Owner and founder of Notox Nails, Lexi Suga, shares her story of opening up a Japanese nail art business in the middle of a global pandemic.

March 1st, 2020: the beginning of the best year of my life.

I'd signed a five-year lease for a space in the prestigious city of Beverly Hills, where I could finally make my nail salon dreams a reality. Little did I know that two weeks later it would be shut down indefinitely over the course of the entire year.

So far, I've been able to open a mere 65 days out of the year, went through three lockdowns, had the governor blame the nail industry for the first outbreak of the coronavirus, lost 60% of my existing clientele, and to top it all off, had a 99-year-old woman ram her car through the entire storefront window right after my second grand opening. Can you believe it?

Through all the trials and tribulations I've been pelted with, I've learned how to adapt and create my own victories. I created  and shipped out nail removal kits for people to safely remove their artificial nails at home, started a custom press-on nail line called “im-PRESS-me,”  later started a private house-call service to retain and rebuild my clientele, and invested in an open-air nail salon outdoors so that my clients could feel as safe as possible. The trials of COVID-19 have worn me thin, but my clients, staff, family, and friends continue to encourage and support me. Trust me, I’ve thought about giving up many times, becoming a housewife, and starting a family with my wonderful husband. But even during the worst of times, there was always something in my heart that pulled me forward.

I started doing nails for fun by teaching and practicing on myself in college. I always enjoyed art in school, as it runs in my family - my grandpa was an artist. I dropped out of UCR my second year and decided to go to cosmetology school thanks to the encouragement of my mom. Shocking, right? Most Asian parents would never allow their kids to drop out of a university! But she knew it wasn’t for me, and I think she saw what I was really capable of.

While in nail school, a friend who owned a nail salon told me that I shouldn't add so much detail in my nail art because "a lot of people won’t want to pay for it.” At first I was discouraged, but it was because I was so detailed that my teacher helped me get a job with his client who owned a salon in Beverly Hills. A few years later, the same friend saw my work on Instagram with all the details and asked how much I got paid for it. It was many years ago, but I think it was about $170. He was so shocked that my clients appreciated my work and paid me well. Clients to this day tell me that we are artists; that we are creating something custom and beautiful each time they get a new set. It just goes to show that if you really have a passion for what you do, you will attract people who appreciate you. If you’re thinking of starting your own business, make sure you love it and are willing to be flexible as well. Things will happen that are out of your control. Just hold onto what you believe in and continue to push yourself forward knowing that the good clients or customers will continue to support you, and the ones who don’t deserve you will fade. This process is for the better, helping you shed things that were weighing you down.

Overall this year has been a great learning experience. As much as I dreaded many moments of 2020, I learned that you need to stay honest and true to your craft, whatever it may be. Live in the present, and make the best of what is right in front of you. Accept and understand that you can’t control everything. I cannot say that I have grasped this concept fully just yet - I doubt I ever will. But I have learned that I'm strong, resilient, and in love with what I do.

Follow Lexi's journey on instagram: @notoxnails

Check out Notox Nails at: notoxnails.com

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