- November 19, 2021
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When Jessieka Martínez-Soto started Botánica Nail Studio, it was just one small room in Black Adder Beauty Bar where she would give manicures, pedicures, and even tooth gem services.
That changed in September of 2021, when Martínez-Soto expanded her studio space, which now includes floor-to-ceiling windows and space for her two new nail technicians, who also live by the same motto: gel only and art.
While reggaetón and other Caribbean beats play in the background, Martínez-Soto and “her girls” spend the better part of the first hour of a session removing the previous set of nails and prepping the natural nails for new extensions or strengthening gel.
Nearly every part of the process is customizable, from the service wanted — structured gel or gel extensions — to the nail shape of your dreams — whether it’s coffin, stiletto, square or almond — and of course the art, which Martínez-Soto freehands based on customer pictures or requests.
While Martínez-Soto charismatic personality invites her clients to talk,when she pulls out her thin brushes, the tropical music fills the silence, and she focuses her attention to the details of her work.
Her designs can range from simple to intricate, and she gathers inspiration from “inspo pics” customers bring to the latest styles in nail art.
Martínez-Soto’s style focuses mainly on painted on designs, which has taken years to master, but for her, it’s worth getting to make different pieces on such a small canvas.
As a child, she would accompany her mom to the nail salon, and would watch in awe at how everything was done, and when she was old enough to get extensions, it became routine for her.
It was her mom who got Martínez-Soto her own acrylics kit from eBay on her birthday, and Martínez-Soto would spend hours doing her friend’s nails for $13 to cover the costs of materials.
She went straight to nail school when she was 17, and then spent the next three years jumping from salon to salon gathering experience and clients.
“It was a crazy time for me. I was immature and worked like in four different salons because I couldn’t find my happy place,” Martínez-Soto said.
She hated doing acrylics, because of how damaging they are to the natural nail, and the salons expected her to be quick, but Martínez-Soto thrived in taking her time to perfect her work. This led her to fall into a deep depression which worsened when she unexpectedly fell pregnant at 20.
But when her son, Dom, now 8, was born, everything changed.
“Having Dom really helped me grow up, because now I needed to work to maintain him,” she said.
That’s when she started to get serious about her work and went down to New York City to get certified in Bio Sculpture Gel, an innovative gel that can be applied to the natural nail or extension to strengthen them.
When she returned to Rochester, not many people were offering that service, so she began to get her own clientele through social media, and eventually was hired by a salon. Because she was the only one who knew how to do Bio Sculpture Gel, Martínez-Soto said that the salon owner depended heavily on her and she had trouble finding time for herself and her son and newborn daughter.
In 2019, she got fired, Martínez-Soto said, and it was a blessing in disguise.
“The reason I wanted to do nails was for the art, and so my dream was to own a nail studio whose focus was the artistic part of the process,” Martínez-Soto said.
And so, Botánica Nail Studio was born.
When Martínez-Soto isn’t making nail art or hanging out with her kids, you can find her and her fiancé performing across New York with their salsa group, Grupo Calle Uno.
Music has always been a huge passion of hers. She performed in multiple choirs as a kid, and even took singing lessons at Eastman School of Music. Between her kids and her career, she’s always put music on the back burner.
It wasn’t until 2019 when she joined Grupo IFE, a local group that performs Afro-Cuban music. At Grupo IFE, she rediscovered her passion for music, and subsequently met Gilbert Hernández, who proposed to her during a summer trip to Puerto Rico, where she was born.
When Martínez-Soto thinks about the future, she hopes to pursue music more seriously, which would mean reducing her role in the nail studio to a more managerial position.
For now, she’s achieved her dream of owning a nail studio that fit her vision of “good vibes, better art.”
Her recent expansion allows her even more freedom, and now she gets to choose who she works with and how long she works.
That means she has time to be with her children and pursue her music.
“I could’ve given up at any point, I could’ve said ‘maybe doing nails isn’t for me,’ but I’m glad I didn’t,” Martínez-Soto said.
For more information on Botanica Nail Studio: https://botanicanailstudio.glossgenius.com/
Natalia Rodríguez Medina is a bilingual reporter covering the Puerto Rican and Latino population for the Democrat and Chronicle in partnership with Report for America. Follow her on Twitter at @nataliarodmed or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can support her work with a tax-deductible donation to Report for America.