Mia’s Story

MIA DINH

Owner / Manager
Hammer & Nails, Hollywood, CA

Our graduates come from all walks of life and their careers span a vast array of fields within the beauty industry. What they all have in common, is that their story started at the Aveda Institute. We sat down with some alumni to hear their story in their own words.

We’re excited to share their stories to inspire you to start your great story with us!

If you’re an alumni and want to tell your story, email greatstories@nurturaveda.com

Tell me your story, in your own words.

I’m a Cincinnati native. I grew up in West Chester and I thought that life meant you grow up, go to college, get a job in a cubicle and work there until you die. That’s what I saw and what was around me and you know, I did that. I was in school. I went to University of Cincinnati. I picked a program that I thought best fit me out of what was available, which was to go into social work.

I thought that life meant you grow up, go to college, get a job in a cubicle and work there until you die.

When I was in school, I started working at a salon as the front desk girl. I actually got fired because I started doing hair, after hours, which I was not supposed to do. Somebody had asked me to do their hair. I wasn’t licensed at all. That was the thing that triggered me to go into hair school. I remember working all summer to transfer into this school of social work from a sociology program. I worked really hard and I took extra classes and it was like a month out before school was supposed to start and I remember I hadn’t booked any of my classes which means you’re not going to get any of the classes you want. I was with my parents and it was like a coming out moment for me. I stood in front of them in the living room. I’ll never forget this moment, I told them hey, you know, I think I want to be a hairstylist and they just kind of blinked and looked at me and they were like, “Well, we knew that. We couldn’t tell you.” I was like, oh, ok then!

I was with my parents and it was like a coming out moment for me. I stood in front of them in the living room. I’ll never forget this moment, I told them “Hey, you know, I think I want to be a hairstylist.”

I had gone to visit the Aveda Institute. That was the only place to go in my mind. I had met with Deanna in admissions and everything. She had told me, if you’re going to finish what you’re doing at school, go finish that and then come here. Otherwise, you won’t go back and finish your degree. I think that whole moment had happened at the point when I realized I had no interest in finishing my program because once that had already been stirred in me, I realized this is what I want. I went back to Deanna and said ok I’m ready. I was so excited to begin my journey there.

I was so nervous. It was just a pipe dream. I had never dreamed to leave Cincinnati. It was a “why not” moment.

I remember attending a career fair and the Van Michael [Salon] table was there. I was just so intimidated by them that it took me probably twenty minutes to work up the nerve to just run up to the table and grab a folder. I just ran off before talking to anyone. I was so nervous. It was just a pipe dream. I had never dreamed to leave Cincinnati. It was a “why not” moment. I started corresponding with their Director of Recruitment and one thing led to another. I went to Atlanta for an interview and ended up spending 8 years there. I worked with Brandon Darragh, who was the International Design Director. He was my mentor for three of those years. I became a specialist and an educator while I was there and built a whole life in Atlanta.

After eight years, I ended up moving to Denver. That was a completely different change-of-pace. I worked in a salon where I became their Education Director for their cutting program and I was a cutting specialist as well.

When I was living in Atlanta, I had met my now ex-husband. His dream was always to move out to California. He was ready to get out of Atlanta and one day he said we have to go; I can’t be here anymore. Denver was hard. It wasn’t the stable and abundant environment for that industry that I had in Atlanta and now have in LA. There was some struggling there.

I maxed out 2 credit cards to buy a plane ticket to Folsom, in Sacramento. I showed up at this place and nobody asked me to do this, but I secret shopped their store.

I had an opportunity where a friend of mine, who was actually a client from Van Michael, basically asked me to come out and meet this corporate team of this men’s grooming concept. They were trying to sell him as a franchisee. I was struggling. I maxed out 2 credit cards to buy a plane ticket to Folsom, in Sacramento. I showed up at this place and nobody asked me to do this, but I secret shopped their store. I was supposed to meet with the COO the next day and have lunch and a service with him and all these things. The day before, I went to their store and received a service. I went back to my hotel room and I wrote out 50 questions, just everything I could think of. Why do you do it this way? Have you thought about this? Have you thought about x,y, z? It wasn’t a job interview or anything. I was there to be sold as a franchisee. They were pitching me. So, the next day, when I met them, it was the moment of, I don’t know what’s going on but I’m in front of the right person at the right time. It’s time to tap dance and shine. So basically, I just sat there and asked him 50 questions about the concept. They called me six weeks later and asked if I would consider relocating to LA to run their flagship store.

So that’s primarily what I do now. I’m the general manager and I also do management consulting. I connected with Ginger Boyle out here. She’s the former Art Director for Aveda, was good friends with Horst [Rechelbacher] (Aveda’s founder), they go way back. I’m also working with Planet Salon and doing management consulting and advanced education with them. I also recently got into public speaking with my education. Atlanta was good too. When I was there, I became a published travel and makeup artist and hair stylist. I did music videos. I did movies and press release tours.

