The Community Spotlight series showcases innovative GlossGenius Educators and Ambassadors who go above and beyond, not only to educate their community but to inspire them, to dare them to dream big, and to empower them with the tools to succeed in managing and growing their business.
Casandra is a nail artist, nail tech educator, salon owner, and a mother. She currently resides in central California and is a GlossGenius Ambassador as of 2021. This fall, Cass founded Opal Beauty Bar, a brand new nail studio that specializes in gel manicures and pedicures. You can follow Cass at @opalnaillab.
I am so excited that we're doing this! I was really, really, really excited to show up to this table and interview you about your personal success and how GlossGenius has impacted the potential for your success and where it's taking you from here on out. So I'd love to ask you a few questions about who Cass is and where you are in the world and what your purpose is?
I'm so excited. Thanks, Dani so much for even considering me – it means so much and I can't wait. Yeah, I'm so excited for this!
So tell me a little bit about who Cass Carillo is, where are you in the world, and what do you do?
Okay, so, my name is Casandra. People in the nail industry call me 'Cass,' and I am in Hanford, California, which is like smack dab in the middle of California. No one really knows where Hanford is, so I always say Fresno, and we're known basically for like our agriculture, all of the fun cow fields. That's where I'm located. I honestly can't picture myself being located anywhere else either.
Tell me about what your work-life balance is like now – I know that you have a baby boy, Zain, who I'd love to hear more about. But how do you balance that family and work life – what are some of those tenets that you follow?
Honestly, I think it's not easy in the slightest because there's always that mom guilt, like, 'Am I giving too much time to my business?' But in order to put food on the table for my baby, I have to work and I have to put in that time. But I try to do so in a way that I'm not at work all the time, but honestly, it really is hard. So I decided, I want to say, like three years into my career that I had enough of working eight to six or something, and it was just so much. And when I was pregnant with Zain I told myself 'I really want to be present for my baby and I need to learn how to run my business smarter, and make more income while working less hours.' And I took so many courses. I invested a lot. It was hard to find people in the industry because, honestly, I couldn't find anyone that focused on growth for nail techs. It was always on estheticians, hair stylists, photographers, and I'm like 'Okay, but what about our industry, like, we need help too you guys.'
I love it.
It's true. So I invested in courses and I've been applying that to my business. And I guess if you're at home and you're watching this, some key things I would say is really plan out your day, like set blocks and set specific days for certain tasks. So as an example, I work three days out of the week doing clients and then one day out of the week is all for administrative tasks or like planning content. And also working in the pockets of your day, so even while you're at work, and you have like a 30-minute break, like get on social media, start planning some posts, start interacting with people, promote yourself, grow your business, don't just like sit there and, you know, eat or like chill – and I know you want to but...
You gotta hustle!
Yeah, you do. So I think of it as 'I'm at work, what things can I do to be productive, to grow my business while I'm at work.' And then when I'm at home, I shut off – after 6pm, I do not reply to text messages. And that is a big role in that client balance and honestly Gloss too because I can keep bookings open and have customers book themselves and I don't have to do anything. My site is there, is available.
So you're saying that for work-life balance it's really about setting those boundaries, knowing your values and where you do want to spend your time, and when you are spending your time you're doing it wisely. Would that make sense?
Yeah, thanks for like recapping that – that was great.
Good job. So let's take it back, because this is current Cassandra, but I want to go back to like what made you become a nail tech? I know that that's something that you know we're trying to focus on here is 'How do you get into the industry?' And I'm hoping that someone else that's reading this or listening to this conversation can see themselves in your journey as well. So could you give us some insight on where your story started with becoming who you are in the nail industry?
Absolutely. I was in high school and my nails would always be done with polish. And I really loved art, so I want to become an art teacher. That was like my initial goal, but my art teacher honestly shut my dream down, and he was like 'You're never going to be an art teacher, that's not even needed. That's kind of a dumb career, like you should change it.' I remember exactly who it was and my heart was shattered. And then, coming from a Hispanic family, first generation, you know, Mexican American, my mom and my dad drilled into my head like 'You have to go to college and you have to get a degree.' But I hate school. I hated school. I still hate school – I love to learn, but I hate it.
