After 40 years of building an empire that comprises 13 hair salons and one hairstyling academy, A Cut Above Group of Salons founder Datin Winnie Loo, 63, can finally retire and sit back in comfort.
Now, the business mogul can afford to go back to school in pursuit of a 12-month executive masters in business administration – while still running her chain. “Sometimes I think I’m foolish. Instead of having high tea with friends or window shopping, I am busy studying and attending lectures on weekends,” Loo quips.
The award-winning hairstylist toyed with the idea of pursuing a further education for close to a decade, but she held back because of her work commitment. After lots of encouragement from friends and family members, she finally took the plunge to study some more.
“A few of my friends in their late 50s and early 60s managed to complete their masters after retirement. I decided to follow their footsteps and continue my studies. Deep down I knew I would never pursue it if I kept delaying,” she says.
Loo, who signed up for the course at a private college in Cyberjaya in August 2018, is among a growing number of senior citizens who are furthering their education in their golden years.
Many retirees are going back to school to complete or extend their studies to give them a sense of accomplishment. Others believe learning a new skill or language will give an advantage in the business world.
Loo is motivated by all these reasons. She wants to keep up with the latest social and media trends that are vital in her line of business, which includes being a co-partner at WeStyleAsia, an online platform that offers personal care and grooming services.
“Age is just a number. It’s never too late to study. It’s important to keep the mind active and keep up to date with technology and social media,” she says.
Keeping the mind active also keep problems like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease at bay, adds the mother of two who sports a platinum blonde cropped do, palazzo pants and a fitted black top for our interview.
“Winnie’s CPU is still brand new. If you don’t use your brain much, you tend to age faster. To stimulate the mind, play brain games like chess, sudoku or crossword puzzles. I keep my mind active by reading, surfing the Internet and having brainstorming sessions with my staff and college mates,” she says.
Loo’s role model is Malaysian PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. “Tun M is outstanding. At 93, he’s able to run the country. He reads a lot and his mind is alert. I want to grow old like him,” she says.
A for effort
Loo still works six-hour shifts on weekdays at her outlet in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. She attends classes on Saturday from 9am to 5pm. The hours may be long and exhausting but she’s not complaining.
“It’s really mind over matter. While it isn’t easy to juggle between work and studies, I am thankful to have my family’s support and dedicated staff to help run the business,” she says.
Loo, who founded A Cut Above in 1979. admits adjusting to college life, especially after a 40-year hiatus, hasn’t been a walk in the park. Some of her challenges include attending tutorials, meeting assignment deadlines and having discussions with lecturers.
“I have a lot on my plate, juggling work and completing assignments. So far I’ve been enjoying the course, which encompasses topics like strategic management, developing and managing emerging markets and corporate finance. These subjects are new and help to boost my expertise in running my salons,” she says.
Loo, the oldest student in her class, adds that her journey towards higher learning has been made easier thanks to the Internet.
“I wouldn’t have signed up for my executive masters without Google. I usually work on my assignments in the saloon in-between customers. After work, I usually burn the midnight oil reading,” she says.
While some of her coursemates may be young enough to be her children, she says they have been extremely helpful. “My coursemates are tech savvy and always willing to lend a helping hand. We have a WhatsApp chat group where everyone shares research ideas and tips.”
Loo, who wrote A Cut Above: Built On Hard Work, True Grit & A Pair Of Scissors and is VP of the Malaysian Hairdressing Association, adds that “I also share my wealth of experience with them. In class, I have presented my business management skills in running a hairstyling business and academy.”
Meanwhile, she will be completing her course in a few months and is already thinking of pursuing her PhD.
“Learning is the best way to keep the mind busy. I love acquiring new knowledge and improving my skills. Now that I’ve been bitten by the learning bug, I’m all fueled with passion to go the extra mile to earn my doctorate,” says Loo.