Stuck inside during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Erielle Ortiz passed the time with a hobby she’d always been interested in: doing her nails.
“I’ve always gotten my nails done, acrylics and all that,” Ortiz, a junior public health major, said. “They’ve always been extravagant sets and stuff. It’s just always been something that interests me and I’m self-taught. I really watched over the years how it’s done and applied it to doing it myself.”
She hit the ground running after her then-boyfriend gifted her with nail supplies, “going all out” and practicing detailed sets.
A month later, she started her business: Nails by Erielle. She started by selling $20 sets in her hometown of Queens, New York.
“I was born and raised in Queens, so I generally know a lot of people there,” she said. “My friends were a big help in sharing my posts, sharing that I started doing nails. The $20 sets were what really brought people in.”
But her business really took off at UB. She gets most of her clients from campus, where word of mouth has brought new customers into the fold.
Some of her regulars have been customers since she first opened, something that she says makes her “appreciate them more,” considering the other “really good” nail technicians on campus.
Aside from her skills with nails, she believes that her very “welcoming relationship” with clients makes her business special. During appointments, she plays music or TV shows, provides phone chargers and chats with her customers if they seem interested in conversation.
She honed those interpersonal skills as a home care professional, where she provides in-home care to elderly clients (Ortiz aspires to be a nurse).)
“It [home care] gives me a lot of background information and experience in the field,” she said. “It’s something I enjoy doing. I have really good relationships with my clients. Whenever I go over there [client’s homes], it’s nothing but positive energy.”
While she admits that her home care clients sometimes “have their days,” she says the bad days are few and far between.
“Nursing has always been something I’ve wanted to do,” Ortiz said. “I’ve always liked helping people. I have an autistic sister, so that really helps me with patience and with helping them with whatever they need.”
Ortiz’s family continues to be supportive of her future plans and her nail business. After her family started to see that nails were something she was “serious about,” her older sister bought her a nail table, which has a surface made to protect against chemicals like acetone, which is used as a nail polish remover.
“My mom and my dad are probably my biggest supporters,” she said. “They’re always just so proud. I would send my mom [pictures of] a lot of the nails that I would do and she would say, ‘I wish I could do those,’ but she just can’t do long nails and all that extra stuff.”
She describes her parents as people who “made sure that I worked for what I wanted,” a lesson that shaped her into who she is today.
While Ortiz isn’t exactly sure about where her business will be in the future, she’s been thinking about taking Nails By Erielle’s to the “next level.”
“I feel like right now it’s doing good, better than I really thought it would,” she said.
Ortiz has plans to expand her business and start selling press-ons for “people who can’t wait for three hours” for her to do their nails.
Learn more about Nails by Erielle at @nailsbyerielle on Instagram.
Jasmin Yeung is an assistant news/features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org