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The History of the Nail Industry

We have focused a lot on 7am Nail Care’s mission to elevate the nail industry by using non-toxic products and creating an environment that employees AND costumers want to return to.

We aspire to reach this goal by fostering a people-first culture. This approach means that prioritize our employees’ physical, mental and emotional needs.

However, the origin of the nail industry is important in understanding our WHY.

The nail industry as we know it today has become a billion dollar industry in the United States, largely due to the union of two women from entirely different cultural backgrounds and a drive for inclusion - Olivett Robinson, a Black American woman, and Charlie Hieu Vo, a Vietnamese Refugee woman.

In 1983, Charlie moved to Van Nuys, LA to enroll in nail school and later worked at her aunt’s salon where she met hair stylist Olivett Robinson.

The two became fast friends and decided to open their first business venture - a chain of nail salons called MANTRAP. This very first chain of nail salons in South Los Angeles would later provide employment opportunities for Vietnamese refugees for years to come, emphasizing the crucial influence of Black culture.

By sharing this history, it is important to note that the nail industry would not be what it is today without the influence of Asian and Black culture, powerful women, and refugees.

Unfortunately, the nail industry has overlooked workers’ rights and cut corners to meet the high demand of customers.

The chemicals used in conventional polishes are not only a danger to the customer’s health, but put employees at greater risk for major health concerns as they breathe in the fumes from the polish for hours on end each day. Many salons also lack ventilation systems and safety equipment, leading to eye problems, asthma, and reproductive issues for many workers, and there is a lack of enforcement and consequences to prioritize workers’ health (Teen Vogue, 2019).

Unfortunately, the exploitation of workers in the nail industry does not end there.

A 2018 national study on nail salon workers by the University of California-Los Angeles Labor Center found there were nearly 17,000 workers across New York State, mostly women and immigrants, who are working 10-12 hours a day to make less than minimum wage (The Progressive Magazine, 2020). Additionally, a report by the New York Nail Salon Workers Association released a survey of workers earning less than minimum wage because they were experiencing wage theft - their employers taking advantage of the fact that many workers were unaware of their wage rights.

Here at 7am Nails, we want to return to the inclusive ideals set by Charlie and Olivett.

Our goal is to elevate the nail industry “by prioritizing the long-term vision over any short-term target, always.” This means fostering a culture of caring and purpose so our employees and customers can enjoy coming to work and can stay and grow with 7am.

References Cited


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