25 years ago, my parents came to America looking for a new life. They both were teachers in Vietnam with highly educated backgrounds. However, when we got to America, everything changed. It is not about who you were, but it is about how we can learn to adapt to the new environment with a new culture. My parent had to struggle to make a living; I remember both of my parents had to work at a restaurant; cleaning tables and washing dishes. At that time, there was no dish washer, so everything had to be done by hand.
They came home exhausted every night, and after a few years working in at the restaurant, my mom decided to make a switch and went to learn how to do nails. She heard from her friend that it is easy to obtain the license, and she can make more money than working at the restaurant. She got her license a few months afterward and started looking for a job at the nearby salons. It wasn’t easy at all because she didn’t know English very well, and she didn’t have much experience. Therefore, she had to go to salons that are a few hours away from home.
As the result, she moved to the boss house and only came home during weekends. I knew she made more money because every time she came home, she would take the whole family out and buy us nice dinner. However, I wasn’t sure whether she was happy with the job or not. One night, I was watching many beautiful actresses wearing beautiful nails with different colors on the television, and I told myself that I want to have my nails look exactly like that. Therefore, I asked my mom, “can you do my nail for me? ”
She said, “no you are too young to get your nails done. She also said, “work hard so in the future when you have a lot of money then you can go to a salon and get your nails done. ” After working for 5 years in more than 8 different nail salons, my mom was able to save a good amount of money and decided to open a nail salon. She talked it over with my dad for a few months because she was afraid that she would not be able to handle the external issues of the salon like how to hire employee and pay tax. To show his encouragement, my dad told her that if you never try you will never know. Then the decision was made, and we did open a salon; I was very happy because I got to see her every day.
I did not have to wait until the weekend anymore; I got to eat good food and had someone to talk to every night because I was the only child, and it felt lonely whenever my mom was away. We started working on the plan for business; the first thing was to come up with a business name. It was very hard to find a name because my parent was not very good with English. However, we eventually came up with the perfect name “Most Beautiful Nail Salon”. Our message was we want every client who walk into our salon will walk out with the most beautiful nails. Then here it came the hard work.
My parents were driving all over the town and asking people if they know about where to get the supplies, and what is the cost or how to file for a business license. They were working more than 10 hours a day and trying to get everything in place for the grand opening in 30 days. My parents were not business expert, so we didn’t have a logo or a good business plan. They were thinking that buying affordable nail supplies and providing great service at great price will encourage customers to come back. They usually brought me along with them because they couldn’t afford to have a babysitter.
It was fun for me because I got to go all over town and see new things. They sometimes got into an argument because they can’t decide on which product or which supplier to do business with. They both had different opinions, but they always ended up resolving things in the next few days. The grand opening day came, and my parents were very excited yet they were nervous and stressed at the same time because they didn’t know what to expect. It was great the first month because every customer walked in would receive coupons for 50% OFF for their friends and families.
Although we were really busy, we didn’t make much at all; sometimes we only broke even because we gave many people 50% OFF. However, it picked up, and my mom decided to invest and hire one of her friends to work at our shop. I often stopped by the salon each day after school or weekend and tried to help out by cleaning and sweeping the floor or cleaning the bathroom. As months went on, our business was getting better. We had a lot of normal customers and referrals from them. My parents were very happy because they started to see profit and money pouring in.
However, we sometimes ran into problems with suppliers who tried to rise up the price, or chairs are broken which were expensive to fix or replace. My parents have tried very hard to save money and have quality equipments to serve our clients. In addition, winter is usually our slow season; we tried to come up with different promotions to get as many customers in as possible. After three years of being up and down, our business was finally stable. I think the reason was my parents gained more experiences in running the business.
We moved to a bigger place, and my parent didn’t need to work as much; they managed most of the time and left the work to our employees. We started to enjoy life more because of the money that we were bringing in. One summer, my mom took me back to Vietnam to visit our relatives. I remember she didn’t tell them how we started when we first came to America. She only told them that we now own a salon and making good money. When she saw my confused face, she explained that we want them to feel happy for us. After we got back from Vietnam, our salon faced another problem.
Competition was fierce in this industry. Especially many new nail salons opened up at almost every corner of the street. However, we chose not to lower our price. Instead, we tried to provide our exceptional service with great quality products. Therefore, most of our customers have been acquired through family and friend referral because they were certain that they would be satisfied every time they walked out of our salon. Nonetheless, some of our customers didn’t come back, so I guessed they must have moved to a different place, or maybe they found a more convenience place.
We were not upset over that because that is part of business; we can’t satisfy all our customers. My parents continued to push forward and find ways to improve the salon. We hired more staffs, and they were all required to wear uniform to show professionalism. The business was still going well, so my parents were able to save a good amount of money; we bought a house, and my favorite part was the swimming pool. In my memory I thought only the rich people can afford something like that, but that miracle has happened to us. Also, they bought me more new clothes and a nice car for my 18th birthday.
Although some people might think that doing nails is not a highly prestige career, the profit that my parent made had given us better lives. Our business is more than just a business; it what we called an opportunity to have a great life. I know for a fact that many other Vietnamese people out here are working in this industry, and whether they love the job or not, it is still giving many of us an opportunity to earn a decent living without knowing English. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what your career is. As long as it is honest money, and it helps providing your family a good living then that is all it matters.