In the beauty and wellness industry, finding the right mentor can mean the difference between a successful career or a professional life that never really gets off the ground.
If you’re in the first year or two of your career and have some questions that need answers, then keep reading to learn why it’s best to seek out a mentor. Alternatively, if you’re a seasoned veteran who’s thinking of taking someone under your wing, pay just as much attention.
Learn the ins-and-outs of mentorship from Darnell Atkins, a 29-year-old nail technician from the Washington, DC area who took the best advice of his life and decided to ignore gender norms and pursue a career in the nail industry.
As one of the few black male nail professionals in the business, Darnell had to overcome a host of obstacles. But he learned the value of mentorship and speaks openly about how finding the right mentor can change a person’s professional life for the better.
Read on for the full story of how Darnell learned to market his business. Find out more about how this social media juggernaut known as Nen10doe was able to attract roughly 50,000 Instagram followers and become a Booksy Ambassador in less than two short years.
Finding a Career Path Through Mentorship
Darnell isn’t the first image that pops into most people’s minds, when they imagine a nail tech. That could be because of his muscular build. Or, it might be because he’s a young Black male who sports tattoos on both arms and wears a lustrous beard that resembles a lion’s mane.
Regardless of what kind of person most clients envision when they think of a nail tech, Darnell’s unique style has added to his marketability. And although he found his passion for creating beautiful nail designs by chance, much of his newfound success came from finding the right mentor.
Darnell started his career as a nail tech, after he was discharged from the United States Navy in 2013 for using synthetic marijuna, which left him searching for a real calling.
“Getting kicked out of the Navy showed me the importance of having a career. Hitting rock bottom made me hungry,” he said. “Everywhere I went, I couldn’t find a job without a college degree. It just seemed impossible. Then I came across a nail salon.”
Darnell walked into that nail salon after losing a job that wasn’t “a good fit.” In need of some self-care, he asked to get his nails painted all black. That decision inspired part of his signature look and his newfound profession.
“I just dumped all my money into this. I got addicted to the hustle and people saying I wasn’t supposed to be doing this,” he said. “And I know for a fact that was the date that I really took this seriously, because I knew—this is going to get me out of the ghetto.”
How Mentoring Can Help Create a Brand
That chance meeting with a nail tech was a life-changing moment for Darnell. At that moment, he found his first mentor. Everything clicked because Darnell realized that nails is a 5 billion dollar industry. And he could invest his resources into this venture and see a real return.
But being a Black man entering a field dominated by women was still a real challenge. According to a study published by the UCLA Labor Center, Black nail techs make up less than 2% of the nail salon industry. And the vast majority of nail techs are women.
Because of the huge racial and gender gaps, Darnell took advantage of mentorship opportunities. That decision helped him become a trailblazer approaching this uncharted territory.
Although some people don’t think mentorship is necessary, it was a huge help for Darnell. And a number of industry professionals tell similar stories. Soon after that first meeting, Darnell found his second mentor, who gave him even more perspective on marketing his brand.
Darnell chose to initially market his pedicure skills, while he was still learning to craft intricate nail art. He also offered foot massages because fewer people in his area specialized both services. His decision paid off nicely, as he gained more confidence while earning loyal clients.
“A lot of newcomers want to do nails but don’t they don’t want to do pedicures. Introducing that part of the game to new clients was my focus,” he said, adding that he was able to offer customers a more relaxing experience than a lot of his competitors.
Learn Marketing Strategies from the Experts
A few months after entering into the nail tech world, Darnell started attending industry events. In particular, he remembers going to a Booksy sponsored event featuring Naja Nails and China Nails. And both Booksy Ambassadors encouraged him to continue moving forward.
“I told them everything that I was doing and how I would love to be a Booksy Ambassador one day. I was told that I will need a license and a lot of other prerequisites,” he said. But the feedback was very encouraging and part of the learning curve.
Darnell admits that he signed up to those events to learn more about fine-tuning his marketing strategy and bringing in more business. But he learned first-hand from platform artists and educators to stay consistent and continue being himself, which was even more valuable.
He added that his way of branding himself is less formal and more personal. But that’s what works best for him. “Nobody else is qualified to be me. Once you start conforming to the norms, you start losing yourself,” he said.
Although Darnell’s journey is a truly unique experience, his story could apply to any industry newcomer, who wants to fine tune their craft. And he hopes that readers feel inspired to pursue their passions, while finding the right mentor in the beginning of their career.
“For instance, if you’re a woman coming into barbering, stay consistent, stay yourself, stay solid, and stay grounded,” he said. “Before long, people will start asking you certain terms and things and how to use this and that in certain contexts. And you’ll end up teaching them something.”