Student-entrepreneur balances school, personal business

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Cici Diorio

BPHS senior Cici Diorio poses with self-made nails at local coffee shop.

It’s hard enough for a high school student to balance academics and extracurriculars. Imagine adding business-owner to the plate!

BPHS senior Cecilia Diorio has created her own nail company that makes having gorgeous nails inexpensive and high quality.

“Going to the salons and paying $60 plus on nails that maybe last a few weeks with having to pay more for designs, I was sick of it,” said Diorio. “So I started doing my own! After about a year of teaching myself nail art and really perfecting my designs, I started to have people ask me: Who did your nails? and Where do you get your nails done? and How much did you pay for those? Everyone was blown away when I explained that I did them myself! After about a year of that, I decided to start selling them!”

Diorio started her company called Cici’s Nails well over a year ago on April 10, 2020. Since then, she has sold over 3,700 nail sets in total!

“During the pandemic, no one could go to the salons,” said Diorio. “Press-ons were easy to access, easy to change, and super affordable!”

Cici’s Nails really started booming in November after she posted a TikTok that received 1 million views and over 130k likes!

This social media boom gave Diorio the push she needed to work even harder on her art.

Diorio hand makes the nails herself. They are made of plastic, and she then adds a thin layer of builder gel to keep them strong and durable so they don’t endure any cracks. The nails can then be applied by the customer with either sticky tabs or nail glue.

The designs on the nails are also made by Diorio.

“Most all of the designs posted, I’ve come up with myself,” said Diorio. “Obviously, with some inspiration as well as when I do customs they are often either a thought somebody had or I recreate an idea or design they found elsewhere!”

The average price for a set ranges from $30-$40, which is the same price as a small design at a nail salon. Customers can personalize their nail set or buy a set already pre-made.

Every set includes a how-to-apply card, nail glue, sticky tabs, alcohol wipes, a nail file, stickers, and a Cici’s Nails business card.

As of right now, Diorio has shipped her designs to every state in America, and she just recently started shipping to Canada. Standard shipping is $5.

In the next year, Diorio hopes to ship her sets globally.

For certain holidays, Cici’s Nails always has a special sale going on. 

For Black Friday, all 20 piece sets cost $20 and all custom orders were $25.

For the winter holidays, Cici’s Nails had a countdown to Christmas Advent Calendar which is 12 sets for $165.

Sometimes, when the orders start to really pile in, Anna Wageley, Kira Williams, Cheyenne Nguyen, and John Robert, some of Diorio’s friends, help her make the products; but normally it is just a one-woman operation!

“I do pay them money as well as food depending on how the workday is going,” Diorio said with a laugh.

Most of Diorio’s customers are from the Pittsburgh area, but she has a few recurring customers from all over the country.

One of Cici’s Nails’ most loyal customers is a former BPHS student Kelsey Aronhalt.

I love Cici and her business so much. She is such a kind and talented person. I’ve had so many custom orders done by her that I’ve fallen in love with.”

— Kelsey Aronhalt

“Kelsey has single-handedly funded my business, I swear,” Diorio said jokingly. “She has been buying from me from the jump! Over a year now!”

“I love Cici and her business so much,” said Aronhalt. “She is such a kind and talented person. I’ve had so many custom orders done by her that I’ve fallen in love with. If you imagine it, she can make it a reality. She even delivers herself if you’re from Bethel Park which is super cool and personal. She’s given me so many discounts and freebies just for supporting her, so it’s like she gives back to those who support her which makes me wanna buy from her even more! I absolutely adore Cici and wish her the utmost success in her journey with Cici’s Nails!”

Diorio isn’t just running her business for some side cash, she wants to make a career out of her art!

Diorio said: “[This is] absolutely what I want to do for the rest of my life. Now what it branches into I’m excited to see, maybe a nail polish line or more beauty influencer type of thing but regardless Cici’s Nails is here to stay!”

With the money she makes from her nail sets, Diorio hopes to start her life and move out.

In the next two years or so, Diorio hopes to be able to open a store in Pittsburgh, and then a few more around the area after that!

[This is] absolutely what I want to do for the rest of my life. Now what it branches into I’m excited to see, maybe a nail polish line or more beauty influencer type of thing but regardless Cici’s Nails is here to stay!”

— Cici Diorio

As of August 2021, Cici’s Nails are now being sold in Boheme Pittsburgh in Lawrenceville, Pa. 

Boheme Pittsburgh is a small business incubator dedicated to helping up-and-coming makers and vendors get their businesses to boom.

One of the owners, Sara Ponsoll, reached out to Diorio showing interest in her business.

“It took me 20 minutes in the store to know that’s where I needed to be!” Diorio said.

“We choose Cici to sell at Boheme Pittsburgh because she is incredibly driven and talented, and has created a fun and totally unique one-of-a-kind product that buyers of all ages crave!” said Ponsoll. “We expect her to go far with this business, and we’re so excited to be the first retail store that carries her amazing nails!”

Cici Diorio proudly shows off her nail display at Boheme Pittsburgh. (@cicisnails)

When asked what impact having her products in a retail store has done for her business, Diorio said, “It’s created wonderful publicity, and gotten more word out to those who may not know much of the press on nail world as well those who like in-person shopping.”

“I love having my nails in an actual store,” said Diorio. “It’s definitely another outlet for business. It was an accomplishment that I just felt that said ‘I’m gonna make it.’”

“What I’ve learned is everyone is surprised there is an 18-year-old high school student behind my work,” said Diorio. “I have met some of the most incredible people that were willing to take a chance on me. From Dennie Augustine aka @thegodmutha on Tik Tok to everyone in Boheme Pittsburgh! It’s incredible the creativity that is all around us always.”

On Nov. 12, Diorio, with the help of her Science and Art teacher Mr. Wallisch, held a workshop during Periods 2, 3, and 8. Diorio got to talk to the classes about her business, and she even demonstrated her talents on a few students!

“My favorite thing about holding the workshop was getting the word out in the open about what I do,” said Diorio. “It is not every day an 18-year-old has her own business. It allows other teenagers and young adults to think about ‘could that be me?’ The young people are the future.”

Vincent Taormina

Through the workshop, Diorio just hopes to inspire more teenagers and young adults to do what they want and what they are passionate about, even if it just starts here in Bethel Park.

Diorio’s advice to young people wanting to start their own business is to “just do it.”

“It’s going to be hard, there’s going to be long nights, you’re going to be emotionally overwhelmed and people are going to be weary on what you can do and if you can make it,” said Diorio. “I wouldn’t trade those nights for anything in the world. I would do it over and over knowing I have put my everything into what I do. I’m proud of it. You will be too. When it’s something you love and work hard for you’re gonna love it. So don’t stop, because it’s so easy to give up, but not worth anything. Make it worth something.”

The biggest difficulty Diorio faces while being a business owner while also being a high school student is “time” she said with a laugh.

“I swear the day never ends,” said Diorio. “It’s 4 o’clock before I sit down at my desk and 10 o’clock before I even think about homework. It’s a constant game of catch up.”

“I am the daughter of an Entrepreneur,” said Diorio. “One thing my dad has always said and joked about was, ‘I thought really really smart people, with a lot of money start their own businesses?’ It’s just not true. It does take time, money, and consistent effort, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Would I do it over again? Sure, again and again with some minor changes here and there. There’s no age limit, no ‘what a business should look like’, no recipe book. It’s what you do and what you make of it.”

If you are interested in buying a nail set or have further questions about the business, the Instagram and TikTok handle for Cici’s Nails are @cicis.nails, or click here to visit her website.