Lehigh Junior’s business growing in popularity

Kaila Cohen, 24, hasn’t been to a nail salon in more than a decade — she started doing her own nails when she was 8 years old.

Cohen started his nail business in 2020 during his first year at the University of Maryland and has continued it after transferring to Lehigh this fall.

Cohen said her passion for art came from her grandmother and great-uncle, both artists.

“My house looks like a gallery because they just paint the way they live, and they’re good at it,” Cohen said. “So that’s how I started when I was little.”

She said she started doing nails for friends for fun, but after her first semester at the University of Maryland, she became more of it.

After a classmate asked Cohen to do their nails, Cohen said her business took off. The student sent a photo to more than 150 people, directing them to contact Cohen.

For $25, Cohen offers regular and gel manicures. For $30, she offers gel extensions. Design at no additional cost.

Kaila Cohen, 24, runs her nail business from her dorm room in Lehigh. She started her business in 2020. (Photo courtesy of Kaila Cohen)

Cohen said business came naturally. After students at Lehigh noticed the designs she had done on their nails, they would ask her if they could do theirs. Students also found the company through her Instagram account @kaila.nails, she said.

“I travel with a whole bunch of nail polish because I always make it myself,” says Cohen. “I moved into the (Alpha Phi) sorority and people just saw it sitting in my room and were like, ‘What’s that? Why do you have that?'”

Once she started doing nails for Lehigh students, the business became popular among members of Greek Life, Cohen said.

Starting with girls from her own sorority, Cohen then branched out to others.

“Basically by word of mouth, it spread in other chapters,” Cohen said. “I’ve read four or five chapters on campus now.”

Every week, Cohen said she has at least two dates a day, Monday through Thursday. The appointment lasts about an hour, and she says she can do pretty much anything anyone asks her to do.

Elizabeth Strattner, 23, said Cohen’s business is very busy, which is why some people may have to book weeks in advance to get an appointment.

Cohen makes appointments via direct message on Instagram or by phone.

Caroline Kelly, 24, stayed with Cohen during her transfer orientation and encouraged her to continue her business at Lehigh. Kelly said she has now had Cohen do her nails twice.

“She’s outgoing, warm, and friendly,” Kelly said. “She was perfect. Honestly, she was the most positive person I’ve ever known at Lehigh. I’ve never seen her negative.”

Cohen said she balances schoolwork by scheduling appointments in her free time.

She uses a complete kit that includes a nail drill, file, nail color, paint brush, and extensions.

All her equipment is stored under her bed, and when she has an appointment, she remodels her room.

“I brought two chairs and a small table,” Cohen said. “I put them in front of each other, and my nail colors are right next to us, a little DIY nail salon in my room.”

Collette Kissell, 25, said she admired Cohen’s organizational skills and professionalism.

“She’s really passionate about it, and she’s very organized about it, especially for the unofficial stuff,” Kissel said.

Cohen said she doesn’t believe she’ll be in the nail industry in the future, but would continue to do her own nails and other people’s nails if someone else wanted to.

“I think it’s great that she’s found a way to expand that hobby into something that’s good for other people as well,” Stratner said.

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