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Daily Inspiration: Meet Maria Ragland

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maria Ragland.

Hi Maria, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I started not knowing what I wanted to do after graduating high school. I moved to Chicago and went to IADT for fashion design. I loved and was very good at it, but I got bored, so I moved back home. Shortly after moving around, I went to school for Pharmacy Tech, but all the math drove me crazy (lol), so I decided to drop out. In 2008, I got pregnant with my first child. I was watching TV one day and saw a commercial for culinary school (Le Cordon Bleu). I told my mother I wanted to go because I was already good at cooking, and I liked it, so I figured, why not give it a shot. I attended Le Cordon Bleu in 2009. I had my son that September and graduated in the summer of 2010! I loved cooking, but I still felt like I was missing something. So, one day I saw my friend from culinary school (Jessica) doing her nails and asked her to teach me. She showed me the basics. That was 2014. I was practicing on myself, my cousin, and my daughter (lol) until I decided to go to school to be a Nail Tech (manicurist) in 2018. I started the program in April of that year. It was a three-month course. I graduated in July 2018 and got my manicurist license in August of the same year. I started working at a salon (Shears To You). I stayed there for a few months and continued to do nails from home until the beginning of 2019. In January of 2019, I started working at Beauty Brands.

I liked working there but couldn’t be creative because it was mainly manicures and pedicures. I got discouraged because I felt like I wouldn’t be able to do what I had grown to love. When I decided to quit working at Beauty Brands, I continued to work from home, and my mom said I should try to work in an actual nail shop. I called about 10 different shops, and they all said no, except for one. Vicky’s Nails Bar in Black Jack said they were hiring, and I could come in for an interview that same day. That was in September of 2019. I did a pedicure and a refill that day and started the next day.

I was nervous being in a Vietnamese shop because I was the only African American working there. Everybody in the shop was friendly and helped me get used to being in a fast-paced environment. My clientele grew so fast, and I was able to be myself. Here it is, 3 years later, and I’m still working in the same shop, with an even bigger clientele. I no longer have to work from home or be discouraged because I can be creative. I’m able to show my talent every single day. I even started a press on nail line for my clients who can’t or don’t wear acrylic nails. Once I started doing the press on nail line, I decided to get an LLC for my business, Tha Nail Pharmacy. I plan to open up a nail shop shortly as well. I’m so grateful for my kids, my guy, my Fave and clientele (who are like family to me now) for supporting me throughout everything because without them, I’d probably be working somewhere, doing something I don’t love. I’m not the best nail tech in the world, but I’m pretty close if you ask me (lol) 8 years in and 4 years licensed. I can only keep growing, and I plan on doing just that!

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
My biggest struggle throughout this journey would have to be not knowing where I fit in. It’s a popularity contest, and I wasn’t looking to be popular. I just wanted to do what I love.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’m a nail technician. Manicurist, according to my license (lol), I specialize in acrylic nails and nail art. I’m known for my nail art and creativity. I’m most proud of my growth within the industry and being one of the only African Americans working in a Vietnamese shop. That’s not something you see every day. My creativity sets me apart from others. I draw everything by hand!

Do you have any advice for those just starting?
If you’re trying to be a nail tech, focus on the prep and foundation. The rest will follow. Practice makes perfect. When I started, I wished I knew that instead of trying to learn all the glitz and glamor in the industry. Your nails won’t last if the prep and foundation aren’t done properly. Stay true to who you are and don’t let the success of others discourage you. Your time will come and you will shine in your own way. Faith and hard work will always take you to the top.

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