Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Maggie Got a Motorcylce-- and Won't be Back to Work till January

Official word is that I'm out of work until January 1, 2013

my Xray: I'm part Cyborg!
Visit the fish with a bicycle blog and read all about the lamest bike crash evar!

My left wrist (I'm left-handed) has at least 3 broken bones. I had surgery on it on November 1 and my radius is now held together with a titanium plate and 5 pins and screws.

I'm working hard to retain my full range of motion and get back to work, but it's a slow process. It looks like I should be back at work full time come January.

If you've tried calling and haven't been able to reach me this is the reason.

Visit the Facebook page to follow my progress, and for information regarding the tech I've been  referring clients to while I'm out.

Hopefully everyone will be patient while I recuperate and I'll see everyone after the first of the year!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Don't Go Breaking My Heart

HRTE Networking event, San Jose CA 2009
One of the things that made me realize that doing nails would be my career-- not just a "fun" job on the way to something else-- was the realization of the Industry behind the salon. The vastness of what the beauty industry is made up of is truly enlightening; the science, the chemistry, the education, the trade shows, the competitions, the dedication to the craft and the pursuit of perfection-- the realization that doing nails could be so much more than just doing nails. That I could dedicate myself to being a top-notch professional; an artist and an engineer. That it's possible to take doing nails seriously and bring it to a whole new level over what most people will ever see of what it means to be a nail-lady.

So many people are starting to get to see some of the "Big Picture" that makes up other industries; hair and makeup, fashion, interior design, culinary arts, and restauranteuring for example, through reality TV. I am especially fond of the competitive shows that go a long way toward showing the public just how involved some of these professions are.

Nailpro Cup 2009 competition awards ceremony
Unfortunately, we don't have a "Sheer Genius" or a "Top Chef" for nails yet. Because I think it would be great for everyone if more people understood that while there may be thousands of people doing nails, on every corner, in every strip mall, there are also hundreds of nail techs, nail stylists, nail artists out there who are busting their butts to master their craft and show you that there's a difference between a $20 set of nails and an $80 set of nails-- and trying to teach you how to recognize the difference and why you should bother.

Recently one such colleague posted the following on a major professional networking forum. I asked if I could repost her words.

"Hey Techies,
I have a client who used to be a regular gel client until she moved last year. She now comes to me 3 or 4 times a year. It wasn't a problem until this visit. She showed up with NSS, substandard, horrible acrylic nails that are yellowing and have fill lines. She went on and on about how she found a new salon that is so beautiful and the guy she goes to is so up to date on all the latest things and does such beautiful work. I'm looking at horrible, yellow, fill lines and acrylic ( she was told that it was the new powder gel that they were using ) and I want to scream! I pointed out the yellowing and the fill lines, she acknowledged them and then said something about "taking it all off" for her fill. I told her that she would have to soak them off for about an hour and then I would do a full set, for the price of a full set. She said that they just pulled them off, no hour wasted soaking them off. I had to keep my head down so she could not see the horror on my face.
What do you say to someone when presented with this kind of mess? I did not have the time to soak them off and do a full set, so, I did not push her to do so. I told her that it was acrylic on her nails and she said that it was powder gel, didn't I know about it? I explained that it was not powder gel it was acrylic and she still insisted that they said it was gel so it is gel. I stopped short of telling her that they are lying rat finks because she went on and on about how much she liked the salon and the "guy" who does her nails and the conversation was quickly turning into an argument with my client defending her "guy's" flat out lies!

I could use some advice as to what to say and what not to say. In general I do not bad mouth anyone else's work, but, what do I do when someone is lying their butt off and the client believes them over me? I have certificates on the wall that prove my advanced education and she's heard me go on and on about all the conventions, continuing education, this mailing list, industry web sites and trade publications that I've gotten all my information from for 25 years and she still believes that lying sack of *~#t!!!!! Sorry, I fell into name calling.....not sorry he is a lying sack of _____.
She was a good client for about a year before she moved, I educated her while she was in my chair and now she seems to have forgotten all of it. On her way out she saw my old ProFinish two hand uv lamp and exclaimed, "that's what they have, the new two hand lamp! What do you use it for?" I told her that that lamp is a least 15 years old and useless except to get regular polish clients to sit still for 4 minutes. She looked confused, but, said nothing more.
I thought about booking 2 hours for her next appointment and soaking the ac off and putting on a new set of gels so she would be reminded of how they should look, but, if I'm doing all that work, I'm getting paid for a full set and she would not agree to that. Besides, she saw my nails and the clients before and after her with beautiful, clear, non yellow, no fill lines, gel nails. Maybe she listened and noticed more than she admitted to and she will find a new salon that actually does gels, not acrylic with a gel overlay.
So, Techies, I did a little venting, now, what do you all say to clients who come in with NSS nails and tell you how beautiful they are?"

 I think she so eloquently summed up the frustration we all feel when we are faced with someone who not just fails to grasp the importance of what we are are sharing with them, not just fails to give credence to our expertise, but seems to down right mock us for trying to educate them.

Let me tell you. This breaks our hearts. We genuinely care about not just what we do, but about the health and safety of our clients. Ultimately, some people just don't want to believe us. Some people aren't able to process too much information-- it's simply over their heads. Some people need their nail techs to be "beneath" them, getting intimidated by any simple nail girl who uses bigger words than they do. And some people genuinely can't tell the damn difference in qualities of workmanship.

award winning nails by Maggie Franklin
Whatever the reason behind this behavior, it's insulting to those of us who spend our lives going above and beyond to provide the public with up-to-date, accurate, information.

If you really believe in powder gel and the tooth fairy, that's fine. If you really think that mechanically forcing product off your nails is as safe as, or safer than, taking the time to dissolve the bonds between your natural nail and the product, fine. If you really can't tell the difference between a professional, informed, up-to-date nail tech and somebody who just smiles a lot and makes eye contact while they BS their way through your service-- again, fine.

