Some people can change your mood as soon as you walk into their presence. Natalie Kadie is one of those people. It’s not often you don’t see her smiling or laughing in public or in the nail salon that she owns. Natalie makes every one of her clients feel more like a friend or family member.
I interviewed Natalie as she gave me a manicure, because she’s usually at the salon or being a mom to the cutest 1-year-old boy. Natalie has goals and she’s a woman that’s going to reach them.
To anyone who wants to start a business, there is so much you can learn from Natalie. She embraces being a black business owner and she embraces being part of the growing community in the city she calls home. And as someone who has only known Natalie for less than a year, there’s a lot all of us can learn from how she views life, her job and how you should treat other people.
Natalie and her husband opened Eight Ten Nail Bar in downtown Flint in May 2018. The culture she creates there goes beyond a nail salon.
“Business is going great. We are busy even in January when other salons are slow. I think it’s because of the culture that we have built here and the location,” Natalie said. “We treat people with a lot of respect and we want you to have an experience here and not just get your nails done. We want you to feel like family when you come in.”
Natalie is looking to be part of the change in Flint. She’s not willing to sit around and just talk about it. That’s why at age 38, she wanted to open up a salon downtown.
“We lived in downtown Flint and we saw more people coming here and businesses thriving. It’s starting to be better down here and we wanted to be part of the community and part of the change in Flint instead of just talking about it all the time,” Natalie said. “I read a quote recently that was something to the effect of, ‘If you don’t have a solution to the problem, it’s just a complaint.’ I don’t know if opening a nail salon is helping solve the problems of Flint but I feel like it is because the reason we are here is the community and the people. It’s why we do what we do.
“We have very unique people here who have grit and want to work hard. I just really like being around people who are wanting to see Flint move forward and for Flint to grow and be better.”
Natalie has learned a lot about herself over the years. The impact she can make on her community and for her clients starts in her salon.
When Natalie was 18 years old she was pregnant with twins. She started at college but her mom told her she needed a trade to be successful. So after one semester of college she left to go to nail school.
“Long story short, my mom signed me up for nail school and I didn’t want to do it. But I am thankful she made me do it to this day,” she told me. “Nail school was a lot easier. Nobody judged me (for being 18 and pregnant). Nobody looked at me weird. They were just excited to meet my babies.”
At the age of 20 Natalie started doing nails as her job. But her path to owning her own business wasn’t a straight line. In fact, it would be 18 years later that she opened her own nail bar in Flint.
“I went back to doing nails because I can be creative. I can get out of my head and put on nails,” Natalie said. “There was a time period where I wasn’t doing nails, because I thought I couldn’t make money. I don’t really know what I thought. I wanted to change people’s lives so I went into healthcare and I thought, ‘You’re going to change lives.’ But I had no idea I could change lives right here sitting at a table filing their fingernails, which is crazy. People come to you with all kinds of issues whether it be problems at home or other things.”
Her clients help change her perspective every day. Natalie became emotional as she told about one client that meant a lot to her.
“One day I had a very bad day and I had a client come in and she had cancer and I was like my bad day doesn’t compare to what she’s going through. Instead of me complaining all the time about dumb stuff why don’t we put things in perspective?” Natalie told me. “I did her nails and she went to Disney. That was her last wish, to take her son to Disney. I did Mickey Mouse on her nails. That was the last trip she took with her son. To think back, what I’m doing is helping and it’s what I love to do.”
I teared up a bit when she told me this story. It’s so easy to tell ourselves that we can’t make a difference in our job, but Natalie is a great example of how you can make a difference everywhere. How you choose to use your time you have with people is completely up to you.
I’m thankful Natalie reminded me of that.
Owning a business isn’t always easy. Natalie will be the first to tell you that. She didn’t take the decision to open her salon lightly, but it’s been worth it. Her advice to other women wanting to start a business is simple.
“Take a leap of faith. I prayed about it before I did it. It wasn’t something that I just did. I asked God first and he said ‘yes’ and that was the end of it,” Natalie said. “If it’s a goal and it’s something that you want to do, you can make it happen. It’s really you, your mindset and mind frame. If it’s something that you want to do, you’ll figure it out and you’ll do it.”
Natalie had to lean on her support system a lot at first — and when she had her son a year ago. She had to work extra hours to pay for the space and bills before the salon even opened. But she made it happen and put the work in because she knew what she wanted to create here in Flint. And she knows what she wants to continue to do in the future.
“My hope for the salon is that it will grow more and we get more nail techs and we get more people in here. And then we open more Eight Ten Nail Bars all over and bring a piece of Flint wherever I go.”
Natalie is truly a bright light in the community. She’s a mom of two 20-year-old sons and a 1-year-old son. She’s a wife. She’s proud to be a successful black businesswoman. She’s a friend to many. And Natalie knows how to make other women feel beautiful and important.
We need more women like her. Thank you, Natalie.
Written and photographed by: Sarah Elkins