An SOS alumni’s road to success in Laos
The lines outside Fog’s hair salon in the city of Vientiane in Laos show just how much he’s in demand.
People are willing to wait for hours to get their hair styled by him, and many aspiring hairstylists want to learn their craft from him.
But many may not know how this sought-after stylist, who grew up in an SOS Children’s Village, got his start – and why it is so important for the 29-year-old Fog (his nickname) to give back to the community and share his talents with other young people.
During festive seasons, for example, Fog offers free haircuts for many causes like patients undergoing chemotherapy or raising funds for charities that look after children. He organizes small workshops for haircutting at different events and the spots sell out fast.
Fog, who grew up in the SOS Children’s Village in Laos, is the eldest of three brothers who were brought to the village after losing their father to cancer. Their mother had passed earlier when the boys were young. He was 9 years old when he came to live in the village, and left there in 2015. All of his brothers are now out of care and well-settled with families and jobs.
Fog trained to become a teacher and taught at a primary school for five years. It was much later that he discovered his passion for hairstyling could also be his vocation.
“I had a real interest in styling hair ever since I was at the SOS Children’s Village. I remember I used to practice with my brothers and other siblings,” Fog says. “They were great models for me to practice and make mistakes. After I started working, I missed the camaraderie and the fun of snipping hair so I started going to work as a volunteer during weekends.”
Fog became very good, very fast. He soon started earning more at his part-time gig cutting hair than he did in his day job of teaching. This was the turning point for him.
Soon he left his teaching job and started working full-time as a hairstylist. After working for someone else for a few years Fog had saved enough money to start his own business.
“One day I saw an advertisement for a rental in an upmarket neighbourhood and I took the place up on rent to start my business. I had to take the risk. I realized otherwise I would always keep working in jobs others wanted me to work in,” he says.
Soon Fog’s business picked up and he had to start hiring staff. That’s when he realized that the market did not have enough talented young people with the required skills, so he started to train them. He started acting like a leader as soon as he understood that people valued his skill and needed it.
Many young people started coming to him to get trained so he started charging them for the internship. “I realized that what I am teaching is a valuable vocation, and I should charge for it from those who can pay. Now I make more money from training people about hairstyling than from the actual styling work.”
Many young people who grew up in the same SOS Children’s Villages have also chosen to do their vocational training under Fog and gone ahead to build profitable careers for themselves, says Lathsavay Phoumimala, Assistant Village Director.
“It is so nice to have positive role models like him in the same city making news and sharing transparently about their journey of growing up in alternative care,” says Lathsavay.
Hailed as a success story in many articles in the local media, Fog says growing up in a secure environment in SOS Children’s Villages gave him the courage to take a risk. “We were taught to take risks and move towards our dreams while growing up. The care we received at SOS Children’s Villages taught us that we could trust the world and ourselves and make a meaningful difference so I went out and followed my dream. I am glad I have played a small part in making the profession of a hairstylist more glamorous and aspirational,” says Fog.