Following your dreams is not always as easy as it seems, learn that from this Jacksonville small business

Edward Sturkie (Photo courtesy of Anna Barrett)

Anna Barrett, Correspondent

When COVID-19 hit the United States, many small businesses were forced to close; however, Edward’s Nail Lounge in Jacksonville experienced the opposite.

Through mainly small-town talk in 2018, Edward’s Nail Lounge grew exponentially in the first few months of operation. This meant that Edward Sturkie, 43-year-old owner, could no longer work out of a carry case and travel everywhere, so he moved into a hair salon in Jacksonville called eNVy.

This move achieved Sturkie’s dream of being a nail technician in a busy hair salon, he said. As much of an opportunity it was to be in a busy hair salon, Sturkie needed to expand again.

“I just had to keep moving forward and make it happen. I couldn’t let her bailing on me end it all,” Sturkie said.

He made it work and opened in June of 2019. He got 40 new customers within the first month.

In February 2020, one of the hairstylists from eNVy, Whitney Glass, wanted to join Sturkie. He was glad to take in a partner but needed an even bigger space. Unfortunately, this was when COVID-19 hit, and the state went into lockdown. All businesses had to be closed by the end of the day on March 28.

Many businesses struggled and were forced to close permanently due to the lack of customers; however, Sturkie and Glass were planning an expansion and being productive. Sturkie became a traveling nail salon during this period of lockdown. His business was not struggling, in fact he was getting new customers just from small-town talk.

They opened at their current location on Jacksonville’s Public Square on June 8, 2020. After the lockdown was lifted and most businesses were struggling to get back on their feet, Edward’s Nail Lounge was already thriving.

Just in the city of Jacksonville, eight businesses closed and stayed closed between March 2020 and March 2021, according to Leigh Fortenberry who runs the Business License Office for the city of Jacksonville.

Though there were businesses that closed because of the pandemic, there are new businesses that replaced them. There was also a small increase in home-businesses that have renewed their licenses, according to Fortenberry.

“I think Jacksonville is on its way back up,” Fortenberry said in an interview.

According to Laura Copeland, finance manager for the city of Jacksonville, the city has recovered financially from what it lost during lockdown.

Copeland said Jacksonville collected $1,650,617.74 of business license revenue in fiscal year 2020. In FY21 it collected $1,623,268.16 worth of revenue, a slight decrease from the previous year. As of March 21 of this year, the city has collected $1,652,701.01 so far in revenue for FY22, she said.

“An argument could be made that we recovered that which we lost in FY 21,” Copeland wrote in a statement.

The path Sturkie took to get where he is today is not the typical one. Sturkie grew up around the Jacksonville area and had the same mindset as many others that grow up in a small town: go to college and move out. He tried to do just that. Sturkie flunked out of college the first time.

In the time between flunking out of college and going back to school, Sturkie worked at Hibbett Sports and met his future mentor, Ly Anh Rocker, who worked at a nail salon. She offered to teach Sturkie how to do manicures, so Sturkie talked with his parents and started learning.

After his break from school, Sturkie took the classes he could afford, which was only two to three at a time.

Despite his dream, Sturkie decided to go into the corporate world when he graduated in August 2011. He moved to Indianapolis to work as a real estate agent. He quit doing nails for a “real job” because he believed that was the right thing to do.

Sturkie knew as soon as he started at State Farm that he had made a mistake.

“Everybody was talking the same way, saying the same things. They felt like robots,” Sturkie said.

Over time, he got used to the robotic feel of the corporate world. He continued to work real estate when the company went through a merger that sent Sturkie and his girlfriend to Phoenix.

Things took a turn for the worse when Sturkie lost his job in September of 2016.

After hitting rock bottom and being forced to do some soul searching, Sturkie knew that he needed to move back to the Jacksonville area in March 2017.

He worked around his client’s schedules and advertised online so that he could rebuild his reputation.

Sturkie’s personal beliefs play as much of a role in his business as anything. When asked about his approach to business, he said his core values and his mission statement are the most notable. His core values are as follows: faith, family, honesty and advocacy to promote unity.

“Above all, I always try to live well and be well,” Sturkie said.

His mission statement has come true multiple times, according to Sturkie. His mission statement reads, “An experience for every individual regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality or political affiliation. The desire for glamourous nails shall be our common ground.”

Edward’s Nail Lounge was not the only business that managed to hang on during the pandemic, specifically on Jacksonville’s Public Square. Heirloom Taco, though it has now closed due to a fire in March 2022, was able to adapt to the circumstances quickly by only serving take-out orders, struggling but surviving, the owners say. Another business on the square, Just Handmade, opened at the start of the lockdown and has managed to hang on since then.

According to 2021 numbers from the Census Bureau, the number of self-employed across the nation has grown since the start of the pandemic. In fact, there were 73,820 more low propensity businesses, solo businesses, than high propensity business, small businesses, in March 2020, as noted by an April 2021 article in Forbes.

Edward’s Nail Lounge was a high propensity business that stood out during the pandemic. While there were more home-businesses, this small business in Jacksonville thrived and is still thriving today.

Sturkie will not stop here. He said he wants multiple locations within the next five years.

“I want the challenge of bigger competition, so being in a bigger city is what I want,” Sturkie said.

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