Convenience is king these days: groceries can be ordered online and dropped at our door; pocket-sized computers, still called phones for some reason, give us anything we want anywhere we may be; the rise of food trucks is another way businesses are going to customers, rather than the other way around.
And now, Mandy Lien is taking that concept to hair.
“It was kind of like a harebrained scheme that happened,” said Lien, describing her mobile salon business.
She said what started as a joke turned into her converting a shuttle bus into a full-functioning mobile salon. The "Beauty Bus," as it's nicknamed, has clients amazed.
"The first thing they say is, 'Oh my gosh, this is so cool,' said Lien. "I don't think, from the outside, they expect this.
Inside, there is a sink, vacuum, mirror, bathroom, all of Lien's supplies -- basically anything you'd find at a traditional salon.
Lien said she is constantly being honked at by curious drivers, people knocking on the windows for a look inside.
It’s no gimmick; she’s booked two weeks out.
Lien said there is a very specific and growing demand for what she’s doing.
"Convenience is huge nowadays. They spend a lot of time on the road. They spend a lot of time at work, and when they get home, they want to be with their families," she said.
One client who fits that description perfectly is Stephanie Garcia, who has a baby and a new business.
“I don't have time to drive places,” said Garcia. “It’s so much more convenient. She comes to me.”
For some clients, it’s about more than convenience. Lien said a lot of her customers can’t go out.
"It also serves some needs that I didn't think were out there, clients who have anxiety or depression," she added.
Lien said she’s had clients suffering from cancer who are not able to leave the house. To them, her visits mean a lot.
“I've had clients cry, 'Thank you so much for coming to me,'" she said.
Currently, the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology has 34 licenses registered for mobile businesses in the state. Eight of those licenses are in San Diego County, which is double the number from two years ago. Sterlings Mobile Salon and Barber Shop has been operating in San Diego since 2012.
Lien said she would love to expand nationwide someday, which would be pretty big business for something that started as a joke.
“It's actually a real thing, and it's making a profit. So it's not a joke anymore. It's the real deal,” she said. “It makes me proud.”