But if you really can't tell that you're going around bragging on some jacked up nails, you've got more problems than a good nail tech can fix.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Looking for a Deal?

There is so much debate in the professional beauty industry-- in many different professional industries, in fact-- about whether or not professionals should offer discounts, promotions, coupons, etc.

The argument against offering special offers and discounts is that it devalues the professionals services in the eyes of the consumer. Basically, they're saying that if I (the professional) should decide to offer a special deal  like say, maybe, a Full Set of Rockstar Nails for $40.00 (regularly starting at $65.00) that you (the consumer) will get it in your mind that since I can offer that discount, that that's all my skills are worth and that I should always offer that service at that price.

So when I end my promotion and that service goes back to regular price, my consumer base will be less willing to believe the service is worth regular price.

Basically, many marketing experts are telling us (the professionals) that you (the consumers) don't appreciate value and won't be able to appreciate the opportunity to get a deal. That, instead, you are spoiled, demanding, selfish, and have no concept of how economy works or appreciation for small business owners and skilled professionals.

I've been in business for 20 years now and I think it comes as absolutely no great shock to many people-- skilled professionals or not-- that this is absolutely true of some consumers.

I have long been of the opposite frame of mind: I believe in promotions! Especially when one is trying to establish themselves in the industry. Whether a new nail tech who just got licensed and now needs to build their skills and their clientele, or a salty old veteran tech who relocates to a new area and needs to start all over again. If you need to fill space in your book, part of something is better than all of nothing, so promote away!

I still have some faith left in people. I see consumers everyday who appreciate-- and recognize-- value. Who can, and will, afford goods and services that are worth their price. And respect the skill and workmanship that goes into creating those products.

It's fine to appreciate a bargain when one becomes available.

For the last several years I've been booked solid, or nearly so. Even when economic fluctuations or seasonal lulls render giant gaps in my schedule, it's only temporary. I might have a few slow weeks here and there, but the spaces eventually fill up.

This makes it tough for me to offer promotions. And it's one of the things I miss most about the early days of my career.

I enjoy thinking up fun ways to promote my business. But it doesn't do me any good to come up with a great promotion and then not be able to accommodate the business it generates.

There's also the delicate balance between coming up with a promotion that entices new clients without making my regular clients feel slighted. When things get slow around here, I need to get new people in the door, not take a hit on the revenue I'm already counting on to pay the bills.

It's a hard line to balance on.

Nevertheless, I've decided to experiment with some promotions. Right now, I'm playing around with some "secret" promotions by adding some new categories to the online booking site. So make sure you scroll through the menu before choosing your service! I'll change them occasionally, so keep checking back. You never know when you might find something you'd love to take advantage of!

The catch? You'll have to book them online.

I'm open to suggestions though-- so if you have great ideas for fun promotions, let me know.

Just don't bother with the obvious (and insulting) things like "Hey Maggie! Why don't you do full sets for $20?"

If you want a $20 set of nails, feel free to visit a salon that does nails that are worth $20. I'm hoping for a chance to try new techniques, gain new regular clients, and find fun and creative ways of promoting it. Not becoming a discount salon-- there are already plenty of those, if that's what you're looking for.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Awareness without Action is Impotent

It's October. I wish our Octobers were about 20 degrees cooler on average around here (Central California)  so Fall would actually feel like Fall, but nonetheless, October is my favorite month of the year.

I like Fall. Even here in the middle of California where you have to go on scavenger hunt to find Fall colors among the green. Even though we still see 90 degree weather and you can't carve your pumpkins till the day of Halloween because it takes approximately 48 hours before they turn into a shrivelled, moldy glob.

And, for the last several years now, October is the time of year that everything-- EVERYTHING, from baking soda to handguns-- turns pink.

I'm not sure why they (or even who "they" are, really) chose October, but someone, somewhere, at some time, decided that October was a really good time to focus on breast cancer.

I dig the pink stuff. It's fun. I particularly like the things that turn pink that seem really weird in pink-- like chainsaws or bug spray (BTW, if anyone actually finds a pink chainsaw, please let me know.)

The cancer is strong with my people. I can't even prepare for what sort of cancer I might get, or when I should start worrying about it. Breast, uterine, cervical, ovarian, lung, prostate, bone, pancreatic, thyroid... from early 70's to late 20's... my family gets cancer. (I have every intention of taking after my grandmothers, both of whom are now in their 90s, cancer-free, and kickin like mules.)

I certainly appreciate the current level of support and awareness for cancer and cancer research. Since my great aunt passed away in 1982, the survivability of cancer has advanced by leaps and bounds. I'm all for all that pink stuff and the money it raises for cancer research that makes my personal prospects of facing breast cancer seem more like an excuse to get a boob job and less like a slow, miserable death sentence.

But there's this trend in "breast cancer awareness" that utterly befuddles me, and if you are woman with a Facebook profile, you probably know what I mean.

How the hell does posting the color of your bra, or changing your profile picture promote breast cancer awareness? Especially since these messages make the rounds as private emails with strict admonishments to not give away the reason you're posting your bra color on a particular day?

How does random, out-of-context blathering promote awareness of anything? If we're supposed to keep our reasons for these posts secret, then who, exactly, will be gaining this supposed awareness?!

Also-- is anyone not "aware" of breast cancer? Is there anyone left in the U.S.-- or the western world-- that hasn't heard about breast cancer? Is anyone left living in peaceful oblivion that this is a thing? And, for the love of boobies! if there is someone left who doesn't know about breast cancer, shouldn't we be telling them about it? Not covertly posting fun-- but impotent-- stuff on our Facebook pages that no one understands.

In addition to not understanding the point of these Facebook posting games and how they are supposed to increase "awareness" of breast cancer-- I also don't understand what they intend to accomplish?

