Award-winning Stephanie Orchard was once one of our students and is now teaching nail-art at our Academy. Read her fascinating story about how she took a career change into the world of the Beauty Industry.
Where were you born and where do you live now?
I was born in Milton Keynes and moved to Stourbridge when I was 3. I have lived there ever since.
What made you want a career in beauty?
I didn’t originally start off in the beauty industry. I actually worked with horses for 10 years I went to university and got a degree in Equine Science. But a couple of years later I decided I needed a change. Doing my nails had been a hobby of mine since high school and I’d always been doing my own. I’d had many people comment on my nails and my sister once said to me ‘you’re wasting a talent.’ So, when I came away from horses, nails was my next venture.
How did you go about training and what did you do?
To start with I discovered online the salon down the road from me was running nail courses and I went in to see them and put a deposit down to do one. At the time I knew nothing about nails really.
Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it the course ended up being cancelled, the owner apologised and gave me my deposit back and then told me one of her nail tech’s was doing training at an academy in Birmingham and gave me the details.
And that’s when I stumbled upon West Midlands Nail and Beauty Academy. I got on the phone a couple of days later and Lyndsey spoke to me about the courses she offered and I signed up for Level 2 Nail Technology. I studied Level 2 alongside still working at the yard full time. It was a challenging time but one I’ll never regret. Once I completed that, Level 3 seemed the next logical option. I was very lucky to get funding otherwise it wouldn’t have been possible for me. Unfortunately, now its harder to get that funding, which is a shame. The rest is history.
What do you specialise in?
My area is nails, particularly nail extensions and nail art. That’s what I’ve always been most interested in and remain to be so.
Have you won any awards and what are they?
I have places in the student nail technician categories at UK Nail tech Birmingham.
3rd for boxed nail art 2016. I had only been doing nails for 2 months at this point and I came 5th for tip and overlay, which out of 20 other students wasn’t half bad.
Then 2nd for permanent polish and 3rd for tip and overlay in 2017.
I was placed 1st in the heats for world skills and 1st for world skills final 2017
Doing UK nail tech and world skills in the same year was challenging for me it was busy and stressful at times. For the world skills heat I actually didn’t decide what I was doing for the freestyle nail art till a few days before the competition, so I’d had very little time to practice and practically winged it on the day. But it seemed to work out. Placing 1st in a comp for the first time was thrilling. And going on to place 1st in the final was a miracle. I never would have done it without Lyndsey, her encouragement helped me overcome some of my lack of confidence in myself. I would never have even considered entering a competition before being at the academy and meeting her.
What is your role at west midlands nail and beauty academy?
I currently share an admin role but predominantly I am a tutor for the nail courses. I mainly do the nail extension courses and nail art courses. I particularly love taking acrylic courses as it’s my favourite thing to do.
What is your typical day?
I arrive at 9.30am and begin setting up for the course. Putting up the aims of the day on the board, setting up the powerpoint and laying the equipment out for the practical. Once the student has arrived I tend to offer them a drink and start chatting so I can get to know them and learn what it is they are here for and what they want to achieve. I then get started with the theory. Once that’s over with I start a demo and show them all the techniques etc. Then in the afternoon the student gets time to have a go and a practice, which I do enjoy this part. I often love to see their reaction for example if it’s not quite what they expected. Then to see them get the hang of it and improve within the session. Some pick it up straight away which is a bonus.
How do you see your career going?
I tend to take every day at a time and don’t think too far ahead, but really I’d love to just keep improving my skills and offer more training in different areas of nails. I would really like to get back in a salon and continue doing clients nails as I find it very satisfying. Another reason being is I wish to improve my skills so I can continue to compete and maybe one day compete internationally. But we will see what the future holds.
What makes West Midlands Nail and Beauty Academy so special?
For me it’s the people. Everyone here is so lovely and works so hard to provide the best training they can. Nothing is done in half’s here. And I realised after doing my teaching qualification that I’d been really lucky to have been trained here, as I began to meet people who felt they hadn’t received the proper training or support they needed when they’d been elsewhere, I mean I wouldn’t have come back to teach after qualifying if I hadn’t have thought this academy was special.
Outside of the beauty industry how do you like to relax?
I’m a wanna-be amateur figure skater (laughs). I love ice skating so I take lessons in the week, just for fun and exercise. I also go back to the yard I used to work at and visit the horses every now and again. Horses never leaves you it gets in the blood.
I also do my own nails in my free time, often spending hours on them. I have a new set nearly every fortnight, it’s a good job I don’t pay for them otherwise it would cost me a fortune!
Some of my work on my own nails.
And what do you like about Birmingham?
There’s always something going on and there is plenty to see. I’m not going to lie shopping in the Bull Ring is probably what I would spent most of my time doing if given half the chance. I also particularly love the German market at Christmas, the atmosphere is amazing.