Daniel Hypolite, owner of D Dan Tech

It was November 22, 2020, and Daniel Hypolite was staring at a bank balance of just $124. He did not know what troubled him more, the fact that it was his girlfriend’s birthday and he could not afford to celebrate her as he had planned, or the sinking realisation that this wasn’t just all the money he had, for now, it’s all he had period.

As a nail technician, COVID-19 had taken away his only source of income. An unfortunate scenario that many found themselves in. And the lockdown he thought that would maybe last a month at most, was well into four times that.

This wasn’t the life he had envisioned for himself when he prepared sandwiches at Subway restaurant. Fresh out of the Caribbean Union College, it did not take long for the then 19-year-old Hypolite to realise this was not for him.

“I didn’t like to work for people, but one day my sister took me with her to do her nails and the technician told me that some days with just doing two jobs I could make about $600 a day and I used to do nails in school anyways.”

Two months later Hypolite went from footlongs to French tips and his new business D Dan Tech started operating at Bright Side Plaza on Henry Street.

Shortly after the first lockdown came into effect and Daniel used that time to invest in what he thought was his most profitable asset, himself.

“I used that time to practice, to get better, I would even practice on my own hands and then upload the pictures to Instagram.”

And while there were sleepless nights of worrying about his finances and future, little did Daniel know that those pictures were going “viral.”

“People said for the first time they’re seeing a boy do nails and they thought it was so good, and how in just ten months I was doing better than some women who had been doing it for years,” he said.

Of course, Daniel said he received some criticism for being in what some people called ‘a girl wuk’ with some even questioning his sexuality.

But that was easy to ignore with the money he was now earning.

“I could finally say to Mummy I make $1,000 a day or $1,500, things started to go really nice.”

Eventually, he started earning $2,500 per week. Then came lockdown number two.

“BAM! The boss called and said no work tomorrow.”

At the time he was in a ‘sou-sou’ with a commitment of $400 a week. To honour that he had to drain the $6,000 he had left in the bank. But things got so bad, he was forced to take a chance.

“I started to do some house calls, I had to do something! Money in the bank gone, mummy on your back, granny on your back so I say I will double mask with a face shield. And I am from Arima but I would accept work in Princes Town, San Fernando, Edinburgh, all over the country.”

That rallied him through the second lockdown. And while business isn’t booming right now, at least just yet, Daniel said that he learnt a lot of lessons from his struggles.

“I prayed a lot, it is what kept me motivated and I had to tell myself that not everybody’s story is the same. My story could be that I started my business during COVID-19, I went through a lot and made it out, so now I feel there is nothing I can’t overcome.”

Daniel said everyone has their hurdles at different places in their race, some higher than others.

“Don’t ask the question why, ask what now?”

He acknowledged that many young people may be disheartened at this time with a lack of employment opportunities.

“But never give up, that is rule number 1, and don’t feel that Rome was built in a day, take your time and invest in yourself and the returns may not come in one year or two, but it will come.”

It’s been tough but he believes the experience did not only make him wiser, but tough as nails.