It doesn't raise money. No one is paying you to post your shoe size or your bra color or purse color or whathaveyou. Even if, by some miracle, these posts actually manage to increase awareness of breast cancer,  they sure as hell don't help cure it, prevent it, or ease the burdens of the victims and their families who are dealing with it.

If you really want to do something postive and make a difference, donate some money or some time, or both.

Cases where someone is actually losing their battle with cancer are tragic, and those victims and their families can use a lot of help. But let's also remember the not-so-tragic victims: the women (and men) who face chemo or surgery while still trying to hold down a job, keep their small businesses in business; the people who don't have to face the end of life or the end of life as they know it-- for whom diagnosis is (with luck) merely a major inconvenience.

The women who will have to keep their jobs, keep paying their credit card bills and the electric bills, car insurance. Who have to go to work everyday, even when they have to fit chemotherapy treatments into their schedules.

I'm so relieved that there are more and more cases like this, and fewer and fewer cases like my great-aunt.

But as a small business owner who has seen colleagues face this situation and doesn't need to know what color bra you're wearing to be aware that this might be something that I may have to deal with in my own future, your inane online posting means nothing.

I'd rather know that I'll be able to pay my medical expenses, take time off of work without closing my business. That my clients will be patient, that I might have a friendly and supportive colleague or two who will volunteer to stand in for me while I'm recovering from surgery or too miserable to move from chemo. To know I have the emotional support to keep high spirits, the support to help keep my life in motion so that it's still there for me when I'm feeling well enough to rejoin it.

Volunteer to mow the lawn, volunteer to do the dishes or vacuum the carpet, go grocery shopping, return the Red Box movies... not every victim has family to do these things for them. Not every family rallies to these causes. Some friends and families don't step up  because "it's not like she's dying or anything."

There's just so much more you can do that can make a real difference for a real victim of cancer.

But the facebook posting games are fun, they require almost no effort, time, or money and offer a completely false feeling of participation. So go for it-- but let's stop with this whole "keep it a secret" crap. Let's tell EVERYONE why we are posting these things.

Awareness without action makes no progress.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Self Serve

Schedule Appointment

Last year I gave online booking a whirl and dang near put myself out of business.

On one hand, I realize that these self-serve options are all the rage in faster-paced, metropolitan areas. And, I realize that I don't live in one of those.

But Visalia is no longer a little hick town out in the sticks that nobody's ever heard of-- ok, maybe still a little "hick," but people outside the Valley have heard of it by now.

And not only am I notorious for hating to talk on the phone, but I also work very hard to not be on the phone while I'm with a client. There just aren't enough of us left in the business who want to actually interact with our clients-- I'd rather let the call go to voicemail and pay attention to the person who's actually in the same room with me.

On the flip side of that, is that we increasingly live in a world of instant gratification. And when clients and potential clients can't get ahold of me immediately, 24/7; I risk losing that business.

So online booking seemed like an awesome thing. People find me via the web all the time; I'd simply set up one of these systems and let my appointment book surprise me.

Yeah.... about that:

Thing is; my appointment book is MY LIFE. It's my business. I live by this thing. I can't risk having my information get lost or stolen. I can't risk having it unavailable. I can't risk opening my appointment book up to jealous competition, hateful exes, and disgruntled former clients or co-workers who might think it would be fun to sabotage me by booking a bunch of fake appointments. And I can't risk losing time to no-shows from good-intentioned folks who booked online and then found a faster opening somewhere else and just plum forgot they made the appointment with me.

So if I was going to give control of my schedule to strangers, I figured it was only fair to require that those appointments be secured with a credit card.

But, like I said, we aren't that citified in these parts yet. That's still a new concept for a lot of salon clients.

Also, I found that people didn't really understand that they weren't pre-paying for the service when they booked it. So there was a lot of awkward conversation when I asked for money at the end of a service. And since the credit card information was never actually in my hands-- it was held by the booking company in a secure server that's all PCI Compliant and stuff, so I never actually had the information, I couldn't just smile and charge the card after the service was completed.

Little by little, over the course of about 3 months, I saw a distinct decline in the number of bookings from new clients. And when all the math was done and the graphs and charts were drawn up, the variable most likely as fault was the online booking. It seemed that many people thought they had to book online, or would never call at all because they didn't want to leave a credit card number.

So the online booking feature got cancelled. *POOF!* Gone.

What I wasn't prepared for was how many of my regulars were going to come in and tell me that they really missed being able to go online and see what openings I had available-- they hadn't been using the system to book their appointments, but they could view my schedule and then just call or text me with a simply, "Hey, do you still have next Tuesday at 4 open?"

AND, they really liked the email and text message notifications that the system sent out to remind them of their appointments.


The Bank of Sierra building where the Art of Nailz is located.

So I did some searching and creative Googling and found "an app for that," a nifty little program that integrated with my Google calendar and sent out text messages to the contacts I chose.

And Life continued onward in a smooth and happy format for about a year. That's about how long it has taken for all of my clients to learn that I can send out text reminders-- the service charges for the texts, so I mostly only chose to send them new clients and "problem children." But, of course, when someone says, "I want a text reminder too!" I'm not going to argue with them!

The deal breaker between me and Google finally came down to Google's lack of contact integration: In order to send a text reminder, I have to include the contact's cell # in their appointment. Which means I have to type in their cell #. Which wouldn't be too bad if Gmail contacts wasn't so flippin slow (seriously? On every computer I've used, contacts = slow.) and, well... let's just say, for all it's conquering of the world, Google has just dropped the ball when it comes to making it easy to fill in events on their calendar with information that's already stored in their mail client contacts list.

I actually deleted one client's information altogether! I was glad I had her daughter's number so that I could get it back!

And, since I have an Android phone which automatically syncs up with my Google contacts-- yep, when I accidentally deleted that #, it was GONE.

some of the glitter

So I had to start simply asking every client for their phone # when I booked their appointment.

