04/16/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The American Dream is Not Dead Yet

I'm tired of being depressed about the economy. So, I was particularly excited to hear that there are some businesses prospering in spite of (or actually because of) the economy. The American Dream is alive and well for some.

Maisha Bayan is one of them. She is co owner, together with her brother, of Zayna's Cuts for Kids, a kid's hair salon in New Jersey. Maisha and her family came from the former Soviet Union when she was 9 years old. Maisha had 5 kids and juggled taking care of her family with a day job at a kid's hair salon. After 12 years of working in the same salon along with her brother, they decided to go out on their own. Her mother, who managed to leave the Soviet Union, raise 8 kids and make a life in America, thought she should stick with a steady paycheck. But Maisha and her brother cobbled together money to open a salon in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey using money from relatives, their own savings and a small loan from a local bank.

Today, the business is thriving and Maisha, her brother and her 4 daughters are all working together. She supports a total of seven people. She told me that she hasn't been affected "at all" by the economic downturn.

How is that possible? Well, it seems that there are some businesses that are more recession-proof than others. Kid's haircuts appears to be one of them. Especially if you focus on customer service. Her advice:

"Talk to your customers. Greet them. They will support you. Word of mouth is so powerful."

I heard another story this week of a guy in upstate New York who has a towing business. He spent $100,000 -- what seems like a crazy sum of money -- on a top of the line tow truck last fall. Everyone thought he was insane. But, guess what? He recently bought 4 more trucks (ok, the new ones are used and didn't cost $100k each, but still!). Business is booming. Why? No one is buying new cars and the old ones are breaking down. He's there towing everyone into a garage. He showed up to tow my friend out of the mud on a Sunday night. What's his secret? Great, reliable customer service.

What's the lesson? There are businesses that stand up to the recession better than others. Think about things that people have a hard time doing without. Sure, you can try to cut your own hair, but a lot of people don't. You can go longer between cuts, but sooner or later, you're going to need to go to a salon. Even better, kid's haircuts are less expensive than adults' and who's going to deny their kid a haircut? Think about new services that are even more necessary now: fixing used cars is certainly one of them. If demand is there and you have a well-priced business, excellent customer service and a great location, you may be able to create your own American Dream, despite the economy.

If you want to hear Maisha telling her story, visit the Launchpad podcast on WOR radio.