training academy.”
WHAT I’VE LEARNED…
… about following your dream
“I didn’t realise it at the time but it was my grandma who originally inspired my fascination with nails. At the age of 12 she bought me a manicure kit and made me practise on her, which is where I got my eye for detail.”
… about being adaptable
“Every working environment is different. When you do public-facing events like The Clothes Show in Birmingham you have to be speedy and potentially deal with angry customers, whereas at fashion shows you could be one of four professionals working on just one model, so you need to be able to work efficiently around others.”