St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message

Working / Jobs

Tara Kepple

By Times Staff Writer
Published February 16, 2005

Pink and white Forever French acrylic nails are the enhancements most requested of Tara Kepple, a master nail technician who works full time at Snippers/Artistic Nails on Central Avenue.

Tara Kepple, 27

Master nail technician

Snippers/Artistic Nails

5700 Central Ave.

How long have you been doing nails? This year will be four years.

How long have you worked here? Six weeks.

Besides doing nails, what other job responsibilities do you have? Ninety percent of my time is spent doing nails, and the other time is spent just helping out. Answering the phone, taking out the trash. I'm licensed to do skin care and nails, but I only do nails here.

What kind of training do you have? I went to Lorraine's Beauty Academy (in St. Petersburg). I went into skin care at first, but there was no money in it. So then I had a friend offer me a job at her nail shop, and she said, "Come with me and I'll teach you everything you need to know." And then I took extra classes, and now have extra training at least twice a year.

What kind of training is needed for licensing? I did 300 hours for nails, 300 hours for skin, so 600 hours of schooling. Both classroom and hands-on. You have to do so many sets of nails, so many manicures, pedicures, facials, makeup. They teach you everything, for whichever license you're going for.

Is continuing education required?

Every two years you have to have a 16-hour course, (to recertify), but I always take extra classes every year anyway, to keep up with the latest products and the latest trends.

What kind of personality traits do you need to do nails? You just have to be personable, outgoing and be able to talk to people about everything and anything. I always like to say that I'm like a therapist and nail tech in one. Everybody tells me stuff, but it doesn't leave the nail desk. I hear everything. A lot of times people just want someone to talk to.

What are most of your customers coming in for?

I specialize in pink and white; the Forever French look on the nails. I would say 95 percent of my clients are pink and white. I only have one or two that like to use (color) polish.

What are some tools that you use?

A Dremel and a file. Those are the basics if you're doing acrylic nails. (A Dremel is a tool with a rotating head used for filing and shaping acrylic nails.) You just use the hand file on your natural nail. You can actually damage your natural nail with the Dremel.

What is an acrylic nail? It's like a plastic; like a resin that's going to go on top of your natural nail, kind of like a protector. There's a polymer, or powder and the liquid modimer that react together and harden into (an acrylic) nail.

Can they damage your natural nails? People say that acrylic does damage to the nail, but it doesn't. It's the nail tech and how much experience she has and how it's applied. There's 150 cellular layers in the nail, and you need to remove only three to adhere an acrylic nail. A lot of people take a Dremel to your natural nail, and that can damage it.

When applying acrylic nails, what steps do you follow? For someone who's never had them, first we would lightly buff the nail to get the oils off. Then you would take acetone to dehydrate it. The acetone pretty much cleans and preps for the primer, and then you prime the nail. It's kind of like putting primer on the wall before you paint. After that, you put a form on the (natural) nail; we use that to build the acrylic nail. I don't use (preformed) tips or glue; I'm building the nail (on the form) around your own natural nail. So it's your own custom, shaped nail.

How long does it take you to do a whole set of nails? About an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.

How many clients do you see in a day? From six to eight, in an eight-hour day. We try to book every hour on the hour and hope that you don't run late.

Do you do any nail art? I do some nail art, but not a lot. I only do nail art like around Christmas and the holidays. I mostly do freehand painting. Things like Santa Claus, Christmas trees, a Bucs flag. Whatever you want painted on there, if I can fit it on your nail, I'll get it on there.

What's the difference between getting a manicure and getting acrylic nails? When you're having a manicure it's basically just filing your nails to make them all the same shape, working on the cuticles, pushing them back, getting rid of any hangnails, soaking them in oils. It's enhancing what you have without putting on an acrylic overlay.

What is your least favorite thing about doing acrylic nails? What I don't like is when somebody goes to a discount (nail) shop and then comes in here saying "fix this for me." If they would have come here first, I would have been able to do it right from the beginning.

What's wrong with some of the nails you redo? Everything. From shape, to how thick they are, to being crooked. It's just sloppy work. Some women come here with nail mold or fungus they picked up, usually at a shop that was not sanitary.

What steps do you take to maintain a sanitary environment?

I use a brand new file on everyone. I soak all my implements in sanitizer for 10 minutes or more. We use bleach, and everything here is kept very clean. If you take an implement and you work on one person, and you don't clean that implement properly and then work on the next person, and say the first person had some kind of mold or fungus, then that fungus is going to get passed along. So sanitation is very important and that's usually the difference between a reputable salon and a discount place.

How do you make money doing nails? You can booth rent, or you can work on commission, where (the owner) gets a certain percentage of everything you make but he (owner) has to supply you with everything. You just come in and work.

What is your favorite thing about this job? The clientele, and the finished product. Having the clients leave feeling better about themselves. And the money's good.

How much money do you make?

It varies. Right now I'm rebuilding a clientele (list) so I make between $300 to $600 a week. I work for commission, so he (owner) gets a percentage and I get a percentage. Somewhere down the road I'd like to have a full book - eight clients a day, and hope in a year or so to eventually to be up to $1,500 a week.

[Last modified February 16, 2005, 04:30:09]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters