Columbia sophomore slays with entrepreneurial spirit

By Kaelah Serrano, Photojournalist

It all started when Columbia student Areanna Whittington was getting an acrylic set of nails applied by her friend and nail tech, Reina Sundura, also a sophomore at Columbia.

“I was like, I feel so slay in this,” Whittington said. “I want to know how to do that.”

And that’s what she did.

Whittington, a sophomore web application development major and entrepreneurship minor, said she used her “entrepreneur spirit” and Columbia’s resources to get her own nail business, Nailz by Arey, started.

Her business is home-based at her apartment in Wicker Park. She provides manicure services with a selection of acrylic or Gel-X style nails. Clients set up appointments with her through Instagram by direct messaging @nailz_by_arey, or can message requests for specialty orders regarding nail press-on sets.

“Well because of my entrepreneurial spirit, I always like to start things, especially that shows my creativity,” Whittington said.

Whittington, who is from St. Louis, is no stranger to having her own business. Prior to Nailz by Arey, she ran Arey’s Creations, a jewelry store.

This was put to a halt when Whittington moved to Chicago and started school at Columbia in the fall of 2021.

“I couldn’t bring every box to my dorm, so I had to sacrifice it; so I had to express my creativity somewhere and also make a little money,” she said.

Due to spending her time at Columbia, Whittington found a business outlet through a different art.

Whittington said the pandemic impacted how she networked, especially because she already considers herself shy.

Whittington also works at Columbia’s store and was able to build clientele while doing so.

“If I see somebody like, with cute nails or whatever… here’s my card, here’s my [Instagram],” Whittington said.

Nailz by Arey has nail press-on sets available at Columbia’s store, another way Whittington gains exposure and clientele.

Kentay Varnell, a sophomore fashion merchandising major, is one of Whittington’s clients. They were introduced to each other through a mutual friend at Columbia.

Varnell said when she was deciding on a nail set for her April 15 appointment, she was drawn to Whittington’s unique art style.

“I like the ways [she] can play with french tip…it’s just versatile,” Varnell said.

Varnell ended up choosing a French monochrome tip set of nails that have an airbrushed evil eye on one nail.

Whittington said, for entrepreneurs looking to start a business, “Be dedicated; don’t stop.”

“If you think you’re in a low spot, no, you’re not. You gotta keep going out there. Keep doing things. Just Network. Networking is very important,” Whittington said.