Welcome to the Precision Nails Blog

As a salon owner and licensed manicurist, my perspective on the nail industry could not be more practical. While some may be offended by the opinions expressed, please understand that I want to share information and stimulate discussion. Whether you want your nails done or do nails professionally, I hope you find this blog both useful and interesting.

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Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Value of Competing

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, December 2010

How do you measure your professional success? The number of hours you work, or clients you have? Your net income? The warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from a service well done for a satisfied client? Whether measured quantitatively or qualitatively, much of our success is experienced in the isolation of our salon environments. No doubt, your clients appreciate your work and think you’re the best, but why not prove it? Why not put your manicuring skills to a more rigorous test and compete with the best? Participating in nail competitions remains the most objective, tangible and significant way to distinguish yourself in our industry.

Working in our individual salons, we have limited opportunities to compare and evaluate the quality of our work. Competing challenges nail professionals to perform their best work in less than ideal conditions, beyond the familiar comforts of the salon. The value of competing, and ultimately winning, goes beyond the recognition, cash prizes and trophies. Your salon work will improve greatly as you become more critical and demand more from yourself. Learning how to work more efficiently and consistently will improve both the speed and quality of your salon nails. The competition experience not only develops your skills, but provides incredible opportunities to network and market yourself to potential clients and employers.

Thousands of nails professionals work in salons, but very few challenge themselves to compete. Inspired and influenced by past champions, nail competitors strive to achieve the highest standards for workmanship while pushing artistic boundaries. They create new styles, develop innovative techniques and, most important, change our perceptions of what nails can be. The most successful competitors distinguish themselves as nail stars. If it weren’t for nail competitions, we wouldn’t know the names of Tom Holcomb, Danny Haile, Tom Bachik, Kym Lee, Carla Collier, Trang Nguyen, John Hauk or Lynn Lammers.

All nail professionals, whether they compete or not, should understand what perfect nails look like, though few will invest the many hours of practice necessary to achieve them. I’m often asked what’s the difference between competition and salon nails. Competition nails represent a standard of perfection in form, while salon nails must function in the everyday lives of clients. That being said, great salon nails exhibit most of the characteristics of their impractical competition counterparts, with the most obvious exceptions being length and thickness.

Most competitors would agree that success depends on preparation, including plenty of time for practice. As soon as possible, handle all the logistic concerns: review the competition schedule and rules, select your hand model (if needed), make your travel arrangements, pack your supplies, etc. If you have any questions about the competition, get them answered beforehand by contacting the competition director. If preparing a nail art entry in advance, do not procrastinate; use your time wisely. Your competition performance will reflect the time you invested in practicing. Do what you do best, and don’t attempt something new unless it can be perfected in time for the competition.

Typically, judges score competition nails in ten categories. One of the most important categories is overall impression. The judges must feel compelled to look at your work more closely. In enhancement competitions, judges want to see shiny nails with crisp, even smile lines, and they want to see detail and color in nail art competitions. For enhancement competitions, like Sculptured Nails, consistency and finish work are critical; each nail should exhibit the same characteristics and the quality of the shine and polish application should demonstrate attention to detail and good time management. The most successful competitors execute their work by developing their own system for application, filing and finishing. For nail art competitions, originality may be the biggest challenge; the judges want to see something unique that expresses the theme well.

Most competitors know what needs to be improved without input from the judges. However, whenever possible, it's useful to ask for feedback from other competitors and the judges following the competition. A competitor should be prepared to listen and accept constructive criticism. The goal is to improve the quality of work for the next competition, not to question the judges' decision.

As an international judge and past Nailpro Competition Director, I have the privilege of interacting with the most passionate professionals in the nail industry. I’m truly inspired by  the dedication of competitors to the craftsmanship and artistry of nails. Our status continues to improve in large part because competitors have tremendous influence as educators, mentors, consultants and manufacturers.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

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