After 20 years as one of FIU's most loved hairdressers, Waykin Perez is reinventing herself as a business owner.
Perez, who also goes by "Wayki," has purchased the on-campus staple, Santi's Salon, from Santiago "Santi" Ruiz, who retired earlier this year. The new name of the business is "Wayki's Salon."
“Santi’s Salon is one of Business Services’ longest partnerships at FIU”, says Aime Martinez, associate vice president of Business and Finance. “Though we're sad to see Santi’s come to an end, we're excited to welcome Wayki and are grateful that she will continue the long-standing tradition here at FIU. We look forward to seeing the fresh ideas Waykin will bring to the salon in the coming months.”
There are fewer people than usual on campus these days due to the coronavirus pandemic, but patrons are still seen shuffling in and out of Wayki’s Salon on a regular basis.
“I feel grateful, happy, nervous and scared,” Perez says. “This year is really tough. So many things have happened. But I feel OK. I trust me and my team."
Located next to the campus barbershop and across from the dry cleaners, the salon has become a staple for generations of Panthers and Miamians.
“I first started going there as an employee in the 90s. I’ve only had one person cut my hair since then. That’s Wayki,” says Maydel Santana ’91 MS ’16, associate vice president of Media Relations and Communication in the Division of External Relations, Strategic Communications and Marketing. “I brought my baby there when she was born. Now, 20 years later, my baby is a client. She has never had a haircut that is not from Wayki.”
Perez has many loyal customers in the Panther family. Karen Fuller ’92, director of the School of Music, has also been seeing the hairdresser since the 90s.
“It’s funny, she has a sign that says ‘I’m a beautician, not a magician.’ But let me tell you, that's not true. Sometimes, she works magic,” Fuller says.
For Perez, becoming a business owner has been an exciting development in her career. Growing up, she was focused on becoming not a master of hair, but of charts and formulas.
Perez was born and raised in Cuba, where she studied mechanical engineering. She wasn't able to finish her degree, though, because she and her husband, Franz, left the island nation for the United States.
When the couple arrived in Miami, Perez considered becoming a professional hairstylist. She had practiced on Franz and his friends in Cuba for fun. Her aunt, who worked at a local salon, encouraged her to go for it.
“She told me, ‘Mama, you have a lot of ability, and you love this. You need to do it,’” Perez says.
Her aunt made a key introduction. At that time, Santi was working at the same salon as Perez's aunt. In a few years, he opened his own place at FIU and invited Perez to work there. Over time, the two became close friends and even next-door neighbors.
“I am very happy for Waykin,” Ruiz says. “This is something I’ve always had in mind. I've worked with her for 24 years. I feel very calm and confident that the salon will continue to the best it can be because of her professionalism.”
Perez has simple advice for those who want to own their own businesses.
"The most important thing is you need to love what you do. If you think about it as 'I need to get my money,' or something like that, you're never going to earn people's trust," Perez says.