Tracee Hester

Ayana Bryant | July 19th, 2021
Tracee Hester (Photos by Jerry Barbry)

Tracee Hester (Photos by Jerry Barbry)

According to www.mariam-webster.com, the definition of the word ambitious is: t: having a desire to achieve a particular goal.

Those six words have a deeper meaning for this career businesswoman of Durham, N.C. For Tracee Hester, the hustle is what separates the have from the have nots. “Some have it, and some do not,” she says.

Tracee is ambitious, and a natural-born go getter. She has a strong entrepreneurial spirit, a trait she identified with early on in life. At the age of seven, she remembered being introduced to the artistry of nails by watching her mother do nails for fun at the kitchen table. Later on, at the age of 14, she fell in love with the development and art of acrylic nails while she was being serviced at a local nail salon. This love eventually became her passion and purpose and would lead to her earning the crown of The Nail Mogul.

While attending high school in Durham, Tracee took a course in cosmetology for school credit. This opportunity was rewarding and allowed her to express her artistic and creative side. During this time, she also launched her first business called “Tracee’s Young Adult Job Service” which was a youth employment agency. Though only an infant in the world of entrepreneurship, she exhibited a business savy that caught the attention of many others. Soon she would be featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, Teen People Magazine, and Black Enterprise.

She hired local teens to work in a retail store owned by former NBA standout Jerry Stackhouse with her job service. “At the time, crime rates and gang activity were rising in the city of Durham involving lots of youth, and I wanted to do something that would positively impact my generation,” she shares. Her community involvement would then lead her to be awarded with an official holiday by the city of Durham, proclaiming May 4th as Tracee Hester Day.

Shortly after graduating high school, Tracee passed her N.C. State Board Exam and obtained her cosmetology license in 1998. “Although my love for nails was immense after gaining my license, I had an urge to explore what else life had to offer me in the world of business,” she shares.

Her journey started by cutting hair in great clips before going full throttle with her true passion for doing nails. After working for herself as a booth renter, which was not as financially rewarding as she hoped, she was afforded the opportunity to work as a nail technician in an Asian-owned salon. That was the beginning. That experience provided the platform Tracee needed to shine in the nail world. Tracee also happened to be one of the few women of color to break the racial barrier and work in an Asian salon. From there, she was regarded as just as good as her Asian colleges, who had dominated the industry. She was embraced amongst the Asian nail community. Her presence influenced salon owners to incorporate diversity, which was good for businesses to display inclusion and involve all races.

In 2008, she opened a hair salon, nail salon, and shoe store all in one location and called it “Queens Of Weaves , Trendy Nailz And Tippin Divas”. The brand Trendy Nailz was birthed in her all-in-one salon, yet she still struggled with finding technicians who were coachable or had the skill set to provide quality nail services. Unfortunately, due to the recession, she to work four jobs, and her dream was short lived. “I had to do what I needed to do at the time,” she shares.

For some professionals, the answer was finding a new path to travel in life. Yet for Tracee, there was some unfinished business to attend to, and the journey of becoming the nail mogul continued.
In 2013 her determination fueled her to challenge the NC state board in which she successfully passed and received her manicurist instructor’s license. She knew one day she would pioneer the change needed within the nail industry to represent diversity and quality amongst technicians. “I was to provide proper education, job placement, and ownership opportunities. So that is exactly what I did,” she shares.

In 2017, her dedication, determination, and discipline pushed her to take a leap of faith and use all of the money she had available on credit cards to open Trendy Nailz Institute. It is Durham’s first African American-owned, state board-approved school of her time. Trendy Nailz Institute trains people in 10-12 weeks to become licensed nail technicians, and upon completion of the program, it provides them with job placement and school or salon ownership. She now has two nail school locations (one in Durham and one in Greensboro, N.C.), a Trendy Nailz Salon, a salon staffing agency, a nail product line, Trendy Nailz supply store and a Trendy Nailz Magazine.

Tracee says the thing that she loves most about running her company is building other people up. “I enjoy pouring into people and helping them realize their dreams. The Trendy Nailz brand is a beacon of hope and inspiration for others. Our main purpose is to help people design and develop their life’s blueprint,” says Tracee.

Moving forward, the future of Trendy Nailz includes expansion in Atlanta, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., and California. This year she will be starting the development process for Trendy Nailz International with her first international location in Ghana and the next one in Belize.

Tracee’s dreams are as big and bold as her nails, and only the best is yet to come from this successful businesswoman. Tracee’s advice is “never to allow people to dim your light or make you fit into a box. Dare to be different and be different unapologetically. Pursue your dreams with the mindset of no boundaries, surround yourself with iron sharpeners, and know that your network determines your net worth. You should focus and lock in on your target; stay passionate, patient, and persistent!”

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