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Meet Melissa Martinez of Notable Nails in Northwest

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Martinez.

Melissa, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
When it all began in late 2012, I hadn’t had a job for 9 months and just made some big changes in my life. In the transition of things, I found myself randomly checking out a nail school on the Northside to get information about their program. I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew that I was inspired by a nail business I visited, and thought, why not? I figured if I was going to attempt to have a nail business, I should pick it up as a trade first.

Prior to this, it was over 7 years ago that I left one of the largest online travel companies when I decided to pursue my interest in event planning. I was starting a new job and trying to establish myself in event planning at the same time. I have always known that a corporate desk job was not for me. It was time and I had to at least try pursuing things I enjoyed. In the 2 years I spent event planning, I realized it suited me best as a hobby and I did not possess the passion needed for it to succeed. Next up was trying my hand at nails.

So back to that. It was a Monday afternoon that I visited the nail school. I was told their current program had just started a week prior and if I was really interested, I had to enroll immediately and return that same evening to begin the program. If I didn’t, I’d have to wait months for the start of the next one. There weren’t many great nail schools to choose from, so I paid in full up front, from my savings and very impulsively enrolled. I jumped right in with no game plan; I just remember thinking “I’ll make it work for me” and if I wait to start, I won’t do it. I attended full-time, learning the very basics, finishing the program in 4 months and becoming a licensed nail professional by the time their next program was barely beginning.

My first few nail jobs consisted of working for beauty salons and spas, which much like those corporate desk jobs, weren’t fitting for me. I did it because I wanted to see how they operated and learn protocols. The salon jobs paid so little and since I was brand new, I had zero clientele. It was a very rough start and I was so inexperienced.

It’s worth mentioning that during my event planning days, I was hired by the large travel company (I mentioned working for) to coordinate a huge team meeting. At this time, I became acquainted with a young lady who occupied my old desk. It turns out that some time after meeting and after I ceased event planning, she randomly messaged me right as I finished nail school, before I even received my license in the mail (thank you social media). She asked if I could do nails for her baby shower and I said, ‘yes’. I really had no clue how I would do on location but I figured I’d make it happen. From that baby shower, I was recommended for a bachelorette celebration taking place at the same location; I said, ‘yes’. It was then, I realized the potential in this and I had to pursue the ‘on location’ concept from the start of this new career. Within days of the second on location event, I came up with a name and decided Notable Nails would be my business. That was spring of 2013, and for the last 2 1/2 years, I’ve worked for myself, both independently renting space within a beauty business and providing on location nail services for celebrations, special events, store events, volunteer and more.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Choosing to be a nail professional, knowing that it might take years to establish, meant that I would be taking a BIG pay cut. Honestly, I did not take this into consideration before deciding to pursue it. It’s been 6 years since I’ve had a salary and received my last consistent paycheck.

Other challenges came from each salon/spa I worked at. I learned that most businesses in this industry under value nail professionals and in very rare cases, do you get sick time or vacation time as a benefit. Beyond that, there were no other work benefits and I was never full-time to qualify.

In addition, once I started getting established, the challenges then came in the form of figuring out how to gain new (loyal) clients and making it a lucrative business on my own. Finding gigs to keep me afloat, learning how to manage appointments, promotional efforts, clients and be proactive about how I conduct business. The obstacles continue to come and it’s just a matter of following what feels right and not forcing anything.

Please tell us about Notable Nails.
As Notable Nails approaches its 5th year, I’ve learned that while manicures are my medium, it’s not all I do. What’s really taking place is friendship, camaraderie and support from and among women. Clients come to me because I’m detailed, I don’t rush through services and they enjoy their time with me because we have great conversation and they feel as though they’re hanging out with a girlfriend. I’m by appointment only and work my hardest to deliver work clients are happy to pay for. I specialize in gel manicures and practical nail art. What’s funny is, I didn’t know about nail art until I attended nail school. I was never formally trained in nail art but I’m known to be creative and have been pretty self taught over the years. I now enjoy it when clients find me by way of Instagram and book appointments based on pictures of my work that I share.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Among many memories, I most enjoyed watching my Dad be creative. He’s a great artist and super crafty. We’d hop on the train in the city and hit art stores when I was a kid and while I was in elementary school, he always helped me when I had to make things for school projects. I also remember having the coolest monograms of my name on my personal belongings that he’d make. In our home, there was never a shortage of pencils, pens, sketchbooks and the like. There’s no doubt, my love for all things creative comes from him.


  • Gel Manicure $40
  • Basic Nail Art Gel Manicure $50
  • Not So Basic Nail Art Gel Manicure $55
  • Beyond Basic Nail Art Gel Manicure $65

Contact Info:

  • Address: Glowout
    529 N Milwaukee
    River West, Chicago
  • Website:
  • Phone: 773) 800-0279
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @notablenails

Image Credit:

NM Photography

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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