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Connecticut Barber Expo Founder: Jay Major Shares His Success Story!!

Today’s barbering interview is with the talented Jay Majors, a man who has used the barbering craft to completely transform his life. As he describes it, he had a somewhat “troubled past”, and he was generous enough to talk to me not only about his current career as a barber, but also about life before finding this new passion. We also talk about one of Jay’s most exciting projects to date: the CT Barber Expo.

 

“A Troubled Past”

“The gangs were really prevalent in [my] area growing up, and to be honest I got involved just to be cool. I wanted to do what others were doing. I come from a family where my parents did their best to make ends meet, but I wanted the designer things. So, I did the wrong things in order to acquire them.

“I would get incarcerated, and my family weren’t the type of family to send me money so I would have to find ways to make ends meet. Because even though you’re incarcerated you still need to buy cosmetics, food, snacks. I started drawing, doing things like handkerchiefs and I really wasn’t that good at it. So, I got the bright idea, because I really looked up to a barber in my neighbourhood, to start cutting hair”.

Jay already had some styling practice from shaping up his own hair, so he found that he was able to make money from providing haircuts whilst incarcerated. For Jay, then, barbering started as a real necessity: a way that he could survive within a difficult environment. But it certainly didn’t end there:

“While incarcerated, I didn’t have hope. So, I would get out, and get these dead-end jobs – and I wasn’t making good enough money when I was used to making fast money from my other life. Then whilst incarcerated I had this epiphany one day. I was sitting in my cell, and they have these lockers where you put your food and cosmetics – and I had all this food that I was hoarding, hundreds of dollars-worth of food, and all these quote-unquote ‘drug lords’ were having to borrow things from me.

“And a lightbulb went off like why the hell do you try breaking the law, why are you involved with all this knucklehead mentality when you could be making all this money cutting hair? So I went down to the education department and I spoke to this lady, and she said when you get out, call this phone number and due to you being a felon, and because of the programmes you have done, you can get a grant to go to cosmetology school.”

Despite almost giving up several times, Jay stuck to it – and now his life has changed significantly from what it once was.

 

Living for Success

Jay has gone on to make a name for himself in barbering, cementing his new career by opening up the Major League Barbershop around a decade ago. He describes the shop as a family friendly environment, priding himself on the high levels of sanitation as well as the talent of the barbers he hires.

The story behind the barbershop is fascinating in and of itself, taking both good luck and hard work to ensure success:

“When I graduated cosmetology school I was renting chairs in barbershops and I managed to acquire this high-class clientele despite being in a bad neighbourhood. I ended up getting this client in my chair who people might look at as like a mobster, old-school Italian guy who owned a lot of property and he said ‘listen, we’ve got to take you out of this neighbourhood’.

This man was able to help Jay by offering him an empty shop in a new mini mall that was still being built, telling Jay to mark out the space he wanted on the dirt where the mall was about to be built. This transformed into 1200 square foot barbershop that Jay had to grow into.

“I hired some barbers; 4 chairs went to 8 chairs, 8 chairs went to 12. A lot of people just slap a barbershop together but I bought all these beautiful plasma televisions, had the waiting area as a baseball dugout. I wanted it to be a family friendly barbershop, somewhere clean, somewhere women could go and not get gawked out.

“I’m always remodelling, buying new chairs, upgrading my facilities. I think the difference between my shop and others is also the people I hire – I want people with an entrepreneurial spirit. The majority of my barbers that leave go on to open their own shop.”

Although nurturing upcoming talent might mean creating more competition for his own shop, Jay cares more about giving something back and helping people who might be disadvantaged. This includes working with people who were incarcerated in a community outreach programme, helping those with no jobs and few prospects train as barbers and fulfil a need for licensed professionals.

 

Making it Big

Arguably, though, what really helped Jay to make it big was the creation of the CT Expo, an event which may have started small but has gone on to attract an impressively wide audience.

“I’ve participated in barber battles in cosmetology and barber schools, and barbers really come out for it.

“The difference between cosmetologists and barbers to me, where I’m from, is that cosmetologists will get their license and then do continued education. Barbers get a license, get a tattoo of a pair of clippers and think they know everything.

“In order to spread awareness that we weren’t charging enough for our haircuts, we weren’t acting like professionals, we weren’t treating our clients with proper customer care… I had to come up with an excuse. And that was the battles. Barbers are really competitive people.

“So, I did a barber battle at a nightclub, letting everyone compete for free. I didn’t think as many people would turn up as did, and I didn’t think it would become what it has. I reached out to all these people to market it, only Ivan Zoot was interested. He got me clippers for the prize bags, which was astonishing. We had around 30-40 competitors – it was a great turnout”.

From there, the show just grew and grew, although not without some teething issues. Growing so rapidly meant that he had more people attending his shows than the venue he used could cope with, leading to complaints and even visits from the fire marshals!

None of this put Jay off though, and he talks about the type of touching moment that made him realise how much he wanted to keep giving back “This kid won second place in the speed fade battle, and he came with his Grandfather and his Mother and his Aunt – his Grandfather flew all the from Puerto Rico to see him compete – and the kid cried like thank you, I’ve never won anything before in my life. From that point on I said I have to give back to the industry that’s been giving to me.”

From 1100 people at that show, 2017’s CT Expo hit around 8000 attendees including vendors. I was there myself, and the event was off the scale; aside from two barber battle stages, there were also a huge range of vendor.

As Jay says, many of the most popular hair shows cater more towards female hairdressing, with barbers taking up a small area. The event that he runs is all about barbers, with a particular focus on how barbers can grow and become more professional while also charging better rates for their haircuts.

 

A Bright Future

When Jay says that “barbering has truly saved my life” it certainly rings true, so it’s exciting to know that somebody with that much passion is putting so much back into the industry. One big focus at 2017’s expo was education – he sees the battle and the vendors as an excuse for the education which give the show its real focus, working as a draw to make sure that barbers show up and get interested.

Jay is also running Major League Barber Academy, a way of ensuring a bright future for those people who are only just beginning their barbering career. So, what can you expect if you visit the academy?

“I opened my school in the beginning because it was hard for me to find licensed barbers. Or I was finding licensed barbers but they’ve come from a shop that was taught poor practices from an owner who was taught poor practices, from another owner who was taught poor practices… they don’t know how to sanitise properly, they just want clients in and out of the chairs.

“I said you know what, I’m going to start training. And right now, I’m actually in the process of getting financial aid funding, I have a great graduation rate and a great passing rate, now we’re going to be offering a class in Spanish too.

“It’s been a dream come true for me. If you would have told me where I’m at in my career today, even doing this interview, years ago I wouldn’t have believed you. Because I’m from the streets, and nothing is handed to you and you don’t believe anything you hear or see. But one thing I can say is that I work a lot.”

 

I saw that tenacity and hard-working attitude for myself when I visited the CT Expo; Jay’s whole focus was on making the show a success. His advice to young people on the wrong tracks, then, is definitely worth listening to:

“At the end of the day, you have to learn that there are two paths. There’s no in between. If you’re on the right path and you’re working hard, then hard work rewards hard work. With that, you can make it in any career. So, my advice to you is to start treating the barbering career as a career and a profession, not as a hustle or a way to make cash.”

Remember, these are words of advice from someone who has been there and knows what he’s talking about. You can find out more about Jay’s work at his website mlbcuts.com and, of course, you can get to know more barbers like Jay by visiting my Instagram page – @larrythebarberman – or my YouTube channel, barbers.tv

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Female Barber: Lena Piccininni, Speaks Of Her Rise To Barbering Stardom

Lena Piccininni’s work is the epitome of modern barbering, with her versatile skills representing perfectly the way in which barbering and hairdressing are becoming more and more interconnected every day. She is also a talented makeup artist, and the versatility of these three skills mean that she is able to educate both male and female stylists in a way that they can engage with.

Aside from all that, name is an educator and ambassador for Pacino’s – an achievement that any barber would be delighted to have to their name. She’s also one of the most professional and driven people I’ve met, with a work ethic that should make her an inspiration to barbers and hairdressing alike… so let’s hear what she had to say!

