“To be an entrepreneur is to be a pioneer. Each day is different, presenting new challenges and opportunities as the entrepreneur seeks to implement solutions to particular problems.” – Yuri Maricich, MD/MBA
For over 30 years Miss Vivian – as she is called by clients and Avenue residents alike – has been steadily building a beauty empire at Evay Beauty Salon & Day Spa. Located in a quiet Upper Albany converted three-family establishment, it might be hard to tell from the outside that Vivian Akuoko is not only a hairstylist and salon owner, but an industry innovator whose office wall features photos with Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities.
Relying on community resources including technical assistance and financing programs, Miss Vivian has steadily built here business over the years, while remaining loyal to the neighborhood that helped her grow. Selling her products internationally, she could move to another location, but instead chooses to remain in the Upper Albany neighborhood in Hartford. For this reason she was selected for an Award of Excellence from CMSC, being chosen the 2015 Main Street Pioneer for Outstanding Commitment to the Avenue.
Vivian Akuoko, Evay Cosmetics on Upper Albany Avenue, Hartford
2015 Main Street Pioneer: Outstanding Commitment to the Avenue
Sponsored by Webster Bank
Nominated by: Upper Albany Main Street
Soon after starting her career, Vivian developed a relationship with the Hartford Economic Development Corporation (HEDCO), which provided her with a $30,000 loan, enabling enabled her to open her own business on Albany Avenue. Vivian upgraded her business model based on her keen observation of where her market was headed, and sales soon followed suit, increasing from $83,000 to $350,000 per year.
In early 1987, Vivian became dissatisfied with the quality of hair care products she was using to protect her customers’ hair during salon procedures. Unable to find what she considered best suited for her customers’ needs, she decided to refine a special formula that would protect and moisturize the hair for best results. With the help of a chemist, she created a formula that worked well for all her clients. From this endeavor, Evay Hair Care Products, which manufactures and distributes hair care and beauty products globally, was born.
Vivian is just as entrepreneurial in determining when she needs outside expertise. Working with graduate business students in Upper Albany Main Street’s famed Micro Business Incubator, she was able to clearly see what business skills she still needed to perfect. When the economy began to slow she could see times were changing, so she took advantage of free business advising, technical assistance and training offered at The Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Hartford.
Initially, her products were manufactured in Bronx, New York. But the assistance Vivian received from HEDCO and the Entrepreneurial Center helped her make the decision to move all of her business operations to Connecticut. Her chemist, manufacturer, consulting dermatologist, and product packager are in Connecticut, and her web designer is in Hartford. Evay also employs six full-time employees, six subcontractors, and is currently training 25 sales representatives. Evay Cosmetics’ product line produces 15 hair care, 9 skin care, and 120 makeup products.
In Vivian’s words, “I have learned that time management, community outreach, providing customers with unique and quality products, and staying humble are all very important abilities that have translated to the success of my company.” She would recommend to an entrepreneur who is seeking success to remain open to learning, humble in daily operations, and be receptive to feedback, both positive and negative. “Customers and community members will always criticize and critique your style of business, and all successful people understand how to adapt to constructive feedback.” she says.