 

So your parents could always tell you wanted to do hair but you didn’t really know it?

Yeah

 

What did you think you wanted to do? What drove you into social work? How does that tie in to where you eventually ended up, which is making people feel better and feel good about themselves?

I wanted to be a therapist and I did, I just did it in a totally different chair with different liability. I still got to be a therapist for sure. What I loved about being a hair stylist was that it allowed me to have a different dialogue every day when I went to work. I could still touch people’s lives and be a healing influence to them. I could still develop these beautiful connections with clients, but it wasn’t always heavy with this heavy burnout which is something you see in social work. People just burned out all the time because it seemed to be tragic all the time. There was more diversity in the conversation in this chair.

 

What were your dreams in the beauty industry when you go started? You’ve done a lot. Has it been what you expected or if not, how has it differed?

It’s been different in a lot of really beautiful ways. The opportunities are more abundant and diverse than I originally thought. When I was little, I had several dreams. I wanted to be an artist, I wanted to be a teacher, and as I got older, I wanted to be a therapist. Being a hair stylist allowed me to be all of those things. What I love about this industry is I get to lean into different elements of it. When I started, I just thought I wanted to be a normal hair stylist behind the chair. Then I started teaching and I realized that’s where I lit up. That’s my passion and my wheelhouse, training and education. Even when I work now, while I do run their store here, I also travel. I developed a national protocol for the entire network. I travel nationally every time we open a new store. I do all the advanced training and education as well.

I wanted to be an artist, I wanted to be a teacher, and as I got older, I wanted to be a therapist. Being a hair stylist allowed me to be all of those things.

 

What skills did you learn, along the way, that were not specifically technical skills, that allowed you to do all the work, not behind a chair?

I learned sales and marketing. I can’t underscore enough how important customer service and just the delicate art of serving are. Van Council (owner and founder of Van Michael Salon) has said that soft skills are more important than technical skills, any day of the week. One of my proudest moments during my career happened when I was working at Van Michael. We had been secret shopped by the woman who wrote the customer service culture for Ritz Carlton and Disney. I was one of the four people she secret shopped out of the 500 people in the company. She stood in a room with 30 of my managers and told them that I had hit it out of the park because it’s always just in the details. You know the language and just being mindful, anticipating someone’s needs before they need something, looking at those extra elements.

I never dreamed of working with celebrities or working on music videos or movies or things like that. It’s changed everything. It’s given me a life of dreams I didn’t even know I had.

 

You spend a lot of time making others feel better and making them feel more confident about themselves. How has working in the beauty industry added value to your life?

I mean, it’s been my whole life. It has been such a transformative journey. It’s everything I do. It’s connected me to people who have created opportunities, who have changed the trajectory of my whole life. It’s taken me literally across the country. It was never my dream to live in LA or even do well living in LA. But I am. I live in the heart of Hollywood and it’s allowed me to have clients and experiences. I never dreamed of working with celebrities or working on music videos or movies or things like that. It’s changed everything. It’s given me a life of dreams I didn’t even know I had. Everyone I know, everything I do, is connected through this. It’s all connected.

 

Is there a moment or a series of moments you would consider the highlight of your career so far?

Yeah absolutely. I think one of the biggest moments, even recently, is when Ginger Boyle called me. I’ve been following her for ten years. She’s huge. She basically co-founded Aveda with Horst. She reached out to me and said, I’ve been watching you, I want you to come work with me. We’ve also become friends and are working on developing even bigger projects.

It’s a small moment but even that secret shop was a big deal to me because it validated what I already felt in my heart, which is a passion for service. Right now, I run a men’s grooming concept. When I was in training with Van Michael and I was still brand new, I had met my now ex-husband because he was a barber and I wanted to be mentored in barbering. Basically, that was just not a thing they did there. At the time, it was sort of forbidden. I was getting in trouble because I was practicing it when I wasn’t supposed to be. Fast forward to a few years later, they asked me to run their barbering program. I already had my foot out the door though. Being fired at the hair salon, being the person that didn’t always follow the rules, served me well. Just following your heart instead, it has led me to some really beautiful places.

Work hard and show up. Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know.

 

If you could go back and start over, would you do anything different?

Yes. I would take more risks. If I could talk to myself ten years ago, I would tell myself to work hard and show up. Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know.

 

What are your current dreams?

My heart is in the idea of being able to connect with others in the beauty industry and help them grow their dreams. That’s my prime focus, to make this industry a better place for them and also for them to be able to reach inside themselves and unlock their own potential and realize how powerful they are and be able to expand their own world by what’s already inside of them. Help connect them to the realization of what’s inside of them.

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