Laura Merzetti Interview – The Reinvented Nail Artist
Website & Places you can find me online:
Websites: Scratch My Back | Onyx Beauty Systems | Minx Canada
Facebook: Scratch My Back Nail Studio (fan page) | Laura Merzetti (personal profile)
Tell us a little about you, what is your background & where do you come from?
I’m a second generation Canadian, born to parents of Italian and Irish descent in North Bay, Ontario. I have a BIG fondness for pasta and potatoes? As a child I was very creative, I took painting and drawing classes, and was happiest doing those things. I was also good at school, but when I got bored I drew in class.
After college, I spent the next 20 years working my way up the ranks in a large telecom company. I knew I needed a drastic change because I was becoming burned out. I honestly didn’t know what it was going to be.
I knew I wanted to be my own boss, and do something creative again. I received a generous severance package from my employer, which allowed me to enrol in a full time nail technology program. I was a client of a local nail salon and thought I might have both the passion and the determination to make a successful transition into something that would pay my bills while allowing me the creativity I desperately craved. My friends and family were a little disturbed at my new career and some of them felt I was undervaluing myself. All I knew was, something had to change.
Where are you located?
I am currently living in Ajax, Ontario which is an eastern suburb of Toronto. I have a great mix of clients who happily indulge my moods! Crazy bling, or pink & white, and everything in between!
What inspired you to open Scratch My Back and was it a difficult move?
Right after I completed my nail technology program in 2003, I worked in 2 full-service salons. Neither owner really understood the business of nails, as both were hairdressers. Their only exposure to nails was the model that is the discount nail salon. I was frustrated with their expectations of what I should be doing, and quickly realized that my vision and theirs would never match.
I was never going to be the cookie-cutter nail tech who would turn out 30-minute sets of nails.
I left the second salon and within 6 months I had established my own home-based nail studio. It was more difficult in terms of visibility but I knew the move made sense for me. I was also lucky to be able to transfer some of the skills I learned in my corporate life to my own business. I’ve never looked back.
You provide training and education in all aspects of nail care, what is the one bit of advice you find yourself giving over and over again about nails?
I live in a dry climate, and especially in the fall and winter months, it can be brutal to our skin. Many of my clients have really dry skin, with hangnails that they like to pick or chew at. The ones who use their cuticle oil religiously show the most improvement.
I am always telling these clients they can improve the health of their nails and surrounding skin by using cuticle oil (which I retail) regularly. Of course you can lead a horse to water…
Obviously you love Minx Nails, tell us how this product benefits those in the industry.
Many nail technicians are creatively challenged when it comes to creating wearable nail art for their clients in a short amount of time. So it’s Minx to the rescue! Now nail techs can apply the most amazing designs to their clients’ nails in the time a regular manicure with polish takes. Best part about it is the clients don’t have to wait for their nails to dry. There are no harsh chemicals and removal (if done correctly) leaves absolutely no damage to their natural nails.
For the client who says she absolutely cannot wear it on her hands, it’s fabulous on toes! I tell everyone, there is no one who can’t wear Minx. It is a fashion statement like no other!
What is your favourite Minx design?
I think it would have to be Marian Newman’s ‘Longevity’. This pattern was chosen by Canadian fashion designer Amanda Lew Kee at the LG Fashion Week F/W show in April 2011. I collaborated with her to create the edgy stiletto nails for the models in her show, and the more I worked with this holographic design, the more I fell in love with it.
How has Minx opened doors for you as a professional nail artist?
I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. As someone who’d been using Minx before it was launched in Canada, and with my proximity to the Toronto market, I was approached to meet with the editors of Canada’s national beauty magazines and offer them a deskside Minx manicure. In every instance this resulted in a blog entry or a website page devoted to the new trend that was Minx, and also gave me exposure as the Minx artist. I was also asked to apply Minx on the models for a couple of magazine fashion shoots, and worked the Amanda Lew Kee fashion show in 2011. I am currently the Minx educator for all of Ontario, Canada.
What other nail products do you like & endorse?
I’m a huge fan of Onyx Beauty Systems entire gel line. I’m an educator for them as well, and I feel like I’ve finally found the company who not only produces excellent products but values their customers and their work relationships with their colleagues. I am currently an educator for Onyx Beauty Systems in eastern Canada.
The line is simple, the results are stunning and the durability is top notch. Any product I use on my clients has to live up to my high standards, as it’s my reputation on the line.
You are also active in nail competitions, tell us about some of your highlights.
I have yet to compete in a live competition – all my entries have been for photography-based competitions. I was honoured to be named a finalist in the 2010 Contessa ‘Nail Art Technician’ category which is a national Canadian hairdressing competition with an annual awards gala in Toronto. Considering there were only 2 categories for nails (and down to one now) I felt this was a great accomplishment for my first time entering the competition.
