Anhthu Huynh is 47-year-old mother and small business owner living in Gainesville, Florida. Known as Ann to her customers, the kind and unassuming nail technician is celebrating the expansion of the recently renovated Venus Nail Spa where she and her staff of 12 serve up to 60 customers every single day. But behind her quiet smile is a harrowing story that started decades ago in war-torn Vietnam.
Ann was born in Vietnam nearly 50 years ago, in the midst of the Vietnam War. Her mother struggled to keep their family afloat when her father was captured and imprisoned for nearly seven years. Ann, along with her three sisters and two brothers, remembers how hard her mother worked to support them by cooking food to sell on the street.
Finally, in December of 1993, Ann and her family escaped from Vietnam with the help of a United Nations refugee program. Their family was among the thousands of Vietnamese refugees who were lucky enough to immigrate to the United States. When the family landed in Pensacola, they were 10,000 miles away from home; strangers in an unfamiliar country.
Ann, who was 25 at the time, had managed to earn a Bachelor’s degree in organic chemistry before her family fled the country. She was now faced with returning to school to pursue the same degree. Only this time, she would have to do so in English. But Ann persisted, and eventually graduated from Pensacola Junior College with an associate’s degree in chemical technology.
Ann went on to pursue a career as a chemical technician and organic chemist at Regeneration Technologies, Inc. in Alachua. In Gainesville, she started a family of her own. Ann wanted to spend more time with her son, so she decided to leave her position at Regeneration Technologies, Inc. and went to work as a nail tech at Venus Nail Spa.
Venus Nail Spa was owned by Ann’s sister-in-law when she first started working there. But eventually, the responsibility of owning a business became too great, and the woman approached Ann with an offer she couldn’t refuse. Ann was able to buy the business at a discount, and became the official owner of Venus Nail Spa in 2011. Ann recently expanded the business, doubling the size and adding more equipment to serve a higher capacity of clients.
Ann has a lot to be proud of. Not just the success of her business, but the strength of her character and the will of her spirit to continue to embrace the challenges of change in each new stage of her life. Ann’s story is an inspiration to refugees across the world who are facing countless uncertainties.