 

A journey to the top

“Well, I started doing hair and makeup, and then I went through some life experiences and basically need a job – so I ended up in barbering. I realised that it’s extremely difficult for a woman to make it in a male dominated industry and I needed to make sure my skills were 100%. Sometimes I thought, I need to be better than the men in the barbershop.”

This spurted Lena on to look at educational classes, and it was here that she first met Pacino – a hugely admired celebrity barber, educator and platform artist who was impressed by Lena and able to propel her career forwards.

But while she found she was learning a lot from educators, and from watching classes, she also felt like there was an important piece missing. In particular, she felt like her fades just weren’t living up to the high standard she’d set herself:

“Because I do makeup and makeup is all about blending, I stayed saying if you have issues take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Pretend the hair is an eyelid and you’re blending the eyeshadow, it’s the same thing. You can see the same dark lines and what needs to be darker or lighter.”

As I mentioned above, Lena’s diversity is one of the things that elevates her. This has been the case since the very start of her career, when she tells me that she saw every single client as worthwhile, since she was focused on widening her client base. This is an important point for early career barbers; you can’t just chase the fades and pompadours of you want to get your name out!

It’s the same with Lena’s educational classes, where she describes her clientele as “everybody” – meaning, barbers, hairdressers and cosmetologists alike. Specifically, she tries to draw on details from each element and puts it all into her education. And, as Lena notes, as we are seeing more and more crossover between barbering and hairdressing, her style of education is exactly what a lot of people within the hair industry are looking for.

 

Humble barbering roots

I was also curious to hear more about how Lena first got into barbering – a story which is inspiring in and of itself, even if her career hadn’t reached the heights that she now enjoys:

“I was in a hair salon and they changed owners and they basically wanted to cut my pay to around half. They were paying around $5 an hour to assist on reception, clean and shampoo. At 17 I was very stubborn, so I said no way, I’m quitting. Unfortunately, then my father passed away and I had to get a job – I had to take over a mortgage, with my brother, at 17 years old. I was fresh out of high school, no money, no nothing. No clients, not really any education in hair. I couldn’t get a clientele.

Then a friend of my fathers – I feel bad now but I say thank god, he broke his shoulder – because he had a full book of clients and couldn’t cut for them. I said look, I can do this.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly given her determination, this worked out well for Lena, and from their she was able to start working in an actual barbershop, fading and learning classic barbering skills for the first time.

From this combination of luck and good judgement, it was hard work that drove Lena forwards. This is particularly evident when looking at how she came to work with Pacino, a man who has had a big influence on her career: “without him, I wouldn’t be where I am. His initial class that I attended has opened up so many doors over the past few years. From where I started, I never dreamt that I’d end up educating in so many different countries and places”.

 

Always staying classy

One of the things that impressed Pacino initially was Lena’s sense of professionalism, and desire to be considered great because of her skills and not for any other reason:

“First of all, when I was starting as a barber I wanted to make sure that anybody sitting in my chair was there because of my skills and not what I looked like.  I try to teach this to a lot of girls; sometimes I see them wearing more revealing clothing to get clientele, but that is the wrong clientele.

My clientele is very respectful to me and that’s how I like it. You want to make sure you’re barbering for the right reasons – not to meet to guys.

Thankfully, right now I don’t have any [challenges as a female barber], because I’ve worked so hard to put myself out there. When I first started, the biggest challenge was just being taken seriously. I’ve had people get out of my chair. I’ve had guys be like ‘you know what, never mind. Maybe you should just be sitting at the front desk, maybe you should be sweeping the floor. I’ve had all those comments. It just pushed me further.

So the challenge really is just getting guys to take a woman seriously in a barber shop.”

It’s a challenge that Lena has clearly overcome, as her personal brand has grown huge, with 120,000 followers on Instagram and a star status in the USA and Latin America.  Again, a lot of this is down to the professionalism with which she conducts herself and her business, ensuring that her Instagram is purely focussed on her work without personal distractions: “Honestly, that’s what Pacino noticed – he said I’ve seen your page and you’re just working and working and working. You really want to keep unrelated things private with separate pages for work and personal life so that your brand stays completely professional.”

 

Just put yourself out there

No surprises that her advice for other barbers focusses on the strong traits that Lena has demonstrated throughout her own career, and she talks about versatility as being one of the key skills to master:

“One of the questions that barbers always ask me is how do you build a clientele and being a woman, building a clientele is particularly hard. But it’s because I was versatile. I see a lot of guys who worked at the barbershop that I worked at and they didn’t build a big clientele because they only wanted to cut certain people.

I was never scared to cut a kid, long hair, short hair. I would take anyone and make sure I was versatile, and that helped me stay busy and make money.”

This is great advice for every barber, so I hope that you’re able to use it in your own career – but I also wanted to know whether Lena had any particular advice for female barbers who want to become an ambassador, an educator or an influencer as she has:

“You’ve got to just put yourself out there. Again, my number one thing is always be classy, always be professional. Really, you’ve got to practice and you’ve got to show your work; you have to promote yourself, promote your brand, get yourself out to these shows.

I drove four hours just to come walk around and see everyone, and I’ve been to these shows so many times but I still keep putting myself out there. If you have to take a day off, take a day off and come to these shows, meet people, use Instagram.

So, I say if I can do it anyone can do it, I started from nothing. I started from being poor, from never cutting men’s hair to travelling the globe and educating. If I can do it you can do it, but you have to work hard and practice, you have to have patience because it takes time.”

 

I’m sure that Lena’s words will have inspired you to take that time and work your way up; her eclectic skills, confidence and sheer determination are certainly inspiring to me! To see more interviews with top professional barbers like Lena, please visit larrythebarberman.com, or come and find me on YouTube at barbers.tv or on Instagram as @larrythebarberman, where I am constantly putting out new videos and posts so that you can learn from some of the best in the business.

 

 

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Barber: Tyler Trotter of Clean Clean Cut Grooming rose from Prison to Platform Barber

It’s no secret our industry is booming!  Every day, more talented people are building successful barbering careers, and I love bringing you their stories.

I never thought a barbering story would start in jail in the southern United States, with a drug-addicted, homeless young man, serving a one-year term for robbing a druggist.

But many stories start at rock bottom, and that jail cell was rock bottom just a few years ago for Knoxville, Tennessee-based Tyler Trotter, whose brilliant recovery was capped off when the young man with the fierce red beard appeared onstage at Premier Orlando.

“I don’t think that has soaked in yet,” he told me when we sat down for an interview. “That I am here at Orlando Premier and I am a platform barber – it’s amazing!”

It was a coincidence that I’d met up with Tyler at the Premiere. We hadn’t planned an interview. But he graciously agreed to spend some time with me so I could share with you.

I was eager to hear more of his one-of-a-kind story. “I was penniless and homeless,” the recently certified Master Barber told me of his jail time.  “I’d lost my children to Protective Services; I served a year locked up 23 hours a day, going through withdrawal.”

“And it was all because of my choices, my drug addiction,” he continued. “I lost everything that was important to me. Most importantly, I lost respect for myself.  I had no idea who I was.”

“Pain is a really good teacher and motivator,” he added with a smile.

If you are one of his more than 6,000 YouTube subscribers, you know Tyler brings it with unsparing honesty, a trait winning him more barbering fans on social media every day.

“I couldn’t stop using drugs,” he said bluntly. “When I got arrested and was locked up … desperation took over. I decided I can’t do this. I didn’t know how to get a job, I didn’t know how to keep a job, I didn’t know how to pay bills, I didn’t know how to do anything, and I was ready to give up.”

He said a last-minute call to a local addiction help center introduced him to the 12-step recovery program and to a spiritual side he had long neglected.

“I started to find out who I was and started to believe in myself,” he told me. “I found out I was extremely ambitious. I had a desire to be successful in life;  to be a great husband and a great father, so I started trying different things.”

He recovered his sobriety and worked as a counselor at an addiction treatment center (“It was fantastic!” he recalls).  He reconciled with his wife; his two children were back in his life.  His family was soon expecting a third child.

 

“Our financial situation meant I couldn’t continue working as a counselor,” he smiles. “We agreed I’d become a stay-at-home Dad.’

And that’s how it started: former inmate and stay-at-home Dad giving haircuts to his kids.

