The Lower Mainland has an abundance of talent across many industries, many of which are being led by South Asian entrepreneurs and leaders. This series aims to highlight up-and-coming local businesses, creators and artists in a Humans Of New York-esque interview.

Hairtell Salon is a prime example of an immigrant dream turned into a budding success. Hairstylist Raj Mand and her Hairtell family sat down with 5XPress to discuss all things hair salon, family and cultivating their passion.

Mand is a hair stylist based in Surrey, and is one-third of Hairtell Salon—a mom, dad and daughter run business in Surrey. She is certainly one to watch out for in the hairstyling industry, with her most recent work being featured on the big screen, with her recent credits including being responsible for Sonam Bajwa’s locks in Bollywood blockbuster Honsla Rakh

Her family business, Hairtell Salon, caught my attention when I sat in their salon chair myself. 

In addition to the craft of hairstyling, you can clearly see the passion for hair that was passed down in the Mand family and that is the foundation of the business at every level. 

Raj and her parents Kam and Dave have an extensive clientele in the Lower Mainland, with some even traveling from Kamloops and Kelowna just to get styled by them. They are known not only for good hair, but the great conversations you’ll have while you’re getting your hair done. 

Their name “Hairtell” comes from Dave, who started this endeavour believing that hair tells a story -- and the Mand family wants to be a part of that story. Whether it’s personality, age, or what stage of life you’re at, hair has the ability to speak on one’s behalf.

However, immigrating to Canada and learning an unfamiliar craft to then make a successful business is easier said than done.  

“I went to the hair salon with Kam to her appointment, and he noticed how everyone was so happy to get a new look and a good service. That inspired me to check out hair schools in Vancouver in 1999 to see how I can do that as well,” said Dave.

“To this day we still find it very fulfilling making our clients excited about their new looks and feel like the best version of themselves through their hairstyles.”

Raj shared that her parents' journey was both challenging and rewarding, and taught her so much.

“When I had a conversation with my parents about their hardships, my dad said ‘every hurdle will fall if you are 100% motivated,’” she said.

“Yes, it was an up and down journey, as it is with anything, but nothing stood in the way of them following their passions.”

Family businesses don’t always get passed down through generations, sometimes due to a lack of shared passions, but Raj has the drive to pursue her own path in the industry. 

In her personal journey, she shared that she started to work with local vendors on content creation collaborations, which eventually led to her first big-screen gig. 

“I started using Instagram to broadcast my work and the salon, and through the platform I was able to connect with the beauty community here in Surrey. That led me to creating new relationships and friendships. I've met so many like-minded individuals,” she said.

Honsla Rakh was released earlier this year starring Diljit Dosanjh, Sonam Bajwa and Shehnaaz Gill. I asked Raj how she felt about her first big on-screen styling project.  

“We did a wide range of different hairstyles throughout the movie giving me a chance to really showcase my work on a bigger scale. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have worked on this film and can’t wait for the next one.” 

She emphasizes the importance of experiences and exploring all parts of the hair industry, and expanding on her craft. 

”I would want to be a versatile stylist that has the freedom to be in the salon working on my clients one day and being on set somewhere the next.” says Raj

Coming up on two decades of running their business, Raj and her parents credit their success to their family ambience.

 “We are a three person team and work side by side so we can support each other by assisting one another. Teamwork has truly carried us throughout the years,” says Kam.

Raj and her family also have huge aspirations for the next few years. 

“We want to train other stylists with the techniques that we have learned over the last 20+ years,” said Raj.

The family shared their aspirations of expanding right here in Surrey, and telling and hearing many more stories from right here in the community.

“Surrey is our home and always will be, so we would definitely stay and grow our business here. We have gotten so much love from the community in this city, it's only right to do so here.” 

“We want to expand to the highest level and pass on our expertise or the next generation” 

With many more young Punjabi creators making it big in Surrey, it’s finally time for us to seek mentors within our own community. 

This salon might have been the dream of an immigrant couple wanting to make it, but they opened so many doors for others along the way. 

All photos captured by Harleen Grewal.

About the author

Harleen Grewal

Harleen is a Journalism Student who hopes to combine her love for writing and passion for photography to create a unique mish-mash for local South-Asian readers. When she isn’t busy being a tourist in B.C., you can find her attempting new recipes (and often failing), re-reading Arundhati Roy novels and keeping up with her role as manager at a mortgage brokerage. Her biggest obsession is her instagram feed @photosbyhgrw

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5X Press is a forum for opinions, conversations, & experiences, powered by South Asian youth. The views expressed here are not representative of those of 5X Festival.