Kay Hirai Biography

Kay Hirai was born in Japan and came to the United States at the age of eleven. She entered American school as a fifth grader, not knowing a word of English.  Most of her school years were spent struggling to learn the English language and taking care of her ailing mother.

When Kay started her first salon business in 1976 she was a young mother of two children with absolutely no business skills or experience. Running her business for 37 years taught her all about survival – and also that good business is more than just making money. Kay’s model business practice has been recognized internationally, receiving numerous coveted awards. In 2002, Studio 904 became the first small business in the western region to win the “Better Business Bureau’s International Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics” and in 2004, she was named the “National Minority Entrepreneur of the Year” by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Today, Studio 904 Salon is an innovative and respected small business that has become known nationally for its hiring practice, employee training, and community outreach programs – always giving a helping hand to those in need. Kay says of her company’s mission, “Together with my team of employees, we have nurtured a company culture grounded in honesty, fairness, excellence and teamwork. While our primary goal is to indulge clients with first-class hair care and pampering services, we are ultimately devoted to making a difference in people’s lives-the lives of our clients, our employees, and of the people in the communities we serve.”

Kay’s passion and vision for making the world a better place and her ability to work collaboratively with public and private sectors have led to other successful pursuits, including: a creative greeting card campaign raising $10,000 donation for the victims of the2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan; successfully self-publishing a book that raised over $20,000 for Pasado’s Safe Haven animal sanctuary;  and serving as the chair of the Governor’s Small Business Improvement Council from 1997-2001, during which she devoted herself to help low-income women, youths and children to gain skills to enter competitive employment.