Husband and wife embrace American Dream
by Clay Neely
The pursuit of the American Dream can often come in various forms or interpretations.
For one Newnan couple, their journey from third world poverty to proud business owners is a story in which they take great pride.
Anna Mai Baksh was 12 when her family emigrated from Vietnam to Queens, New York.
Growing up, she had always been fascinated with cosmetology, and with nine other siblings in her home, she had plenty of opportunities to practice her growing interest.
“I cut hair for not only my family but for the entire neighborhood,” said Anna. “Since I was a young girl, it had always been my dream to have my own salon. It feels pretty remarkable to look around and see where I am now.”
Her husband, Michael, was also an immigrant. A native of the South American country of Guyana, his family moved to New York when he was 16. While attending the Vaughn College of Aeronautics, he met Anna.
In 1994, they were married and moved to Coweta County. Michael went to work at Yamaha as an engineer while Anna was a stay-at-home mother for her two children, Brandon and Megan.
Once their children were in school full-time, Anna began cutting hair locally. Sharpening her skills and building up her reputation, she knew that her diligent work ethic and attitude would pay off.
“I’ve always maintained that your name is one of the most important assets you have,” Anna said. “It can take you places and open doors.”
Over the years, the Baksh family continued to slowly expand their potential. So it wasn’t long before Anna’s childhood dream of opening her own business began to gain momentum.
With their children in college and high school, Michael and Anna decided that the time was just right to finally open the family salon they had envisioned. However, with no prior experience in management or retail, their new venture was a leap of faith.
After searching potential properties for the salon, they found the ideal location on Tower Way in the Thomas Crossroads area. Since opening Mai Salon, the Baksh family has relied on word of mouth and Facebook to market their new venture – citing that one of the best methods of advertising are satisfied customers and their testimonials.
While Michael is still fully committed to working at Yamaha as his full-time job, he feels that Mai Salon is a strong family business in which both he and Anna adhere to the same values and principles that are shared by other family-owned businesses.
Because of their financial game plan, they can take a conservative approach to how they are prepared to grow into the future.
“We are in a unique position right now where we can build our business to our specifications in terms of personnel,” Michael said. “There is no huge rush to hire someone right off the street – we want to ensure that the people we hire are the perfect fit because we envision a long-term relationship with them.”
While the family subscribes to a long-term model of growth for their new business, the operation itself hit the ground running – taking only three months to complete the new salon.
“Between building codes, contractors, inventory – it’s been an eye-opening experience,” said Michael. “But we learn from our mistakes and persevere.”
“It has been a lot of hard work so far but it’s been very exciting as well,” Anna said. “We are really happy with the success we’ve enjoyed so far but are definitely eager to take on more work.”
While Anna remains focused on increasing her base, she maintains that the foundation for future success is a strong brand name. She feels that a reputation for quality and character should be shared by any future employees of the salon.
“While we are starting small, it’s all part of a long term vision of quality,” Anna said. “When we grow, it will only be with people that we consider family and share the same values and attributes that we do.”
In the end, win or lose, the Baksh family feels that their journey will always be ongoing and are happy to have the friends and experiences that lead them up to this point in their lives.
“Regardless if we succeed or fail, we set out to experience the American Dream of owning your own business,” Anna said. “Both of us came from third world countries and grew up poor – but we have always believed that if you work hard and apply yourself, you can achieve anything.”