So I did all the things and I was miserable, but I really wanted to be a nail tech and I knew in high school once my artist dream got shut down, I was just really scared. Because one, my teacher just shut down my dream, and aren't they supposed to, like, empower us and uplift us. And then my mom and my dad were like 'Sweetie, you're never going to make any money.' Like 'That's not a real job, are you sure you can make it like you need to go to school.' So I did it. I went to school, but I was still DIY-ing my nails at home with like, those acrylic kits and those ASP dips for beauty supplies, and they were ugly, but I was so happy when I was doing them.
So fast forward a couple years, I was miserable working all of these jobs just because I wasn't fulfilled, so I felt like if I kept adding more to my plate I would eventually find something that fulfills me. But my – well not even to say my parents... so my dad passed away when I was 10 and it was a single mom for you know, to this day. And so for her, it was really scary to have me do something that is so unknown because, you know, she did do so much. She worked – sorry, I'm going to cry – she worked so many jobs to put food on the table for me and my brothers. So it was like really nerve-racking for her to be like 'Oh my God, like I did so much for you. And you're just going to (in her mind) throw it away to go to beauty school, where your income isn't secure, like you need to get an education.' And you guys, I really tried. I tried for like four years, and I kept switching my major.
And finally, one day, I just had a conversation with her. And I had to tell her like – I call my mom Sandra – I was like 'Sandra, I'm sorry, but I really love this like nail career and I'm miserable and isn't life to live and be fulfilled. So I'm really sorry, you know, this is going to hurt. I hope that you can support me in my journey, but I'm good to go to nail school.'
And so we went to nail school, she took me for a couple of meetings, but honestly at the time, we just could not afford it and I was still young – and it was really heartbreaking. Because I couldn't afford nail school, I didn't have a way to pay for it. My mom couldn't help me any more than she already had because she was still trying to pay, you know, to keep a roof over our heads. And so I had to put that dream on the backburner for like a good two years.
Fast forward, Zain's father was really encouraging, and while I was working at AT&T, he encouraged me to work part time and then go to nail school, which was an hour away from where I lived, every day, which was so taxing, but I did it! And when I moved back to California, I finished nail school at Lawrence & Company, and it was hard you guys. I was like struggling because you have to work and then you have to go to school full time. And then the school schedule, it's not very flexible, so it left little room.
During this time, my mom was so supportive, very nervous. But it was really after having that conversation and that heart to heart with her and just expressing how much being a nail tech and just following that dream and not not doing something that I knew I was gonna hate. Again, like, I love to learn, but I knew deep down that I wasn't a school person and I really wanted to do nails, and that's when I felt like set free almost because I had finally spoken my truth to her and I had her on board with me as painful as that conversation was.
I love that. What a beautiful arc in that story. And I think, you know, one of the questions that I had for you was, as an artist, as a mother, as a human being who's just trying to live life in a fulfilled way, like what are – if someone else was just starting out, and I just want to make sure I understand that bar none – you have to get some sort of certification to become a nail tech, correct?
Yes. So you do have to be licensed to become a nail tech. I know that there are, you know, people who choose to do nails as a hobby and stuff. But I definitely encourage people to go get licensed if they want to pursue this as a career because, one, people will take you more seriously, and two, you're protecting yourself and your clients. So you're not, you know, you can get sued, you can get fines... But I feel like, if you were to just start your nail career, I would say, definitely go to your local beauty schools, book a tour, and just have that expectation that not all schools will teach you how to do nails – it's really for the stuff that you can't learn on YouTube, like your sanitation, your disinfection, your nail anatomy, who you can work on, who you can't work on, things like that. And after you get out of school, you are going to need continuing education.
Along with how GlossGenius helps you put those goals into action, what are some things you might suggest to someone who's starting out, like three things that they would need when starting out their nail business?
