BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — They worked side by side for 15 years, but in 2010, this mother-daughter team was met with some of the biggest challenges of their lives.

“Stacy’s dad was dying of cancer, which he died on Easter and my husband was actually in coma for a month back in January and had brain surgery back in April,” said Annette Beagell, owner of Binghamton’s Hair and Beyond.

So to take their minds off of their troubles, they decided to enter the Matrix Mannequin Mania Contest, a national hair design competition.

“It was a great distraction in April to start the contest,” Beagell said.

Their design: The Widower.

“The inspiration was definitely my father,” said Beagell’s daughter, Stacy Birtch.

Out of more than 10,000, they made the top 48 and then the top 12, top three and finally in November, they learned they had taken first prize.

“It was the most amazing experience of my life,” Beagell said. “It actually felt like Publisher’s Clearing House. That’s the only way I can describe it.”

Twenty-five thousand dollars and a visit from no-nonsense reality TV star Tabatha Coffey of Tabatha’s Salon Takeover.

“Everyone was a little scared and worried,” said Birtch.

“Anytime that I can get out and touch hair dressers is enjoyable to me and something I talk about on the show all the time,” said Coffey.

Coffey is spending two days with Annette and Stacy at the salon and with local cosmetology students, passing on her expertise and advice.

“If you work hard and you really do what you love, it’s just limitless the things you can achieve,” Coffey said.

A great lesson and bittersweet ending to a trying year.

“I must say the year started out horrible in 2010 and it just ended fantastic,” said Stacy Birtch. “Couldn’t ask for more.”

The salon owners say they plan to donate a portion of their winnings to the American Cancer Society.