GARDEN GROVE, Calif. – Thousands of students have walked through and graduated from Advance Beauty College in Garden Grove since it was established. Siblings Tam Nguyen and Linh Nguyen took over the family business more than 20 years ago and are responsible in helping their beauty college students get one step closer to reaching their American Dreams.
“It’s been the hardest time and challenge we’ve ever dealt with,” says Tam Nguyen, co-owner of Advance Beauty College.
Their parents immigrated to the U.S. after the Fall of Saigon in 1975. Tam Nguyen was 1 year old when his family moved to California. His sister was born a few months later on Thanksgiving Day in 1975.
Their parents, Minh and Kien Nguyen, opened salons and a beauty college because they saw an opportunity to teach Vietnamese immigrants with little English skills a trade to help set them up for better lives. Since taking over the college, the siblings have grown the business into two different campuses. The legacy campus remains in Garden Grove in Little Saigon while their new campus was established in Laguna Hills.
Along with other small businesses, Advance Beauty College was hit hard after the coronavirus outbreak warranted a pandemic response by the government. The siblings had to temporarily close its schools and come up with a plan.
“When the coronavirus pandemic hit and the state's necessary stay-at-home order began, I experienced the same sorrow and panic gripping the nail industry that was comparable to the despair and sadness we all felt as refugees fleeing war-torn Vietnam,” says Tam Nguyen.
This week, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the first community spread of coronavirus in California started at a nail salon, but didn’t provide any additional details about where the salon is located and how health officials traced the case.
Tam Nguyen says the governor’s remark surprised and hurt him. His sister, Linh Nguyen, says she believes Newsom’s comment has the potential to instill fear in clients who are worried about their safety when they return to salons for their beauty needs.
In the Vietnamese heritage, most people prefer not to speak publicly about how they feel and especially in response to a big political figure. However, the siblings and other leaders in the beauty and nail care industries believed it was time to speak up. Nguyen held a press conference in front of Advance Beauty College on Friday morning after the governor’s comment Thursday evening.
“I felt like for the first time, our family and our business had a voice. That our community had a voice. I honestly felt like I was speaking to the governor,” says Tam Nguyen.
Since the COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, the siblings worked with their leadership team to make changes to their in-person curriculum to virtual distance learning. On top of that and making sure their business will be able to re-open, they reached out to their friends, family and partners to create the Nailing It for Health Care Workers Movement.
The siblings received donations and support from many members of the community including, but not limited to, Orange County United Way, Cal State Fullerton, Dr. Natalie Tran from Cards for Heroes, Viet Pham and the Recess Room, 20 different restaurant owners, Love to Yeu Foundation, Theresa Quynh Nguyen and Joe Nguyen and Kimberly Clark Fullerton Mill.
Together, they have donated 120,000 medical-grade face masks, 300,000 gloves and tens of thousands of other personal protective equipment along with delivering more than 20,000 restaurant meals for frontline health care workers and essential workers.
“In our industry, that’s what we can do and that’s what we’d love to instill in people. Giving them that sense of security, but letting them know that we can uplift them as well,” says Linh Nguyen.
She says the siblings are working with their team while they wait for California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology to release standards in safely welcoming back clients. In the meantime, the siblings have purchased sneeze guards, face shields and other supplies to help protect their students, employees and clients.
Advance Beauty College’s mission is to inspire students by providing a quality education and preparing each graduate for employment while serving their communities. The Nguyen siblings believe their mission can be applied to the health crisis our country and world is facing now with COVID-19.
The siblings say they want to educate and inspire others to give back to the country that has given them and so many others a chance to reach their American Dream.