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How I juggle nail tekking around my family life

By Scratch Staff | 04 April 2017 | Business, Feature, Health & wellbeing, Tech Talk

Erica Horton

“You just do nails”

No, just “doing nails” doesn’t come close.

Erica Turley (nee Horton), founder of The Nail Barn, Staffordshire, reveals her journey into the nail industry…

I spent years working as a nurse and health visitor. I had worked in healthcare from the age of 16 and knew absolutely nothing else. From the age of 16 to now (34 years) I’d built my career, obtained a diploma and a degree, was prescribing medication and was working in a team. I honestly think I was rather competent at my job, but working full-time versus huge childcare fees made me question what was best for my family.

After an emotional discussion with my other half, I decided to take the plunge and take a career break. Spending time being a full time mum was the main reason, which left my other half working his socks off in the Big Smoke.

The joys of being a full-time mum were fantastic, as the freedom of not having to go to work was exhilarating. The house was always clean from top to bottom, and I could see the bottom of the washing baskets. The kids’ uniforms were ironed and my partner had laundered shirts ready for the week ahead. At some points, I even looked around to find stuff to put in the wash!

It wasn’t long until it made me reflect on my unconventional past, the years when I was a single parent struggling to keep my head above water, dealing with the distraction of divorce, acknowledging that I had missed out so much on my children when they were young. I have very few memories of them both while they were toddlers, whether that be because of my circumstances, or just extreme exhaustion of juggling too many balls, but at the time I got on with it – as there was no other choice.

Fast forward a number of years and I became bored. I couldn’t do it anymore; the chores, the cooking, the thankless tasks of a 24/7 job that gets unnoticed, not to mention having been completely self sufficient for years to now depending on another person financially. I lost all sense of being. Yes I was a mum and fiancée to my ever so supportive man, yet I needed something to keep my brain active before it turned into a mushy substance that was no use to anyone. Is this a selfish way to feel? I’d question myself. I would openly admit that my self-confidence plummeted like a brick thrown off a building, gaining speed the longer it was in the air. When people asked me what I did for a living, I’d jump at the answer of being on a career break before they had even finished their inquisition. Why did I feel so embarrassed to say I wasn’t working?

Being a Virgo, I love being creative. I love learning, reading novels, cake decorating, (jeeze I sound a lot older than I am!) but most of all – I missed having my nails done! Nursing for years put a big stop to that luxury but then, there was nothing stopping me.

I watched YouTube after YouTube video and couldn’t get enough of how to the beautiful nails showcased. I was amazed by the sheer talent of some nail techs and had absolutely no idea how much skill, talent and imagination that was needed to become a good nail artist. It fascinated me; the science behind the products, the chemicals and equipment used and how they react together in harmony to finally produce stunning nails. I wanted and needed to know more, yet I was eager to know on a professional level how it all worked. YouTube just wasn’t enough!

Friends and family pestered me to enrol onto a diploma course in ‘nails’ as they put it (thank you by the way!), as they could all see how it had become an obsession and it was slowly taking over my home. Nail mail would arrive daily, and that was when my addiction to glitter kicked in.

I wondered how I was supposed to go to college around my children, and with my partner working away all week, but Essential Nails popped up on my Google search. The distance-based learning was fully accredited. Bingo!

Essential Nails has been – and still is – amazing. The company, courses, support and products are all wonderful. I started with manicure and worked my way up and am now an Acrylic Sculpt and Acrylic Art Master Tech student. I’m proud to say that I trained and am training with Essential Nails.

I never knew how challenging ‘doing nails’ was going to be. Practice is all I can advise to budding nail tech students. Having a passion for the job makes a huge difference and it shows in your work.

I quickly set up my own home salon, based within the trusses of our barn. Setting up any business takes time and it was a huge learning curve for me. Being the ultimate perfectionist (my Virgo side of me irritatingly coming through) I am and still am my worst enemy when it comes to criticism; from my work to my workspace, I always seek perfection. I want to put myself in my client’s shoes and see what they see and experience when they come to see me.

Being a nail technician (I still don’t have the confidence to call myself an artist just yet!) is the perfect profession when you have young children. It’s family friendly, you can set your working hours to suit your life, not the other way round, and I’ve never had that.

It’s still very early days for me, but my enthusiasm for the job is more than ever and the future really excites me. I have my own work focus, something I need, and I have the perfect work life balance.

“You just do nails”

No I don’t, I skillfully create art.

Erica Turley MGNT (Nail Technician – possibly artist) @ The Nail Barn, Staffordshire

Read more of Erica’s blog posts at