And I know, most people would just shrug that off and think, "no big deal." Except for those times when my client is running out the door and is on the elevator before I've entered their next appointment. And my next client is sitting in front of me already-- I'd tell myself I'd go back an fill in phone #'s later.. then forget-- I'm very easily distracted.

ooooh, shiney!

Then I'd get stood up and when I'd call, that poor client would be all like, "I didn't get a text, I thought it must be next week."

Well... let's not get into a philosophical debate about personal responsibility and how we are moving into a future where no one can think for themselves anymore... I have a business to run. And maybe it's my own fault for starting the text message dependency to begin with.


So, I started a new hunt for booking software, which has actually had me in quite a dither for the last few weeks.  Because while I'm easily distracted, I can also be quite obsessive, and when I'm obsessed, it's very hard to distract me.

So I was getting quite grumpy.

There are literally hundred-- maybe thousands-- of options out there for keeping an appointment book on a computer. And it seemed that none of them met my demands.

First: I needed it to integrate contacts with the events-- not a problem, they all do that.
Second: I needed SMS reminders-- not a problem, most do that.
Third: I needed to be able to set recurring events for all my standing clients-- oddly lacking, especially in some "salon specific" software.
Seriously?! If I have to go back to hand-inputting each, individual appointment for all my standing appointments, I might as well go back to a paper book! That was one of the most beneficial aspects of having an electronic schedule to begin with!

And then I got picky--

Many of these services are web-based. And that means that if their servers go down, or my Internet connection is unavailable, my appointment book goes black. As in, can't even look at it.

This is not acceptable.

So I realized that I really needed a service that either had offline editable features-- like iCal and Google calendar do-- or I need a service that syncs with Google Cal so that if the service or Internet is unavailable, I can still manage my book. It'll just update when Internet is available again.

my dog wearing socks
Yeah, there is some potential for conflict in this case what-with an online booking feature, but that's nothing compared to not having access to your schedule at all.

I have spent the last 3 weeks managing 3 to 4 calendars at a time. Seriously-- signed up for so  many 15 and 30 day free trial periods with various companies, I can't remember them all.

For the record: I really like StyleSeat.com. They just don't (yet) meet all my deal-breaker criteria, but I'm looking forward to growth and changes for them and hoping to move my schedule there in the future. (Yes, that's a shameless plug for the folks at StyleSeat-- they are working hard on their company and I love that every time I contact them I feel like there are REAL PEOPLE behind the software!)

But several other services fell far below the mark for me.

Also, there are several options that offer exactly the features that I want, but are priced well out of my budget.

Well... you saw it at the beginning of this rant: my "schedule now" button. I think I found it.

I do nails better than I build castles out of cake.
 I'm still in the trial period of my Fullslate.com account, but so far it has made me feel all warm and fuzzy. It syncs with my Google calendar, AND it seamlessly sync'd with my contact list too-- so I didn't have to hand enter contact information into the new software OR export info to a file and email that file to tech support only to have them screw up my contacts so badly that I wondered if I could trust their software to do anything right!

Naturally-- we're all on this ride together. I'll give it a month or two to make sure, but I think we have a solution!

You can book you appointment online if you would like. No credit card or deposit required-- although, you will have to verify your email address before the appointment will be confirmed.
Of course you can still call or text me directly to book your appointment! But the online option offers you the opportunity to check out what's available on my book first.

I'm pretty excited. Excited enough to write a long, blathering post on my blog all about how online booking works from the tech's perspective. And it's kind of a boring post, without any pictures that really go with it. That's why you get to see so many pictures that don't make any sense.

Except glitter, of course, glitter always makes sense!

Friday, August 3, 2012


This is what turns out to be a rare post that's actually all about ME and MY SALON-- The Art of Nailz.

The blog has suffered for the last few months due to a busy schedule and the fact that I walked into work back in January or February and suddenly hated the place.

Ok, not "hated," exactly-- who can hate where they work with a view like this?

But for 2 1/2 years, the salon was decorated with muted beiges, with red accents and dark brown wood tones... very English library. (And upon reading the infamous Fifty Shades books, I started referring to the decor as the "red salon of pain--" which, frankly, is not how you want your salon referred to, but it made a good inside joke.)

Honestly, I loved the way the salon looked. But it was time for a change, I wanted to brighten everything up.

And thus began what has turned out to be a ridiculously long remodel process.

First, the office suite next door became vacant. Which I have been waiting for since I moved in so that I could expand and add a dedicated pedicure room.

But I really wasn't looking forward to doubling my rent.

Fortunately, the massage therapist who also works on the same floor as my salon agreed to split the rent with me so she could have some storage space other than the corner of her massage room.

So, once negotiations with the leasing agent were finished and construction plans were approved by the landlord-- the crew started knocking a hole in the wall.

The landlord/contractor was thrilled with where I wanted the doorway into the new expansion-- you can see why: our walls are made of hollow brick.

My doorway meant that his crew had to cut through the brick. There used to be a door between the two suites, but that drywall patch is now located behind my sink. I had a Plan B ready in case he insisted on using the existing cut, but it required more walls on the other side... he eventually muttered something under his breath and said my door was going where I wanted it.

This photo shows Step One of the construction-- the initial cut into the brick wall.

This project took a little over a week. The crew came in, cut halfway through the wall for the doorway, framed and wired the low wall that would divide the new suites in half-- the "back" half  of the suite, with the windows, would open up to my existing salon. The "front" portion-- with the door from the hallway-- would be shared by Cindy and I for storage.

Next is a photo of the new doorway once it was cut through my side of the wall. EVERYTHING in the salon was covered with fine, red, brick dust for days!

Meanwhile, I paced the floor waiting for the construction to come to an end so that I could get around to painting.

I collected about 30 paint color samples and taped them to the wall. Everyone kept picking the bright aqua blues.