I would encourage anybody to step outside their comfort zone and enter a competition, you just need to decide on the right one for you.
What are the benefits of salon care versus caring for your nails at home?
A visit to a nail care professional will give the client regular nail care and advice, not to mention access to the latest and greatest products and looks! Nail pros know what’s best for their clients’ nails. Clients who choose to care for their nails at home may unknowingly undermine their own efforts by applying the wrong types of products to their nails, or applying them incorrectly. They can cause damage to their nails, and perhaps even give themselves an overexposure allergy if they don’t understand the science behind some of the products they may seek to use at home.
I have a favourite saying “just because you can doesn’t mean you should”.
What do you currently have on your own nails?
A very flashy overlay done in black gel, with shiny purple mylar dots done in a mosaic pattern on top. It is eye-catching and gets attention. It is the best form of free advertising!
What is the best practical advice you can offer to aspiring nail techs?
Find a mentor – if possible someone close to you geographically so that he or she can help with your technique. Be prepared to pay for their time; they’ve put in countless hours to perfect their work. Be prepared to practice, and be prepared to accept constructive criticism in order to improve. Learn to develop a critical eye towards your own work. Invest in life-long learning once you’ve been taught the basics. Believe in yourself and your abilities; you WILL get there. If there is someone’s work that you like, befriend them on Facebook. Most nail techs on my list are willing to share tips and helpful advice (myself included).
Remember there are no stupid questions when you don’t know something. If anybody makes you feel that way, move on to somebody else. None of us were born knowing how to do nails!
Last but not least, attend any networking or education classes in your area, especially the free demos. You never know what you will learn, or who you will meet. If there is nothing near you, consider saving and travelling to an event. You’ll open up so many doors and meet your fellow nail techs, not to mention getting first hand knowledge of new products and techniques so that you can come home inspired with new offerings for your clients!
How have you been able to help other nail technicians in Canada?
With 1/10th the population of the United States, but the same amount of land mass – we are a geographically challenged country! We don’t have the same networking opportunities that exist in the US so we have to create our own if we want to grow and prosper.
The Third Annual CNTC (Canadian Nail Tech Connection) networking event was held in London, Ontario in November 2011 to help connect our local nail techs to education opportunities and show them new products and techniques as well as provide opportunities to learn from guest speakers. We were absolutely amazed by the support from the industry in the way of donations for goodie bags and door prizes. We were able to bring together over 60 nail professionals this year from both sides of the border. I am a proud partner of CNTC with founder Dayna Knight, and we hope to expand it across Canada in the months and years to come.
What is your biggest challenge operating an in-home nail salon?
Definitely the visibility. I have my own website that is search engine-optimized and I continually update it so that it remains fresh. I also have a Facebook fan page and a blog will be next. These tools all help to drive business to my door, along with referrals from existing clients. My clients end up in my chair because they’re searching for something different than their experiences with discount nail salons, and I can’t tell you how many times they tell me they are so glad they found me. I know this can be replicated for every other nail tech who works from home.
The secret is not to lower your prices to ‘compete’ with these salons (because we all know they are not our competition). Your clients need to feel like they are special enough to be invited into your home for their services, and they won’t walk away with that feeling if you undercharge them. It goes without saying that your work must be top-notch and you must be professional. I make sure my clients know that I am regularly inspected by our local health unit in case they have any concerns coming to someone’s home.
Out of everyone in the world (regardless of era) whose nails would you like to do and why?
This one’s easy! I would absolutely love to do Lady Gaga’s nails. Not only does she drive fashion trends, she seems like she would be so much fun. I absolutely admire her.
Aside from nails, what else gets you out of bed in the morning?
I’m an avid scuba diver, and this sport has taken me as far as Indonesia to dive some of the most pristine reefs in the world. There is nothinq quite like scuba diving to shut out the ‘noise’ of the world above and around you. I earned my Rescue Diver certification in 2008 and it prepares one for any in-water emergency they may encounter.
If you could have a superpower what would it be?
I would like to be able to give people the ability to re-think what comes out of their mouths (or minds) before they say something unneccessarily negative or hurtful. There is too much pain and negativity in our world, and in our society in general. I’m not sure if it stems from insecurity or jealousy, but it is really ugly. In that light, I’ll leave you with my last motto: “It’s better to be kind, than to be right”.
Thanks to Laura for answering our questions and sharing a little more about her and what she does. To learn more about her and her work be sure to visit their website Scratch My Back.
Stay tuned for more interesting interviews with other fun & fearless members of the nail industry.