Morgan Dixon: “I’m Only Getting Started”
Morgan Dixon, founder of M.A.D. Nails, is an effervescent ball of energy and personality. In just over half a year, she’s created quite a local buzz around her brand. First working out of Fifi Mahony’s in the French Quarter and now operating on a freelance basis, Morgan offers private appointments, pop-up collaborations, and custom press-on nail sets. She’s an incredibly talented artist who is personable, dedicated to her brand, and a supporter of people doing what they love.
Read on for my Q&A with Morgan and her frank advice on how to break out of the ordinary routine and do what you love.
My dad was in the Navy, so this allowed me the opportunity to travel the world – I spent a number of years in Europe, in Gaeta, Italy. This exposed me to European culture. My parents were also both born and raised in New York, so I have a strong northern influence as well. Like many other New Yorkers, my parents wanted to retire to Florida, so I eventually landed in Jacksonville, Florida for high school and early college.
On my own, I spent less than a year in Brooklyn working and doing nails, went back to Florida for about a year, and then decided to move to New Orleans and give this place a try. I am studying Art History and International Relations; I have not yet received my bachelor’s degree. I couldn’t afford to pay for school out of pocket and was put off by how corrupt the education system is in the U.S. I plan to go back to finish my studies, but with the success and joy I’ve received through focusing my artistic ability on nails, I have not been in any rush to go back.
My interests include history, art, womens and cultural studies, gardening, volunteer work with the arts, empowering young women and minorities … and eating!
Why did you pick New Orleans as your next stop?
I ended up here last December because I needed a change. I’m a gypsy by trade and needed to relocate – gain more inspiration, breathe in a different type of air. It’s funny because I did not plan on being here even as long as I have been. I thought I’d come up and do Mardi Gras and then leave, but as we can see, I’ve yet to leave.
I have three favorite things about New Orleans: the Mardi Gras Indians, the way the history of this city has been so passionately preserved, and the fact that you can go anywhere and people will literally say hello to you and offer a smile for no apparent reason.
I first branded myself under M.A.D. Nails in late 2012; I’d grown very tired of being just another nail tech and I knew I had it in me to be an individual.
You have a really solid following online and strong brand awareness in general. That’s pretty awesome, especially given that you moved here not even a year ago. What’s been your strategy to achieve this growth?
RESEARCH! I can’t say that enough. Research, and the splash of just taking the initiative. In the very beginning of my career, I tried to find mentors to help me better myself as a business professional. After people ignored my requests, I realized I was out there on my own. I decided to take matters into my own hands and learn not only the business of nails, but the business of business. I started attending workshops and lectures, surrounding myself with other small business owners, and figuring out how to properly describe what it is I was trying to do.
I never in a million years thought I would be doing nails or running a business, but I found myself doing so, so I needed to get a better understanding of what it was I was doing exactly. YOU have the ability to be your greatest teacher: it’s just about you having the confidence to be that teacher for yourself.
Another thing I kept in mind in the early stages was that I had worked for so many other people in other industries and I’d think to myself, “They are all over the f*cking place. Their business is so unorganized. It’s hilarious how they can play it off and no one ever knows what’s really going on behind the scenes!” That also gave me the confidence to know that I have the ability to do anything I want to do. “Fake it till you make it” is some serious shit.
You have to step out of that feeling of being like, no one is going to pick up my cards at this local coffee shop, this person won’t respond to my e-mail, reaching out about this business proposal will just result in me being told “no.” You have to just put yourself out there. If you don’t, no one will know about you. Take chances.
I see myself having an even bigger brand that gives women and other individuals the opportunity to learn and grow themselves. I want to create jobs for others, inspire others to KNOW they can do anything they put their minds to. I’d love to make my brand an even greater international business – I’m already internationally known, but I’m only getting started.
I want people to see me as the underdog and know that I’m still doin’ my thang and encouraging others to do their damn thang. M.A.D. Nails does not just offer a basic nail service: I’m offering anyone interested the opportunity to “experience the M.A.D.ness” – whether that’s through a simple manicure, a set of press-ons, a party, a pop-up event, whatever.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who want to grow their own brand or perhaps people who want to break out of a job they hate to move toward doing what they love?
Don’t be scared to do anything. Fear will keep you from a lot of things. As I said before: RESEARCH. Educate yourself. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Understand that it’s not going to be easy. Keep in mind there is not a single quote in the history of man that states, “Life is going to be easy.” Never give up; it’s survival of the fittest.
I understand it’s not easy to just quit your job and start your dream job and life out of the blue. That’s why I keep saying research is key: you need a game plan. You need to know what you need to make a living for yourself. Use time management to get your passion project done and make it possible to make a living off of it. Planning is key.
This was all amazing advice. Thank you so much! I’d like to close by sharing your craziest nail request from a client.
The craziest request I’ve ever had came from a dear friend of mine, Staci BuShea. She is an independent art curator and currently pursuing her masters at Bard College. On her journey applying to grad school, she asked me to do a set of nails for her so she could submit it in her applications to showcase how art can be replicated through nail art.
I was so blown away by her request. I was ecstatic to do a set of nails that involved showcasing art on a higher, more respected scale. Stacy wanted me to use the artwork of Lygia Clark and Rebecca Horn, so I started looking into paintings by these two artists. I thought I was ready to go. The funny thing is, when Staci came to me, she expressed she was actually interested in me showcasing the performance art pieces of these two women!
I was sick to my stomach, thinking, “How can I possibly translate performance art to nails?!” After much thought and planning, we decided I would use pieces that represented the objects in motion which the artists used in their works. I could not have been happier with this set. This is the art I would love to work more with, where the true conceptual artist in me really comes out.
PS – stay tuned to our Instagram accounts (@madnails, @nikitanola) because we’ve got an exciting giveaway coming soon!