I exercised my veto power with the explanation that I wanted something "almost white" and tried to explain that if I went with any of the brighter blues we would all end up feeling like we were drowning in the aqueduct of It's A Small World.
To no avail. The only person who agreed with my color choice was the hair stylist across the hall.

But finally, the construction ended and it was time to paint. Never mind that I hadn't quite settled on the new color yet, since I wanted to go so light with the new color, I had to prime over that red wall first!

It took us 3 weeks to get the walls primed. Mostly because we did it ourselves and we still had to work during the week, and our weekends always seem to fill up with little chores that have to get done before anything else.

The painting project didn't get started until May, which also took us away from very important camping projects.

Nevertheless, we got the walls primed and eventually painted... well; we got the main salon painted. It was decided to wait on the pedi room until the construction was done....


Well, yeah. I had to have a pedicure station built too. And I have been totally all about the raised bench seat style pedi station for quite awhile now. LOVE the set up. I had my plans all worked out, I just needed someone to build the thing for me.

I looked into pre-built units but I didn't want plumbing (I promise to post my pedi procedure as soon as the dang room is actually done) and I didn't want to spend $8,000 on it.

So I started investigating my options for local carpenters.

I eventually begged and pleaded one of my clients' hubbies to tackle the project for me. I drew him pictures, I gave him measurements, we stood in the new room and stared at the blank wall while I pantomimed my vision to him.

He was skeptical. He wrinkled up his brow and sort of looked at me like I was speaking in an alien language.

But he took my drawings and my measurements home.

This particular client's hubby is also the neighboring hairstylist's step-father, so about a week later, when I hadn't heard anything back from him and I was starting to suspect I'd driven him to a breakdown and might have to start looking for another carpenter-- Bree came in to inform me that Paul was building my pedi bench and it looked "really cool."

And then, one day I came to work and the thing was just in the salon, right where it ought to be.

Now he's working on cabinets that will go on the sides of the bench.

Paul's responsibility ends with the installation-- finishing the wood and upholstering the bench seat will be left up to me.

And we still have to paint the pedi room.

This is turning into a long, drawn out, 6 month process.

I can't really finish the main salon area until the pedi room is done because the stuff that's sitting on shelves in the salon (shelves that DO NOT BELONG in here!) will eventually find their home in the cabinets that Paul is currently building for the pedi room.

I don't love working in chaos. It sort of messes with my sense of Place. And I'm keenly aware that it affects other peoples' perception of a business (or your home, but we do tend to be more forgiving in that respect.)

I know my regular clients will be patient with the progress and are eager to see how it all turns out. But everytime I have a new client come to the salon I am tripping over myself in apologies for the clutter.

Well. I guess it's not that cluttered in here, so much as it just feels not-finished.

Mostly, I have learned that the next time I'm tired of looking at my walls, I will close the place down for a week and get it all done at once. Then just re-open with a flourish and a triumphant "VOILA!"

In the meantime-- please pardon our dust-- the Art of Nailz is undergoing an expansion and remodel. Trust me, it's gonna be awesome!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Competition Nails

3rd place set from Nailpro Sacramento 2009 by Maggie

The BF and I recently attended the IBS Las Vegas tradeshow-- "IBS" stands for "International Beauty Shows," btw.

While we were watching the awards ceremony for the Nailpro Cup nail competitions on Monday afternoon, a young woman wandered into the seating area for the main stage, chose a seat directly in front of us, and-- while the winners of the sculptured nail competitions were being announced-- turned around to us and, rather disgustedly observed that, "all the nails look the same."

Apparently she expected us to agree with her and be just as disappointed. Boy! Did she pick the wrong person to seek solidarity from at a nail competition!

First I looked at her oddly, like I thought she was an idiot-- at least, I hoped that's what the look told her. Then I crinkled up my brow and said, "Yeah, it's a sculptured nail competition." And I tried to get my tone to convey to her that she was an idiot for not understanding that.

Ok, Ok... I understand that not everyone is into nail competitions. I know that even people who know that there is such a thing might not be fully aware of all the different types of nail competitions and may not understand what a sculptured nail competition fully entails.

Still. Don't show up in the middle of the awards ceremony and act like it's lame just because you don't know what the hell is going on! Especially when it's rather obvious that the people you are talking to are paying attention to the announcements.

But it did make me think, A: I am behind on updating this blog, and B: Maybe I could share the amazingness that is a sculptured nail competition with the masses... are you ready?

First and foremost: YES! There IS such a thing as NAIL COMPETITIONS!

Practice set by Maggie

Nail competitions come in a variety of shapes and sizes (metaphorically speaking.) We have nail art competitions-- which is most people think of when we talk about nail competitions. What many many non-industry types don't understand is that, bottom line, it doesn't matter how good the art is if the nail underneath it is utter crap.

Which is why, from the very beginning of learning to do nails, a good tech focuses on creating a good nail-- you can't decorate your living room until somebody buids the house, right?

So the end all/be all Mother of All Nail Competitions is the traditional Sculptured Nail Competition.

This competition is all about creating a full set of nail extensions that exemplifies ideal structure. And that is tough to do.

Nail competitions are held througout the world, and competition is fierce! Rules differ from circuit to circuit... I am most familiar with the Nailpro rules, so that's what I'm mostly going to refer to.

In a sculptured nail competition, the goal is show off how perfect you can make a set of nails. You will be sculpting them on forms-- no tips! The nails must be pink and white with a 1:1 ratio-- the pink has to be the same length as the white. You have to sculpt moons at the base of one hand. One hand will be painted red, one hand will be left pink and white-- and the pink and white hand absolutely cannot have any polish on it!

That's right, NO POLISH. No basecoat, no topcoat, no gel coat, you cannot paint the white tip, the French manicure effect must be sculpted into the nail with pink and white product.

And that pink and white hand should have a mirror finish on it like it was made of glass... and you can't do that with polish, you have to buff it by hand and you can't use oil.

