We all have that one favorite tita who always comes to family reunions all glammed up, ready to steal the spotlight. She’s a classic who never says no to cool adventures and spontaneous pamper sessions, teaching us to enjoy life to the fullest and treat ourselves well. We can’t help but love them, and if we’re being honest, sometimes, all we really want to do is be them.
This is how we’d describe Joana Chua, a food technologist turned beauty entrepreneur, who lives and makes our ultimate #TitaGoals happen. Her fun and witty personality shine through her two salons—Titas of MaNAILa and Hair ng Tondo, which both have service menus so fascinating you’d instantly want to book an appointment and be the fabulous tita of your dreams.
As a food tech practitioner, running beauty salons of her own is something Joana never thought she’s capable of. Thanks to her young kikay self, she rediscovered her love for beauty and made her enjoy the process.
“When I was younger, may signs of kakikayan na ako. I would try on my mom’s make-up, her clothes, her heels. I think I was 5 or 6 years old when I started dabbling in that,” she happily recalls. “But then, hindi ko na-imagine myself to go into the beauty industry,” she adds, admitting that she and her siblings have zero background when it comes to managing a salon.
“Iba iba ‘yung industry na pinanggalingan namin. My sister is an engineer. My brother is an accountant. Ako, food tech ako, and at the same time, nag-so-social media services. Parang medyo ‘Ha?? Saan nanggaling ‘to?’” she quips.
But just like any other unstoppable tita, she welcomed the challenge and founded her first salon, Titas of MaNAILa.
CEO of Bright Ideas and Intentional Spontaneity
Titas of MaNAILa, a nail and eyebrow salon based in Manila, originated from a spur-of-the-moment idea. The commercial space where the salon now stands is owned by the Chua family and had, four years ago, been needing a boost in foot traffic. Joana and her siblings then brainstormed about how they can draw more tenants and crowds in the area.
Until suddenly, she thought, “Why not start a small neighborhood salon?”
Even though the responsibility of running salons is a brand-new concept to this tita, she always knew that she wanted to make her business more meaningful.
Not knowing that her siblings will immediately fall in love with the idea, this spur-of-the-moment suggestion gave birth to her first salon, which to their surprise, was received by the community so warmly. The success of Titas of MaNAILa was immediately followed a year after by Hair ng Tondo, a beauty salon and barbershop also located in the same area.
Even though the responsibility of running salons is a brand-new concept to this tita, she always knew that she wanted to make her business more meaningful. “Mag-s-start nalang din tayo ng business, why not do something din for the community?” she recalls saying even before Titas of MaNAILa started operations.
"Ibahin naman natin 'yung kwento ng buhay nila na hindi naman sila forever nasa 4Ps. Gusto ko mag-graduate sila from the program and become self-sustaining."
Right from the get-go, Titas of MaNAILa partnered with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and employed a pool of staff from families qualified for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). This has also been adapted by Hair ng Tondo.
“Kumbaga, parang, ibahin naman natin ‘yung kwento ng buhay nila na hindi naman sila forever nasa 4Ps,” Joana shares with us. “Gusto ko mag-graduate sila from the program and to become self-sustaining.”
From there, it has always been Joana’s mission to ensure that the care she delivers to her salon customers is also experienced by her people.
“They take care of our clients. Alam nila pa’no alagaan [‘yung] mga clients namin. And they know the kind of service that’s expected of them. They always meet that, and sometimes even exceed that."
“You have this opportunity to bring beauty into the lives of your customers. Why not din, ‘di ba, for your team?” she says, adding how truly proud of her team she is for helping her get this far.
“They take care of our clients. Alam nila pa’no alagaan [‘yung] mga clients namin. And they know the kind of service that’s expected of them. They always meet that, and sometimes even exceed that. So talagang sobrang proud ako sa kanila, as in no joke,” she shares like a proud tita.
#TitaProblems: Pandemic Struggles of Titas
One would think that adapting to the effects of the pandemic is going to be easier for a food technologist, who has always been used to handling heightened safety protocols. But it wasn’t.
