I met Jade in Paris…for a manicure. It’s kind of rare for me to have someone come to the house for beauty care, but I was in a hurry, I wasn’t too sure where to go, and with an app, it was all taken care of in two minutes.
After I talked to Jade for awhile, I realized she was someone special. The way she presents herself, the way she carries herself. How sweet and professional she is, and most of all, her taste. It’s so important, right? Especially if you’re like me and you’ve had your nails done before and ended up with a weird square shape that wasn’t chic at all.
It made me want to know more about her, and as we were chatting, I realized how perfect she would be for an interview. I like her approach to her job, and I also like the fact that she’s very happy with what she does. I think it gives us another view of what success means, far from the cliché of the power woman — closer to the woman who’s comfortable in her own skin. And also, her love for a job well done, which is something that means a lot to me.
So here’s how Jade came to work for herself as a manicurist!
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I didn’t really have one particular passion. I followed in the footsteps of my mom, who worked in retail.
What about your dad?
He has his own company. He works in a somewhat old-fashioned trade called trousseau in French, selling household linens from door to door. He’s modernized recently, so now he sells other things as well, but he’s one of the last people in his profession.
What were you passionate about when you were little?
I was kind of a tomboy, which is funny considering what I do now. My sister was a lot more feminine than I was. I had short hair, played video games—the whole thing. But in the long run, I ended up being super girly. It’s like night and day, the way I was when I was little and the way I am now.
And when did you start to be more girly?
When I was a teenager.
Were you a good student in school?
I was a pretty good student until junior high when things started to change a bit – I can’t imagine why! (laughs) I was very shy, kind of introverted, always sitting in the first row like a perfect little student. And I’m still kind of like that. I’m definitely a perfectionist, which is sometimes a problem for me.
After that, what were your first thoughts on what to study in college?
After 10th grade, when I stopped being such a good student and started partying more with my friends, my school sent me to the guidance counselor.
Was there a stigma around being sent to the guidance counselor at the time?
No, I didn’t see it that way. But I did think it was strange to be asked what I wanted to do professionally when I was only 15 and a half. It’s an age where you feel a bit lost. I was very lucky to have a supportive family. My sister and I were very privileged in that we had lots of contacts to help us find work that suited us.
At that time, what did you decide to do? What did your counselors suggest?
They told us to figure it out, to find our vocation and choose a school. My mother helped me decide, and since I was into fashion and my mom worked in the field, I figured I could do it too. So I decided to go to trade school and get a BEP degree in retail. I found a school in the Le Sentier neighborhood in Paris, which is really where it all happens in terms of fashion. And I had some family friends who worked there too, so it was easy for me to get internships right away. Internships are great. Whenever young people tell me they feel a bit lost, I always recommend internships. Professional experience is always good, so go for it, don’t be afraid. After that, I got an Associate’s degree in Fashion in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.
What did you learn in fashion school?
You learn everything from A to Z, starting with design, drawing flats, purchasing fabrics, and creating the final product.
And was the goal to work in a fashion house?
Yes, and that’s where I got a bit stuck because I felt like there were other girls who really had fashion in their blood. I didn’t think I was creative enough. I didn’t have that wild streak that others had. So even though I loved fashion, there was something missing. That’s why I decided to go to school at ModArt for business and marketing in the fashion world.
How old were you when you started at ModArt?
I was 20. But ever since the age of 18, I’ve always had side jobs for spending money. And I was still living with my mother at the time, so I had a decent salary at the end of the month. I was working in clothing stores like Kookaï and Maje. Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, I was always at the store. That way I always had enough money to be independent.
There was a time when I felt a bit lost. It was difficult for me between the ages of 20 and 25. It’s a time when you’re trying to find yourself, and you don’t necessarily feel comfortable in your own skin.
Is that a quality you got from your parents?
I think so. They’re divorced, and they always encouraged my sister and me to be independent. And since there were moments when my mom didn’t have a lot of resources, we didn’t want to burden her financially. We wanted to be able to make our own way, so we got jobs as soon as we could.
And what does your sister do now?
She’s an Art Director for an ad agency in Montreal called Cossette. She loves it.
That’s great! And going back to ModArt, do you enjoy marketing?