You can't use a drill. The entire set must be done entirely by hand.

The nails must be very thin, the rules suggest as "thin as a business card," which actually seems pretty thick compared to some of the sets I've seen.

The nails are judged very carefully on a number of issues:

  • the pink to white ratio.
  • How close to the cuticles and sidewalls the product comes without touching the skin, how perfectly the product is filed to the nail-- you shouldn't feel any ledge where the product starts and the natural nail stops.
  • Color consistancy of the product: there should be no visible marbling effect of the pigment in the pink or the white.
  • Arch and structure of the nail from cuticle to free edge.
  • C-curve: when you look directly down the "barrel" of the nail from the free edges, the curvature of the tip of the nail and how it follows through the entire structure.
  • Convex and concave shape and consistancy.
  • Product control-- there should be absolutely no air bubbles in the product.

C-curve view of a practice set by Maggie.
It goes on. There are tons of tiny details that the judges scrutinize with flashlights, magnifying glasses, and rulers behind the curtain during judging.

The polished hand must be flawless. It must be painted with two coats of a red cream polish, absolutely no base or top coat.

They use red because it is absolutely unforgiving. Red cream polish shows every lump, dip, and rough patch. It also does not correct easily, so you can't just slap it on and then take your corrector brush around the cuticles to clean up your mess. Nope. You must apply those two coats of polish perfectly. And you get judged on that too.

Yeah. You end up with 100 sets of nails that all look the same... until you know what you're looking at. Then you learn to tell the differences. You learn to appreciate the careful skill that goes into each set. You see which competitors have perfected their "wax on/wax off" and which competitors have attempted to jump straight to the fight.

And believe me, it shows.

No. I guess it's not that interesting to look at if you don't know what to look for. Nail art competitions are far more entertaining to the uninitiated. It's easy to look at nail art and appreciate the WOW factor. But a competition where you have to do the exact same thing as every single one of your competitors, only much, much better is also much, much more challenging. There is no wiggle room, no chance to come up with a new interpretation, you simply must be the best.

C-curve view of much, much better nails by 3 time Nailpro Cup winner
 and 2009 World Champion Lynn Lammers.
Completed set of amazing nails by 3 time Nailpro Cup winner and
2009 World Champion Lynn Lammers-- this is what winning nails look like.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sick Leave

In 19 1/2 years of doing nails I have only had to cancel clients due to illness 3 times. I personally think this is a pretty impressive record, seeing as how most jobs give you 5 to 6 days of sick leave a year.

Calling in sick isn't easy when you do nails. Especially not in any of the situations I have worked in. For one thing, I have been self employed for most of those 19 1/2 years. This means that if I can't work, I can't make any money. There is no sick pay, no paid vacation, no paid time off, no state disability or workers compensation funds to draw from-- if I am not doing nails, I am not getting paid, and I am simply SOL.

This goes a long way in the mind over matter phenomenon.

Also, I cannot simply call the boss and croak out a "I'm sick, won't be in today" and go back to bed. No. Calling in sick for me means calling each individual client on my schedule and hoping to get the message to them that I am seriously too ill to be trusted with a file. Knowing that you have to make 13 phone calls for one day off also means you really only do it when it's important.

The first time I ever found myself genuinely unable to make it through the day was about 5 years into my career-- around 1997. I was working in my first small solo studio then, and although more and more people had cell phones back then, they were still "for emergencies only" and not what people used as their primary number.

It was a Friday. I woke up feeling a little worse for wear, but was convinced that getting on with my day would soon leave my scratchy throat and general achiness in the past. I started my day as scheduled, finished my first two clients on the schedule and then had a break of a few hours before my evening would pick back up again... I was not feeling better. I tried to lay my head down and take a nap. It did not help. I had fever. My throat was sore. It occurred to me that there was no way I was going to make it through the evening and the following day. Not only was I not fit to hold a file, but it was irresponsible to expose my clients to whatever I had without fair warning... I had to reschedule 8 clients. And I had no voice.

I grabbed my appointment book and my client contact cards, put a note on the salon door, and jumped in the car-- my only option was to drive several miles across town in the opposite direction of where I lived, to the office where my mother worked at the time. I needed someone to call clients for me.

I walked into my mother's office and attempted to explain to her what I needed of her. I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out but a harsh squeaking noise. So, with some wild gesticulating  and some pointing and pantomiming, Mom realized that I was sick.

Then she did what most mom's do-- she started fretting about me being sick. Held her hand to my forehead and announced that I was "burning up" and should go home.


Finally, she got around to figuring out the part where I needed her to call my clients. Which she did, and everything worked out alright-- although the whole ordeal was highly embarrassing for me. As a young woman in my mid-twenties trying to build and run my own business, I would much preferred her to have called my clients and said, "I'm calling on behalf of Maggie Franklin. I'm afraid she's very ill and will not be able to keep her appointment with you this evening. She'll call you on Monday to reschedule."

But, being my mom of course, her calls all went more like, "this is Maggie's mom, she can't do your nails tonight because she's sick."

Well-- at least they got notified.

The second time I called in sick started very similarly; woke up feeling less than nifty, took a shower anyway... but this time, I didn't even make it in to work. I lay down on my bed, got dizzy and started throwing up. This was in the early 2000's and cell phones were everyone's go-to number by then-- so much easier knowing that if I don't reach the person immediately, at least my message will be received by the person I left it for and not erased by their teenager off the home answering machine!

Each person that I contacted listened to my voice and immediately agreed they wanted nothing to do with me that day.

And the third time I called in sick? Was Thursday. April 26, 2012-- just a few days ago.

It was also my birthday. A birthday that I was looking forward to. I was operating at a full 100% when I went to sleep just after midnight-- after staying up to watch the awesome electrical storm that started my 42nd year (actually, I guess I just started my 43rd year seeing as how birthdays mark the year that just finished) I love a storm and they are rare this late in April here. But I felt just fine when I went to sleep.

