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Meet Mai Khanh Do of Plaza Hair Salon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mai Khanh Do.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My story started almost 40 years ago when I came to the United States. I was born in Vietnam and my parents moved here when I was little. Just like many other families in our country, we were hoping that the US would welcome us with more opportunities.

We were full of hope and we knew that this was our chance of having a better life. My parents were not wealthy, we gave up almost everything we had at home to afford to move here. But they were very hard working and ready to make any sacrifice to ensure me and my siblings a better future. Our first years here were the most memorable period of my life. As a child, I was absolutely fascinated by this new and intriguing reality. I was amazed by how different people were and by their way of life. Maybe this was also the period when I developed my love of diversity which now urges me to explore new hairstyles and unleash my creativity.

Anyway, coming back to my first years in the US, I now realize that my passion for hair styling also grew then. My mother is the one who introduced me to this trade and later on supported me when I decided to open my own business. I have so many vivid memories of my mother doing our neighbors’ hair on Saturday morning. I loved to just sit beside her and stare at her while she carefully washed, cut, and twisted locks of hair. To me, it all seemed like a beauty ritual, a special moment when time stood still or, more precisely, when time didn’t matter. I still find hairstyling fascinating after years of practice and I still indulge in my work with the same pleasure I used to observe my mother years ago.

Long story short, when I was old enough to take a job seriously and to be taken seriously, I started working side-by-side with my mother. She taught me everything she knew at the time and, surprisingly, I taught her how to be more creative and dare for more. Soon, what I thought would remain a hobby, turned into a life-long profession. I joined the Marinello School of Beauty in Lakewood, CA and graduated in 1991, getting a license in cosmetology. However, I didn’t stop there because I always liked to push my boundaries. So, I went on and took several other specialization courses at the famous Joe Blasco Studio in Hollywood as well as Dinair Studio in North Hollywood. Seeing how complex and varied the beauty industry was, I thought it would be a shame not to learn more.

I decided to take a course in facial aesthetics as well. I went to Dermtologica in Irvine for this training and I became a licensed waxing technician and facial esthetician. After specializing in Bridal Updo and Bridal Makeup, I made up my mind and decide to dedicate all my time and resources to my biggest passion – styling. I completed haircut and color courses at the Redken Academy in New York and continuously improved my skills with the aid of online courses. I have worked in San Diego for 12 years as a hair stylist before I was able to open my own salon. I now have an experience of more than 25 years of working in the esthetic industry and I proudly manage the Plaza Hair Salon in Rancho Bernardo, CA.

Has it been a smooth road?
The road to success is never a smooth one, unless you are lucky enough to have a family business that’s already well-established before you get to take the helm. And even then, you still face the challenges of leadership and the need to live up to the expectations of your family and peers. My story was different because I started this business on my own, with the resources I had at the time. It wasn’t easy, and it required great sacrifice. When I first opened, I used to work 10 to 12 hours a day each day. I couldn’t afford employees, so I did my best to take care both of my clients and the paperwork that was piling up on my desk. It was hard, it was challenging, but in the end, it was worth it.

Looking back, I even miss those busy months when I was so immersed in my work that I didn’t realize what day or time of the day it was. All I knew is that I had a dream, I wanted to be able to do what I liked best in a professional environment. I always wanted to build a place where people would feel comfortable and enjoy the results they longed for. At first, I struggled to keep up with the demand, as it was difficult to take care of all my clients by myself. Then, I started collaborating with great people who were eager to learn more and develop their skills working by my side and everything became easier.

The clients were satisfied, my colleagues also loved their work and I was simply thrilled that my dream was materializing itself. Of course, there were more challenges along the way. As the business started to grow, thanks to the infallible means called word of mouth, I saw myself swamped with work again. The difference this time was that I started being more of a manager and less of a hair stylist which brought me joy and sorrow at the same time. Yes, I was delighted to run my own business, but it was so boring to get lost among invoices, bills and contracts instead of being out there in front of the mirror giving beauty tips to my clients while thinking of an awesome hairdo.

Gradually, I managed to find a balance and nowadays I have trustworthy people by my side who help me take care of my business, make sure my taxes are paid on time and market my services both online and offline. It took a while to get here and there is plenty more ahead.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Plaza Hair Salon story. Tell us more about the business.
We offer a wide array of hair care services. Whatever it is that has to do with hair, we do it. I’m not going to bore you with a detailed description of all our services and the techniques we deploy. All that info’s already on our website and who knows in what other corners of the web. In short, we can do anything you want us to with your hair: color, balayage, foil, highlights, all-over color, haircuts. Moreover, we also offer professional makeup services, having a vast experience in wedding makeup, prom and homecoming services. We’ve helped so many women look great on these occasions that we’re always up to date with the latest trends and preferences.

What sets us apparat from other businesses in this field is our family-friendly approach. Of course, mothers with children are welcome in other salons too. But they can’t seem to get enough hours. The classical image one would have of a beauty salon or a hair salon is a place where you would mostly see ladies with their legs crossed reading magazines or gossiping about celebrities. Of course, there’s a lot of talking and there are plenty of magazines you can read at our salon too. But there are also a lot of children and men of all ages. We’re a welcoming team and we’re glad to help anyone who’s got a hair dilemma or needs professional make-up for their next big event. If you open the door of our salon, there are quite high chances that you stumble upon a bunch of children playing.

Another thing that distinguishes us is the fact that we accept group bookings. So, if someone wants to come here with all their family to get fixed for a special event, we’re up to the challenge. Most commonly, we do this for brides and bride maids and the results are always satisfactory. For example, besides dressing similarly, there also has to be a balance in the maid’s makeup and hairstyle and this is what we help them achieve. All in all, if someone comes to us with a simple request to cut his or her hair shorter or someone wants a radical hair change, we’re up to the quest.

I am most proud of the quality of our services and the personalized experience we offer each client. I know that this sounds a little bit too corporate-style, but there’s no other way I could describe what’s happening at the Plaza Hair Salon. I see the results of my colleagues’ efforts and, even if they worked for a different salon, I would say the same thing; they’re doing an excellent job. Moreover, I see the satisfaction in our clients’ eyes when they see how well their hair looks or how gorgeous they are with that type of make-up. It’s that kind of look in their eyes that makes words redundant.

I know they’re happy with what we’ve done for them and I know they’ll keep coming back for more. And that’s all a business needs to strive; satisfied clients that become your loyal customers and, ultimately, the people you get to know and work with for years.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Fortunately, women will always want to look good, so the demand for these services will always be high. Moreover, in recent years I’ve seen an increasing tendency to get professional makeup and hair services from early ages. So, I would say that this industry will continue to flourish. Of course, a high demand gives rise to a wider offer, so I do expect more salons to open and more professionals to extend their range of services. But there’s no need to worry.

This has always been a competitive field, but there’s always been plenty of work for anyone who’s skilled and honest. As for the tendencies that will dominate in the years to come, we can only wait and see. Trends appear and disappear overnight. It’s enough to see a famous star posting a viral picture of her new haircut on Instagram and have dozens of girls asking for that haircut over the next days. People are easily influenced by the media nowadays and nothing lasts as long as it used to do. For us as professionals in the field of beauty, this is only a plus because it guarantees a constant workflow.

I try to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and techniques in the field by going to workshops and checking the most popular tutorials and online courses. But these only highlight my conclusion; the trends are constantly shifting, which is not surprising at all. Today, more than ever, we have the liberty to be different and yet alike, so I expect diversity to be the drive of this industry in the years to come.

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