While many businesses were shut down by the pandemic, one student found her way to creating a new business opportunity.
Sarah Santaella, a sophomore communication major, has been establishing her own nail business.
“I started my own business during the pandemic. I don’t do acrylic, I do Gel-X.
It started off from being so, so bored,” says Santaella.
She says she has her nails done regularly, but because salons were closed at the height of the COVID lockdown, she started exploring her own nail treatment. “I did a lot of research on different types of nail care, and the cookies on my phone showed me an ad on my Instagram of the Apres Gel-X. It looked interesting,” says Santaella.
Santaella’s research allowed her to see the popularity the items have in fashion districts such as Los Angeles and New York. The product was invented by a woman who is allergic to acrylate, the chemical most often used in acrylic, and powdered substances used for nails.
“I started off with doing my sister’s nails and then my mom’s. My mom said I could do something out of this. Slowly, I started taking clients and my prices were very low,” says Santaella.
She explains she did not want to charge too much since she was not certified and was still in the process of learning. Her designs were kept simple in the beginning.
“I did one on my neighbor and she asked for three white lines on the nail on her ring finger. I panicked because I was not used to this type of design. It was also my first time with having a client’s expectations,” says Santaella.
Throughout this practice, Santaella grew more confident with her nail techniques and started having more clients come her way. She had not yet started an Instagram page for her business in the beginning stages, but when she did make her account, her popularity grew quickly.
“Time does progress because soon enough I had more followers and attention on my page. I’m also getting more bookings; I have them until October,” says Santaella.
Her business has come this far because she has not given up. From the equipment to the supplies, she has spent a total of $4,000 on her business. The reason she was able to start her business was because her saving ability and use of her stimulus check.
Depending on whether clients come in with or without nails on, the type of designs they desire and the length of the nail, appointments can last two to three hours.
From Santaella’s experience, she knows many people who are allergic to acrylate until continued exposure calms the allergic reaction. Even though Gel-X does contain acrylate, the chemical is a much lower dose than you would find in acrylics.
“The Gel-X product I bought is basically an extended gel manicure you can learn to do by yourself and at home. It is a fully formed nail. Already, each of your nails is a different size. Your pointer finger and your ring finger are probably going to be either a six or a seven. And your middle finger is going to be a five,” says Santaella.
The sizes are listed in the box’s packaging. The product may look like a regular “press on” nail, but Gel-X can last anywhere from a month to six weeks. This type of nail does not grow out like acrylic nails do, these lift instead and grow with the nail.
“My major has nothing to do with what I am doing with my business. Although communication does include having to speak to people, maintaining interactions. But, if I did not want to do this, I would probably be a coordinator in a university,” said Santaella.
Going to school where she can further learn more about the nail business would be her next step. In order to open her limited liability company, she would need to get her certification and license to do nails commercially. Also, she would need to go through the official Apres program offered on that company’s website to get a certification in the Gel-X brand.
“I’m getting so many customers right now because my prices are reasonable.
A certified person would be able to charge their client up to $150. Right now, my decision is a little bit more than a maybe,” said Santaella.
As of right now, time is something she does not have a lot of. Because of this she will need to push her certification goals back until after graduation.
Story by: Bernadotte Sufka