Anastasiia Rozdobutko, owner of Banana Nails, 4946 W. Irving Park Road in Portage Park, smiles for a picture on Nov. 14, 2022. Credit: Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago

PORTAGE PARK — A Northwest Side nail salon owner is opening a school to train and empower nail techs.

Anastasiia Rozdobutko, owner of Banana Nails, 4946 W. Irving Park Road, has been a nail technician for 10 years. In that time, she’s trained other nail techs to increase opportunities for people starting out in the industry and help them earn a decent living.

Rozdobutko recently found a storefront just five minutes away from her shop to launch what will be Banana Nails School. With permits and renovations in sight, Rozdobutko hopes to open the school and nail supply shop in the spring.

Rozdobutko hopes the school will attract people curious about the industry as well as provide continued education to more experienced nail technicians.

“Not a lot of nail salons have this in place — the systems where you have a career within a nail salon,” Rozdobutko said.

Nail work stations at Banana Nails, 4946 W. Irving Park Road in Portage Park, as seen on Nov. 14, 2022. Credit: Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago

Banana Nails School will teach classes in Russian, Polish, Ukrainian and English, Rozdobutko said. She will offer programs for students to receive a nail technician license and a nail knowledge instructor license.

The school will also offer credit hours to licensed nail techs who need to keep their credentials current, Rozdobutko said. Nail techs in Illinois need to renew their licenses every two years.

Even without an official school, Rozdobutko has already taught small classes in a vacant neighboring spot with support from her landlord.

“We’ve had many students,” Rozdobutko said. “By the end of the year, I’ll make it to 100 students.”

Rozdobutko said she is an example of following her dream and overcoming the challenges that come with opening a business, especially as an immigrant. She came to Portage Park from Ukraine in 2016 with her husband, who had a work opportunity in the city, she said.

Rozdobutko had only $50 in her pocket, did not speak English very well and did not know the city. But she found a job at a cleaning company and then at a Portage Park nail salon, she said.

There, Rozdobutko said her boss taught her the importance of hard work and how it could earn her a comfortable living.

“That inspired me a lot to be able to take care of myself and to spend time on the stuff that I want,” Rozdobutko said. “In my head, opening a business was the only option to make good money and to live the life that you want to live.”

Rozdobutko had experience working at a nail salon in Ukraine and was gaining new skills at the Portage Park spot, but she noticed women had a difficult time finding someone who could offer the right nail care they wanted, she said.

Rozdobutko started studying to become a nail technician instructor in 2018 and opened Banana Nails in 2019. Rozdobutko received her teaching license in 2021, bringing the idea of a school one step closer, she said.

Rozdobutko prides herself on making sure her clients are satisfied and her employees have upward mobility. Banana Nails sets its prices to make sure employees receive a higher commission that matches the increased cost of living, she said.

Mya Middleton, a senior nail technician, said Rozdobutko gave her an opportunity to enter the industry.

Middleton started working with Rozdobutko last year after graduating from nail school. Working at Banana Nails has changed her perspective of the industry and how to better make clients feel comfortable in getting the nails they want, she said.

“For me, when I was younger, I thought a nail tech was not a job a normal person could get,” Middleton said.

Like Rozdobutko, Middleton got the itch to teach the craft to others after seeing how rewarding the job was with good clients, she said. Middleton taught a few classes earlier this year alongside Rozdobutko and plans to teach at the new school, she said.

“I realized I wanted to start teaching and get into that part of it,” Middleton said. “It was nice that she is wiling to help me in that aspect.”

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