‘Straightening is popular with some Irish girls’
2007-08-23 14:43:46 -

In the latest instalment of Metro Eireann’s Meet The Boss, SANDY HAZEL speaks to Jenny Jia and Zhang Yi of the Young Design Hair Studio in Dublin 

Dong Mei Jia, originally from Shen-jyang in China, has taken the European name of Jenny Jia. “It is easier when I am here to have Jenny as my name, previously it was hard for people to remember.”

Jia is a trained general nurse: “I trained and worked in hospitals in China. When I came to Ireland I needed some documents to enable me to work in hospitals here. I came at the end of 2000 and when I started applying there was a two year delay and then I was told that I could start doing six week replacement work, so they gave me a list of twenty hospitals in Ireland and I applied to each.  There were no vacancies, so I got trained as a dental nurse and took work.

“However, I started to reapply to hospitals as I was keen to return to general nursing. This time there was a requirement for a new letter, which indicates that I am trained and only need six weeks new training. Some paperwork went missing and it became impossible to replace. I was then being told that employers were only really interested in hiring groups and I was just one. So I decided that this was a sign that I wasn’t meant to go back into nursing.”

Jia continued working as a dental nurse at Smiles on Dublin’s O’Connell Street, and then determined that her husband’s business, a barbershop and hair salon, would benefit from some expansion.

“I started working part-time to help him out as he was getting busy,” she says. “My husband Zhang Yi is the owner. He used to work in Moore Street in another business; there were some problems with another business, which was hard. We had shares in a restaurant and internet café but we lost money in that situation. We did not know enough about business laws here or regulations. It is good sometimes in business to learn from these experiences but financially it’s difficult. I still work at nursing to help.”

Jia and her husband are recovering now and are wary about partnerships in the future. “It is hard to build back up, but we are managing, every day it gets better,” she says. Jia suggests that immigrants setting up in business in Ireland should have all their documents in order and be aware of laws relating to business start-up: “It would be a good idea to spend some of your capital on a good solicitor who will help you set up.”

The business, Young Design Hair Studio, is now situated at 84 Capel Street, at the Bolton Street junction, in an area that is getting busier each week. The salon does some marketing with flyers and recently bought a listing with a telephone marketing company which, according to Jia, has not been worth the spend. “It was very expensive and we have not had any customers as a result of it,” she says.

Clients at the salon are mainly young Chinese. Jia likes the social side of the business and reckons that she and Yi have even done a bit of matchmaking. The husband and wife team has expanded to include two part time Chinese hair stylists who are being trained and a Mauritian beauty therapist who offers waxing, aromatherapy and massage. The salon is currently looking for a Polish stylist who can assist with highlights and bleaching: “We do Japanese permanent straightening which is popular with some Irish girls.”

The massage service on offer is genuine aromatherapy massage. The walls of the massage room are hung with Traditional Chinese Medicine pressure point maps of the human body. Does Jia get annoyed with the perception that massage services are a by-word for prostitution? “Well I do get many calls asking if we ‘do everywhere’ or if there are any ‘extra services’ on offer,” laughs Jia. “I know exactly what they mean. When I explain that we only do traditional massage they are quite okay about it. Some even ask me if I know where they can go to get ‘special services’. I tell them that I do not.” 
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