Taking the leap into nails at 57 years old, Nancy Porter left her life in Dubai and her career as a nurse behind to pursue a new profession as a nail technician.

Using her knowledge from her career in nursing to enhance her services and harnessing her childhood love for art to develop her nail artistry, Nancy has tackled tekking head-on.

“I became a nail tech later in life, starting at 57 years old. It’s been quite a lifestyle change, having lived abroad in Dubai and been a registered nurse for 35 years,” Nancy shares. “After deciding to leave nursing, I wanted to combine my artistic ability with a small business and be self-employed. Nails seemed to be the perfect way to do both.”

Enrolling in a gel polish course with Shropshire-based CND master nail tech, educator and mentor, Gemma of Polished By Gem, in summer 2022, Nancy continued her training by completing an NVQ Level 2 at college, before also gaining her e-file qualification and builder gel in a bottle qualification.

Relocating to Shropshire during the pandemic when she left Dubai, Nancy joined the Covid Vaccination Campaign. Hoping to return to her previous job in the UK in A&E, Nancy joined the NHS Staff Bank. “I found things had changed greatly since I last worked regularly in England and I felt unsupported and a bit frightened,” she remembers.

“My husband had decided to retire, and after a great deal of soul searching, I decided to do something completely different, something I had never done before – become a nail tech!”

Nancy remembers loving drawing, painting and crafts throughout her childhood, and relied on drawing to get her through a long hospital stay at seven years old when she was battling a serious illness. “Drawing, designing and colouring helped to pass the time. It also gave me the desire to nurse and help people.

“I have always enjoyed ‘making things’ – painting, decorating, sewing – creating. I did this with my children too, both of whom are creative in their own ways,” she smiles. “I didn’t become interested in nails until around 2012. Having my own nails done by Gem inspired me. I became fascinated and almost hypnotised with the different styles, colours and the vast range of nail art. I thought, ‘I can do this’, so I did!”

Gem’s ongoing support and advice have been pivotal to my business becoming what it is. Gem had previously done my nails, so I knew how professional she is. I took the first leap and thoroughly enjoyed my training with her. Gem’s two courses have been inspirational, enjoyable, comprehensive and very thorough. Her ongoing support and advice have been invaluable.

“I believe that there needs to be enhanced training for techs in a range of areas,” says Nancy, drawing from her experience as a nurse. “Infection control, safeguarding, basing counselling and business matters such as tax and marketing needs to be more commonly included.”

“I’ve definitely found some similarities between tekking and nursing,” she explains. “Both require a client-centred approach, confidentiality and importance of clear communication and accurate documentation. Both nursing and tekking allow me to make someone feel better and feel good about themselves.

“When I set out on this new journey, I didn’t realise how many of my skills from my previous nursing days would be used, from infection prevention and control, to safeguarding and counselling. I hope my past experiences have help me to provide a better, all-round, safe service.”

“Agreeing a treatment plan with the client and involving the client in their own care is what’s most important to me.”

“My salon is run from home in a rural neighbourhood in Shropshire, with a small but growing clientele. I also work once a week with clients with memory impairment in the local community centre, which is popular with the residents and very worthwhile.

“We have a senior population, and many of my clients are pensioners, but the age range of my clients spans from 18 to 90. A lot of my clients love colour, sparkle, and seasonal trends,” Nancy notes. “I was brought up with ‘shell pink’ nail varnish, which was my preference when I first started tekking. Now, I love the wonderful variety of colours, designs and styles. I’m a devotee of Fee Wallace and Tune in Tuesdays!”

Her work with clients at her local community centre, the Mayfair Centre in Shropshire, includes volunteering for a few hours every week to work with residents. “The centre offers a range of supportive services, including groups for people with learning disabilities, depression, loneliness issues and dementia. Home-cooked food, laundry services and help with hygiene needs are catered for.

“I was totally amazed with how much people give to help run this wonderful unit, and wanted to be a part of it – to give just a little bit back, a bit of TLC, a bit of a pamper,” she enthuses. “I love every minute of working with their staff and the clients. It’s a very simple nail care service, focusing on filing, cleaning and normal polish only.”

“I believe that most nail techs offer a wonderful service, and are professional and offering the best practice. However, I do think the industry struggles through lack of regulations and ongoing assessments, which can leave the general public open to inferior and sometimes dangerous treatments.

“I think it’s important to promote my own services, highlighting my choice of using a complete system with only one brand of gel product and matching lamp,” Nancy says. “Being transparent, informed and discussing any risks and the benefits of having a gel treatment will give clients the ability to make an informed choice.”

“I didn’t expect to make new friends within the nail and beauty community easily. I thought it would be competitive, cold and unfriendly. Almost everybody I have met has been so friendly and helpful, especially regarding problems or issues that creep up.

“It’s not all been easy, far from it, but my advice to anyone thinking of taking the leap into nails would be to believe in yourself, practice constantly, work hard and be prepared for knocks,” she concludes. “Make close buddies who will support you!”

Follow Nails By Nancy on Instagram, here.

By Editor