ROCHESTER, N.Y (WROC) — The New York State Business Council has announced its five finalists for its second annual Annual Minority & Women’s Business Award.

One of those businesses is in the Rochester area, Chi Wah Organica. The founder of the salon, Chi Wah parent’s were restaurant owners, but for her:

“I wanted nothing to do with it,” she said. “To this day I do not cook, I prefer hair… It’s not about making people feel beautiful, it’s about making people feel their own beauty.”

Despite saying she never wanted to own a business, the salon is turning 30 years old this year, in its third location, at the corner of Clover and Monroe Ave.

Despite her passion for working with hair, Chi Wah said she needed a boost to get going.

“My best friend’s father, he really really pushed me,” she said. “I kept asking her, ‘What does your father see in you that I don’t know what it is…’

“(But) with seed money from Mr. Konar, I started the business in 1993,” she said.

She’s paying that back, to her employees and customers. 20 years ago, she went to an hourly pay model. She regularly sends her stylists to training.

The results speak for themselves, Chi Wah says nine other salon owners in Rochester were her former employees.

Her business continues to thrive because of her care and dedication, along with her three principles:

“I never compromise on the quality (of) my products, I ever compromise on the tools I use for my customers, and I never compromise on the quality of education that I provide for my staff,” she said.

Chi Wah also says that other secrets to her success are the commitment to transparency, and having consistent quality AVEDA products on retail.

She also continues to grow her services, including scalp treatments.

As for becoming a finalist for the Annual Minority & Women’s Business Award, a customer was the one to nominate her…

Paying her back for her commitment to the craft, and to her customers.

“Someone confirming that what I’ve been doing is on the right path,” she said. “I’m a professional in this industry, but I still need a pat on the back like any normal person. It’s confirmation. So I’m very proud.”

She went on to thank her staff, saying she couldn’t — and never wanted — to do this alone. And unlike the restaurant business, the salon is staying in the family: She’s training her daughter to run Chi Wah Organica.