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Best of SNO

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Nails Become High Art at New Nail Salon in Downtown Hollywood

Nail+technician+and+small+business+owner+Shelly+Estrada+poses+in+her+salon+beneath+a+neon+sign+of+her+business+Instagram+account+name.+Estrada+and+her+mother+recently+opened+Purple+Touch+Beauty+Salon+in+downtown+Hollywood.
Angie Popov-Easton
Nail technician and small business owner Shelly Estrada poses in her salon beneath a neon sign of her business Instagram account name. Estrada and her mother recently opened Purple Touch Beauty Salon in downtown Hollywood.

The average human nail bed measures ½ an inch. It’s a tiny, tiny space. The same length as half a paper clip and smaller than the width of a penny. But for Shelly Estrada, it’s her canvas.

On it, she has fit, the stunning likeness of Jessica Rabbit, a colorful version of Bart Simpson, a stylized image of The Weekend – even a miniature rendition of Hollywood’s Hard Rock Guitar.

Estrada, 21, is a nail technician who started doing her own nails at 16-years-old, after her mother bought her an acrylic nail kit from Walmart.

“I’ve always been artistic, and I love to do nails so being a nail tech felt natural,” she said.

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Her mother, Iris Suazo, a cosmetologist for 30 years, recognized her daughter’s talent and put her through cosmetology school. Upon graduation, Estrada knew she needed to practice her art to get clients and in 2020, nine months before she graduated high school, she got her first one.

“My first client was my friend Niki,” she said. “We met on Instagram and my prices were super cheap at that time.”

She continued practicing on her friends at home, charging only $50 for a full set of acrylic nails, and marketing her skills on Instagram. Estrada’s designs set her apart from other nail techs and she quickly grew a following, amassing 85 clients and over 11 thousand followers on her Instagram account, Nails by Shelly, in just two years. All good news, except for one little problem.

“I had to relocate because I had way too many clients coming into my apartment at that time and my neighbors would notice,” said Estrada.

So, in February of this year, she and her mother, took the leap and opened their own salon on Harrison Street in downtown Hollywood called Purple Touch Beauty Salon.

An expansive, sun-lit room filled with hair stations is manned by Suazo, while Estrada has created a cozy, white room, complete with nail station, a massage chair for pedicures and a comfy salon bed to do waxing and eyelashes.

Everyday, Estrada works to perfect her craft, coming up with more creative and complicated designs each time. Clients look forward to going to her salon because they know she doesn’t cut any corners. For example, the Hard Rock guitar design took 45 minutes to complete on that single nail.

“I really spend more time on tasks like filing and designs because I know what it’s like to spend a lot of money on nails and be disappointed,” said Estrada.

Most of her clients live in Broward, and roughly 30 are SBHS students. One of those is SBHS junior, Maria Sanchez. As one of her first clients, Sanchez was getting her nails done in Estrada’s bedroom. Being there to see the transition from house to salon has been inspirational for her.

“It’s pretty cool to see her progress and do better for herself,” said Sanchez.

While in some cases she negotiates prices, her average rates for a full set of acrylics starts at $60, with an additional $5-20 more with designs. French tip nails are some of her more popular requests, and they cost up to an additional $15. Estrada’s other services like lash extensions and waxes are also a reasonable price.

“A lot of my clients are young girls who don’t have the biggest budget, so I always try to negotiate with them on what they can afford,” said Estrada. “Lashes can charge from $80-120, and waxes cost like $20.”

Estrada books appointments via her Instagram account and likes to freestyle on client’s nails when they let her. It usually takes her 40 minutes to complete a full set.

“When they don’t have a picture for me to work from, I draw inspiration from my surroundings,” said Estrada.

She spends up to $300 each time she buys materials and wants to make sure she gets the most bang for her buck.

“I used to go to the Asian shops to buy my nail supplies, but I realized the quality wasn’t that good,” said Estrada. “I started researching nail stores and found this one in Sterling that I always buy my quality supplies from.”

She says she can make up to $5,000 a month on average and is able to pay for all her bills with the money she makes from the salon. On holidays, that number can increase to $6,000.

“It’s really my only stream of income, but if it doesn’t work out I can always fall back on my aesthetician,” said Estrada.

Despite the risks that come with opening a new business, Estrada has no regrets in creating her salon. As a young adult herself, she knows the blessing a good nail tech can be for girls her age, and she’s happy to help. She offers advice to other aspiring nail techs and anyone else looking to start their own business like she did.

“If you want to get into nails, I would say don’t think you’re not good enough because you don’t do something the way another nail tech does,” said Estrada. “Push yourself 100%. Don’t be discouraged when you hit a roadblock.”

This story was originally published on Bulldog Bark on April 4, 2023.