A former Youngstown, Ohio, ad executive’s big career change

Gina Marinelli

Gina Marinelli

(Photo provided)

It was 1998 and Jennifer Bodnar of Youngstown had it all: A high-profile, fast-paced job as an assistant ad director and graphic designer for a local company with a national reputation for excellence.

She was on the fast track.

Jennifer was ambitious and loved her burgeoning career. But she was also balancing that career with her role as a wife and new mother, and helping her mom care for her elderly grandmother. But things started to change rapidly after the premature birth of her second child, who had special needs.

“I had some decisions to make. Who was I going to trust to take care of two babies? My son was 14 weeks premature and needed a lot of care, and my daughter was only 9 months old,” she said. “My husband was working shifts. I knew I couldn’t go back to work like before.”

But she had to work. So, Jennifer took that old adage, “Find a way to make a living by doing what you love,” and made it work for her.

Since childhood, Jennifer was artistic. She loved makeup, glitter and nail polish. A lot. For her, nails were her canvas to create art. She decided to change course and go back to school. beauty school. The decision came as a surprise to many, including her dad.

“I told my dad I was going to nail school. He said, ;What? You have a college degree!’ I said, ‘It’s just for now until things calm down. I’ll go back to work when the kids get a little older.’ But things just blossomed and I never did go back.”

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Jennifer Bodnar (NailChick71.com)

What she did was not only learn how to do nails, but the science behind it. She began to build a clientele. She took her marketing and graphic design expertise, along with her competitive nature, and began marketing herself and her talents as a nail tech. That led to nail competitions against hundreds of opponents from all over the world and shows all over the United States.

It wasn’t long before she caught the attention of Entity, the maker of the products she was using. They were so impressed with her skills that they hired her to teach classes for them in New York City, Florida and Atlanta.

“That’s where they noticed me. That’s where I shine. My heart is teaching. I still say my clients are more educated than most nail techs. There is a lot of chemistry involved. My daughter was in sixth-grade when she told her teacher, ‘My mommy is a chemist. She mixes monomers and polymers to form oligomer chains.”

The opportunity as a traveling instructor grew, taking her all over the world — Italy, Germany and England. Jennifer was the first person to teach classes and technique for Entity.

By this time, her children were getting older, her father had gotten sick, and she was about to go through more life changes. The travel was getting to be too much. She found herself at a crossroads once again.

After renting space at several salons in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, Jennifer finally opened her own salon, NailChick71, in April of 2020. It was off to a great start. And then COVID hit. But as usual, Jennifer adapted. She is still overwhelmed with gratitude when she remembers how her clients took care of her during that time and made sure she and her children were OK.

“I had clients send money for missed appointments. That blew me away. To know that people think that much of you. It was really something. But we made it through it,” Jennifer said.

Today, Jennifer has hired a small staff and is working toward spending more time promoting, managing and growing her business. She is starting a new business that focuses on skincare and foot care products.

“I took a big chance. I believed in myself. My parents and friends helped me along the way. It wasn’t easy and I sacrificed a lot. But I’m so glad that I changed careers. It was the best thing I did,” he said.

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Gina Marinelli is telling your stories. She wants to know: What was one decision — big or small — that led to the best thing that ever happened to you?

Have a story to tell? Email Editor Justin Dennis at justin@mahoningmatters.com, or call us toll-free at 888-655-1012, option 2, and introduce yourself. Make sure you tell us how Gina can contact you.

Gina Marinelli is a former 23-year journalist. She’s currently a senior gift officer for Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley. She also hosts WYSU-FM’s “Doing Good” program, where she profiles people and organizations doing good things in the community.

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