An Andover woman has been selected for not one, but two awards in the Hair and Beauty Awards for her work as a nail technician.

Kayleigh Watkins has been nominated in the categories of Nail Technician of the Year and Best New Talent in the awards for her work at Nails With Kails in town. She has been in such demand over the past 18 months that customers have come from all across town and as far afield as Swindon for her services.

The news follows another North Hampshire woman, Anna Nikola, having also been nominated for the awards, in the separate category of Lash Stylist of the Year.

Being nominated for the awards is the perfect end to Kayleigh’s first 18 months as a nail stylist, which she says she originally got into after being made redundant.

“When I was made redundant a couple of years ago I fell into it,” she told the Advertiser, “and it was something to do while I was on gardening leave.

“Since then it’s grown and I’ve realised that I absolutely adore it and I do it in the evenings and weekends. I live and breathe nails.”

She specialises in gel nails and nail art, with people coming from across Hampshire and beyond for her services.

“I’m really quite handy at it,” she said. “I’ve always been really artistic so they’re little portraits on nails.”

She now works part-time in her salon alongside her job as an IT project manager, running her business out of her home.

Kayleigh said: “I finish work at 5pm and then, when I can, my clients will come through the door at 5:30. I could be working until 9-10pm, seeing two or three people a night. It’s hard work but it’s really rewarding. I get to meet so many wonderful people as well, it’s really great.”

Despite working into the evenings, she says that she loves her job, and enjoys the opportunity to talk with her clients.

“It’s lovely to let my hair down in the evenings and have a girly chat,” she said, “because what I do for a living is very serious and there’s a lot of men in my sector. So to spend some time in the afternoon or evening to have some girl time and do what I love is brilliant, and I’d love to make that my full time job.”

Kayleigh says that her dream is to “have a nice little studio” in the garden which she can work of, as it captures the “personal, one-on-one touch” she likes.

“The most I’d probably branch out is if I did hire someone there would only be two of us, so four at any one time with clients,” she said. “I quite like the feeling of it being small and intimate.

“I think my clients feel safe here, they can say anything and they’re not worried about being overheard when they’re ranting or whatever. It’s quite a nice little environment for them.”

At the moment, while she can’t have clients visit due to Covid restrictions, she is passing the time by producing bespoke press on nails for customers. “It doesn’t beat the real deal,” she said.

Kayleigh nominated herself for the awards after being “badgered” by her mentor, and says that the recognition is “brilliant”.

She said: “I think that after 18 months of doing it, even making the final in such a short time is phenomenal for such a little business.”

The awards are going to take place on March 31, with Kayleigh to find out whether she has claimed top spot in her categories.