Kate Arian, 26, credits the business as her "second chance at life"

By Jessica Fecteau
Updated January 06, 2015 12:15 PM
Bonnie Cooperberg

When Kate Arian underwent a double lung transplant due to cystic fibrosis in 2011 – only six months after graduating from college – her life completely changed.

Arian, who was a consultant, had to leave her first full-time job and was unable to leave the house for months because of her weakened immune system after surgery.

As the young woman healed and lost the familiar life she had known, she discovered something else was also missing: a way to still feel confident and polished while recovering from her illness.

“I wanted to look healthy and project an image of being well. I kind of wished I could get cleaned up a little,” Arian, 26, tells PEOPLE. “It would make me feel better mentally.”

Arian looked into possible beauty services that could come to her home in New York City, but came up empty-handed.

“New York City has everything – everything on demand,” she says. “You can do the craziest stuff, but you can’t get a manicurist to come to your hospital or come to your home? I just knew this is what I have to do.”

Arian decided not to return to her job in the corporate world and instead created ManiCare – a mobile nail and beauty service that brings manicures, pedicures, massages, waxing and hair styling to homes, hospitals and businesses.

“When I thought about going back to my full-time job, I thought, ‘I literally almost died and here I am – what am I here to do? And what can I do to help?’ And it was exactly this,” Arian says.

The services, which are currently offered in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, and will be available in Los Angeles later this year, not only help patients look and feel their best, they offer a unique gift option for people who are sick, recovering from an illness or even pregnant, Arian says.

“[When I was sick], people were sending me stuff that was so thoughtful, like flowers, magazines, books and socks, which were all great,” she says. “I know people were really looking for something to make my day and situation so much better and those things are nice, but they’re pretty generic. Once you have a few of them, you don’t need more.”

To offer the most comforting experience, Arian says she looks for more than just technical skills in the people she hires.

“I really screen for bedside manner, compassion, cleanliness – someone you’d want to talk to if you were trapped with them for an hour and a half while they’re doing your nails.”

They must also have a basic medical understanding of the patient they’re visiting.

The most popular service offered is the manicure-pedicure combo. Ten percent of the proceeds from all services are donated to the American Cancer Society and other smaller organizations.

ManiCare recently donated nail polishes to a hospital in New York City with the help of Color Club nail polish.

“I’m taking 500 bottles of polishes and putting little ManiCare stickers on them and delivering to them the hospital. They’re going to do include two nail polishes in the welcome kit for all female inpatients,” Arian explains. “So whenever a woman comes in, in addition to getting a toothbrush and a shower cap, she will have two great shades of polish to paint her nails.”

Arian, who lives in Manhattan, now runs the company full time and credits it with giving her a second chance at life.

“I really feel purpose every single day,” she says. “I just can’t imagine having this second chance at life and going to be, let’s say, an accountant and doing people’s taxes all day. I really get to enjoy my life, enjoy my family and work when I feel like I’m able to. I’m excited about what I’m doing – I’m so proud of it.”