“Giving haircuts was special to me, it was a moment of nurturing,” he says. “One day, my son says, ‘Can I have a fauxhawk?’  I didn’t know how to do it, and a little voice inside – my conscience, and I believe God speaks to me through my conscience  –  said, ‘I wish I could cut it the way he wanted it.’ So I went on YouTube to look at different haircut videos.”

And he never looked back.

“After the fauxhawk video, I wanted to watch the bald fade video, and after that, I wanted to watch the other haircut videos, and I thought, ‘Yeah, this looks fun!”

“I watched student barber YouTube journeys.  I got excited, and this passion and ambition started snowballing inside me.”

After stitching together funding, Tyler was soon studying at the Knoxville Institute of Hair Design and You Tubing every step.

“I had watched other barber students document their journey, and I found value in it, so I said ‘I am going to start right now.’  My first video is me before I even owned any clippers, saying, ‘I am going to be a barber. Watch this!’”

“I documented and blogged my entire experience through barber school. I did reviews on all the clippers and all the tools that I saw,” he told me. “And I continue today.”

“If a barber wants to know how to be successful,” he said, switching to his current YouTube offerings, “I do my best to document my victories as well as my failures.  I document the process of what it takes. I document the hard work.  I document the time away from my wife and kids. I document the grunt work and the labor, scrubbing the rust off the chairs that are going into my shop.”

“A lot of people share the glory,” he concludes, “but they don’t share the story.”

Besides his strength, determination, ambition and love for the industry (“I want to breathe everything barber and pursue it”), Tyler’s belief in relationships shines through. One of his most important bonds is with fellow American and Barber Society Administrator Christopher Burke.

I recently interviewed Christopher for my channel, where he went out of his way to mention Tyler as a top mentee.

Tyler told me he met Chris through sheer doggedness, peppering Burke with questions via social media while a student.

“Christopher not only answered me, he showed me how to hold a pair of clippers in a comment thread by taking pictures,” Tyler recalls with amazement.  “Him being a busy man and me just a student – there were 9,000 members in the Barber Society – for him to take the time to show me these things, I didn’t want it to go to waste.”

Tyler realized his path to success was simple. Not easy, of course, but not complicated.

“When Chris gave me advice,” he says enthusiastically, “even if I didn’t like it or didn’t want to do it, I did it anyway.”

“To be successful, I have to listen to the people who have already attained success.  I need to do the things they are telling me to do or the things they are sharing with me, and Chris, man, he has never stopped helping me.”

Tyler’s ambition and drive have already taken him far. He developed his own beard oil while he was a student, giving it away to class mates and almost immediately becoming overwhelmed by demand.

“It is all essential oils so your beard absorbs it,” Tyler said.  “Plus it takes care of the most important part of your beard, which is the skin and the follicle the hair grows out of.”

“I can’t give you a wholesale price on 50 bottles a month right now because I don’t have time to make it, I can’t meet the demand,” Tyler said. “I still make it myself in my kitchen.  I still mix it in my blender. There is just no time to make it that way much longer, and I am looking at mass manufacturing that will preserve the integrity of the ingredients.”

Not a bad problem to have for someone who just got a license two years ago!

From a man who has seen so much hardship and then so much success I wanted to know how Tyler views the industry, and what thoughts he might share with other barbers.

“If you want to become a barber, find barbers,” he said firmly. “Go to shops, look at what they do, look at YouTube videos, make sure it is what you want to do.  If you continue to aspire, ask somebody to show you how, and when they show you how, do what they show you to do.”

“You don’t just wake up one day and know how to be a barber,” he continued. “You have to do something you have not done before. If you want to see something you have never seen, you have to go places you have never been.”

“So get a mentor, develop relationships, and if the first person, the second person, the third person you reach out to don’t reach back, keep going because if you don’t continue to reach out, you guarantee you are never going to find that relationship.”

“I suggest you focus on people and focus on yourself.  Character first, then business.”

That last line is as good a slogan for barbering as I’ve ever heard.  Words of wisdom from Tyler Trotter and words of thanks from me, Larry the Barberman.  It was a great interview and a privilege to meet such an inspiring figure.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Tyler as much as I enjoyed talking with him.  Be sure to check out our entire interview on my YouTube @LarrytheBarberman.

Until next time, happy barbering!

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Angel Raws: The Florida Phenom Talks His Clothing Line, Multiple Awards, and how what he Really Wanted to be was a Skateboarder.

Multiple award winner,  owner of two successful shops, Andis educator and clothing line entrepreneur – not bad for a young man who has yet to celebrate his 30th birthday!

I was delighted to meet the amazing Angel Raws at the Orlando Premiere at the suggestion of my friend Eileen Nunez from Great Clips.  I discovered a creative person whose barbering relationship with fellow artists – such as many hip-hop stars – is no surprise.  I always love sharing with you the many ways people find barbering success, and Angel’s story is a great one.

Angel surprised me immediately with this opening story:  he initially picked up clippers to support his professional skateboarding dream!

“I was 16, riding for a couple of companies,” he told me. “As far as a sponsor for skateboarding, the shop I was riding for closed.  My mom had clippers sitting in the garage; she is a cosmetologist. So I picked them up and started doing haircuts for buddies for a little extra cash so I could buy boards and shoes.”

It didn’t take Angel long to realize he’d found his true passion. “Once I picked up the clippers, I left it all behind, and I just fell in love with the industry,” he told me. “I got my license in 2010 and ever since I have been in 50-plus shows and all across the US.”

Angel is the kind of person open to growth and opportunity. What he saw in men’s grooming gave him immediate motivation.

“When I first came into the industry, it was a Bronner Brothers hair show my mom told me about, and it opened my eyes to what the barbering industry was,” he remembers. ”I did not know there was so much you could do with a barbering license, that there were people cutting celebrities’ hair. I couldn’t even fathom that you could be an educator; you can go and compete and do all this. It gave me inspiration.”

Angle seized another opportunity when a contact invited him to a “Barbers at the Roundtable” networking event.  “It was by Curtis Smith,” he said, “and the whole XOTICs team was there – Jesse Lima, Denny from Andis, Kenny Duncan – all the big names, and I was just watching. It inspired me to compete and do the things that they were doing .”

Angel realized he had to “get my name out there” and it was his fierce skateboarder competitiveness that suggested a way:  “I started to look up competitions (I could join) so people would know who I was ‘cuz  I felt I had the  skill to get to where these people were.”

His teachers funded a trip to the New York Barber Battle, “my first time even traveling by myself,” he says with a smile.  “I ended up taking the trophy! I was so amped up after that.  I mean, I went to New York, I win this big trophy, I got this $1,000  check,  it was an amazing experience.”

“But that wasn’t the one that meant the most,” he continued.  “I came back to Bronner Brothers and they had the Andis overall competition, where you had to dress the model and do the haircut to match.  Andis has been my favorite company since I started, so it was a big deal to me to compete, even though I was still in school.”

Angel demonstrated another key to his success by the way he approached the competition: he planned, prepared and practiced. For months.

“I had it down pat by the time I did it live,” he told me. “I did a big shark on one side and an octopus on the other and I dressed my man up as a scuba diver with the air tank the flippers and everything – so when he walked out on stage, he was walking all funny.” The crowd and the judges loved it.

“My mom was there and everyone who was supporting me, and that was one of the biggest highlights of my career. “

As an Andis educator, Angel is influencing barbers all over, but he doesn’t specialize in a particular cut. “It is more of the style, a lot of the real close fades, bald fades,” he says. “The trendy cuts like the Mohawks.”

“People are into a clean-cut haircut, more of the skin fade, that has a lot of detail, that’s more my style. On Instagram you will see that I don’t leave a one guard on the side. I just do mainly skin fades with a lot of detail.”

When I pressed Angel on his strongest skill, I was sure it would relate to cutting hair but he had another surprise.  His real strong suit is organization and service, something every barber should sit up and notice.

“Being organized,” he said to me, “taking care of my clients on time, being there when the client expects it.”  It sounds simple but so many barbers neglect this basic service, he says.

“They might not show up for an appointment, or they are late,” he observes. “I pride myself on being punctual.  I cut a lot of people like doctors and lawyers – people who have jobs and don’t have time to hang out in the shop. That is my specialty:  being available and on time.”