I do, but the classes themselves were too broad, and it just wasn’t my thing. I got tired of it pretty quickly. I only completed one year out of three. But I never stopped working on the side. Girls my age would always say: “You never stop!” but to me, it was normal. That’s life.
Did it ever make you anxious to not have a clear career path, or did you enjoy the work you were doing?
For me, I was glad to just have a paycheck at the end of the month. There was a time when I felt a bit lost. It was difficult for me between the ages of 20 and 25. It’s a time when you’re trying to find yourself, and you don’t necessarily feel comfortable in your own skin.
If I were to quit my job tomorrow and apply to work in a store somewhere, I know they’d hire me as a saleswoman because I know how to communicate. I know how to present myself correctly. It’s the little things that count.
How old are you now?
That’s a great age.
I was also a bit lost at that time.
I still see it all the time, even close friends, who are trying to find themselves. It’s not easy, between school and work. You’re becoming a woman, you have friends and boyfriends, but you’re not too sure what to do. But on the other hand, I’ve always had a job. And any experience is good – that’s what my dad always told us. We thank him now because we know how to get by on our own, we’ve always had jobs and we’ve always been able to make a living.
When I was younger, I complained sometimes and would wonder why certain friends had more pocket money than I had, but ultimately, I’ve realized I’m more resourceful than a lot of people. Despite it all, I feel like I always know how to get by. If I were to quit my job tomorrow and apply to work in a store somewhere, I know they’d hire me as a saleswoman because I know how to communicate. I know how to present myself correctly. It’s the little things that count.
Exactly. It’s the same for me. That’s why I like what you were saying earlier about how you want to present yourself. For example, if you show up to wax someone, but you’re not waxed, it doesn’t look good. I think it’s a really important thing to bring up, because not everyone knows this.
Yes, and this is off the subject, but since I was a bit lost, I ended up doing a lot of random things. I ended up going back to school because when you don’t know what to do, it seems like a good idea to get more schooling.
Yes, and that’s what people tell us all the time.
Yeah, so I decided I would do something broader, and got a technical degree in Business. But even though I was a good student, my courses weren’t really that interesting to me. I ended up finding a job at Les Cadeaux d’Affaires, a company that has nothing to do with clothing. And the young man in charge gave me a lot of freedom in running the company. He trusted me right away, and I learned a lot. So once again, it was a great experience. I learned about a new field and it was very interesting. So after I finished my two years of school, I was like: “Shoot, what am I going to do now?”
Did it make you nervous to go to school three different times?
Yes, and honestly, I’ve always been a nervous person because I was still trying to find myself and I wanted to be the perfect girl who’s totally comfortable with herself, but it just wasn’t always the case. So I had a lot of doubts, but always having a job made me feel somewhat confident in myself. I kept busy.
What did you do after the business degree?
My step mom, who worked at Tara Jarmon, called me on August 1st – she knew my job would be ending on the 31st – and she told me to come to headquarters with my resume and all my papers so she could find a spot for me in one of the stores. She found a spot for me in the first Tara Jarmon shop in Paris on Rue du Four, and once again, I met one of the best people in my life: my boss at the time, who I still love today and see all the time. She taught me to love the work I’d been doing all those years, that I thought was just about making money. Before I met her, being in sales just meant I was doing something related to fashion, and I had a paycheck at the end of the month, but I still didn’t see it as a career. But I ended up staying at Tara Jarmon for four years, and I grew a lot during that time.
What did she teach you to love about it?
She taught me to have fun. I stopped seeing sales as something that was difficult and restrictive. I’m sure you’ve encountered sales people who seem annoyed at the idea of helping you? My boss helped me get rid of that tension. She thought of sales as a sort of game, like playing a character. She taught me to open up, to be less shy, to not be afraid to speak up and be the center of attention. She helped me to have confidence in myself, which I didn’t have at all before. And that lack of confidence was evident in the way I was trying to sell clothes, the way I spoke, and my attitude in general. I see it in other people a lot now – you can tell a girl she’s amazing, sweet, smart, and pretty over and over, but that doesn’t mean she’ll feel confident in herself.
Your body speaks for you, and speaks for everything in general. And I feel that now. I talk to people around me, but most of all, I try to listen to myself, and I think that’s the key to a lot of things.
