Vol. II No. 32 Saturday August 16 - August 22, 2003
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Weekly Local Biography

 Kovit (Wit) Boonma

 

Kovit Boonma is the owner of the Hair Pro salon in Huay Kaew Road (next to Darling Wine Bar if you are looking for a geographic marker). He is an interesting young man in that his direction in life, and what I believe to be his true metier, has hung on some quite disparate occurrences. He has been lucky, and is very happy to admit that.

Wit was born in a Chiang Mai village to a simple longan farmer and his wife. This was for the couple quite a problem, representing another mouth to feed from a poor villager’s budget, and baby Wit was given to his grandmother to raise, a common enough situation in the lives of the needy in Thailand.

He went to the temple school, but was taken to register for assistance at the World Vision office. “You had to have good study, good behaviour - and real poor,” said Wit. He fitted those parameters perfectly and became sponsored by a couple in Canada. This was enough to send him to secondary school, and eventually to Teachers Training College.

While he was going through his secondary education, he was not sure of what he wanted to do, but he loved music and played the trombone in the school band. He had thoughts of going to CMU, but his grades showed that he played too much and had not studied enough, but he made the quota for teacher training.

He was not really convinced that he wanted to be a teacher either, but knew that he needed to do something. But what? He enjoyed his major, Business English, and thought that being a tour guide might be interesting, so he got work on weekends and public holidays at the railway station, as a guide for incoming tourists. “I wanted to be a good representative of Thailand and to tell people what we have. I am proud to be a Thai and to be a Northern Thai. It was also a good chance to practice English,” he said with emphasis. During the week he worked at night as a tuk-tuk driver! The scholarship was for tuition, the tuk-tuk was for living.

He took the diploma after two years and went out to be a full-time tour guide, but he was in for a rude awakening. “The job wasn’t quite what I expected. Everything is done on commission and I was not so happy doing that.” It was apparent that this taking of people to tourist attractions in return for commission did not sit well with his pride in being a Northern Thai.

His English was good, so he looked at where else he could go, and decided that the hotel industry could use his abilities and he got a job in reception at the front desk of a hotel. This was more to his liking. He moved up the scale of the hotels and after 18 months was working in a five star property in Phuket. It was there that another significant event was to come that would change his life forever.

The hotel was the venue for a seminar and workshop given on behalf of a hair cosmetic company, addressed by a New Zealand stylist. He walked around and listened in. He found it so interesting that he made an appointment to talk to the stylist. Wit was hooked. He wanted to be part of the action. So he bought a small salon in Phuket.

Since he did not really know much about the hair care industry, he employed staff who were supposed to know. But it was soon evident to him that the staff were not working the way he felt they should. “I wanted to become a professional, so I went to Bangkok and enrolled in a training course for 12 months.”

He finished his training and Lady Luck smiled on him again. “I went to a pub in Silom one night and bumped into the NZ stylist. I asked him if he remembered me and he said yes, and then gave me an introduction to a good salon in Bangkok.” Wit’s career as a professional in the hairdressing business was on the move.

He moved through salons in Bangkok. “Experience is very important. More salons means more experience.” He then went on a holiday to New Zealand to catch up with the stylist who had been so helpful in his initial foray into the profession and the result was that he offered him a job for the next 12 months. More experience!

However, after the year he returned to Thailand. The weather in NZ was too cold for starters, and his parents were not well. The pull of the Thai family was greater than attraction of scissors and curlers.

Wit was still not happy with his total experience and felt that he needed to get more information and knowledge to be a real professional - especially in the field of chemical colouring. Schwarzkopf Thailand were looking for staff and so he joined them. This was the last part of the experience he needed, and he became a technical advisor for them, and went on from there to teach hairdressers how to use the treatments. “I was proud to be an ajarn (teacher). It also gave me a good opportunity for travel and I went to the UK, Europe and Australia, giving seminars.”

Still with Schwarzkopf, he moved into salon management, to add that experience to all that went before, making it a total of six years with the company. However, he became tired of Bangkok, and when his mother broke her leg and needed help, he resigned and returned to Chiang Mai.

It was time to set up his own salon again, which he has done, bringing up a team from Bangkok. He has future plans of expansion and teaching hairdressers. “You can’t stand there every day, cutting hair until you are 50 or 60 years old.” With Wit’s luck, he won’t have to!


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