The first generation of Vietnamese nail techs built the nail industry by tearing down its pricey and high-class barriers, working hard to offer the mani/pedi to the everyday woman. With long hours and hard-earned pay, the nail salon was a fast lane to the American Dream. But let’s be honest, the American dream wasn’t exactly a dream job at first. Doing nails was a way to survive, to provide for family and to give their children options that they would not have had they grown up elsewhere.
The second generation of Vietnamese nail techs, on the other hand, grew up with options. Those who stuck around saw a potential to build the salon using the skills and dedication passed down from their parents along with the marketing and brand understanding learned from growing up in the U.S. As the tech-savvy second generation enters the salon setting, there is a shift within, from a focus on dedicated hard work through more affordable services to a more complex structure using high-end products and marketing to entice visitors into the salon.
Robert and Victoria Luu, siblings and co-owners of Sènsé Nail Spa in Shoreline, Wash., went through this transition first-hand with the acquisition of their mother’s salon. “The second generation understands that clients might want something more, something different,” says Robert. “Instead of cutting prices, why not raise prices? Our mom wanted us to lower prices, but we raised the prices and added more value to our services.” With the renovation of their mother’s salon, Sènsé Nail Spa took on a different look and feel, drawing a more dedicated clientele. You can read more about Robert and Victoria's experience and watch videos of their salon's transformation here.
Starting out in an industry with set roots may be a daunting task for the younger set of nail techs who were raised in the U.S. For those who are navigating the generation gap, it is important to remember to embrace change and learn from each other. The working relationship between the first and second generations can prove to be a unique and worthwhile experience. Robert adds, “I believe the next generation of entrepreneurs will help build the industry. At the same time, we wanted to create a place that honors the forgotten women who went through so much and who are inspirations to everyone around them, just like our mom.”
What has your experience been like working in a salon with older (or younger) family members? What are some things you've been able to learn from each other? For second-generation salon owners, have you changed anything about the salon passed down to you?
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