#FemmeSpo: Interview with Independent Nail Artist + Business Owner, Kara Moreno

kara morena nail artist
Portrait of Kara in Los Angeles

Seattle native independent licensed nail artist, Kara Moreno (@she.handsy) creates high quality, long-lasting, custom-designed gel nails that last from 3-5 week,s. She currently runs her business, She Handsy, in Greenlake near Rosita’s PCC and Little Red Hen (North-Central Seattle). We were so blown away with her creative eye + attentiveness to detail in her work and we’re are so happy that she answered a few of our questions.


How long have you been running your business? 

I launched my business on my 30th birthday in December 2017, just one month after becoming licensed. Even though I’ve only had my business for a year and a half, my work speaks for itself. People are consistently shocked when they hear I am so early in my career. 

How did you get started working in the Beauty industry? 

@she.handsy

I went to the University of Washington where I studied Communication and Public Relations. I worked in the corporate world for six years. After being laid off a number of times, I was tired of feeling like companies held my career in their hands with little to no regard to how that left me.

I jokingly said to my mom, “If I get laid off one more time, I’m going to beauty school!” She hated the idea and being the rebellious person I am, naturally I enrolled in school the next week (she has fully jumped onboard since then).

Was there a specific “AH-HA!” moment you had, where you realized that your passion could be a career?

Doing nails had always been a hobby of mine since college when I discovered hybrid (Shellac) and gel polishes. When I went to beauty school it was only natural that I chose to do the nail program versus esthetics or cosmetology. I wasn’t sure if my hobby would be ruined turning it into my career, but I threw everything I had into finding out. Turns out I LOVE it and I finally feel in control of my career.

“I love that [my customers] get to proudly wear an original piece of artwork on their nails for weeks to come.”

Are you 100% independent, or do you have a day job? 

Independent! I was able to fully financially support myself from my nail business alone – without a side hustle – after three months.

How many hours per day/week do you work?

On average, I work 9 hours a day. I work about 45-50 hours a week. 

Would you say you work more hours being independent, or less?

I would say I work a few more hours per week with my business now than I did in the corporate world. The best part is my ability to dictate my own schedule and number of hours. If I need a day off or want to plan a vacation, there is no one I have to ask for. Being in complete control of my work style and schedule is an amazing feeling.  

If you had unlimited funding for ONE area in your business, where would you invest it?

If I had unlimited funding for my business, I would use it on continued education. There are dozens of educational programs and conferences all over the world. I would love the opportunity to experience those in different areas of the globe to better my technique and further my career.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? 

Having a creative outlet on a daily basis is a hugely rewarding part of my job. I get to create beautiful, detailed and customized nail designs that marry my artistic vision with my client’s unique personality. I love that they get to proudly wear an original piece of artwork on their nails for weeks to come. 

“The best part of owning your own business is that YOU get to decide your quality of life.”

Has it changed your work ethic at all?

I’ve always been told I had a great work ethic and the personality to run my own business but I would laugh and brush it off, not knowing what I would do. The risk of it all seemed a little daunting so I never gave it much thought. When the idea of doing nails presented itself, the risk just never seemed to be there. It’s like I was meant to do this, everything just clicked into place, and I don’t just mean professionally. My personal life has also followed suit which is so exciting and rewarding. 

Where do you draw inspiration/motivation from? 

I seek out other nail designs on Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration. I encourage my clients to bring in photos of their favorite nail looks. A lot of times my clients’ style is different than mine and it pushes me out of my comfort zone, which is truly the best way to grow. 

What are your productivity hacks or tips for time management? 

1. Always respond to clients by the end of each day to stay on top of communications.

2. Block off time for self-care, whatever that may look like for you.

3. Set boundaries with your clients in terms of scheduling so work doesn’t take over your entire life. The best part of owning your own business that YOU get to decide your quality of life. 

Having a creative outlet on a daily basis is a hugely rewarding part of my job

When you’re an independent/freelance/small business owner, there’s always those “off” days, which can be difficult because you don’t have a “boss” holding you accountable. How do you hit your reset button?

I have incredibly high standards for myself, which is a blessing and a curse. It’s allowed me to get really good at what I do in a short period of time, but also leads to occasional “off” days where I’m caught up in my head. 

An “off” day for me is typically when the product doesn’t seem to do what I want it to. To combat this I simply remind myself that I’m my own worst critic and give myself a little grace to continue growing, because after all, it’s only been a year a half and my work is comparable to people who have been in the industry for 10 years!

What are 3 new things that you value now that you’re a business owner that you might not have even thought about before?

  1. My down time – more now than ever before!
  2. The connections I make with people on a daily basis more than I did before, in both personal and professional avenues of life.
  3. The independence and decision making ability that comes along with owning my own business has been amazing. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

It was clear to me that my education alone was not going to be enough to run my business, so I started shadowing local nail technicians. It was a great opportunity to learn from them and also get validation on my skills.

I thought I would need to work at a salon for at least a year to build my clientele and experience before I could run my own business. They made it very clear that I did not and should not work in another salon before starting my own business. If it wasn’t for their advice, I would have delayed the opening of She Handsy.

What’s a piece of advice you’d give to someone wants to  pursue a similar career path? 

I would say throw everything you have into it. Being in an independently run position takes persistence and a strong work ethic. Also, even though sometimes your clients can become your friends (or vice versa), you still need to conduct your business as a professional. People will respect you for it.

What’s one of your favorite self care rituals?

Hands down, the best self-care ritual is going to the Korean Naked Spa once a month! My favorite is Olympus Spa in Lynnwood and when I go, I make a sport of it. I am there from 10 in the morning to 6 at night and don’t allow myself to book a single client on spa days so I get a chance to fully immerse myself in relaxation.

More about Kara

Interview questions were conducted pre-covid19, however we still think that this is A) relevant for younger women who are thinking of similar career paths and/or owning their own small business in the near future. Success stories are never irrelevant! B) You can still support Kara during this Quarantine by purchasing a gift card, and then booking your appointment when things start to reopen.

 

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