Angel is on top of another trend in the industry: bookings by app.  It has freed him and his clients from phone interruptions, another service issue.  “There is no need for me while I am taking care of this client to be on the phone with the next client,” he says. “(An app) gives my clients access to my schedule, so it might be 2 a.m. and people are booking me.  I might wake up in the morning and I have had 6 clients book during the night. They didn’t have to call me; they didn’t have to text me. It’s just convenient.”

In addition to his two Florida shops, Raws Cuts 1 and 2, I wanted to know about his growing clothing line, a fantastic idea he calls “Barber Life.”

He tells me his shops are family style with a relaxed atmosphere where wives and children feel comfortable, “a real tight family and with all my barbers you will feel that vibe.”

His clothing line is another example of an observant man seizing an opportunity.  Angel contacted a screen-printing friend in New York with an idea:

“I reached out to my partner BV and said,  ‘There is no barbering clothing line, no logo of barbering.’  So we came up with Barber Life, and we went to the Bronner Brothers show with a backpack full of these shirts and we sold out, people were eating them up right out of the bag. The next year we had a booth and it was just a hit. We needed to get a website together, and it has taken off.  We have done 50-plus shows, we’ve done barber battles, the website –  www.theprofessionalsbarbeshop.com – it has just been a blessing, man.”

What the future holds for this ambitious and talented barber and businessman is a mystery for now (“We’re taking it day by day”), though he loves working in barber education.  As for his inspiration these days, he says there are many people he looks up to, but he feels comfortable now sharing his lessons with people starting out, which I am thrilled to pass along to you!

“Don’t be scared,” he says, very seriously. “It might be financial; it might be you don’t want to get up on the stage and compete. You can’t have it because with fear you aren’t going to go anywhere.  You are going to be stuck in a box because you are afraid to do anything outside of that box.”

Angel says Andis once asked him to teach a class in Spanish, a task that drove him back to the books and made him nervous since he wasn’t sure he could pull it off. “I speak Spanish with my mom every day,” he laughs, but that was about it!

“But I did it. I studied and I learned the words I needed, and I was nervous, but I didn’t let the fear get to me. I would not be sitting here able to tell you that I am an Andis educator (if I hadn’t)

“So put yourself out there, any opportunity that you get, and don’t be afraid.”

I liked Angel’s humility; he’s grounded. When I asked him his biggest accomplishment, for example, he said without hesitation, “Getting my license.”

“Without that, I would not be here. I truly believe you aren’t a barber without that license. For me, that is the biggest moment. That is what opened the door for me. That is what made me a barber.”

A perfect ending to a great conversation.  My thanks to Angel Raws for his valuable time and Eileen Nunez for suggesting we meet.  Be sure to watch Angel’s interview and other fascinating conversations with barbering’s most interesting people at my YouTube at LarrytheBarberman. ‘Til next time happy barbering!

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Barber Frank Rimer: Revered Hair Stylist Jody Taylor Claims, “Frank is probably the best traditional barber in London”

 

In February, I caught up again with Frank Rimer from the Shoreditch barbershop, Thy Barber, just before he and his team appeared on the cover of BarberEvo magazine.

 

BarberEvo’s cover illustration was a painting of the Thy Barber trio – Frank, Pauly Harmer, and Edmond Rowe – done by the artist Vince Kamp, whose barber-inspired collection ‘CUTS Portraits of Barbers’ was exhibited in March in London’s Hoxton.

 

In this video, Frank speaks to me about his own evolution over the last 18 months. As I predicted the last time Frank and I spoke, the shop has needed an expansion, and in the last year and a half, Thy Barber has gone from a one-chair operation to three chairs and Frank has been in the spotlight as the barber commissioned and entrusted to take the beard off Wolverhampton model and the man voted as having the “most influential hair in Britain,’ Ricki Hall.

 

Frank and I talk about that opportunity to help raise money to fund research and raise awareness of Mesothelioma, the cancer that Hall’s father died from. Franks says that it was a privilege to do the Captain Fawcetts’ sponsored event, and that it also opened up new horizons for Hall too, who now plays with the design of his facial hair and is no longer afraid to just go beardless!

 

Thy Barber is known as the place to go in London for classic cuts like the Rockabilly and Psycho Quiff. While the team behind the reputation is fairly new, Frank says that they not only fit together perfectly, but share the same ethos of professionalism and a certain way of doing things. He describes Pauly and Ed as humble barbers, who are open to learning and always willing to up their game. The team is lucky, he says, to work in the “hub of fashion central” with its great underground scene and status as a trendsetter. “Everything happens in London 2 years before it happens anywhere else,” he says.

 

Described by Jody Taylor as “the best traditional barber in London,” Frank who shares a mutual admiration for the London fashion week hairdresser and stylist extraordinaire, has built his brand on among other things, a network of relationships. His alliances bring a variety to his work and for instance, he and Pauly, have been working with the workwear specialist behind LaneFortyFive, to design a smock for barbers that will be available by mail order in the next few months. The unbranded handmade garment has a scissors pouch, internal buttons and can be tapered by the wearer. A lot of thought has gone into it, says Frank, and each smock will be handmade and custom-sized.

 

Thy Barber has also become the ambassador for the Camden Watch Company and more recently has become a retailer of a new brand of male grooming products called Copacetic, available for purchase in-store. One of Frank’s earlier relationships, of course, was with the duo behind the Bike Shed, Vicky and Dutch. Frank dismisses any speculation that he owns the shed and explains that the store’s location evolved out of being part of a pop-up show idea that originated with the pair behind the Bike Shed brand. At the annual event, hosted at the Tobacco Docks, Frank showcased his skills and worked with a range of talented guest barbers, known in the biking community. As for how he actually feels about bikes, he says that he loves to look at them, but wouldn’t risk riding them for fear of damaging his hands, the tools of his trade.

 

The inspiration for Vince Kamp’s signature piece from his collection of barber portraits, Frank, and his team, were also happy to introduce Kamp to the people Frank describes as “the cool looking guys” or the “more respected” barbers that featured in the artist’s work. In exchange, they each have a portrait of themselves done by Kamp, which frames each of their mirrors and is a “huge talking point” of the shop.

 

Apart from planning to run some courses this year, dates to be announced, Frank whose upcoming nuptials is soon and has been dividing his time between Canada and the UK, says that he won’t be doing many events this year. Fans of his work can catch him at the Bike Shed event from the 26-28th May at the London Tobacco Docks and at the Big North Tattoo Show in Newcastle on Sat 29th April.

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Booksy’s Stefan Batory is Boosting Barbers’ Business, Easing Their Stress and Changing Their Lives. Not bad for a Late-Night Long-Distance Runner!

Barbers are over the world are getting to know Booksy, the mobile app that’s changing the business and, according to CEO and co-founder Stefan Batory, improving the professional and personal lives of business owners, independent contractors, and shop employees.

I’ve encountered many successful barbers who swear by Booksy, so I jumped at the chance to meet with Stefan at the Booksy home office in Poland recently.

Fascinating fact: Booksy would not be happening at all if Stefan wasn’t a late night long-distance runner.

Because of his business schedule, Stefan told me his running work outs happen late at night, “sometimes even after midnight.”

“If I feel something is not OK, that I need physiotherapy, it is too late to call for an appointment, and the therapist is not returning text messages at that hour,” he explained. “Often, he would have something available first thing in the morning, but I had no way of knowing that. So,  I missed out on seeing him and he missing out on filling that early appointment.”

“Even when I called during work hours, a therapist works with his hands, and it is not possible to answer the phone, respond to texts or keep up on emails in real time.”

“It seemed to me there must be a solution for this.”

The Booksy idea was born.

In the simplest terms, Booksy is a mobile app that allows clients to book their own appointments on their smart phones at any time in a matter of moments.  For the customer, that’s maximum convenience.  For the barber, it means no more dealing with missed phone calls, late text responses or lost emails. The Booksy monthly subscription model is also much simpler for barbers than paying a percentage of sales, as some booking apps require.

It all means a huge reduction in barber stress and hassle, Stefan says, and a big boost to the bottom line.