So what did you do during those four years at Tara Jarmon?
I started out as a saleswoman, and I was paid minimum wage, which is typical in most stores.
What was minimum wage in France at that time?
When I was there, it was around 1000 euros per month. After that, as is the case for a lot of retail stores, you get bonuses based on commission. But it was by team, not per person. So we would motivate each other as a group, and that’s not such a bad thing, because the ambiance among sales girls isn’t always great. If it’s every woman for herself, it can be hard. After that, I worked my way up to head of sales and eventually I was managing the store.
Was that a lot of pressure?
A little bit, but when you know your company well and you know the clientele, it’s not too bad. On the other hand, even though my step-mom found this job for me, that didn’t mean I had it easy. On the contrary – sometimes it was even more difficult for me because she’s a very professional woman with a big reputation. So sometimes I got pushed around a bit more than the others. Sometimes it was really tough, sometimes it made me cry, and sometimes I felt like I was at the end of my rope, but I think they pushed me so I could get past my introverted side. They saw potential in me, so they pushed me a little harder.
When you’re a manager, you have to think about stock, you have to make sure you’re meeting quotas. The salary is a little better. In the smaller stores, we’d have 3 or 4 people on staff, maybe 5 if there was a sale going on. If you worked at the Champs- Elysées store or the one on Saint-Honoré, you could make even more money as a manager because profits were higher. But I was at the store in St Germain, on rue des Saints Pères.
Then what happened?
The thing I liked most was the rapport I had with my clients, and customer service. Managing a team wasn’t very fulfilling for me because we were mostly recruiting young students who were between jobs and who thought of sales like I had before – as a side job to make a little spending money. Since I learned management on the job, it wasn’t always easy for me.
Did you have any repeat customers?
Oh, definitely. That’s something I learned right away – clients come back for the product, but more importantly, they come back for you. And I think that’s why I’m good at what I do now. Your body speaks for you, and speaks for everything in general. And I feel that now. I talk to people around me, but most of all, I try to listen to myself, and I think that’s the key to a lot of things.
I agree, but it’s not easy.
Yes, it’s really not easy. I say I listen to myself, but it’s something I’m still working on.
How do you do that? Just by paying attention to your emotions?
Yes. At the time, I knew something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I didn’t think my job was the problem. At first, I told myself I’d grow in a different direction, I’d go talk to agencies, I’d apply for other jobs, maybe work for a luxury brand. A head hunter called me at the store at one point and asked me a bunch of questions, but he didn’t say which fashion house he was with. But I wasn’t really into luxury fashion. I really liked ready-to-wear.
Why weren’t you interested in luxury brands?
Because there was something that felt artificial about the girls in luxury stores. What I liked about ready-to-wear was the idea that you could get your hands on everything and do lots of different things with it. When the head hunter called, I had just started at Tara Jarmon, so it was all pretty fresh. I told him I might come in for an interview. I wasn’t sure about it, but I kept his number. I never did end up going. After that, sales started winding down in the store. And when that happens, you start questioning your team and the collection itself, but these days, it’s really the economy that’s changing a lot of things. I think everyone would agree with me on that.
So is that when you felt it was time for a change?
Not right away. I wanted to change companies, but I didn’t realize what I actually needed was to change careers altogether. I’m not sure how it happened, actually, I just decided to shake things up. I told myself I was still young, so it was now or never. I kept saying I wanted to get an apartment, but I was still living with my mom and little sister, who ended up leaving to move in with her boyfriend. Since I was older, I felt like it was finally time to leave home, but I didn’t do it right away. So I finally decided it was time to give it a try. I handed in my notice at Tara Jarmon, and since I had a good relationship with them, it wasn’t a problem at all. It’s important to stay on good terms with everyone.
Before we move on to the next chapter, do you mind talking about how you felt when you went from being an employee to being an employer?
