Finish Lines: Gwen Tran

Gwen Tran, co-owner of Envy Nail Spa at her Mt Lebanon salon.

Gwen Tran, 38, her husband, Nguyen, and their children, Nathan, 10, and Nadalyn, 9, live on Crystal Drive.  Gwen was born in Saigon, Vietnam, and came to the United States in 1992. She graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School in 1997 and earned a degree in economics at Pitt. The Trans own three Envy Nail Spas in the South Hills. Their first, in Lebanon Shops, turned 10 in September.

How did you get into the beauty industry? I met Nguyen at a nightclub in college. He was born in Vietnam and came as a refugee to the U.S. in 1980 and to Pennsylvania in 1997. He taught me how to do nails. I learned so I could help him run his salons (in Uniontown and Morgantown). When I was pregnant with our first child, we decided to move back to Mt. Lebanon.

Why do you think you have been so successful in business? I’m very personable. I see my clients as my friends rather than just customers. I work hard and I make sure I’m at the salon most of the time to oversee everything.

What was it like growing up as an immigrant in Mt. Lebanon? What is something people might misunderstand about it? It was not easy. I came here with no or very little English. My brothers and I sometimes got mocked and picked on in school. On the other hand, there were many great friends I knew and they kinda helped to make me feel better.  I learned to let things go, and I don’t
let the people who made fun of me bother me anymore.

A lot of times, people think because you came from Vietnam that you are communist. My family are from South Vietnam, and my dad served during the Vietnam War.  He was with the American side and was captured for many years after the war ended. So to think that we are communist is actually an insult. 

What is a salon trend you think customers will embrace?  Dipping powder (a bonding agent is painted on the nail, which is then dipped in colored powder). It will replace the acrylic and be safer for your natural nails.

What is your advice to people just starting out in business? Dream big. Never give up your dream. Don’t be afraid to take risks, and follow your instinct.