Tuyet Bui lived for more than 30 years in Charlotte, North Carolina, before relocating to Prince William County in the winter of 2017. She settled her family, including her two teenage kids, in Manassas and purchased the already successful Sassy Nails & Spa location located at 10695 Sudley Manor Drive in 2018.
“I really wanted a new place in a new city – and when I bought this business, it was because of the location, the sales and the income” says Bui.
Bui had more than 10 years running her own salon in Charlotte, and has always worked in the nail and esthetician industry. For the first two years after purchasing Sassy Nails & Spa, the sales were great and Bui hired more employees. When she first heard about COVID-19 on Facebook, she did not take it seriously until the March 2020 shutdown.
"It hit so suddenly, so hard,” says Bui. “The three-month shutdown really hurt because we still had to pay our employees and our rent. Our customers were scared, and I was kind of scared. I kept thinking, ‘what was going to happen next?’”
Bui was able to stay in business after receiving relief from the first round of the U.S. Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as well as a Prince William County Small Business Relief Micro-Grant. The Department of Economic Development processed more than 600 checks totaling $4.67 million in aid to small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I had customers who owned small businesses and they told me about the microgrant and told me to apply. It helped get us through and I appreciated it,” says Bui.
Yet the microgrant and PPP could not bring customers back to the salon fast enough to cover the losses from the shutdown. Bui estimates an overall 40% decrease in revenue since 2020 as well as a 20% decrease in her staff.
“The federal stimulus checks really helped our sales,” says Bui. “For the two weeks after each check, our sales skyrocketed. Our regular customers are starting to come back, but the consistency is not here yet. They don’t come back as often.”
Although she would like to see more customers coming through the door, Bui is compassionate about her customers’ health concerns. She has prioritized sanitizing service stations, installing safety shields, requesting mask usage, and most importantly, requiring her employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“This has to do with the whole world, not just me,” says Bui. “But this business does serve as income for me and my family. I want to get back to our regular lives.”
With restrictions easing and the community slowly getting back to pre-COVID activities, Bui is hopeful for the summer with her community of customers returning to the salon.
“I like to serve the community, and I like to make people happy,” says Bui. “I would not do anything else; I like being in business, but you have to have passion and guts to lead a business right now.”