Destiny Ortiz Fernandez ‘22 is used to strangers complimenting her nails—and she’s happy to help them achieve the nails of their dreams too.
Ortiz Fernandez runs Des Naild It, which provides nail services right on campus. Through Des Naild it, she gives gel and acrylic manicures, complete with hand drawn nail art, stickers and decals.
She decided to learn how to give gel manicures in October 2019, the fall of her sophomore year. Her aunt, who taught herself how to do nails, has been offering to teach her the art of being a nail technician since she was in high school. Ortiz Fernandez finally took up her aunt’s offer when, even with two part-time jobs at Giant and the Early Learning Center, she found herself having a difficult time financially.
Her aunt gave her many of the tools and supplies that she would need to get started, including a UV lamp for gel manicures and a few bottles of nail polish. After buying another basic set of nail polish online, Ortiz Fernandez started offering free manicures to anyone who was still on campus over fall break.
“I didn’t really charge for the first couple of people who came to me because I just wanted to get used to the technique. Everything requires some level of technique: gel, builder gel, acrylic,” Ortiz Fernandez said. “It was a matter of getting used to working with those products.”
Now, Ortiz Fernandez charges $18 for gel manicures, $25 for builder gel and $30 for acrylics. Nail salons in the Easton area can charge more than twice as much as these prices. However, even though Ortiz Fernandez started the business as a way to financially support herself, profit has never been her main motivation.
“There are nail techs in New York who charge $90, $85 for the work that I do now…I can definitely charge more,” Ortiz Fernandez said. “But I’ve never really felt comfortable doing that because I think things like self-care, things that help make you feel good about yourself, should never feel like a luxury. They should always feel accessible.”
Don’t let the low prices fool you into thinking that she offers subpar services. For Ortiz Fernandez, professionalism and customer satisfaction are paramount to her business.
“I really pride myself on the fact that I try to make sure that every client that leaves my table leaves happy,” Ortiz Fernandez said. “Even if that means I run over on time, or I ask them to come in a little bit earlier, just so I can make sure that I’m taking however much time I need to make sure that their nails come out in the way that they envisioned them to.”
“I really try to make sure that my client’s visions come to life,” she said.
Surprisingly, Ortiz Fernandez doesn’t have an artistic background. In fact, she said that when she took a painting class last semester, her talent for nail art didn’t quite translate.
“Something about doing nails makes sense to me,” Ortiz Fernandez explained.
Although Ortiz Fernandez appreciates the artistic outlet and the extra money, she is most appreciative of how Des Naild It has allowed her to meet so many different people. Her clientele extends past Lafayette’s students and includes people from the Easton community such as some local small business owners.
“I think it’s definitely one of the highlights of my career here at Lafayette,” Ortiz Fernandez said of talking to clients while doing their nails.
Ortiz Fernandez is a neuroscience major and an anthropology and sociology minor. After graduation, she plans to secure a position as a research assistant. Ultimately, she wants to become a nurse practitioner specializing in obstetrics and gynecology with a certificate in midwifery.
She explained that doing clients’ nails has honed traits that are important for nurses to have as well: empathy, the ability to work long hours without breaks and, of course, small talk skills.
“Acrylic and gel, all of that, is chemistry…I’m like a fake chemist on the side,” she joked.
Even though Des Naild It has been very lucrative, Ortiz Fernandez doesn’t plan to keep the business going after she graduates.
“I just have other goals and things that require my attention,” Ortiz Fernandez said. “And even though nails started off as a way to make money in college, and it is the way I’m sustaining myself now, it has definitely transformed into something so much more.”
“If I really wanted to make money, I would be charging way more for what I do,” she continued. “But it’s not about the money. It’s about the experience.”
Those who are interested can schedule appointments with Des Naild It using the link on the business’s Instagram, @desnaildit.