Pitching the COCOdry Idea: How It Went
Simon Kim (middle) at The September Show Awards Asia in 2017
Ask any salon owner in Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, and even Singapore and they’ll know of Simon Kim. At 16, he began training as a hiarstylist and subsequently started teaching at his own hair academy at 21. In his heyday, he was regularly invited to exhibit his award-winning avant garde styles at international hair shows.
So when Kim pitched COCOdry to her father Simon, he was surprised that she was interested in the har industry because she had never said anything about it to him. The concept of a blow-dry bar was new to him – he had never heard about them, but he gave Kim his full support.
“I told my dad, just let me try this – if it fails then at least I know I gave it a shot,” Kim said.
How COCOdry is reimagining the hair salon experience
Kim May Chee, founder of Malaysia’s first blow-dry bar, COCOdry
But how did Kim get the idea for COCOdry? She was listening to a Girlboss podcast episode about a blow-dry bar in the US. Having grown up surrounded by shampoo, wigs, and hairdryers, this business idea jumped at her! The research was clear: there were no such businesses in Malaysia, and the aspiring entrepreneur wondered if she could close the gap.
She flew to the UK to meet 3 blow-dry bar founders to find out what worked and what didn’t in business aspects. She pitched the idea to her father and to several investors and got to work. Fast forward to today, COCOdry isn’t just a salon to get your hiar done – its goal is to empower women and make them feel like a million dollars. Flanked with Malibu-inspired decor, a refreshing drinks’ menu and a strong female team of hairstylists, it’s Ariana Grande encapsulated in a store.
When one door closes, another one opens
Hair Impression, a hair salon founded by Simon Kim in Penang, Malaysia
At the time, Simon was running his hair salon in Penang Island. Hair Impression had 10 branches across the state, catering to local patrons who had gone to him since his prime years.
There were a few challenges to his business:
- One, his customers were only returning regulars. He was not reaching new customers.
- Two, his salon was isolated in an old building that didn’t get much visibility.
- Three, the Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia had completely ceased the operations of all hair salons.
Simon was on the verge of calling it quits, until his daughter stepped in.
“Daddy, you’ve been doing this your entire life. You are so good at what you do. How can you quit now?” she asked.
It took some convincing until Simon finally agreed to look for a new location to open a new hair salon. “I looked at a few places and I eventually stumbled upon this three-storey house facing the sea. It just felt right. Kim had always loved going to the beach since she was a toddler,” Simon recalls.
Interior of Wave Salon
Pivoting to stay relevant in the market
Once Simon had found the perfect place for the new Wave Salon, Kim got to work on planning the interior of the store. Simon wholeheartedly trusted his daughter’s vision and planning for marketing while he focused on the hairstyling aspect of the business.
White and blue is the colour scheme, inspired by the beautiful Greek island of Santorini. “My dad’s designer initially proposed black and I completely opposed it. Hair salon owners really like black – it’s like their signature colour. But it doesn’t appeal to the market anymore,” Kim commented.
Interior of COCOdry
Kim’s background and experience in advertising had given her a big advantage in building COCOdry and her father’s Wave Salon. She leveraged Instagram and TikTok as marketing tools and made sure the stores had the Instagrammable factor.
Wave Salon has attracted a large, young customer base that keep coming back for more. “Today, this isn’t just a regular salon where people come in and leave after their hair is done. They can stay back, have a drink, and snap some photos. It feels like a resort,” the style director says. The hair salon has to go beyond just hairstyling services, and deliver an experience that makes customers feel good.
“In the last few years at Hair Impression, I had been very discouraged. But now that people know Simon Kim again, I feel really joyful that I’m back in the game,” Simon expresses. “I have my daughter to thank for that.”
“I’m just thankful that he’s given me the life he never had, and I’m glad that I can support him now in his business. It makes me happy to see him do well,” the COCOdry founder responded.