I woke up with a scratchy throat. I thought little of it. Allergies are common in these parts and considering the storm, it wouldn't surprise me if I'd been snoring all night long.

So I showered and got on with my day, felt fine for my first client although the throat still hurt. Started getting a little stuffed up by noon and by 2 in the afternoon I was full blown sick. Sore throat, couldn't breathe, achey, miserable, chills, nausea-- downright miserable.

But I was determined to push through to the end of the day... I made it through one more client. Then I started texting; creatively arranging my Monday schedule in order to reschedule my last client of the night in to a schedule for next week that was already fully booked.

Thank yous do not adequately express my gratitude to the clients who agreed to rearrange their appointments to make that happen.

I went home.

And started texting my Friday clients.

The scariest thing on my part was that I seriously have a very full schedule right now-- there just isn't space to reschedule people to. But I felt they at least needed to know what sort of nail lady they were likely to encounter if they didn't reschedule...

Somehow, everyone has found a spot in next week's schedule and I slept till 1 o'clock in the afternoon on Friday.

Then I got up, dragged my blanket and my pillow into the living room and took a nap. Then I got up, dragged my blanket and my pillow to the reclining patio lounger on the back porch and took a nap in the late afternoon sun... then I got up, dragged my blanket and my pillow back into the living room and took a nap.

When the BF came home he took my temperature 4 times. He doesn't trust the digital thermometer and I can't say as I blame him. He says my temperature was somewhere between 97.5 and 100.1.

It's Sunday now and I'm still not feeling great. But it looks like I'll be able to get back to work on schedule at least.

Kinda bummed about missing all my birthday plans. I'm 42 now. Which-- for other Hitchhiker's Guide dorks like me-- means that I am now the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. Which is a pretty substantial accomplishment. I'm also 21 twice now, I was planning on going out drinking double fisted.

I was also looking forward to some homemade ice cream and a tasty home made birthday meal with family.

It will all have to wait-- except for being the Answer to Life the Universe and Everything, that's the sort of thing that goes on whether you feel well or not.

But mostly, I wonder: while the existence and prevalence of text messaging surely made contacting clients to reschedule easier without a voice-- how many people just think that I took off my birthday to party since they never heard my pitiful voice?

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Delicate Question of Tipping

Yes, it's true: it is traditional to tip your salon professionals. Including the nail lady.

If you ask Ms. Manners, or Dear Abby, or whoever you go to for this type of advice, you will find that "etiquette" dictates a 15%-20% gratuity with each service and birthday and Christmas presents should be equivalent in price to one service.

If you ask me how much you are supposed to tip, I will blush and stammer and try to change the subject.

Yes. Tipping is standard in the salon industry and I would dearly appreciate it if you saw fit to slide a little extra $$$ my way to say "thank you" when I don't charge you for repairs, or when I do nail art for you anyway even though you were 15 minutes late, or when I don't enforce a policy like making you pay for a missed appointment.

I appreciate it when clients tack on an extra buck or two for my Starbucks habit or to go toward the glitter fund.

And I really appreciate the clients who take the time to do the math and actually calculate 20%.

But I also really appreciate the clients who don't tip. But keep coming back, week after week after week, and who refer me to their friends, family and co-workers. Who don't gripe about prices and occasional price increases, who understand why I have policies and why I need to enforce them. The people who respect me as a professional and enjoy me as a person...the fabulous clients who keep me in business-- whether they tip or not.

And tipping-- no matter how extravagant-- does not make up for being a lousy client or obnoxious person. I don't care if you tip 100%, it won't ingratiate you to me to the extent that it's ok to blatantly ignore my policies or treat me or my other clients rudely. No amount of money will make certain behavior acceptable and you can't buy your welcome.

And in today's salon business where most salon workers are booth renters and most salon owners are working their own booth-- the tradition of not tipping the salon owner is out of date. If the owner of the salon is the person who performed your services, then it's appropriate to tip according to standard practice.

It's a delicate topic all the way around. Some nail techs have opted to simply not accept tips at all. Some nail techs gripe about the clients who don't tip. Some-- most-- are much more concerned with whether or not their clients return happy than whether or not they leave more money than the price of the service.
It's far more important to build a happy clientele, full of loyal customers who return regularly and give positive reviews of your business and your work that perpetuates your success than it is to count on a few extra bucks on top of the price of service.

It turns out that a lot of people-- especially young people-- are genuinely unaware that tipping is a traditional practice in the salon industry.

It's always an awkward situation to find oneself in, when you learn that nail techs get tipped and you haven't been. And it's just as awkward for me when a client tells me they never knew they "should" be tipping me!

I don't want my clients to think that I judge their value to my business based on whether or not they tip-- or how much.

I hope that my clients know that I value them as people as well as clients and that I base their value on their loyalty to me, on their respect for me as a person and a professional, and on the quality of our time together during their visits to the salon. Much the way we all determine the value of the people in our personal lives-- based on the quality of the relationship.

So the answer to this frequently asked question is "Yes, it's appropriate to tip your nail lady." But most nail techs (and massage therapists and hairstylists) aren't expecting it, and would prefer a reliable, respectful, loyal client than a tip from someone who thinks it's supposed to make up for treating us poorly.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Nail for Everyone

gel polish on natural nails

Of course I think everyone should get their nails done professionally on a regular basis; I'm a nail tech! This is what I do for a living, so it just stands to reason that I might be a little biased toward professional nail services.

But I don't think everyone needs to have fake nails. And although I do love fake nails, it's also important to note that not all "fake" nails are made of acrylic-- you have lots of options!

There's a nail service for everyone!

FAKE Nails-- also called "nail enhancements" "artificial nails" or "nail extensions"
Fake nails petty much means you have something over your nails that makes them longer than they are naturally. Eventually your natural nail will grow out under that product and be as long as the product over them, or you might even start out just putting a product over your natural nails without making them longer to begin with.

