Lessons From the Immigrant Hustle: Krista Nerestant

Amine Rahal
Jan 31 · 6 min read

Krista Nerestant opened her first salon 12 years ago when she was just 25. The company has flourished, and Krista has now branched out into other entrepreneurial endeavors including restaurants, non-profit organizations and into the spiritual and life coaching world with Self-ish Lifestyle. Her next entrepreneurial venture will be acquiring investment properties.


What’s your name, company name, and title?

My name is Krista Nerestant and I am the proprietor of Salon Crimson LLC. I opened my first salon, Salon Evanella (named after my Mama and Grandma) which evolved into Salon Crimson, at 25 years old. 12 years later, it’s doors are still welcoming clients. I have since expanded my entrepreneurial ventures into investing in restaurants — Ani Ramen NJ (Jersey City, Summit, and Ridgewood) — non-profit organizations — who supports child and women survivors of sexual/domestic violence (FSL SAVES) — and into the spiritual and life coaching world with Self-ish Lifestyle. My next adventure will be diving into acquiring investment properties.

Which country did you emigrate from?

I emigrated from the Philippines when I was 11 years old with four of my siblings in 1993. We joined my mother who left for the USA four years prior in 1989 with the sole purpose of escaping my abusive father who also bankrupted her. I was seven, my brother John was eight, my little sister Toni was six, and our two little brothers PJ was two and baby Rex was one. My father continued his atrocious ways with us children until we were taken away by our uncle, our mother’s brother. In May of 1993, it was in the middle of the night when we were all taken on a ship heading to Manila, under the guise of a surprise vacation but we all had to sneak out quietly. When the ship docked 24 hours later, we were greeted by our mother who we haven’t seen for over four years. No time to adjust, however, because within a week we were all in a 727 aircraft heading to America.

What was the most difficult thing you faced when you arrived in the US?

The most difficult thing to adjust to was the societal difference. Sixth grade was the grade I was registered in when school started. In the Philippines, after 5th grade, you went straight to high school and begin college at the age of sixteen years old. There wasn’t really a language barrier since we were taught English in school. However, the Newark NJ American slang was difficult at first. In the Philippines and almost all of Asia, are taught the British English way of speaking. I had to adapt quickly to my surroundings.

What was your very first job?

I grew up working under the family businesses in the Philippines so I guess my first job began as young as eight years old pumping gas at the family gas station, or packing up baked goods at the bakery and delivering them across the island to the local stores. I even had to put away medicine and be the cashier at my mother’s pharmacy before my father wasted it all away. The entrepreneurial mindset and spirit, I believe was within me due to my upbringing. I remember in seventh grade I was charging my schoolmates on personalized special occasion cards and poetry or drawings. I was always looking to monetize a talent. Being idle wasn’t something I was accustomed to. Throughout my high school years, I spent my free time at the guidance counselors office looking for jobs opened to students in various business to occupy my summers and after-school programs. Yes, I got paid to go to school. If I had to do it, might as well make money for it.

Why did you choose to become an entrepreneur? (c.f. What triggered you?).

I made the decision to become an entrepreneur at the age of seventeen. The need to change my current circumstance and the ability to create the future I envisioned was too strong for me to not execute a plan. My mother had passed away three years prior when I was fourteen years old and I promised her that I would take on her role as the provider for my siblings. I had the opportunity to become a licensed cosmetologist when I finished high school and began planning my future. I moved out at 18 years old, got into Kean University but decided to forgo college altogether to work tirelessly, gain knowledge of the industry, and master the craft with an affluent clientele. At 22 years old I took full custody of my baby brothers and kept my commitment to opening my business at 25 years old.

How did you raise the money necessary to launch your business? (e.g. did you find an investor? Did you borrow from the bank? Did you save money by working a 9 to 5? Please tell us your story).

I implored my Auntie Maria to provide me with a $60,000 dollar loan to begin my dream of being my own boss. She was the financier of the family. My credit with her, not only financially, but in morality, ethics and family responsibility proved to her that I can be trusted with a long-term loan. We wrote out a contract that I would pay off the entire loan amount within three years with low interest.

What was the most difficult thing you faced when you first started your business and how did you overcome it?

The most difficult thing that transpired was before I even opened my salon doors, I was sued by my previous employer for a breach of a non-compete. It didn’t hold up in court for immediate shutdown, but the $25,000 settlement was added up onto the loan amount I had secured from my aunt. I was advised by my lawyer it was cheaper to settle than dragging it into court which was true.

Mental health, stress management and staying positive are important factors in entrepreneurial success. What are some things you like to do when you feel overwhelmed or down?

My self-care regimen of yoga, meditation, writing, and continued honoring of my journey has allowed me to become successful in all aspects of my life. Not just as an entrepreneur, but as a sister, wife, mother, friend, and life coach.

What advice do you have for newly arrived immigrants that want to pursue the path of entrepreneurship?

My advice to newly arrived immigrants who want to pursue the entrepreneurial path is to be resilient. To give 150% and have your blinders on. Never give up and adhere to the mission and motivation of why you decided to choose this lifestyle. Be so secure in your vision that there is no other way of living and being. Life wouldn’t be fulfilling or purposeful if you weren’t living your entrepreneurial reality.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can reach me at Instagram.com/knerestant and Facebook.com/self-ishlifestyle.

Thank you very much for doing this interview!

Amine Rahal

Written by

Tech Entrepreneur and Contributor on several publications, Amine is best known as the CEO of IronMonk Solutions, a New York based digital marketing agency.

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