“If a client cancels a few hours or even an hour before the appointment, someone can book that last minute availability through the app.  Barbers tell me before using Booksy they had empty chairs on Friday and Saturday, even if they were super successful. They just could not keep up with the phone calls and the text messages. But the second they started using Booksy, that stopped being a problem.  People could change their times and dates and book appointment themselves.”

For customers, no more waiting for a barber to get back. For the barber, no more time spent chasing down all those messages.

“So we not only took the stress out of their lives but the fill rate became much higher because people could check in on their phones at the last minute and say, ‘Oh, he is available in 20 minutes,’ and book it.”

Success has followed this simple yet groundbreaking idea.  Booksy has more than 5,000 clients and has raised millions in capital markets to continue to develop and expand.

Their growing client base means Booksy has amassed original usage data that reveals previously unknown insights all barbers should be aware of.

For example, using the million-plus  appointments made using Booksy each month,  “we noticed 60% of appointments come outside of working hours, which proves people like to book appointments at night or super early,” Stefan says.” That changes business dramatically because, before Booksy, they were unable to make those appointments.”

“We also have the data to prove that people who switch to self-booking with Booksy increase the frequency of their visits by as much as 10 to 30 percent. The client who used to call you 8 or ten times a year now comes twelve or fourteen times a year. This is great because everyone knows it is much easier and cheaper to give your current clients better service than to acquire new clients.”

“What surprised us was that before Booksy, barbers not only missed out on business but also got hurt by cancellations or reschedules because they could not respond quickly.  So barbers would stay in their shops and wait for clients who never showed up. Booksy solves that, too. It’s easy for clients to cancel, it shows up on your calendar immediately, and it opens up a slot for someone else. The barber never has to get involved.”

Another unique feature is the merchant-facing software, which among other things keeps track of point of sale, which helps when calculating commissions and making other personnel and marketing decisions.

I was curious why Stefan chose to focus on barbers. He assured me Booksy was working with hair stylists, therapists, personal trainers, even doctors, and dentists, but there was indeed something about barbering that made us an attractive industry.

“Barbers work with their hands,” he told me.  “Anyone who works with their hands understands that it’s impossible to answer the phone, keep up with emails or respond to texts.”

“More barbers still use pen and paper whereas hair salons have been using management software for years, not necessarily for appointments but for back-office management.  It’s more difficult for them to switch over to Booksy.”

“We designed Booksy as a mobile-first app, and because we knew barbers making appointments manually don’t usually have computers in the shop, they were the perfect niche for the service.”

I shared with Stefan stories I have heard from barbers all over who love Booksy’s popularity with customers and its capability to remove stress from a barber’s daily work life. I had even met a barber who told me that until Booksy came along, he was ready to leave the business due to the stress of customer management.

‘People say it is magic,” he laughs. “They tell me, ‘I don’t do anything, and Booksy does the job, booking clients, handling cancellations and reschedulings, communicates with my clients. I can focus on barbering.’”

“We get messages all the time about this, how Booksy is not only about revenue, but we are helping change lifestyles.”

“One of the best stories I heard was a barber in the US who wrote, ‘Thank you, Booksy, for helping me to have a healthier lifestyle. Before Booksy, I had a lunch break but never had time to eat because I had to reply to emails and messages and phone calls. But now, I have 30 minutes to relax and enjoy lunch.”

“Many barbers are very artistic,” he adds, “They are doing administrative work not because they love it but just because they have to.  Part of what I love about Booksy is we are taking stuff that is not directly involved with their passion and doing it for them. Their life is easier and their work more enjoyable. They can focus on what they do best.”

That’s a real life changer!

Booksy is constantly developing, but Stefan says they are careful not to complicate the app, since ease of use is one of the keys to its popularity. “Of our 5,000 cents, almost all of them set it up themselves, and it took just two or three minutes,” he says proudly.

We will all need to stay tuned because, though is isn’t quite ready to reveal details, Stefan is close to announcing major partnerships with large internet service companies and social media giants that will make Booksy even more attractive to barbers and clients alike.

On behalf of barbers everywhere, I say “Keep on running, Stefan!”

I enjoyed our visit, and I am grateful for the time this very busy man found for me. I think this information is beneficial to all my followers and I hope you will give it serious thought and SHARE my blog or video with your friends. Perhaps it can change your life, too.

Til next time, Happy Barbering!

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Scottish Barber Colin Petrie of Hard Grind: Creative, Energetic, Expanding…

Did he Mention his 4-day Dundee-to-London Barbers’ Motorcycle Charity Run coming up July 22?

When I caught up with Colin Petrie at Barber Connect Telford we briefly reminisced about the last time we’d met two years ago, before diving into his crazy busy, creative barbering life at Hard Grind.

“We had two barbers,” says the Scottish entrepreneur, whose Hard Grind shops in Aberdeen and Dundee are home to custom design apparel, good coffee, and first class men’s styling. “Since then, we’ve snowballed. We have upwards of 14 or 15 barbers now. We have warehouses and stock people. Massive!”

Colin says this with an appealing blend of pride, wonder and weariness. “It’s hard, it’s tough,” he says, but you sense he isn’t complaining, just being real. ”Work life balance is something we preach massively but I’m one of the worst at it,” he says with a laugh.

But the barber from Dundee with the business that’s attracting customers and barbers from everywhere with a mix of great service, unique combination of products and savvy marketing has something else on his mind right now: motorcycles.  He launches the ‘Harley and Haircuts’ Barbers Ride July 22, a four-day excursion from Dundee to London that benefits London’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

“It started about a year a year ago with  Luka from Luka’s Barbers and Ryan from SD Barbers – bike enthusiasts and barbers talking about doing a charity run,” he told me. “It has grown into this monster I can barely comprehend!  Then Xavier from Reuzel in the UK and Richie from Captain Fawcett (got involved).”

Enthusiasts of any motorcycle make are welcome, Colin emphasizes, not just Harley riders. The launch event is July 22 at Hard Grind in Dundee. Following a (no doubt extensive) after party and an overnight, wheels hit pavement July 23.

“We will be stopping to do barber seminars, and we will keep it intimate, focused on education,” he told me.  No big stage shows. He wants to attract eager-to-learn barbers who can get value from the events.  “But we’ll obviously be drinking a bunch of beers and high tailing it to London, so our bums will be sore.” The event will assist not only the Children’s Hospital; Colin adds the Lions Barber Collective for the prevention of suicide is also involved.

Tickets for the seminars are £25, “and you will get a £25 baggie of goodies from our sponsors,” he said.

The ticket for the full four-day ride is £250. “You also get a £250 goodie bag from our sponsors and entry to parties and events.”

“There are ‘giving pages’ for those who don’t ride,” he added. “Go to barbersride.com to find out all about it.”

So, besides running two shops that feature a line of your own apparel and organizing an island-spanning motorcycle ride for charity, are you keeping busy?

Colin’s answer shows the business savvy so many barbers can learn from. “We took our foot off of the gas (after the Aberdeen shop opened) to make sure we were running as we should,” he tells me.  “You can push too hard and too quickly and oversaturate something, and we made sure that didn’t happen.  We needed to hold on to the crux of what we want to do.”

And now?  “Things are running smoothly again to the point we can open up another few shops by the end of this year.”

Another clue to success is Colin’s appreciation for his staff, his willingness to share the human and business side with everyone at Hard Grind.  “Just incredible,” he says of Hard Grind employees. “We got guys on the stage today (at Barber Connect), guys getting in publications, which is fantastic. They all moved here from Wales, from Ireland – we have a girl from Melbourne in Australia, Larissa. It baffles my mind people want to move away to work under the Hard Grind brand. It has been incredible and crazy, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

I was curious about Colin’s approach to social media, since his brand is so talked about (his Instagram has shot up from 8,500 two years ago to 43,000+ today).

How has he done it?

“We are not afraid to show our personality, which is what people like,” he said.  “It’s not just haircut, haircut, haircut. There are stupid videos of us, just shop life.  We hang out outside of work, a lot of us are dads, we take our kids, we all get together as a family.”

“If you build something honest people will relate to that. Sometimes it is personal things. Sometimes it is inspirational.  It’s whatever it is, and it seems to resonate.”

