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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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