How my 75-year-old mom saved her salon by vlogging

This septuagenarian now has over a hundred-hour long episodes on Facebook — livestreaming stories, hope and love to her staff and customers.

Every morning since March 17, the action starts at 10:58 a.m. I press play and our Piandre theme song fills the room, and every other room where the 400-plus followers of Piandreflix may be. It’s our very own Facebook Live group and, after a rousing anthem that asks the Lord to “Help us to know your ways, teach us to see you in every face, in the people we make more beautiful,” our leader comes on. “Hello, everyone!” greets my mother Linda Francisco in her signature spunky outfit and coiffed hair. 

She proceeds to call out the people commenting below: “Hello Sally, hello Darwin, hi Greg, thank you for all the colored hearts.” With nearly a hundred hour-long episodes under her belt, she’s become a natural at vlogging.

The staff connects with “Ma’am Linda,” Piandre’s founder and CEO, in an intimate way, which has been amplified by the pandemic. Somehow, she knew early on that the battle we were up against could only be won by strength of mind and spirit. 

Through her episodes, she talks to us about values education, the intricacies of the Catholic faith, about complex concepts such as Brené Brown’s discussion on boundaries, Stephen Covey’s 7 habits, about ikigai, child-rearing, and psychology. 

The Facebook Live format allows her to ask questions and see everyone’s heartfelt answers in real-time. It’s all done in Tagalog and always interspersed with the real-life experiences of this formidable woman. 

My favorite talk of my mom’s is gleaned from an article written by The New York Times best-selling author Rory Vaden and it’s a story about cows and buffaloes on the plains of Colorado. The story goes that both herds see a hailstorm coming in from the west. The cows see it and start running east, away from the storm. Since cows are notoriously slow, the storm catches up and pummels them, prolonging their suffering since they are moving in the same direction as the storm. Buffaloes, on the other hand, going against nature, see the hailstorm coming from the west and when it reaches the crest, the herd runs towards the storm. It stings to meet the pellets head-on, but the herd runs through the storm with minimal contact. The point of the story is that it’s the same storm — do we procrastinate and run away or do we charge at it? On Facebook Live, mom asks her people, “Are we cows or are we buffaloes?” A flurry appears in the comments section: “BUFFALOES!”

The last few months have been a battering hailstorm for all of us. The salon industry has always been considered to be recession-proof. Since Piandre started in 1987, we have never closed our doors for more than two days — not for any political or economic unrest, not even for any major calamity. This is because most women (and many men) consider haircuts, color, manicure/pedicure as essential services. Our staff also rely on tips and commissions for their daily sustenance.

Most high-end salons like Piandre will pay minimum wage, but if you ask any manicurist, therapist, or junior, they will boast that their salaries are easily doubled or tripled by tips and commissions. Support staff in high-end salons will easily make P25,000 to P35,000 a month. Stylists who charge higher-ticket services will earn more than that. All these add-ons, however, evaporated during the quarantine and this ripples down to a wider population. Nearly all salon staffers are breadwinners of their families, and not unlike OFWs, they support many more extended family members in the province.

When the quarantine happened, many of our people were left alone in their boarding houses in Manila, unable to travel because of the lockdown. Immediately, through our managers and receptionists, we reached out to them to see how they were doing, if they had food on the table. The sobering reality was that many relied on their daily tips and did not have enough to see the week through. 

Piandre management readily responded by releasing salaries early, and by stubborn determination and divine providence, we have been able to sustain our full payroll until this day. To supplement this, our own cooperative, the 30-year-old Salon Multi-Purpose Cooperative, released grocery loans every two weeks to both members and non-members. We were able to transition to online banking for all transactions, making it easier to transfer money to those who needed it urgently. 

We realize, however, that the COVID-19 storm is only nearing the crest. Like buffaloes, the Piandre team has decided to meet the problem head-on. The recent IATF guidelines mobilized our team to come up with more stringent protocols for cleanliness and sanitation. DTI, DOH, and LGUs have sent many inspection teams and Piandre has reaped stellar approval ratings. 

We finally opened our doors on June 7 and, following IATF guidelines, at only 30-percent capacity. Since the first week of July, we’ve been allowed to offer all hair services including haircuts, treatment and color. (Haircuts, by the way, contribute only 10 to 20 percent to our gross sales.) 

Piandre management's mantra has always been: we take care of our people so that they, in turn, will take better care of our clients. This has never held truer than now.

For clients who feel uneasy going out of the house for now, we have launched our Piandre Home Service. We aim to bring the Piandre experience of joyful service, professional products and a sanitized system to our clients’ homes. Offering home service was a pivotal point in our 33 years of Piandre. When previously home service was only reserved for those infirm clients and bridal parties, we have adapted to the times. 

It’s a different business model, one that is only possible with a mature and responsible staff, and a strong culture of trust that goes both ways. Management trusts the staff 100 percent as the staff trusts our leadership to lead them into the clearing. Our 420-strong team includes 150 culture-keepers who have been with us for at least 10 years. 

Piandre management's mantra has always been: we take care of our people so that they, in turn, will take better care of our clients. This has never held truer than now. In the last three months, I have seen an unmatched outpouring of support and love from our team towards our family and towards each other. There have been big and small acts of kindness, too, we have had people come into work during the height of the quarantine to facilitate online deliveries, clean the salons in preparation for the opening, staff taking workmates into their homes to save on transportation costs, and most have been walking and biking and paying exorbitant transportation costs to allow us to open with a skeleton force. All these heartwarming miracles allow us to hold on for longer. 

Every day, our Facebook Live session with Ma’am Linda ends with a prayer, thanking God for another day to be alive and healthy. The comments section is inundated with thanks and words of encouragement — Kapit lang ma’am! Konting tiis, matatapos din ito! Walang iwanan! Matibay tayo. There are also many I-love-yous said back and forth, as we truly believe that love is the driving force behind Piandre. As the Philippines comes out of quarantine, we charge forward as one team with strong spirits, our hearts ready for the challenge that lies ahead.


Edited by Tanya T. Lara

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