Making your nails longer means you have nail extensions. Just putting product over your nails means you have an overlay.

Extensions can be done by sculpting product onto forms or over tips. Tips are really common in the industry right now-- they're the plastic fake nails.

The biggest problem with tips is that there are a lot of salons that use them to cut corners and shave time off of a service. They just grab a bunch of plastic nails out of a box and glue them down to your nails without bothering to make sure the tips are the right size and shape to fit your natural nail. This means that they can break down over time because the plastic is pre-formed and wants to revert back to it's pre-formed shape and as your nails grows out, they don't always grow out together.

You get ledges at the corners where the tip is too wide or too narrow, your natural nails curls under and away from the sides of the tips... I've seen all kinds of problems. Not to mention when places use white tips to do a French manicure-- the smile line is almost always too far up the nail bed close to the cuticle, which looks like cheap work.

Tips can be done properly. It takes a little extra patience to carefully choose a tip style that fits your natural nails, and then choose the appropriate size and do some customizing if the perfect fit doesn't exist. When tips are done right, they make an excellent foundation for the product.

Tips are not where the strength of the extension comes from. They should fit to the very edge of your nail and only offer something for the product to be built onto.

The strength of the extension comes from the product and from being properly structured.

Forms are usually foil-covered paper stickers that fit around the fingertip and then the product is built directly over the form. When the product is cured (hardened) enough to file, the forms are removed and the product is shaped into the finished extension structure.

I like sculpting on forms because it gives me a chance to create a more custom fit of the product to the nail.

Extensions can be made of several different products:

The most common sculpting products are acrylic (liquid and powder) and gel (a thick liquid that cures under a lamp.)

Almost everyone who has ever had their nails done knows about acrylic: liquid and powder mixed on the brush and applied to the nail. It hardens with a few minutes.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people doing nails who aren't very good at it, and many people have had bad experiences with acrylic because of this.


If you had a bad experience with acrylic, there's a very good chance that it's not the acrylic's fault. The person who put them on may have over-filed your natural nail, used MMA, or the acrylics may have been picked or pried off-- which will tear your natural nail up. Acrylic should be removed by soaking it off.

Acrylics also don't have to be thick or long, or yellow, or gross in any way. Acrylic can be an excellent choice for a strong nail extension and it breaks this nail-lady's heart that so many people think it's bad.

almond shape gel nails with 3D acrylic flowers
But you can also build a nail extension with gel:

Traditional builder gels are thick and can be used to extend a nail over tips or forms. Gel can build a strong structure that can support the weight and length of rockstar nails and/or stilettos and duck foot shapes.

Gel is also a plastic product, like acrylic, but not exactly the same. There are some tiny differences in gels that make them more suitable for some clients-- which is why it's important to consult with your professional to determine what the best product for you is.

Dip system over white tips
Other extension products include wraps and dip systems. Wraps can actually be done without plastic tips, but usually start with  tips. Dip systems involve a building the enhancement through a series of layers of nail glue dipped in, or sprinkled with, powder, and while it's theoretically possible to build them over forms I've never seen or heard of it being done.

Wraps use nail glue and fabric mesh made of silk, fiberglass, or linen, to add strength.

Enhancements made of nail glue (Often called "resin-based" services: nail glue isn't actually glue at all, it's cyanoacrylate resin-- like Crazy Glue) are fading from popularity. The resin breaks down over time and exposure to water-- it becomes brittle and gets cloudy.

Resin-based services were often a good Plan B option for clients who are sensitive to acrylic products, but several new gel products are hypoallergenic now without the breakdown rate of resins.

Don't want "Fake" nails? No problem!

Red "French" manicure with Gel Polish

The new light cured polishes are amazing! You can come into the salon and get a manicure and have your nails polished and the polish will actually last-- for several weeks on most people!

You can't find a manicure for $3.00 anymore. A manicure takes about as long as a fill, and it doesn't make sense to charge less for the same amount of time. So I totally understand that for a long time, people didn't really want to pay $20-40 for a manicure when the polish was just going to chip off after 3 days anyway... although, honestly, I would be willing to lay down some good money for a decent hand massage, with or without polish.

There are also a variety of gel products on the market now that bridge the gap between fake nails and manicures. You could get an overlay of thin gel to add strength and structure to your natural nails. It'll still need filled, but you can often whittle down your visits to the salon to once every 3 or even 4 weeks.

traditional polish on natural nails.
And there's always the old fashioned manicure! So traditional polish doesn't last very long, so what? There is nothing like taking a minute to take care of yourself. Sit down, turn off your cell phone, and just relax. Enjoy some pampering, some conversation, and a really good hand and arm massage with calming scents from luxurious products.

A manicure isn't a miracle-- you can't spend 30 years working in the garden without gloves and expect anyone to make your hands look like a hand model from a  lotion commercial in an hour. But if you don't take care of your hands on a regular basis, it's not a bad idea to let someone else show them some attention once in a while. Have your cuticles pushed back, hangnails trimmed, nails shaped and filed, and skin moisturized. Finish it up with polish or not.

Another cool thing for your nails are appliques. Products like Minx and Dashing Diva are popping up all over the place these days. Some of these are little more than stickers, some of them are more complicated. Some are easy to apply at home-- but some really shine in the hands of a professional. Basically, appliques fall into a category somewhere between enhancements and nail art, they typically fit over the natural nail and offer temporary design and delight.

Initially I was less inclined to include them in my repertoire, but as more options come to market, it's becoming more apparent that this is a legitimate alternative to other nail products and services-- especially for a temporary fix!

tie-dye design with gel paint
And don't forget your toes! When all else fails and you just can't see fit to get your nails done, remember, all the same options for fingernails apply to toenails as well!

Professional nail care is for everyone, even if not everyone needs nails.