SIA stewardess to hair salon owner: How this 30-year-old entrepreneur revived an old hair salon in Chinatown

PHOTO: Priscillia Wu, AsiaOne/Lynette Phua

To mark International Women's Day on March 8, AsiaOne will be spotlighting inspiring women from different walks of life in a series of stories released throughout the week. You can find them all here.

From having zero knowledge on hair-styling and running a business, to raking in a five-figure sum monthly – Priscillia Wu is an inspiration to many.

But it wasn't an overnight success.

"Let's just try lah!"

Once a Singapore Airlines stewardess, Priscillia, 30, shares how she faced "nasty" comments from her extended family when she decided to try her hand at taking over her mum's 40-year-old hair salon, Jin Hair.

"Some looked down on hairdressing because it's not a very 'aspiring' job," she said.

Priscillia's grandmother and aunts even questioned her: " [why] take up a job that you have to stand for long hours, don't make good money, [and] have no time for your family".

Priscillia with her hair salon's new 'Instagram backdrop'. PHOTO: AsiaOne/Lynette Phua

The then 25-year-old, who was working in a health screen company after flying for two years, took no notice of their well-meaning advice and stuck to her guns. The real reason for taking over the salon? It was precious to Priscillia's mum as she has been running it for many years she said.

"I think it'd be very sad to see it close down due to the lack of digitalisation.

"I was like, 'let's just try lah, who knows, it could be very fulfilling?' And I thought I could be happier doing this than being stuck in an office job, which I've tried doing before."

Five years on, Priscillia has proved her naysayers, and society wrong.

This mother of two – a two-year-old and a new born child – has expanded her team of hairstylists. She has also almost doubled the size of her salon in Chinatown as well as gave the space a total facelift.

The salon now houses a brighter interior, an Instagrammable vertical garden-like wall, and a cute neon signage in the shape of the mother-daughter duo. It's a stark contrast from the rest of the stores at People's Park Centre.

Jin Hair's newest addition – a neon signage featuring Priscillia and her mum. PHOTO: Priscillia Wu

The most impressive part? She did it all late last year while the world's economy was stuttering due to the pandemic.

"Covid didn't make things difficult for us. In fact, a lot of new customers (have been) coming in because they can't go into Malaysia!

"Actually a lot of Singaporeans do their hair in JB (Johor Bahru)! I didn't know until this Covid thing happened and I chatted with the new customers," Priscillia shared.

Zero returns in her first year

Priscillia and her biggest fan and critic – her mum. PHOTO: AsiaOne/Lynette Phua

While this #girlboss is enjoying the fruits of her labour now, she revealed that she actually had zero returns in her first year.

"When I first stepped into this line, my mum already gave me all the authority. She made me pay her rent (her mum had bought the shop), and give her a little salary, so the first year, after paying rent, salaries and all, I had pretty much nothing left!"

Her mum had told her: "If you do it well, you'll get revenue. If not, you can suffer by yourself."

And that, Priscillia shared, remains how the mother and daughter have had no major conflicts since the start.

"It's a blessing"

The chirpy duo at Jin Hair. PHOTO: AsiaOne/Lynette Phua

"We're both not very strong-headed kind of people, and she's semi-retired now – she comes in at 2pm and leaves about 6pm. It's a pretty good life for her now," shares Priscillia with a chuckle.

The filial daughter even went on about how it is a "blessing" to be working with her mum.

"I am happy to work together with her because one day, she would probably not be working with me anyone.

"It's a blessing that I get to see her, work closely with her, and learn from her every day!"

"I still make mistakes"

Priscillia still takes up hairdressing courses every few months to update her skills. PHOTO: AsiaOne/Lynette Phua

For Priscillia, the learning never stops.

"When I took over Jin Hair from my mum, my skill was probably quite horrible because I was very new, and hairdressing is something that really requires experience," Priscillia, who studied at Kimage Hairdressing School for a year before taking over the reins, said.

Her mum, her-then-boyfriend-now-husband, and a few of her cabin crew batch mates were all her hair models.

Priscillia's mum – her biggest fan and critic – would hold a mirror to see what she was doing, and point out her mistakes when the then green hairstylist cut her hair for the first few times.

"Even until today, I'm still learning, and of course, I still make mistakes.

"When customers are, say, not happy with their colour (job), and if they are willing to come back for a retouch, then it's a great learning experience for me," shares Priscillia, adding that 'repairing' is one of the toughest and most fulfilling jobs.

"If I manage to make them (her customers) happy, that's the best [reward for me]."

Happiness – the one thing Priscillia wants for her customers, as well as for herself. 

"I am happy where the hair salon is now.

"I don't have the extra energy to grow and expand the business right now," Priscillia said with a laugh, citing family time as a priority.

"What I have now is good enough."