“We also show the stresses, the dark side of the business.  Not just, ‘everything looks great on Instagram.’  There are hard times, so we portray all of it and that is why people respond.” But as far as strategy, “there is no rhyme or reason.”

The emphasis on reality is built into the Hard Grind name.  “We were the first to make coffee in a shop and you grind coffee beans, so it was a play on words, but it’s really about the actual grind.”

“Anyone who cuts hair knows it is not as glamorous as Instagram makes it look,” Colin said. “You’re on your feet, you are cutting back to back, and you rarely take a break. It is a grind every day. So the name is a nod to people who go out there every day, not just barbers. If want to get somewhere you have to grind really hard, so it seemed like a great play on words for us.”

I came away convinced that barbers everywhere can take a tip from Colin’s energy and willingness to try products, ideas and sponsorships in creative combinations.  Hard Grind has an experimental, even a “crazy” vibe (as Colin says) that people find irresistible.

Right now, he’s working with Brew Dog brewery and pub.  How many barbers are doing that?

“We’ve got beer taps going in all the shops, like a full-on bar with kegs,” he says.  At last! Beer and haircuts!  “We are working on our own ale as well. I love the idea of telling people ‘beers are in the fridge, help yourself,’ and pulling pints of our own special brew.”

I am seeing now how Colin very intelligently sets himself apart from the competition.  But there is even more: a reciprocal commitment to his partners. Smart business!

“It’s not, ‘Give us free beer so we can give it to our customers.’ That is not what I am about,” he says emphatically. ”I don’t sit here and ask for handouts and do nothing for you. With Brew Dog we are at their AGM every year with free haircuts and talking up the company.  I want to do things for them. We go to the Rock Star factory and do a big popup and free haircuts for the staff.”

“Almost of the brands have more followers than the shops, anyway. So it’s, ‘What can I do for you?’  That’s how it works,” he smiles.  This attitude has paid off in partnerships with the likes of The Bluebeard’s Revenge, Sailor Jerry, SB, Dickies, Luc Belaire, the aforementioned Brew Dog and Rock Star, Reuzel, Captain Fawcett, the list goes on.

The man never stops running. He’s branched out to custom products (“We’ve got our own beard oils, salt sprays, all made with custom scents”) and he is growing his apparel line (“We take a lot of time on design and the quality. I don’t put out something out I wouldn’t wear myself”) and now – why not? – he is launching a blog, the Daily Grind.  I’ve read it and I have three words for striving barbers everywhere: check it out.

Colin is keen on using the blog to talk about business. “In this age of people wanting to do their own business, it is important to show the true madness that comes with it, the sleepless nights. It’s something I love to do, but I want to paint both sides of it.”

So while on the subject, what is his nutshell advice to struggling barbers trying to build success? Colin’s observations are so extensive and worthwhile, it’s best I list them for easy reference.

  • “The best thing to have is a business partner,” not just to share the financial load but someone as emotionally invested as you are.
  • “I like people second guessing me. If I can persuade them that I am working on the right thing, (that improves my judgment). Trying to do it on your own, you spend a lot of time second-guessing yourself.”
  • Don’t mimic others. Think about how you can put your face on something unique to you.
  • Soak up all of it! Come to the shows. “Education is massive thing.”
  • Have patience. “People don’t want to do two years of training or to build things steadily. It’s a long game, not a short game. Don’t expect overnight success and don’t expect there will be no hurdles. “
  • Understand business basics. “Some think having a barber shop is, ‘I’ll put a man in a chair and that’s it.’ But you don’t know about taxes and VATs and all the stresses, all the struggles, like losing accounts because you are cutting all day. Who is going to answer your emails when you are busy?  Who is going to take care of your paper work?  It is a minefield.”
  • You don’t have to take classes, “but look at Google, look on websites. There is plenty of information out there that can help you. Download stuff not just about barbering but about business.”

As we bid farewell, Colin had a few parting words I want to share with you, since they sum up Hard Grind and Colin so well:  “I feel lucky because I’m not trying to be anything. I’m just being me, one big dysfunctional Hard Grind family, it just kind of works.  There is no trick.”

Thanks, Colin!  A lot of food for thought there.  Hope you look forward to my next interview as much as I do!  Stay tuned and til next time, happy barbering!

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Barber: Alan Beak Of Ruger’s Talks About His Meteoric Rise

 

Ruger’s Alan Beak: Enjoy the Boom and Be Nicer to Each Other!

When I caught up with Alan Beak at Barber Connect Telford, he was just 20 minutes from his stage show and a bit rueful about it. ‘There was never a special path I wanted to follow,” he told me, “I never intended to go down a ‘celebrity following’ route. We wanted to keep it varied: the TV work, multiple shows, traveling, doing education. We are just put 100 percent in the moment. Life’s too short for bad coffee and bad haircuts.”

In case you don’t know, the ‘we’ Alan refers to is not only his brother and fellow Manchester native Reece, with whom he opened Ruger Barber just 15 months ago. He also means the rest of his team, Danielle Corbett, Ellie Rogers, Carlie Firth and Aiden Smith, who he mentions often and are a big part of the rather sudden international fame of the Ruger brand.

It’s clear to me the brothers’ killer social media posts featuring unique photography have helped propel them to the heights they enjoy today. It has been a few years since I interviewed Alan, and I wanted to know how he developed those skills.

“Social media is the key factor,” he says firmly. “It is your personal platform to get your work out there.” Social media is part of personal and professional development, something Alan adds to his education work along with theory, demonstrations and hands-on. “Putting all these things together is the recipe.”

He has done his homework in the technical aspects of his incredible camera work. “You need the right tools, the right knowledge, and the right photography,” he says.

 

 ‘Good barbers, trustworthy barbers, are really hard to find’

“A lot of people are deterred by the camera (due to cost).  I get asked about this a lot, and I don’t keep it secret. My cameras are Canon 600D – that’s 400 pounds.  Quite expensive, but you can get it on eBay now for 120. It’s the 50mm lens that gives us the signature look we have. It has the shallow depth of field, focuses on the head, and everything else is blurred out. It exaggerates the haircut. So the 50 mm is the one, and you can get them for about 70 pounds.”

As the Ruger brand began its meteoric rise, people often asked about opening another shop, but Alan was skeptical. “Good barbers, trustworthy barbers, are really hard to find,” he said. “So instead of finding a location, we thought we should look for the right person (to work with us).  And we came across this young woman, Carlie. Her attitude was amazing, and she cut hair great.   She’s fit in the mold with our team, and it just kind of fell into place.” Carlie is Carlie Firth, who I noticed right away, since she was already doing dynamic stage shows at Barber Connect. Talk about fitting fit in!

With the right crew in place, Alan was ready to expand. The new shop in Lytham started with a business partner in Preston. “He said Lytham would be agood spot for us,” Alan recalls. “We went out there one night, and all the bars were open, we got drinks and something to eat, and they all have these bi-folding doors, everyone was outside, and we were sold!”

 

Months later, after “getting my soft barber hands into bits lugging axes and crowbars, pretending to be a builder,” the Lytham shop opened to booming business.

 

 “Get used to your hairdryer”

Alan is a highly attuned business operator whose philosophy every barber should study. He was typically decisive in launching his product line: “We said we wanted or own product; it is as simple as that. And we’ve done it.”  Ruger Essentials is the main item, “the best product we have ever used and ever will use,” Alan calls it in his (admittedly biased) view.

He hasn’t let expansion, social media success and international attention pull Ruger away from their fundamental Italian strength. Alan says the service and atmosphere identified with Italian barbering “will always be our foundation, but we amalgamate our skills with Afro-Caribbean, fading, lady’s hairdressing with extensive styling. We are becoming a hybrid barber; using the Italian as our base.”

He had a take for today’s barbers that was a little surprising: “Get used to your hairdryer.”

“Styling is 33 percent of what you are producing,” he told me. “Everyone wants to do clipper work; everyone wants to fade well; go to America; watch the American videos; everyone wants to learn more scissors techniques. So yes, obviously, clipper and scissor work. But get used to the hairdryer. Use it in both hands, use it in different products, be able to style hair. Hair is very easily manipulated with chemicals, but also with heat.

