Kaila Cohen, ‘24, has not been to a nail salon in over a decade — she started doing her own nails when she was 8 years old.
Cohen began her own nail business during her first year at the University of Maryland in 2020 and she managed to continue when she transferred to Lehigh this fall.
Cohen said her passion for art comes from her grandma and great uncle, who are both artists.
“My house looks like a gallery, because they just paint as their lifestyles and they’re great at it,”Cohen said. “So ever since I was little that’s kind of how I started.”
She said she began by doing her friends’ nails for fun, but after her first semester at the University of Maryland, it became more.
After a fellow student asked Cohen to do their nails, Cohen said her business took off. The student sent a photo to over 150 people, instructing them to reach out to Cohen.
For $25, Cohen offers both normal and gel manicures. For $30, she offers gel extensions. Designs come at no additional cost.
Kaila Cohen, ’24, runs her own nail business out of her dorm room at Lehigh. She started the business in 2020. (Photo courtesy of Kaila Cohen)
Cohen said the business came naturally. After students at Lehigh noticed the designs she did on her own nails, they would ask if she could do theirs. She said students have also found the business through her instagram account, @kaila.nails.
“I travel with a huge cart of nail polish because I’m always doing my own,” Cohen said. “I moved into the (Alpha Phi) sorority house and people just saw it sitting in my room and were like, ‘What is that? Why do you have that?’”
Cohen said once she began doing Lehigh students’ nails, the business gained popularity among members of Greek life.
Starting with the girls in her own sorority, Cohen then extended the business to others.
“Basically by word of mouth, it just spread throughout other chapters,” Cohen said. “And I’ve reached four or five chapters on campus now.”
Every week, Cohen said she has at least two appointments per day, Monday through Thursday. Appointments last around an hour and she said she can do almost anything anyone asks her to do.
Elizabeth Strattner, ’23, said Cohen is extremely busy with her business which is why some people may have to book weeks in advance to get an appointment.
Cohen takes appointments through direct messages on her on Instagram or over the phone.
Caroline Kelly, ’24, met Cohen during transfer student orientation and encouraged her to continue the business at Lehigh. Kelly said she has now had her nails done twice by Cohen.
“She’s outgoing, welcoming and friendly,” Kelly said. “She’s the perfect person for it. She’s honestly the most positive person and I’ve known her for my entire time at Lehigh. I’ve never seen a negative side of her.”
Cohen said she balances her school work by scheduling the appointments during her free time.
She uses a kit complete with nail drills, nail files, nail colors, paint brushes and extensions.
All her equipment is stored under her bed and when she has an appointment, she transforms her room.
“I have two chairs and a mini table that I brought,” Cohen said. “I set them up in front of each other with my nail colors next to us, and it’s a little DIY nail salon in my room.”
Collette Kissell, ‘25, said she admires Cohen’s organization and professional nature.
“She’s really passionate about it and she’s very organized with it, especially for being something unofficial,” Kissell said.
Cohen said she does not believe she will pursue a career in the nail business in the future, but she will always continue doing her own nails and others’ nails if they want.
“I think it’s great that she found a way to expand that hobby into something that benefits other people too,” Strattner said.
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