A Different Path
For many people, completing medical school as an MD would be the pinnacle of success and achievement, but for Tam Nguyen, it gave him the realization that his passions lay elsewhere. Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, Tam saw first-hand the opportunities that were available in the business world, not only to provide for a family, but also to bridge the gap between people and communities. Today, Tam wears many hats: President of multi-generation owned Advanced Beauty College, Cal State Fullerton Faculty, Board Member of various goodwill and philanthropic organizations, loving son, brother, husband, and father.
Tam grew up in Southern California with his sister as the son of Vietnamese refugees, who exposed their children to the beauty industry from an early age. His parents owned and operated a beauty salon, before later opening a beauty school, located in the heart of the Vietnamese community in Westminster, California. This beauty school would later play a significant role in how the Vietnamese community came to dominate the nail industry.
Like many children of immigrant parents, Tam felt the push to become a doctor. He attended medical school after completing his undergraduate degree from University of California, Irvine. Soon after graduation, Tam felt his true calling was in business. “I’ve always felt that business was the solution for many things, not only for economic ability, but socially and for education.” Tam decided to pursue a masters degree in business administration from California State University, Fullerton.
During his MBA education, Tam formed deep connections and relationships at CSUF and with members of his cohort. This later led to him serving as President of the CSUF Alumni Association, Consultant to the Dean, Vice Chair to the Board of Governors, and finally as a teaching faculty member. For nearly six years, Tam has taught a course on Family Business Dynamics in the Mihaylo College of Business & Economics, drawing from his experiences as part of a multi-generational, family-owned business.
Tam continues to run Advance Beauty College alongside his sister, as they work to bridge the gap between the Vietnamese community and the nail industry. Advance Beauty College has graduated over 40,000 nail technicians and is the largest nail program in the industry.
Making a Difference
Philanthropy and community activism are at the core of Tam’s belief system. He has actively participated in organizations including the Chamber of Commerce of Orange County, Orange County United Way, Cal State Fullerton Philanthropic Board, and the Orange County Transit Authority.
However, Tam considers his most notable accomplishment to be the part he played during the Covid-19 pandemic. During the early days of the pandemic, Tam co-founded Nailing it for America, an organization of Orange County businesses that donated and distributed an estimated $30 million dollars worth of PPE to front line workers and over 80,000 meals to senior citizens. Later, after anti-Asian hate crimes in relation to the pandemic became more rampant, Tam took the opportunity to be a voice of unity during the “Stop Asian Hate” rallies.
Tam was also instrumental in CSUF’s “It Takes a Titan” campaign. The campaign is the university’s first-ever comprehensive philanthropic campaign. The $250 million initiative prioritizes investing in projects that enhance academic innovation, empower students, transform campus structures and enrich the community.
“As a person in a family business, my “why” is my family.”
At the heart of everything Tam does, is his family: wife Christine, sons Chance and Ty, and daughter Maya. He regularly includes the children in meetings and events, not only as a way to spend quality time, but to give the children first-hand experience in business. Tam’s daughter, Maya (age 10), even participated in this interview and described her father as “Energetic, a life long learner, and a community lover.”
Tam has also integrated business principles within his own family. The family sits down together weekly in what they refer to as a “Family Council”, to discuss the family’s mission, vision, and core values, as well as the highs and lows of the week. He credits these weekly meetings with creating the strongest structure and bond within the family. Tam is incredibly proud that his son and daughter chair the weekly meetings and know how to voice their opinions as genuine stakeholders.
In closing, we asked Tam how he measures success and he answered simply, “I measure success by happiness and health.”