It all started 40 years ago thanks to a Hollywood actress. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, Tippi Hedren, an actress famous for starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s movies in the 1960s, visited a Vietnamese refugee camp in Sacramento.
When she noticed the women there admired her long, polished nails, she recognized an opportunity to teach them a new trade: manicure.
It made a lot of sense: a manicure business demands very little capital to start, and good English communication isn’t a required skill for manicurists.
More importantly, at the time, manicure was an expensive service reserved for the rich, but Tippi knew that refugees could offer the same service at a much lower rate, which means they would be free of competition.
So she flew in her personal manicurist to teach nail technology to a group of 20 Vietnamese women. Tippi also insisted on having them learn top-of-the-trade techniques so that they would become highly employable.
And Tippi was right. With the amazing services and prices that they could offer, the Vietnamese manicurists were unrivaled in the US. They quickly secured employment and became their families’s main money makers.
After some time, many of them started their own business and employed even more Vietnamese. From there, manicure became a staple business for the Vietnamese community in the US. They dominate the market and basically any Vietnamese American women unable to find better paying jobs will join the manicure industry. Eventually the business model even spread to Vietnamese in other Western countries.