“Get used to using your hairdryer very well.”

 

“Seeds are Planted all over the World Every Day”

I found Alan to be fired up when offering thoughts on the state of the industry. First, we’ll cover what he loves.

“There is so much networking going on,” he says immediately with a smile. “People on the outside don’t realize how strangely lovely and incestuous it is. Everybody knows everybody.”

It wasn’t always that way. “I remember being told never to fraternize with the enemy, and the enemy was anyone not in your shop.” Now that’s over and the international flavor of men’s grooming is exciting for everyone, he says. “I had a student who was in Malaysia and wanted to have a look at haircuts there,  and when he said he had worked under us for a while, they took him right in!”

A trip to Barber Connect NYC also made an impact, he said, in particular seeing a multi-racial photo shoot called Council Estate Couture by  Kevin Luchman inspired Alan to get into photography, and hanging with people like Luke Guldan and Miguel helped him realize the importance of accessibility.

“Seeds are planted all over the world every day,” he told me. “Plant a seed and year later you can elaborate on that relationship. It doesn’t come all at once…patience, is what I want to say.”  But meeting people and over time, building relationships with the likes of Jamilla Paul and Chris Foster helped Alan’s personal and professional growth.

So, what does this major influencer think needs changing for the better in our industry?

The “bad attitudes,” Alan says.

 

“They know full well they couldn’t stand having that done to them”

“You see people criticizing work, so fast to jump in and say something negative, but then they don’t post pictures of their own work, or refuse to because they know full well they couldn’t stand having that done to them.” Alan’s teaching experience shows him kindness is best. “I can say, ‘You have done so well, but let’s pick on something so you can continue to progress.’

“We are in an industry that is booming and we should be a family. We should work together,” he adds. “If you are going to say something it should be positive, not putting someone down and making feel bad about their work.,

Alan is also on about criticism of people who post edited work, which he calls unfair. “I know people edit pictures, and I don’t give a shit because it looks good. I know they edited something out, but (so what?)”

“Look, we are all human,” he said. “Not everything has to be 100 percent perfect. I have seen people’s work online and then seen them work in front of me, and I can tell there is a difference, but I like to see that because that person is only human.”

 

“Always go with your gut instinct.”

His advice to all: post your work and don’t wait for perfection. “We are all human, we all make mistakes. Whether it’s a small flaw, post your work!  Get your work out there. Don’t pick out the flaw; pick out the good bits in it.”

What final thoughts does this incredibly focused and busy traveler (he lists off where barbering has taken him and his crew – “Shanghai, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, and soon to Barcelona and Moscow”) want to share with my audience?

 

“Always go with our gut instinct,” he said. “Don’t copy other people. I mean, you are never the first person to do something, but take one thing from this person and one thing from another, and just by taking as much as you can from everyone else, you can decide what is going to suit you and make you original.”

“Again, planting seeds. Plant a seed, build a relationship,” he urges. “Instagram is there for that. Instagram is not about how many followers you have. It is about the relationships you build. So speak to someone, leave a nice comment, send a message.”

He condemns how cliquey barbers can be, and sometimes difficult to get to know, so he recommends confidence.  “Even if you are not confident, tell people that. You can say, “I’m not very confident, but I’d like to meet you.” You may shit yourself at first, but then you will be all right!”

With those words I had to let Alan go, off to another rousingly successful stage show.  My thanks to him, and be sure to catch the entire interview on my YouTube at LarryTheBarberMan.  Follow me Instagram @larrythebarberman and I look forward to being friends on Facebook.

I know I will be working harder to follow Alan’s example! Let’s agree to plant seeds, build relationships and be good to one another. Til next time, happy barbering!

 

 

 

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Schorem’s: Leen & Rob Reveal The Secrets To Their Success Past & Present

They say revolutions happen quickly and indeed, it has been just six years since Rob and Leen, “The Scumbags of Rotterdam,” opened Schorem.  Their 6-chair, men-only shop was an immediate sensation. Their unique personalities, classic barber shop style and devotion to haircuts from the 50’s and 60’s took Europe and then the world by storm.

Today, their haircut posters are legendary, their shows pack 2500-seat theaters from Australia to Sweden, their lovingly crafted old school products sell in the thousands and their inked, bearded, straight talking, rock and roll, no BS attitude is a barbering world ethos.

The pair sat down with me during a 30-minute break in their frantic schedule at Orlando in June, minutes before hitting the stage for another jammed performance.

I away love to know how great barbers got started, and true to their blue collar image, each is self-taught.

“I started after high school,” says Leen, tall, bespectacled and full-bearded “I was 15 and my brother was already doing hair. I had to have some work, so I was in there washing hair and doing everything an apprentice does, but I also started learning how to cut hair, and I was really good at it. It was appealing and I loved the interaction with people.”

Rob started out in his northern Holland hometown after leaving high school, cutting hair for the musicians and artists who made up his social group. The path to Schorem started for Rob when he fell in love.

“I had this girl,” he recalls, “and she moved to the south because she wanted to go to school for acting, so I followed and looked for a job.”

“One day I walked into this shop and there was this guy standing on a stool putting little shampoo bottles on a shelf. He was thin and had long hair in braid dyed black and he was just about the gayest guy I ever saw in my whole life. It was super funny to me.”

Rob didn’t get the job, but “I spent the whole day there talking, and we laughed so hard. It was part of a franchise, so they gave me the number for the headquarters and I got into one of their other shops.”

A few months later, “I was at a hair show and I saw Leen again and we ripped the place apart!  We got drunk and made fun of the of the hairdressers on the stage,” he remembers.  From that time, “we never left each other.”

Leen says: “The way he works and the way I work is  similar and we never saw anybody cut hair the way we cut hair.”

“We turned the way of working with hair upside down,” Rob agrees. “The technique I learned on the streets, I never saw anybody do it, and when I walk into his shop and he’s doing it the same way and I was like ‘Where did you learn that?’ and he said, ‘ I taught myself.”  I said “I cut like that, and I taught myself!’  Maybe that is where the whole idea of Schorem was born.

 

Besides their posters (more on that later) the Schorem shop became instantly well known for its meticulous devotion to classic barbering gear. The shop uses two chairs that are at least 100 years old, a lather machine that goes back to the 1870’s, and a now world-famous mirrored art-deco cabinet, a showpiece the many photographers who visit Schorem alas want to work into the shot. It’s a French Art Deco piece from 1890, which they found in a Belgian antique shop after being steered there by a relative.

After seeing it in the store, Rob returned to Leen, who was in the car. “My face, it was very happy and he was like, ‘Rob, we have to bargain.’ This woman, we scared the shit out of her. She thought she was going to be robbed and we were like ‘We heard about this barber cabinet.’ And there it is, in mint condition, a cabinet that is 120 years old and my face just like..(jaw drops). The only thing I could say was ‘I don’t like it,’ because Leen still had to bargain.”

Finding the cabinet “that was the turning point in the whole shop,”  Leen said.

“It’s a very important part,” Rob agrees. “We are very honest that it is our shop, but we stole every idea from around the world. We love the American barber shop.”

The classic American shop of the 50’s is the inspiration for the now famous Schorem posters, which launched Schorem to social media stardom and demonstrated the pair’s marketing (and psychological) insight.

“We found that a successful barber shop is not just the haircut. It is about understanding the psychology of a guy in general,” Rob told me during our interview. He said many barbers forget that “the barbershop has always been for the average Joe. We forgot they were lost (in modern times), looking at magazines with male models who were perfect  with perfect bodies and the jawline chiseled from marble, and they had to take this magazine to this beautiful girl and say, “Hey, I want my hair like this.”

Leen and Rob decided to save men the embarrassment and take pictures of great haircuts on ‘average Joes.’  “These guys are your friends, the people you meet in bars, so (having the posters on the wall means) you can point and go, ‘Hey, man, can I have that?’  That was the best thing!  And we didn’t know shit about photography or Photoshop, so we made the most human posters possible. No models.”

The honesty of the posters made Schorem an internet sensation and they sell thousands. To this day in the Schorem shop, custom posters display the 22 haircuts available. “If you don’t see it on the wall, you are in the wrong place,” Leen says.