I think that’s a quality you either have or you don’t. Ever since I was little, my father always said: “You’ll see – you’re either made to be an employee or a boss, and when it happens, you’ll know.” When you’re young, you tend to get excited and say you’ll start something at 23 or 24. “Dad, what do you think about me doing this?” and he always said: “Honey, you’re still such a free thinker, please keep that state of mind. You’ll see – one day you’ll have your own business, but learn from other people first. I don’t think you’re ready quite yet.” I thought I was ready, but he told me if I were to open my own store tomorrow, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night because I’d be worrying about money, and I was too young to be worrying about that. He said: “Go have fun with your friends, work, take advantage of your paycheck and learn as much as you can. We’ll talk about starting your own business a few years from now.”
So when you ended up being a boss, how did that change the way you did your job?
Honestly, it changes everything. It means that when 7pm comes around, you can’t lock up – you have to stick around because there are still customers in the store. If there are customers in the store, or if there’s a quota to meet, you’re not going to just sit around. I would keep working, and take my break later, if necessary. I’d wait until there weren’t any more customers to go grab a coffee or a sandwich. That’s how I always was.
So after that, you quit on good terms, and you were okay financially for how long? I assume you planned it all in advance.
Yes, I tend to be very organized, so I was fine financially for a while. But since I hate not having anything to do, I ended up in another training program two weeks later. I had a severance package, so fortunately, I had enough money to pay for classes. There were a lot of possibilities, but I chose a program that only lasted a few weeks.
What was the program you chose?
It was a nail technician program at the Logier Institute. The school has a reputation for bringing all the American nail trends to France – acrylics, gels, etc.
What made you decide to start doing nails?
Well I’ve always been interested in beauty. Even now, I’m constantly trying out new products. I should never be left alone in Sephora or any store that sells beauty products – I’ll end up in trouble. My sister is the same way. We love taking care of ourselves.
Were you nervous about switching to a new field when you started working as an esthetician?
Yes, a little bit. But for once in my life, I wanted to try something without overthinking it.
That reminds me of my little sister – she’s the same way – she does her own keratin treatments, etc. But unfortunately, that kind of thing has a negative connotation in my family…
Yes, I totally understand. Since I lacked confidence in myself, I always had a little bit of a problem worrying about what other people thought. And when you grow up in a certain social group, especially in Paris, there are certain stereotypes you’re expected to uphold.The way I was raised, people expect you to be fashionable and thin, and even if everything is fine, you might not feel confident in yourself. So of course, I thought about people’s reaction when I decided to do nails. But I decided to do it anyway.
Is there anyone in particular who encouraged you?
Everyone encouraged me because they were worried, I think. I tend to be extremely cautious – I left a full time job even though I had always been afraid of not having enough money, so I think my friends and family figured that if I had made this decision, I must be very determined. And I admit, I didn’t actually think about it too much. Later on, my friends told me I was very brave, but I never saw it that way. They told me they wouldn’t have had the courage to do what I did. But at the time, I had no idea.
Do you feel like you were following your instincts?
Definitely. Before that, I usually just listened to what other people had to say (which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because I made a lot of good choices thanks to my friends and family) but you end up trying to fit into a specific mold. You don’t listen to yourself, necessarily. I told myself I was managing a store, so I needed to eventually become a regional director, then director of sales, etc. if I wanted to make a good living like a friend of mine who had a great career and was making a good living. But there’s a big difference between what you think you should do and what you actually have inside of you. So after that, I thought about getting into luxury fashion because I thought I could get a good job and it would look good, but people told me I needed to speak fluent English if I wanted to do well. So it just wasn’t my thing – something in me was saying no.
That’s great, very few people are able to follow their instincts like that.
After that, I saw that my mom was able to work for herself using a degree she’d gotten when she was 18, and since I liked beauty, and my mom had seen me working like crazy for several years without being super successful, she told me I should try working for myself. She wanted to see me flourish and be independent. I never really listened to my mom (laughs), I don’t know why. I always took my dad’s advice, but since I lived with my mother, I used to think she didn’t have the answers. But in the end, moms are always right (laughs).
So I followed in her footsteps. Now she does nails and a few other beauty services, but she works in retirement homes, so we aren’t actual competitors. When she gets a request for in-home services, she’s happy to pass the work my way. And she really enjoys working in retirement homes.
Yeah, that must be really rewarding.
It’s interesting, you can’t be too sensitive. She sees another side of life. She’s being doing it for a few years now, and it’s great. And looking back, I think my parents are proud of me now. At first, they didn’t say much (laughs). But they can see I know how to take care of myself and I’ve acquired a great client base.
