Chin & Malati Lama in their salon in Fells Point

Nailed it!

Entrepreneur alums find success in being different

By Laura Braddick

While working toward his degree at TU, Chin Lama learned the key to succeeding in business is setting yourself apart from your competition.

So when he and Malati Lama, his partner and fellow CBE alum, decided to open a nail salon together, they knew it had to be unique.

Nestled on Eastern Avenue between Patterson Park and the Fells Point neighborhood in Baltimore, their eco-friendly salon named Olivia opened in spring 2016. Olivia offers the same manicure and pedicure services as other storefront salons but, unlike most parlors, only uses organic nail and skin products.

“When people walk in, they can tell the difference.”

Olivia’s atmosphere is distinct as well. The minimal décor, white walls, abundant natural light, and natural wood accents create a relaxing and inviting environment. In place of large, bulky massage chairs for pedicures are cozy, mid-century easy chairs. Pedicures are done in a resin bowl, which is jet-less and easier to clean and sanitize.

“We wanted the space to have a feeling like home,” says Chin Lama. “When people walk in, they can tell the difference from the design of the space to the lack of that strong chemical smell in other salons.”

“From regular polishes with popular colors and chemical-free polishes to a clean, minimalistic and bright space, we try to elevate our customers’ experience in every way,” Malati added.

Their distinct vision and hard work have paid off. Less than two years after opening, Olivia was featured as one of the best salons in Baltimore in Best of Baltimore Magazine 2017.

However, opening a salon was not Chin and Malati’s original plan after graduating from TU in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

After graduating with his B.S. in accounting and having difficulty in securing a job related to his degree, Chin decided he’d rather invest his time in creating something of his own.

“I realized, maybe the corporate door is not for me,” he said.

Similarly, Malati Lama, who studied human resource management and worked for organizations like T. Rowe Price, decided to utilize what she had learned in school and the corporate world in their own small business.

“We are so grateful to our team of staff and customers for their infinite love and support of Olivia,” they said. “We also give credit to our great landlord for helping us make our salon distinct in every way we wanted.”