You know @barbersince98 – also known as Oscar Torres – as the barber running one of the premier showcase sites in the business with more than a quarter million Instagram followers. An American based in Rhode Island, Oscar recently retired from cutting hair to blend his enormous online presence with Booksy, the powerful mobile appointment app and industry game-changer.
When I had a chance to interview him in Ireland this spring, I wanted to know the story behind Oscar’s incredible successes and his decision to go all in with Booksy.
Haircuts in the bathtub
Oscar told me he’s loved barbering since his mom plunked the kids into an empty tub for their homemade cuts. “When she said, ‘Strip down to your underwear and get in the tub,’ we knew it was haircut time!” he recalls. “To be honest, though, I wasn’t the biggest fan of my mom’s skills.”
“When I was thirteen I found inspiration in my sister’s boyfriend, who would give me and my brothers haircuts,” he added. “I used to watch and think ‘This seems doable. I think I could try this.’”
Oscar soon talked his grandmother into spending most of his back-to-school money on his first set of clippers and trimmers, and Mom was not too happy. “She said, ‘We’re taking this back to the store.’ But I was like, ‘Mom, I can make the money back!’ A couple of days later I had people knocking on my door for haircuts and that weekend I made all the money back.”
After being offered an apprenticeship by a classmate’s father, Oscar went to work in a barber shop. “That was 1998,” he said, “I took it seriously and it has been a blessing ever since.” It also explains where @barbersince98 comes from!
As his barbering and video/journalism skills grew, Oscar became a fast-growing fixture on Instagram. When Booksy began to take off, the two began to see a potential partnership, one based on mutual respect for innovation and skill.
“I saw the uniqueness of what Booksy is doing,” Oscar said. “There are a lot of tools in our industry, and most of them are just ordinary, but Booksy is helping people make more money, obtain more clients, represent themselves in the most professional manner.”
In my travels, I’ve found many barbers struggle with staying organized, even though doing so increases consistency, reliability and ultimately makes for a more successful career. Oscar agrees; one reason he loves Booksy. “Booksy is helping barbers stay organized and helping clients communicate with their barbers,” he said. Booksy takes the pressure off barbers to handle phone calls and walk-ins while trying to concentrate on the person in the chair, a fundamental and serious organizational problem for many.
With Booksy, customers see their barber’s schedule on their mobile device and book their appointments themselves 24/7, or even cancel or reschedule. All a barber needs to do is give great haircuts and check the calendar to see who’s next!
Meeting Obama’s barber
Oscar’s a big believer in consistency and reliability, and Booksy’s organizational tools help barbers develop both. Oscar recently got big support for that point of view from Barack Obama’s personal barber, the legendary Zariff at Chicago’s Hyde Park Hair Salon. After landing an Instagram interview with Zariff, Oscar told me “Zariff focuses on being consistent and reliable. He feels skills are vital, but the first two are the most important. A skilled barber that is not consistent and not reliable, how effective can that barber be?”
Probably not effective enough to land Barack Obama as a client!
Oscar knows marketing and PR inside out, so he immediately grasped how important it is that Booksy goes above and beyond their already-innovative appointment management tool to help barbers market and grow. Booksy can integrate a barber’s web site into the Booksy domain to boost Google rankings, and geolocate Booksy barbershops, attracting clients with practically no involvement from the barber at all. “With Booksy a regular person like me or you can go to a different city,” he enthuses, “and if you don’t know any barbers there, you open up the Booksy app and it gives you the closest barbers. That’s bringing new clients to you.”
Oscar is so enthusiastic that he happily retired from barbering to focus on helping barbers get Booksy into their working lives. Booksy’s power, combined with Oscar’s industry presence and marketing expertise, are a huge benefit to barbers everywhere. “My job is to introduce Booksy to people who haven’t used it before or who are using it and need some help on how to make their page more presentable,” he sums up. “By me dealing with so many businesses on this platform, that allows me to give people advice on what to do and what not to do.”
“I offer brand exposure,” he added. “I like helping brands who have a meaningful purpose in our industry. My Instagram is a showcase platform. If you have a brand that stands out and you need some help, I can help you out with that.”
“You can’t reinvent the wheel, but you can change the ride”
I always ask my interviewees for advice to young barbers and Oscar is straight up with his.
“One thing I learned is that you are never going to reinvent the wheel, but you can change the ride,” he told me.
“Social media is a big platform. You can be appreciated by people who will probably never sit in your chair because they are in another country, but I can’t stress enough, don’t lose the importance of your community.
“It is cool to get likes and follows by people you will never meet, but you need to focus on your community and the people who go into your business on a weekly and a monthly basis.”
And while Oscar agrees there is no substitute for persistence and hard work, he comes back to how important it is for barbers to be organized.
“If you think you are grinding now, tighten up your belt because it’s a long ride!” he laughs. “There are things you are going to go through, a lot of clients you will lose and gain, and at the end of the day, you need to stay organized!”
“That’s another reason I am with Booksy. It helps barbers who are young stay organized and keep your clients,” he adds. “Focus on your clients, stay organized and good things can happen.”
My thanks to Oscar for a fascinating conversation. You can contact him and inquire how he can help your business by emailing Oscar.firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s amazing to me how Booksy is gaining traction all over the industry, and it is inspiring that so many barbers recognize its value and are not being left behind!
Be sure to watch the full interview on my YouTube @larrythebarberman, and ’til next time, happy barbering!