She is a lead educator for one of the biggest global gel nail brands, but Sarah Thompson didn’t always know her calling would be in nails...or nail education.
However, the professional nail industry kept calling to her, and though she even tried to leave it once, it kept bringing her back. She finally was where she was meant to be with the brand she was meant to be with. Join us as we go on her nail journey!
Nailpro (NP): When/how did you realize that being a nail technician was your calling?
Sarah Thompson (ST): I’ve always liked doing nails or getting my nails done, but I didn’t get into the industry until after my son was born. I didn’t want to go back to my former job as it would mean he would be with a babysitter for 12 hours, so my husband and I were brainstorming what I could do closer to home. My husband suggested I get into doing nails because my nail tech at the time, Roberta, was super busy and then I could make my own schedule!
I contacted Roberta to chat, and she thought it was a good idea that I pursue this. Then she gave me a number for a woman with whom I could train one on one. I was only certified a couple weeks when Roberta informed me that she and her husband were moving to Atlanta, Georgia, and she wanted to know if she could put my name on a list for her clients. So, I started with a decent clientele.
NP: Tell me about your nail journey over the years?
ST: I ended up doing nails for 13 years out of my home studio, and I began pursuing photography on the side. Both proved to be too much, so I gave up nails to explore this new career as well as working at my husband’s business.
It was great for a bit, but then I was contacted by a couple of women who wanted me to do their nails as they hadn’t found a nail tech they wanted to stay with since me. So, I set up a small space at my husband’s auto body repair shop, and that is where my nail journey started back up. It was nice to do your work and go home with money in your pocket and not have hours of photo editing to do. I questioned what I was thinking when I gave up nails!
I worked out of there briefly before moving to my photography studio, and then my husband and I opened a tanning and nail salon in our small downtown area. The salon was amazing, and I’m super proud of what we had built, but I realized after almost five years, I was not a boss kind of person, so I sold our salon and moved back home just as the world shut down in March of 2020. I spent the next three months during lockdown taking workshop after workshop with nail art, but I also took prep classes, which were my favorite.
NP: How did you come to The GelBottle?
ST: The products that I had trained with and used faithfully for 17 years weren’t working for me nor for my nail technicians at the salon — I was unhappy with the results and started to worry about our clients’ nail health. A woman I followed on Instagram who used the same products I had was trying out The GelBottle, so I asked why she was switching over. She explained she was having all the same issues I was. Then I reached out to The GelBottle who put me in touch with TGB President/CEO Michael “Mike” Hollman in the U.S. as it had just launched there earlier that year. After a couple months of chatting with him, I placed my first order, jumping in with both feet and not turning back. It was the best decision I ever made.
My clients whose nails barely maintained for three weeks previously were now getting long-lasting results of over four weeks, and they were coming in saying, “What are you using on my nails? They’ve never been better!”
NP: What led you to get into education for The GelBottle?
ST: Mike had mentioned The GelBottle Academy coming to the U.S. and had asked if it was something I would be interested in for Canada. Initially, I wasn’t sure because I didn’t think I had the patience for it — it turns out I do, and I quite enjoy it.
I flew to California the first week in March of 2020 to support the launch of the Academy in the U.S., and I was excited about becoming the educator in Canada, but the world shut down two weeks after that and put it on hold. Later in 2021, Mike and Helena Bonney, the head of the Academy, reached out to see if I’d still be interested, which I was, so we relaunched my first courses in March of 2022.
My passion for education grew because when I first started using nail products, there weren’t videos like there are now, and the Academy didn’t exist. It was all trial and error with what worked and what didn’t. I didn’t want anybody to struggle like that, and I wanted to help teach people about products and how to use them properly while giving tips and tricks I had learned along the way.
NP: What positions or events helped you become a great educator?
ST: Unfortunately, my first mistake was after I did my initial training, I didn’t do any continued education after that. I didn’t take a refresher course until December 2019! 19 years of doing nails with no refresher was a huge mistake.
I discovered Chrissy Pierce, a U.K. nail tech and educator, was traveling from the U.K. to teach a course in British Columbia, so I flew west and took my very first continued education class, and I could have cried. The nail world had evolved so much and left me sitting in the dust. I had no idea what an apex was or how to build it. My mind was absolutely blown, and from that point on, I vowed to never stop learning.
NP: What do you love about working for The GelBottle?
ST: First and foremost, it would be my U.S. team. They’re all amazing, and we’ve become a little family. Secondly, I’ve met so many incredible people and brilliant nail techs because of TGB, including those from classes I have taught or beauty shows we have attended.
NP: What are you hoping for the future of your career in the nail industry?
ST: I’m hoping to be better than I am today both as a nail tech and a teacher. I also want to grow as a person and grow my business, so who knows...But, I’m wishing it’s something extraordinary!
NP: What changes are you hoping for in nail technician education moving forward?
ST: Online education is beneficial if you have basic knowledge of a subject, but I’m a very hands-on person, so I find it nearly impossible to learn something new online. Therefore, I hope people interested in doing nails don’t rely solely on YouTube or Instagram to learn about products or techniques; they should take the time to complete in-person training and licensure. We’re working on revamping our Academy curriculum, and I’m excited to see TGB level up our training.
NP:What are your favorite types of nails/designs to do?
ST: I like clean and classic with minimal nail art, whether it is a simple nude builder or a solid color. Then again, I have days where I’d love to add crystals to every nail; it depends on my mood.
NP: If there is one piece of advice you could give a new nail tech, what would it be?
ST: Do not be too hard on yourself when you’re just starting out, but always take pride in your work, and be fussy, looking for those fine details. Always strive to be better than you were yesterday, don’t compare yourself to others, and never ever stop learning.