Annie left Vietnam in 1979 to establish a life in San Francisco. Every day, she worked in a restaurant from 9 am to 2 pm and then trained at a nail salon from 2 pm to 8 pm. Once she earned her nail license, she quit the restaurant and started working at the nail salon full-time.
One day, a loyal customer asked Annie why she didn’t have her own business and offered to help her start her own. In 1985, Annie opened her own nail salon.
Annie’s business started small—at first, she had three employees, and as she describes, “Day 1: one customer, Day 2: two customers.” Now, she has 12 full-time and part-time employees, and after 31 years of owning a business, she has many devoted clients who first came to her in 1985 and now bring their children and grandchildren.
A Nail Salon is More Than a Business
By owning her own business, Annie and her husband, a parking valet attendant, were able to purchase a home in San Francisco where they raised their four children. Lucky Nails is now putting three of her children, now grown, through college, and Annie's eldest is a practicing dentist.
Annie will tell you that, without a doubt, her life has improved by opening and growing her business. Annie works 10 hours per day and 6 days a week—less than she ever has before. She has been able to go on vacation four times. Her business also makes her profoundly happy: “Now I have everything. I am so happy I have this business.”
Employees are like Family
Annie grew her business from three to 12 employees over the years. She runs the business like a family, treating her employees as an extension of her own. When Annie was concerned by the toxic fumes in her shop, she came to Opportunity Fund for a loan to purchase equipment to make her nail salon a healthier, safer work environment.
Annie was connected to Opportunity Fund through the “Healthy Nail Salon” microloan program, a collaboration between California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and the EPA. The program offers loans with 0% APR to nail salons so they purchase equipment that makes them healthier and safer work environments.
Annie’s salon, Lucky Nails, is the first salon to participate in the program and to achieve “Healthy Nail Salon” status. With her loan, Annie bought new equipment, less toxic products, masks, gloves, disposable tools, and a ventilation machine. Annie is proud to be taking better care of her employees and her clients. “Now we’re like nail doctors, and I am so proud of this,” she said. Annie prominently hangs her “Healthy Nail Salon” plaque in Lucky Nails.
Annie encourages her employees to be entrepreneurs and open their own businesses. “You can work for me, and I don’t mind if you leave to open your own nail salon,” she said. Annie has also inspired many of her family members to their own start businesses, passing her entrepreneurial spirit on to the next generations.
Annie's loan was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Leslie Fund for Entrepreneurship.