Click. The lights come on revealing mirrored walls and chairs, ready for another day of cuts, blow dryers, palettes and hair. It’s going to be a busy day ahead, and the staff was getting ready for the clients coming in. An assistant was preparing boxes of lipstick, foundation, brushes and other tools, and made sure that nothing was left behind when they get to their event later in the afternoon.
John Sunga is in the center of it all, calling out instructions, reminders and tasks in his shop. For twenty years, he has been in the beauty industry, winning championships from prestigious competitions like the Filipino Hairdressers Cooperative (Fil-Hair Coop) and Hair Asia, with his plaques and awards lined up in a case inside his salon for everyone to see. A self-taught entrepreneur, he has found fulfilment through his craft, appreciation of beauty and helping young stylists achieve their dreams one cut at a time.
From humble beginnings
The second born in a family of six, John knew that he was passionate about hair and make-up. As a young boy, he played with other girls’ hair, twisting, curling, and braiding. This continued on in high school where he learned how to apply make-up. He went on to study Nursing but had to stop schooling because of lack of funds. While walking down the streets, a friend asked if he wanted get a job as a hair stylist, and without second thoughts, took the opportunity to follow his passion. This opened doors for him to hone his skills and improve his craft. After saving most of what he earned, he ventured out on his own and opened his own brand, The John Sunga Salon.
On Travel and Taking Risks
In his tenth year, competition was getting fiercer than ever. Corporate franchises increased, offering service bundles at much cheaper prices. But he persisted and chose to see the positive, listened to feedback from his clients as well as his staff, adapted to the changing times, and emerged a success.
Despite this, John decided to work in a cruise ship to test his skills and see how far he can go. “Travel taught me a lot about myself. From London to the Caribbean, I met a lot of characters and learned how to go with the flow. It was a humbling experience, and I quickly realized that I still had a lot to learn,’ he said.
Providing Quality Services
“In this business, bad experiences have the tendency to spread like wildfire, so that is why we make sure that our clients come out happy. That’s my secret. It’s the people, always the people.” - John Sunga, The John Sunga Salon
John says it’s all about creating an experience for his customers, a balance of finding the right talent, and maintaining a high standard for their work. “What we do here is beyond putting on make-up or cutting hair. We make sure that people leave here with a new perspective on how they see themselves,” he said. One customer shared her experience and why she chose John’s place. “I used to have my hair done in a different salon, but the treatment ruined it. John and his team fixed my hair and gave it back its life. Now I wouldn’t let anyone else touch it.”
“I can’t do it on my own and my team knows that. I always tell them that each person is responsible for our success. ” He also reiterates that humility and professionalism always comes first. “A skilled artist is nothing if he will only bring hell to others. You have to sway with the song to make great music.”
On Being a Self-Taught Entrepreneur
The burning desire to succeed has mellowed down, but the burning desire to keep going has taken its place. “If there’s anything I learned from ‘Mama’, it’s to nurture your gift, and share it with others.” Abby, one of the staff said.
Throughout his journey, he relied on instinct and experimenting on what works and what doesn’t. “One of my dreams now is to have these young stylists build their own name and start their own business the same way I did: through persistence, resilience, hard work and faith in a higher power that will guide you to people who will help you get where you’re supposed to be.”
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