So when you finished school, did you go straight to working for yourself?
Yes, because since I grew up in Paris, I already knew people, so it was pretty easy for me to get clients. They trusted me since they knew me, and people like to get beauty treatments from someone who takes care of herself. So when I started out, my friends, my aunts, my friends’ mothers, etc. were my clients. Now I have my own clientele, but it was sweet of them to help me out in the beginning.
After that, how did you get the word out?
Word of mouth is the best. Occasionally I’d go to events for jewelry designers, for example, and sell my services to the girls there…
And how do you know about those types of events? Through friends?
Exactly, it all happens through friends and their contacts. And then there are people who just like you and want to help you no matter what. They’ll tell people about you without you ever having to ask, which is so sweet. I always try to thank them properly because when I was starting out, I noticed I was always getting referrals from the same people. People who work in big companies, for example, who would send all their colleagues my way.
We usually talk a lot, and you realize all women have the same worries, we all go through the same things, and it’s crazy to realize that. I think that’s why women love to talk – it makes us realize how similar we all are.
Can you talk a little bit about your own beauty regimen and the attention you give to that? It’s something I immediately liked about you.
I try to put myself in my clients’ position. I know when I go to get something done, I want good products, someone who is good at what they do, and someone who presents themselves well. It’s really important to have a clean, well-groomed image from head to toe – your hair, makeup, and clothes. That’s something I learned at Tara Jarmon. I presented myself well, so even before I was a director, they’d send the girls to me for tips. It’s very difficult to do. They gave us outfits to wear, which was great because we were all dressed in the Tara Jarmon style. I don’t think you can sell a beautiful dress if you’re wearing torn up jeans and sneakers. Representing your brand is very important.
So are you happy with where your business is at right now? Are you satisfied with the number of clients you have
Yes, even though I always want more (laughs).
Do you ever set limits for yourself?
Yes, I had to when I went a bit overboard. It’s like a vicious circle because since I work for myself, there aren’t really any limits. No one gives me a schedule to follow, so at one point, I kind of made myself sick over it. Because even if I’m tired when I wake up, meeting clients and enjoying the relationship I have with them always gives me energy right away. So I pushed that a little too far. I was starting really early in the morning and ending very late at night. If I don’t set limits for myself, I could work every day of the week with very odd hours – they aren’t necessarily full days, but it’s a lot of traveling back and forth and carting my equipment all over the place. It can be tiring.
So what limit did you end up setting for yourself?
Now I just try not to finish too late every night. I’m engaged now, so that’s also a big part of it. For now, I’m available Monday through Saturday with a pretty wide range of hours. I prefer to start around 8am – that doesn’t bother me at all, but if I can get home by 8pm, that’s great. It’s good to have a life.
You were telling me about maybe setting up a nail bar? Since you work for yourself, you’re free and independent, but I imagine you’re not always in the best working conditions.
For now, I want to keep working for myself. I wouldn’t want to work at a nail institute, but I’d consider opening a nail bar.
I haven’t done a market analysis or any research yet, but it’s easy to see that if I open a nail bar, I’ll have the extra responsibility of employees, rent and taxes, more equipment to take care of, only to earn a salary that would either be the same or maybe less than what I make now with my car and my little kit, open mind and open schedule. It’s true I don’t have coworkers, but I do have great clients and I have a great rapport with them. I see some of them every week. We get very close sometimes. It’s the best therapy in the world because you get to talk to women – sometimes men, but that’s rare – of all ages, with totally different lives, and you have a quiet moment together to talk. We usually talk a lot, and you realize all women have the same worries, we all go through the same things, and it’s crazy to realize that. I think that’s why women love to talk – it makes us realize how similar we all are.
What’s your dream for the future?
I’m ambitious but I also like to have everything under control and I’m always worrying about things, so for now I’m trying to live in the moment and let things happen gradually, everything in its own time. I often ask myself if I want children, whether I’d be able to do it with this job, or if it would be too complicated because I wouldn’t be able to work as much. I ask myself little questions like that, but not too much right now because I really want to avoid getting anxious and live fully in the moment.