So the first thing I would recommend if you're trying to become a nail tech is definitely go to school, get licensed, work on your craft, and do it the right way so that you can pursue this career and have that respect for yourself in our industry. Definitely recommend and encourage you to do so.
The second thing I would recommend is a booking software – you absolutely need a booking software – because when I first started, I wasted so much time texting clients back and forth about 'Well, is this spot open?' And then they took like a day to reply, then the next day, they're like 'Is it still open?' And I'm like 'No, it's booked.' So we just kept going back and forth.
And what I loved about GlossGenius is that you literally put your booking site up and it has all of your availability, and they can email you questions or text you questions, but really it's all there for them. You're saving so much time, you're protecting your time as well, because you can have them put a card on file and if they don't show up, you charge that card. Whereas, if you're texting I mean, you don't really have that security. Yeah, so to me, that was honestly one of like the best features that I could just 'Oh, you didn't show up, I still got paid.' Because my time is valuable and if you're not going to respect it, I don't want you as a client. 'Client banned. See you later hater.' That's literally what GlossGenius says when you ban a client.
Anyway, the third thing that I would recommend is learning how to market yourself and just having a platform where you're going to build your portfolio. I always recommend honestly a website because you don't own Instagram, but you do own your website. Instagram is a great way to funnel in your clients and you need to know where your target market is going to be – and by target market, I mean the type of people that you want to attract for the services you want to do.
So, as an example, I specialize in gel manicures and cuticle cleanup and that is all that I post. And so similar, when you are creating your Instagram and trying to bring in that marketing funnel to attract clients to you, you want to make sure that you are putting quality work out, clear, concise pictures. When you're writing captions, you want to make sure to tell people why they need your services and why they need to see you, because you are different than any other nail tech, even if they do the same thing. So what makes you special. And three, you just want to show your personality because people are drawn to that, and you want to show your face – show your face you guys.
So I think those three things, on top of the three things you need to run a business, is what's really important in setting yourself apart in this industry.
This kind of brings me to my next question, which you sort of touched on, which is people who are in your community and who you're speaking to when you're sharing content about your work. So you do this so incredibly well where you have a blend of this is the work that I performed, this is work that I want to be doing, and this is what I would suggest to someone so that they don't have to make the same mistake that I did. Is that resonant to you? Do you feel like that's part of what you are trying to do out there?
Absolutely. I love my community and I'm so thankful for it because I didn't even think that I would have a community of people. When building this community, I honestly did it because I was trying to get clients. So that's how it first started.
But I also was very inspired by the work of other artists – nail techs on the platform – and I would ask them questions, reach out to them. This was like four or five years ago... reach out to them and ask them for help, and I was really let down and disappointed when they would not reply and they were very selfish with their information.
Because to me, you can give someone the exact same recipe but it will not taste the exact same because everyone has their own you know special sauce. So, as my community grew and I really started to get a feel for what I wanted my social media to be, I decided that I wanted to share to clients, 'Hey, this is the work that I do. But also, even if you're not my client, here's how you can help your nail tech, you know, get your nails done better, or just be more mindful of their time,' all while also creating content that other nail techs can use. Maybe they don't have like the right articulation to tell them 'Hey, clients, this is what you know, I wish you would be more mindful of.'
And so in creating those posts, I really wanted it to be a blend, like you said, for nail techs and customers, just to really help the industry out. I feel like I really struggled with 'I really wish I could tell people like please relax your hands' or like 'This is how you affect me when you don't show up to your appointment.' But I didn't have the courage when I was first starting or honestly like the right words to still be professional but firm to articulate that.
So now that I am further in my career, and my confidence has been a little bit more built up by the community, I want to give back and share. And also for nail techs, I just remember being in their shoes and really like not knowing what the heck I was doing and not having help. And I want to be for them what I wish someone would have been for myself. So that's really what my social media is. And still, you know, a little touch of Cass because I want people to know that I'm more than just a nail tech, like, I'm more than just my work.