“Bago pa nag-lockdown, sinusubaybayan ko na [‘yung COVID-19 news] nu’ng 2019 pa when I first heard about it,” Joana shares, saying that she also never thought that the virus is going to be this big of a threat. Still, the first thing she did was to increase their cleaning and safety supplies, a practice that she implements in her two salons even before it was required.
“I always believed in keeping it very sanitary and hygienic, ‘yung buong salon namin. Kasi parang nasanay din ako sa food industry na you have to be very, very clean,” she says. Even before the pandemic, both her teams from Titas of MaNAILa and Hair ng Tondo have always used hospital-grade disinfectants.
Still, just like other businesses from industries that were considered ‘non-essential,’ they had no choice but to temporarily close the salons for the safety of their clients, and most especially, the employees.
“Talagang nakakalungkot when you think about it. And doble pa kasi syempre iisipin mo ‘yung mga tao mo. Parang, ‘How will I feed them?’ and ‘How will I feed their families?’”
During this time, our favorite tita only has one word for what she felt: anguish.
“Kasi alam mo ‘yon, kumbaga parang I treated it as my baby, ‘yung mga salons. Parang mga anak ko sila. I see it growing tapos i-s-stunt sila,” she explains as she’s reminded of her uncertainties during the first few days of the lockdown. “Talagang nakakalungkot when you think about it. And doble pa kasi syempre iisipin mo ‘yung mga tao mo. Parang, ‘How will I feed them?’ and ‘How will I feed their families?’” she adds.
Knowing that one of the major concerns of her employees is job security, she made it a point to meet her employees online and assure them that she got their backs no matter what.
“Sabi ko [sa kanila], ‘This is what will happen. We will be giving you your salaries pa rin naman. Kung hindi na kaya, kung wala nang cash salaries na ma-su-sustain for the next few months, we’ll be giving food packs. And every step of the way na gagawin namin, we will always inform you,’” Joana tells us. She and her siblings also applied to government assistance programs to ensure that they’ll be able to provide for their employees. All she asked of her team is to refrain from going out until it’s at least safer for everyone.
Modern Lessons from our Modern Tita
The incredible way Joana handled these challenges soon paid off as she saw how the most uncertain of times brought her team closer and stronger than ever. Seeing how trustworthy and loyal her team is to the business and the craft they do is one of the most beautiful things she thinks happened during the pandemic.
“If you take care of your team, they will actually take care of your business for you,” she says. And it’s true. As soon as their doors first reopened in July 2020, Titas of MaNAILa and Hair ng Tondo saw clients from different parts of the metro come back for the quality service her team provides.
Joana looks forward to welcoming new clients and seeing the beauty and wellness industry thrive again and embrace it’s future in tech.
She realized, “When you do something quite well, when you provide good service, kahit mawala ka for 6 months, ‘pag balik mo, talagang mamahalin at mamahalin ka ng mga clients mo. Bumabalik talaga sila.” This warms our tita’s heart as this is proof of the meaning her business brings to the community.
As they continue to keep their doors open and face the new normal, Joana looks forward to welcoming new clients and seeing the beauty and wellness industry thrive again and embrace it’s future in tech.
“I think it’s about time for the beauty and wellness industry to go digital to be able to reach out to more people din,” she says. “I’ve seen how it helped our business talaga—being very visible and responsive online.”
“Right now, the salons are just really waiting for people to come in and are ready to make you look and feel great,” she says, inviting people, especially those who just came out of a relationship during the pandemic, to get a makeover and pamper themselves. “This is for your glow up, you know,” she half-jokes.
Keep your masks on all the time. Show up if you book an appointment. If you can’t, let them know so they can make your spot available for others.
If you want to visit her salons, our favorite tita has a few reminders: Keep your masks on all the time. Show up if you book an appointment. If you can’t, let them know so they can make your spot available for others. And lastly, if you enjoy their service, leave them a positive review; otherwise, message them and give them a chance to make your experience better.
Visit Titas of MaNAILa and Hair ng Tondo at 276 Honorio Lopez Blvd., Tondo, Manila from 10AM to 8PM. Check out Titas of MaNAILA's Parlon page to know more of the services they offer.