During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Erielle Ortiz was stuck indoors, spending the time doing a hobby that had always interested her: doing her nails.
“I’ve always had my nails done, acrylics and all that,” said Ortiz, a junior public health major. “They’ve always been extravagant sets and stuff. It’s just always interested me and I’m self-taught. I’ve watched closely how it’s done over the years and applied it myself to do it.”
She got started after her then-boyfriend gave her nail supplies as a gift, “going all out” and practicing detailed sets.
A month later she launched her business: Nails by Erielle. She began selling $20 sets in her hometown of Queens, New York.
“I was born and raised in Queens, so I know a lot of people there in general,” she said. “My friends have been a great help by sharing my posts and saying that I’ve started doing nails. The $20 sets are what really drew people in.”
But her business really took off at UB. She gets most of her clients from campus, where word of mouth has brought new clients to the herd.
Some of her regular customers have been customers since she opened, which she says makes her “appreciate her more” given the other “really good” nail technicians on campus.
Aside from her nail handling skills, she thinks her very “hospitable relationship” with customers makes her business special. At appointments, she plays music or TV shows, provides phone chargers, and chats with her clients if they seem interested in talking.
She honed these interpersonal skills as a home care professional, where she cared for elderly clients in their homes (Ortiz aspires to be a nurse).
“It [home care] gives me a lot of background information and experience in this field,” she said. “I do it with pleasure. I have really good relationships with my clients. Whenever I go there [client’s homes]it is nothing but positive energy.”
While she admits her home care clients sometimes “have their periods,” she says the bad days are rare.
“Nursing has always been something I’ve wanted to do,” Ortiz said. “I’ve always liked helping people. I have an autistic sister, it really helps me to have patience and help them with whatever they need.”
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The Ortiz family continues to support her future plans and her nail business. After her family realized she was “serious” about nails, her older sister bought her a nail table with a surface made to protect against chemicals like acetone, which is used as a nail polish remover.
“My mom and dad are probably my biggest supporters,” she said. “You’re always so proud. I would send my mother [pictures of] a lot of the nails I would do, and she’d be like, ‘I wish I could do those,’ but she just can’t do long nails and all that extra stuff.”
She describes her parents as people who “made sure I worked for what I wanted,” a lesson that shaped her into who she is today.
While Ortiz isn’t exactly sure where her business will go in the future, she has considered taking Nails By Erielle’s to the “next level.”
“I feel like things are going well at the moment, better than I really thought,” she said.
Ortiz plans to expand her business and start selling press-ons for “people who can’t wait three hours” for her to do their nails.
Find out more about Nails by Erielle at @nailsbyerielle on Instagram.
Jasmin Yeung is Deputy News/Features Editor and can be reached at [email protected]