Yes. First of all, you made an impact on me, I to this day – well, since I have met you –don't pick off my gel nail because I know how much that affects the anatomy of my nail. But like I actually did not understand that nor know it and can only imagine how many times my nail ladies probably wanted to curse me out. I would love to know how did you find GlossGenius and like what happened then?
Okay, again, when I first started doing nails, I realized that this like back and forth texting thing was not cutting it. It was just really hard for me and it took up a lot of my time. So I had the bright idea of finding a booking system for people to book their own appointments to save time. I started with so many booking sites and I didn't like any of them. They were too confusing. They weren't cute. They weren't doing what I needed them to do.
And I kept looking and I did see GlossGenius, but it was new, it didn't have that many reviews at the time, so I was skeptical. I reached out to a friend who I really, really trust in the beauty community – her name is Gwen – and I was like 'Hey, your ship is run like real smooth. What do you use to keep all of your appointments in check? Like, can you help me, I'm stuck.' She was like 'Girl, I use GlossGenius.' I'm like 'What? I saw that app, but like I don't know.' She's like 'Try it, you'll love it. Here's my referral, just give it a try.' So I tried it.
I was in love. Like literally from the moment opening that app, I loved that: 1. It walked me through how to set up my business on the app, because the other ones I was so confused. Like I was so confused that I just gave up. 2. It had resources for me. So it was very customizable. It had blogs on how I could up level my business as, you know, a nail tech or as a beauty professional. It had templates so I could post things on my social media and all the same, you know, be on brand, be professional looking. And I just loved it.
It was so easy. All of my clients would tell me, the feedback that I got from them with GlossGenius was 'I love your booking site, it was so easy-to-use. It was self explanatory. You know, sometimes other nail techs have like confusing ones. But yours was so easy. I love it.' And so hearing that feedback from customers and then me just seeing the difference from using GlossGenius versus all the other booking sites I tried – I knew I wasn't going anywhere. And I've been using Gloss for three years now and I love it, and I love all of the new features that are continuously being added.
What features do you love that help you stand out from the competition? And what results have you seen from that?
That is a great question. When I started using GlossGenius, what I really loved is the text reminders and emails because then there's no excuse for your client to say that they didn't remember because it texts you like three times: once when you book the appointment, the second one to confirm the appointment, and then the third one the day before your appointment. So that was definitely game-changing.
A lot of people would give me feedback and say that they really love the reminders because it helps them stay on track. Another thing that I absolutely love about Gloss is the expense tracker because you can take a picture of your receipts, it is in there for tax purposes, you don't have to, like physically keep a picture or like keep your receipt, you just take a picture of it, you upload it onto GlossGenius. And then there's several categories, whether it's supplies or like marketing or travel. So I love that because it helps me stay more organized.
On the calendar what I like as well – so I live my life on a calendar, I need to know what's going on, when it's going on. With GlossGenius, yes, you can book your appointments, but you can also kind of put like your life events in there. So there's this feature where you can just tap on the calendar, and block off personal time and that really helps me manage my time – personal and work – so that I know what's going on. And then the last thing that I really, really love that has honestly been super game-changing for me is the text and the email campaigns.
Listen, being a business owner is already hard, it is not the easiest thing, you're already like limited on time, especially if you're trying to have a work-life balance and having these text campaigns or these email campaigns where you can just mass text everyone at once to give them that message rather than going in and like posting it on social media – because one, is everyone going to see your post, if it's a story, it's going to disappear within 24 hours. If it's a post, only 10 percent of your people are going to see it.
When you are sending these out via GlossGenius, everyone's seeing it, everyone on your customer list. So that has been game-changing. It has allowed me to share with clients like updates on what's happening in the salon, new rules, regulations, when I have a booking open. Honestly, that and the text reminders, favorite features, life-changing. Well, I mean, it's in the name GlossGenius.
