‘Nail’ing it

Senior manages her own nail business along with other responsibilities


Darcy Leber

Senior Tha Zi holds up a UV light to a customer’s nails at her place of business on Friday, Oct. 7. This set took an hour.

Darcy Leber and Natalie Walker

Senior Tha Zi spent her nights, starting in fifth grade, painting her own nails while her mother told her that she should get some sleep. Going to bed with nails still in the drying process, Zi would wake up to find that the polish on her nails scuffed up as she slept. Frustrated, she knew she had to come up with a solution.

“I was like from this day on, I’m going to learn how to do my own nails without always messing it up,” Zi said. 

Working tirelessly and juggling between different hobbies and extracurricular activities, Zi has found a way to create a successful nail business that benefits not only herself but her community and clients as well.

Zi first became proficient in being able to paint her nails on both of her hands. Gradually, she started experimenting with toothpicks and makeup brushes to make various designs in the wet lacquer on her nails. She took pride when friends would compliment her nails and ask where she got them done. 

At the beginning of last summer, Zi slowly started forming her home-based nail business. Appointments were made and she was filling up her availability as more and more people saw her work. It was greeting customers in her living room, accompanied by her little sister, when @gelxbytha, her official business Instagram, was created.

“[I love how] I’m able to help other people,” Zi said. “Not only to share my faith and my testimony, but also to help them when they’re going through deep situations or need someone to talk to.” 

While most businesses opt out of making their beliefs known, Zi’s business is based on her belief in God and her faith.  “All Glory to God” is the motto in which Zi lives by. She is not afraid to refuse doing designs that might oppose what she believes.

Alina Hernandez, a customer of senior Tha Zi, holds out her arms and sets her hands on a stand for Zi. She was the second out of three clients that day. (Darcy Leber)

“90% of our conversations are about faith and we’re also from the same church so we talk a lot about our congregation and our experiences,” said a repeat customer of Zi’s, Thinhnem Lian.

Lian admires Zi’s braveness and courage for speaking up about requests that have conflicted with Zi’s religion. Even if it may have cost Zi business and money, she is still standing her ground on her decision.

“I know that he’s here with me, and even through that small poster that was hanging there, it made me feel like I can do this and one day I’ll be more successful than I am now.” Zi said. 

She begins her appointment process the day before by texting the patient as a reminder that their appointment is in a day. This not only acts as a reminder to her clients, but helps Zi by allowing her to see what design they want and give her time to map out how she’s going to execute her art. 

The day of, she lives her life as a student, completing any classes and schoolwork that she may have. When lessons are done for the day, Zi fulfills her duty as a varsity soccer player here at SHS.  

As soon as she’s done, the time for her appointment is getting even closer. Zi gives herself time to eat and make sure her station is presentable. 

“After prepping, that would take about a good 10-15 minutes,” Zi said. “I glue on the gel extensions, and then I do the designs.” 

Zi’s passion for her craft hasn’t gone unnoticed by her clients. Tireless effort and care is given to every client’s nails, no matter what. If one design she paints on a nail does live up to her standards, Zi will redo it countless times over.

However, customer’s nails aren’t the only thing Zi cares for. During appointments Zi makes sure that the clients are as comfortable as possible, allowing customers to put on a show or music on a tv that Zi has stationed next to her desk. If a customer would rather chat, Zi loves making light conversation and will provide her shoulder as a friend if needed.

 Senior Julie Par is not only Zi’s cousin and one of her closest friends but has also experienced Zi’s magic firsthand.

Tha Zi moves to apply a gem on top of her clients acrylics. This is one of the finishing touches of the process. (Darcy Leber)

“She goes all in,” Par said. “If she doesn’t like one set then she will redo it to perfection.”

Prices for Zi’s work start at $15 for natural nails and increase up to $45, excluding any late fees or soak-offs. She offers a wide variety of payment methods, making it convenient for clients who prefer one over the other. 

While Zi estimates that her profit has reached a little over $3,000 in a span of six months, not all of that money has gone directly to her.

Gifts have been bought to give to her sisters and more products have been bought. Zi makes sure a good amount of it contributes to buying supplies that will help her continue to grow the business. She also tries to help the world around her by giving 10% to homeless people. 

Running a business while having to multitask being a student, an athlete and Sunday school assistant isn’t easy for Zi, but she has everything planned out one to two weeks in advance to see when she will be able to book appointments and where everything lines up. 

Choosing between a cardiac sonographer or nail technician pathway has yet to be determined by Zi. However, doing nails is definitely something that she envisions herself doing long term.

While making it through college, her business will still remain up and running as a source of income. 

“I hope many people can show support for her and give love to her.” Par said.