Nail artist Britt Higgins flexes her entrepreneurial and creative muscles running her nail salon Britt’s Nail Bar and the Nail Bar Collective, both at 43 Grassy Plain St.
Among her list of services are Aprés Gel-X Nails, IBX Nail Treatment, Dry Manicuring, and Nail Art.
“Nail art is a passion of mine,” she said in an interview with the author.
Higgins’ collective allows other nail professionals to sublet and run their own separate businesses under the same roof. Higgins supplies the nail products as part of the arrangement.
“I used to have employees but I didn’t want to be anybody’s boss. I have a team of wonderful ladies that work with me and we're creating some cool nails and great experiences for our clients. We're just a bunch of teammates who co-space together,” she said.
Born in Chicago, Higgins lived there until she was 10, at which point her family moved to southwest Florida where she met her future-husband, a Bethel native. Eventually, the couple relocated to Bethel.
Higgins started her salon in 2017 shortly after completing nail school. Becoming a nail artist fulfills the artistic ambitions she’s always had, manifested in her pursuits of drawing, ceramics, fashion, photography, and screen printing, just to name a few. Higgins’ interest in intricate design combined with her technical aptitude makes nail art a particularly fulfilling niche for her.
“I’m a creative, and I’ve always been into making things and art….This was very natural to me,” she said.
Her penchant for one-of-a-kind, alternative nail art garnered attention on social media and the business quickly morphed from part to full-time work for her.Initially, the business catered just to people Higgins knew.
“I was [working] a couple of hours a week and lucky for me nails is a very visual medium. Social media was heavily ramping up and I was able to share images of my work,” she said in an interview. Soon she noticed clients that saw her work came looking for Higgins to get their nails done.
Currently, she has a steady, devoted following of regular clients which has enabled her to focus her energy on running her business and helping the nail technicians in her collective develop their own clientele.
Britt’s Nail Bar drew the attention of Modern Salon Magazine, making their Modern Salon Top 100 list and Higgins was recently recognized as a Next Top Nail Artist in an international competition through Nails Magazine. The publication is a groundbreaker for nail artists, according to Higgins.
“It's a very well-respected nail magazine. They were putting on their 10th year of a nail competition and it's global. I applied. I had no idea that I was going to be chosen to compete because they only choose a handful of people. I found out and was excited and nervous. I couldn’t believe I was selected because there were so many amazing people around. There were four rounds to compete and people were eliminated in each round. Some made it to the top three. There was me in the United States, [another] in Vancouver, Canada, and the third finalist was in the UK. I got second place globally,” she said.
For each round, contestants had to submit five photos of 5 nails total until the last round, when they had to submit 10 nails. Each set of nails took between 15 to 30 hours, and she had a week to complete each set. The challenge was to create innovative nail art using strict nail products, painting, and sculpting designs on nails while sticking to certain themes per round.
“I think I made it as far as I made it because my design concept and visual layout was really great. I was putting out a lot of very non-traditional competitive stuff. I never competed on anything nails before. These challenges were a lot of sculpting. They were not just regular nails,” Higgins explained.
Higgins thinks her submissions emulate her personal style.
“I’m a little bit more alternative. I don’t like to do the same thing everybody else is doing, I'm a little bit weird. I like to put that into it.”
Higgins's work has also been featured on fashion runways. She was the lead nail artist for fashion shows with Hogan McLaughlin and I Love Pretty.
Describing her work, she said, “I use a lot of iridescent flakes, marbling inks and gel paints, and tiny brushes for hand drawing. I do a lot of designs that are considered dimensional texture and a lot of image painting cartoons.”
Higgins knows that some customers prefer a clean and polished look.
“They don’t necessarily need to feel like they’re wearing art or expressing themselves on their nails. Then there’s the other end of the spectrum where people like either a ton of art or they like the long nails that are…fierce looking. Nails are a cool way to express yourself and there’s no form of nails that are too extravagant.”
Of course the more extravagant the nails, the longer the appointment. Higgins can spend up to two hours working on a client’s nail art.
Some of the 3D art Higgins does uses a putty gel that is molded into different designs and then hardened under an LED light until it cures. The process allows the nail artist to build three-dimensional images on nails “It’s truly like a little jewelry on your fingertips.”
Some of Higgins’ clients travel far for her specialized skills, including from West Haven, and Poughkeepsie, NY.
Higgins’ client list is currently at capacity and she is focused on helping to grow the businesses among her collective.
Customers can make appointments through their website, where they can also read a little bit about each of the nail technicians and the services they provide.
Higgins describes her salon as a “welcoming space. We take you as you are. You can come in with trash nails and in your pajamas or sweaty from gym class. We’re going to take good care of you. We embrace everybody, and there are nails for everyone. We’re an inclusive space and we just like to have a good time with our clients.”
Higgins' business occupies a commercial sublease part of space called Artistia Beauty Studios.
Higgins feels lucky that her business is centered in a place where women business owners and independent businesses intersect.