And you are clearly a genius on your own and someone who is innovative and constantly figuring out what's the more efficient and productive way to do things. Whether it's running your own ship, because I think like, you know, rewind to when you were talking to Gwen, seeing how she was running her stuff, and now fast forward to where you are, it's really amazing to see how far you've come. What would you say to someone else who's felt sort of let down by the industry? How can they reinvigorate themselves? That's hard, because I feel like I'm going to be talking to myself, like when I was like baby Cass. And at the time, Gwen has always been like a really great mentor to me. She told me like 'You cannot quit, like you either do this fully but you cannot quit like you just can't.' And so something I think of is, I know it's hard, it's really discouraging, especially if you're not maybe getting the amount of traffic that you want to see or your skills aren't transforming, you know, getting better as fast as you want to see them but you just cannot quit. Even if you do this part time or something, you have to keep going.
And the way I see it is, you know, so cheesy and everyone would say this and it was so annoying, but it's so true now that I'm on the other side 'Rome was not built in a day, You cannot rush good things. Everyone's journey is different. And it'll happen when it's right. But you also have to be willing and putting in the work and you have to be committed.' So in terms of finding community, stay consistent. Share more than your nails on Instagram. Like, again, you are so much more than just nails and our industry is so much more than just nails as well. We give people therapy, very underpaid therapy, if I may add.
So let's go back to talking about ways that someone can set themselves up for success if they want to become a nail technician. And first, Cass, let me ask you, is that the best name for it, to become a nail tech? Is there another word or something else that you identify as?
Yes, I'm so happy you asked. I consider us nail artists. You know, we're not just nail techs. We're nail artists as well. And what we do is hard and it's not for everyone. And sometimes people think like 'It's so easy, like I could do it.' And then they pick up a paintbrush and they try to paint someone's nails and they're like 'Oh, sh... this is hard.' And you know why? Because I thought that that was happening to me in beauty school. Like 'I got this, come here.' So I tried to paint this little cute old lady's nail and it was awful. And that's when I realized that this was way harder than I thought it was going to be.
With that said, in becoming a nail tech, so like we talked about earlier, the first thing is going to get licensed. And I know it can seem hard, like where do you start? I always recommend just Googling your local beauty school, going to the local beauty school, setting up a meeting. And don't just go with the first one, you know, look at a couple, see what feels right for you, really ask all the questions.
Make sure, too, that whatever state you're in that you know what the minimum requirements are. So as an example, in the state of California, it is 300 hours to become a licensed manicurist, and that's another thing to pay attention of. Do you want to go to be a full cosmetologist, which is 1,600 hours, but that also means that you do hair, skin, nails, all the things, or you could just be very specialized in a niche and just do nails, which is the route that I took.
After I got done with nail school because nail school is going to teach you the important things such as sanitation, disinfection, the things that you can't learn on YouTube all the time, you want to start looking into how to really grow and home in on your nail skills. Because again, as unfortunate as it is, nail school is not going to fully teach you how to do the perfect nails that are going to get clients to stick.
I personally, while I was in nail school was like on YouTube 85 percent of the time practicing my art and stuff. As for like skills, with lifting, that was tough because lifting is super common. And I had to take quite a bit of classes. I took free workshops that I saw on Instagram, I paid for classes in person with companies such as Valentino, Luminary, and you just really want to pay attention.
And honestly, you're going to need a couple friends that don't care if their nails lift or stay, and practice on them on the side while you're doing nail school. But I definitely think that those would be like the main steps. So go to nail school. Make sure that you like your school. You want to make sure to be growing your nail skills while you're in nail school. You can use YouTube, you can use online classes, and then once you get out and you take your state board, you can maybe focus on a specialty.
I know that you can become like a nail tech and you know do it all but I really think that what is going to bring you the most success is just really finding that thing that makes you happy and going with it and taking classes in that particular area. Whether it be acrylic or gel or like hand-painted art – and that's also going to be what sets you aside and is your secret sauce as a new nail tech... or nail artist. Nail artists, you guys – we are nail artists – and nail techs, technically.