True to their honest ethos, Leen says “it doesn’t matter” if posters or products or cabinets go viral. “We make these things without a purpose. We just do everything that we think that we like. So it does not matter if it goes viral, and if you think like that, then it is easier.”

Rob tells me the same goes for their hugely popular stage shows. “I feel like a complete moron on stage. When they asked us to do a hair show, we were like, ‘We don’t have flashing lights we don’t have models, we are just guys from the streets.’”

Keeping their image honest and BS-free takes effort, he says. “It is hard. We don’t want to blow smoke up our asses because Schorem is far from the best barbers. We have been friends for long and we see how absurd it is that we ended up on stage, because we are really a little bit of screw-ups.”

“We go on stage and go, ‘How did we end up here?  We just own a little barber shop!’ “We realize we are not afraid to screw up anymore. So we just hug each other and we say ‘OK, let’s have some fun.’  We try to take the feeling from the barber shop to the stage.”

Social media success was almost an accident, the pair told me. Their advice for up and coming barbers is “be honest” and avoid filters and Photoshop. “Make sure you have beautiful photos, make sure you do it at one recognizable point, so when people are scrolling through their feed and see this one shot, it makes them say “Oh, these guys posted that.”

“Social media has gotten so big, and it’s hard,” he added. “Be sure you have a personality in everything you post, make sure people like what you are doing, that you are not pushing it on them.

Leen’s take is simple enough: “I’m not a social media guy at all. I don’t like social media.”

The next challenge for the dynamic pair was a custom product they named Reuzel. They started out with a red water-based and green oil-based sheen and added a heavier blue water-based tonic (“like barbers used to use,” Rob said) and a pink oil-based. “The water-based means you can put it in as a gel. It looks like a wax,  but you can rinse it out as a gel, and the oil-based product needs buildup, so the more it gets in your hair, the better.”

“All the tonics used to be made by the barber himself,” Rob said. “There were all these secret formulas and I love that shit!”

The expansion and ideas never stop. “ If we do a new-school product, there always has to be an old-school product. Now we’ve come out with two:  Geek Guys in pomade class, a fiber;  and a matte product,  Matte Clay Pomade.  We needed them for a looser look.

Shaving cream “that smells like grandpa,” Rob laughs, is another new product.  What he means by that, he says, is the cream has a rich aroma that’s reminiscent of soap and tobacco, “like you’d smell when you went to kiss grandpa.”

Leen: “We have beard foam that acts as a deodorizer, and we have a degreasing formula because there was a lot of asking about cleaning up oil-based products. We have a beard balm that acts more like a conditioner.”

I asked about best sellers and Rob says, “I would say the pink because that is my favorite product, together with the grooming tonic, but we know our best seller is the blue, but the fiber and the clay are breathing down blue’s neck!”

So what is in the future for two of the hottest barbers on the scene today?

“We are working on a project that has never been done before,” Rob says. “A DVD that is only partially including us; it is going to be cool shit and we are going to raise money with it to make sure kids that are born in prison or born in poverty have a chance to get an education in barbering or whatever. It is the biggest project we have ever done and you will be hearing more about it.”

I love to ask for final thoughts and I had two for these world travelers: one, what are their favorite places?

ROB:  “Dublin! I am a sucker for Ireland. I love the people, love the hospitality, love the Guinness! Ireland is it for me.”

Leen: “I just went to Tuscany and that is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life.”

Secondly, how has their success has impacted them?

Rob says it still takes them by surprise. “It was never planned.”

“But the best thing was when this older guy comes up to us in Canada and says, ‘Boys, I have had a barber shop for forty years, and the last 15 years have been so bad that I was getting close to bankruptcy. Then you guys started your shop and all of a sudden I got these kids coming in asking for haircuts,  and for the first time in 20 years I took my family on holiday.’ And he had tears in his eyes. We don’t realize the impact this little barber shop has. That is the best story I ever heard.”

Leen adds, “That is one of the reasons we are on stage, because we did not want to be on stage (at first). But so many people tell us they are inspired by us, and we are still having fun on stage.”

“And that is why we do it.”

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When I had the opportunity to sit down with Ryan Cullen of Ryan Cullen Hair at his salon in Newry, Northern Ireland, I was thrilled to learn more about his craft. It’s clear that Ryan is a standout in the hair industry; fans and clients alike are always impressed with his talent. But Ryan Cullen isn’t a traditional barber – instead, he’s a men’s hair stylist and he specializes in texture to create impressive looks for his clients’ hair. Just scroll through his Instagram page, and you’ll find photos of his clients’ sporting stylish cuts, inventive dye jobs, and plenty of texture.

 

But like most things in life, success like Ryan has achieved takes time. Before he opened Ryan Cullen Hair and gained a substantial social media following (he has around 63,000 Instagram followers), Ryan worked in a salon that primarily catered to women’s hair. He told me, “I started doing hair when I was 19-years-old, and it was something that I had a passion for. I didn’t solely want to get into women’s hair, I wanted to get into the hair industry, the fashion industry.”

 

Yet Ryan gravitated more towards working with men. At that same salon, Ryan began to slowly build up a clientele with all the men that came in. “Maybe I get on with the men better than the woman,” Ryan says. “Maybe it was the camaraderie with another lad.” Whatever it was, it worked.

 

Now at Ryan Cullen Hair, he has created an environment that is welcoming and similar to a women’s hair salon. I was impressed with the set-up at Ryan Cullen Hair, and how relaxed all of the clients seemed to be. I could tell right away that clients aren’t only visiting Ryan Cullen Hair for the texture or the cut – they’re also coming for the experience. While clients sat in the chairs or the waiting room, they enjoyed tea or coffee; they also experience the luxury of having the stylist take the time to create a unique look. Ryan told me that when he worked at a women’s salon, they would never let a woman leave without her hair looking good; No doubt, that he takes that same philosophy and applies it to his own salon.

 

Because of that upscale feel that Ryan offers his clients, I can see why celebrities and football players would want Ryan to cut and style their hair. When I asked Ryan about some of the household names that he’s worked for, he played it coy. “I’ve received work from some quite big names – from TV stars to footballers,” Ryan says. He credits his ability to work with these high profile individuals to his large following on social media. He jokes, “If anyone else wants to get a haircut, drop me a DM.”

 

It seems to me that Ryan is reaping the benefits of his hard work, but I know that he is going to see more success in his already bright future. When I asked him about future goals, he told me, “It’s quite hard to answer that. I love working hard, and I love doing what I do. I hope the future does hold a lot of things. I guess I’m just going to keep working hard because, so far, it’s worked for me. I’m progressing quite nicely in the industry; I’ve become quite well known. For me, it’s just about keep working hard and keeping your feet in the ground, and looking out for the person that’s sitting in your chair. On the social media front, I’m going to keep doing that and if that keeps progressing in the way that it is, who knows what I might do?”

 

When it comes to social media, Ryan advises professionals in the hair field (or any field, for that matter) to take advantage of the online tools that are available. “Don’t be afraid to put your work out there, and don’t be afraid of the criticism that may follow,” Ryan says. “Don’t be afraid of what people think, and stay positive.”

 

When Ryan first started posting photos of his work on Instagram, he jokes that he did receive a little flak from his friends, but Ryan also recognizes that a huge part of his success and following is due to putting his work out there.

 

It’s inspiring to see how Ryan has used social media to build a fanbase and spread the word about his work. Sometimes it can be easy to fall into a pattern of keeping our work to ourselves because we are afraid of being critiqued. However, if you are going to be successful, you have to find a way to promote your work and be your own advocate. It’s also important to take any negative comments, and find a way to turn them into something positive. Even if people are quick to point out that they don’t like one of your techniques, that doesn’t mean that you quit; that means that you work harder and become better at your craft.

 

But Ryan does have one more solid piece of advice if you plan on promoting your work via social media: buy a solid camera. I couldn’t agree more.

I’ll leave you with those final words of wisdom, and I hope to see more of you sharing your styling skills on my Instagram timeline. All that’s left to say is thank you to Ryan for the interview, and thank you to all of you for reading – come find me on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram if you’d like to see more interviews with talented professionals in the industry. If you’d like to see more from Ryan, check out his Instagram.