VIVO Hair Salon & Day Spa
Charles Town, 34
As a youngster in Cam Ranh, Vietnam, she never envisioned herself creating a career in the beauty industry, said Vi Vo Nguyen, whose VIVO Hair Salon and Day Spa is located in Harpers Ferry.
"Never in a million years!" Nguyen said. "Growing up, I did not care what I looked like. I was always being yelled at for not combing my hair or putting it up in a ponytail correctly."
After relocating to the United States in 2000, Nguyen found herself working at a salon in Alexandria, Va. Hoping to earn enough to send money back to her parents and three sisters in Vietnam, she tried jobs in data entry, food service and as a cashier.
Nguyen still loves seeing clients' responses after she's provided pampering.
"My family was poor, poor and poor," she said. "My parents were and still are incredibly hard-working people who sacrificed a lot to give their daughters the life we have now."
It was her then-fiancé who made it possible for her to come to the United States, Nguyen said. His job as a builder brought the couple to Charles Town in 2002. The couple has two sons, ages 11 and 9.
But as grateful as she is, Nguyen isn't content with the status quo for the state's beauty industry. In 2011, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin came to her spa to sign into law an idea she pushed that allows salons to hire shampooers who have taken a short training course in the state's health and sanitary practices regarding washing hair rather than only those with degrees from beauty or barber schools.
Now she's aiming to give other cosmetology rules a makeover. She wants West Virginia to adopt the licensing structure already in place in Virginia, Maryland and other states. She also wants West Virginia to offer its written cosmetology licensing test in other languages instead of English alone.