Sometimes, the universe gives you the information you need, even before you need it. At least that’s how it went for Vancouver beauty boutique owner Catherine Tsang. A long-time nail girl, Catherine was a client of Blanche Macdonald Nail Studio program grad and award-winning nail industry superstar, Keiko Matsui, “I watched her business grow and her nails just kept getting better and better, there were more awards in there every time I’d be in to get a new nail set!” With her curiosity sufficiently piqued, Catherine started asking Keiko all sorts of questions about her training and professional background.
“I asked her where she went to school, what the program was like, how long the program was, the good and the bad; I asked her literally everything I could think of and all of her answers made me want to go to Blanche Macdonald. Keiko is so great and if that is where she started out, I needed to go there too. From that moment, everything in my life has gone so smoothly and been successful—all because of my decision to go to Blanche Macdonald.”
Since graduating in 2015, she’s worked at popular Kitsilano salon, Soho Beauty & Nail Boutique, where she worked up from Junior Technician up to Salon Manager, and most recently, Catherine has opened her own salon, Sunday Beauty Boutique. It’s become so successful, she’s booked nearly a month in advance.
You can do so much with a career in Nails. Especially with the right foundation.
“After graduating from Blanche Macdonald, I learned a huge part of my nail salon knowledge at Soho. You deal with so many different clients, lots are walk-in appointments, and everyone wants something different. You had to work well and quickly, maintaining your professionalism and cleanliness at all times. Once I started managing the salon, I got to really learn how to handle staff and client complaints. My time there was invaluable. The support I got at the beginning of my career really set me up for owning my own salon.”
With a level of “nearly unheard of generosity”, Catherine’s salon boss allowed her to migrate some of her key clients to her own salon. And the rest of her clientele? Catherine has methodically built it up through her social media, blog posts, current clients’ glowing recommendations, walk-in traffic, and of course, her own nails.
“I always do my own nails, it’s a great conversation starter. If someone likes them, I give them a card and I usually see them in a few weeks. Using my own nails is also so helpful to show a design or colour I want to try out on other people. As soon as I do it on myself everyone wants it!”
Unsurprisingly, Catherine spends a lot of her time doing nail art on her clients. A skill she learned at Blanche Macdonald, from the very person who inspired her to go in the first place: Keiko Matsui!
“I was so excited about the Nail Art module at Blanche. I wanted to learn it all. I was getting set up when the teacher walked in and I looked up and Keiko was standing there! I hadn’t seen her since I enrolled so we just looked at each other for a second and then she was so excited to see me. It was, hands down, my absolute favourite day of school.”
Since then, Catherine has taken a 3D Acrylic Nail Art class with Keiko; an online class through Japanese Nail Artist Neiru with founder Jasmine Oshima, and a 3D nail design Bling-On application class in partnership with the Swarovski Crystals certification course through Akzentz. But Nail Art isn’t the only service Catherine has educated herself in. In addition to nail services, Sunday Beauty also offers lash lifts, tinting, and extensions—and Catherine does each service herself!
I was so excited about the Nail Art module at Blanche. I wanted to learn it all.
Though now it seems nails were Catherine’s clear calling, it wasn’t her first career.
“I was always interested in nails and I loved Japanese Nail Art magazines, but it was such a different world to me. I wanted to go right to Blanche Macdonald after high school but I actually took a Food and Nutrition degree program instead. I just kept feeling like it wasn’t me, and I was getting up every day talking myself into work. Finally, I’d had enough. It was like ‘You’ve always wanted to, just see what comes of it so then you don’t have to wonder anymore.’”
In the three years as a beauty boutique owner, every day is a chance for Catherine to do what she loves, in a place she built all on her own. Honing her craft, connecting with her clients, and letting people leave her salon feeling better than when they came in, are the highlights of every day at Sunday Beauty.
There’s so much learning that goes into owning a business, from any way you look at it.
“There’s so much learning that goes into owning a business, from any way you look at it. But when I can have a client in and let them talk about their day and create something beautiful on their nails that will make them feel better, that never ceases to amaze and humble me. That’s what makes the harder parts of owning a business so worth it. One of the most surprising things about having my own business is having clients come in and they start talking and suddenly, you realize you have so much in common with this person. And it might not have been an obvious connection in any other situation, but it’s there.”
As Sunday Beauty Boutique continues to climb the ranks of the Vancouver Nail scene and more and more clients discover Catherine’s humble and skilled services, Catherine is already plotting the next move for her career.
“I need to decide exactly what I want to do, but I know I want to branch out and do more. Maybe that will be moving into a bigger space or learning and offering more services. As much as I love doing nails, I love learning new things so I’ll always be ready to do more and more in conjunction with my nail career.
You deal with so many different clients, lots are walk-in appointments, and everyone wants something different.
“I think that’s something more people need to realize and what Blanche Macdonald was so great for teaching, you can do so much with a career in Nails. Especially with the right foundation, which I got from Blanche and Soho. Doing research and learning in different environments is crucial at first to really hone and develop your skills. Research and learning help in every area from your actual skills to business sense, to managing client expectations. Once you learn and experience enough to decide where you want to go, there’s no stopping you!”