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Nick Arrojo: Our Coffee Break Chat, Sure To Perk Up, Your Hair Styling And Bottom Line…

 

Welcome to this Larry the Barber Man interview with Nick Arrojo! For those of you who aren’t familiar with my work, my name is Larry Campbell and I tour the globe speaking to the best hair stylists from across the industry and from all walks of life, asking them to share their knowledge so that other hair professionals can benefit from the knowledge of more experienced hairdressers and barbers.

While a lot of the work I’ve done has surrounded barbering, I’m really interested in helping people from across the industry better themselves and learn new skills, so I’ll never miss the opportunity to pick the brain of an incredible hairdresser like Nick.

I’m sure the majority of you will already be familiar with Nick’s work, but to fill you in on the key facts this man owns the Arrojo Studio, with several separate salons, and educational school and a product range; he’s also cut hair for A-List celebrity clients including Bryan Adams, Minnie Driver and Victoria Wood and appeared as the resident stylist on What Not to Wear for seven years. Suffice to say, there’s a lot to learn from such a well-accomplished and multi-faceted man.

The Path to Success

Every interview I run has one thing in common, and that’s the origin story: I’m personally fascinated by how hairdressers and barbers get into the industry, and I think that looking at the beginning of a journey can help us learn from it. From starting at the age of 16, Nick’s career quickly took off:

“I started working when I was 16 in Manchester, I worked with Vidal Sassoon. I had a very successful tenure with them and then I moved to London, I worked for Wella and that was where I got to start experiencing a lot of international events and international hairdressers. Then my dream was always to move to New York City, and my dream came true in 1994 when I came to work for Bumble & Bumble, and they sponsored me and brought me to America”.

Not everything has come easy for Nick though, and at one point in his career he found himself homeless. This came in the aftermath of the terrible 9/11 attacks in America: “I lived a block away from the twin towers in 2001 when 9/11 happened. I was renting a couple of chairs inside a school in Soho, I was working for one week and then downtown became a no-go area and I was homeless. I was sleeping on couches at friend’s houses.”

What really struck me, though, is how he managed to turn this around, growing the business he has today:

“I started my salon in 2001 and had a staff of four – two assistants, a receptionist and me. I slowly built it, step by step I was building my brand. Today I have three salons, one in Soho, one in Tribeca and one in Brooklyn. And they’re big salons, so I have a staff of 150 people. I also developed a cosmetology school because I really think that education is the key to success.

In America, you have to get licensed – so you don’t do an apprenticeship, you have to go and get your license before you can even work in a salon. I really wanted to get into that business and affect hairdressing at a grassroots level. And then the final pillar was for me to do products, I’ve helped companies develop products and at a certain point it was time for me to develop my own.”

The Philosophy Behind Big Hairdressing Business

One of the things that made me so keen to bring you an interview with Nick is the fact that he has a lot of great insight into the business behind being a successful salon owner and hairdresser. In my experience, many hairdressers, stylists and barbers that are great at what they do want to open up salons, but many don’t have the business knowledge to take it further. With that in mind, here are Nick’s thoughts on the importance of specialisation:

“When I talk about specialisation I really mean what is your USP – your Unique Selling Point, or your Unique Styling Perspective, and that’s what it should be. Your USP has to change, it shouldn’t stay the same because you’re always in a state of reinvention. I started hairdressing as a specialist in hair cutting when I worked with Vidal Sassoon, the art and craft of cutting hair with a scissor. When I left Vidal Sassoon I decided to change my technique, I evolved and started to cut hair with a razor, so I cut hair with a switchblade and that gives me a different texture and a different feel. Now we have American Wave; we’ve reinvented the perm.

I’m also really focusing on business education – because a lot of salon owners don’t necessarily understand how to make their business a success. Usually the path of a hairdresser is to become busy: one you become a success behind the chair it’s time for you to move onto the next step of the journey. I share my unique perspective, because I started my business in New York from very little, and I’ve grown it into a multimillion dollar business with a lot of employees. I share my trials and tribulations – what I’ve learned.

I’m a firm believer that there’s enough room for everybody to be successful in our industry, but in order to be successful you have to learn from people who have been on the path before you. I’m just trying to accelerate that to everybody so they can learn from it.”

Education is clearly not only a huge part of Nick’s work, but also of his belief system. When I briefly heard him speaking at IBS 2017, the information I heard was important enough to completely transform a hairdresser’s business, and I asked for a little more insight into the philosophy behind it:

“I think that what we’re doing is trying to systemise everything. Once you systemise something you have a path, you have a game plan – and if people follow the game plan they will succeed. The key to being successful is through education, so you have to have education at the front of your mind.

I built my company because I never had any money, and I built my brand on a key catchphrase, which was ‘give unconditionally’. If you can try to help somebody by doing something to help them without getting anything back in return, you actually get a lot back in return. But all my business philosophy is really based on practical knowledge. I always say the best hairdresser starts off as being the best sweeper, the best mirror cleaner, the best shampooer, the best comber – and these basic fundamentals have helped me on my path”.

The Shape of the Industry

Before our brief time was up, I wanted to get some opinions on the key trends of 2017 from somebody at the pinnacle of hairdressing, as well as some ideas about the challenges that hairdressers face right now:

“Texture’s coming back – at the show a few years ago, everyone had feathers in their hair. A few years before that, everyone was buying hair extensions. A few years before that, everyone was making their hair smooth. What’s coming back now is permanent wave, we’re putting curl back into hair and I’m pioneering that. I know it’s working because last year my American Wave service grew by 100%, and this year it has already grown by 50% on last year. And at this show we have had countless hairdressers sign up to get certified in it. We skipped a generation with the perm, and now it’s time not to bring back the perm but to bring back waving, and we call it American Wave.”

“The biggest challenge that all hairdressing salons have is that there used to be a thing called professional product. Professional product doesn’t exist anymore because of the internet and because of the retailer stores that carry supposedly professional lines. I think salon owners have to rethink where the money comes from. The profit in a salon does not come from service, it really comes from retail. And until we start to focus on that properly, we will still have a low profit business.

When you think about a restaurant, the money is not in the food, it’s in the bar. That’s where restaurants make their living. We need to think of the retail area as the bar, and get hairdressers to understand that if they recommend professional products and engage with their customers then they can raise their revenue and profitability.

The truth of the matter is nobody gets into hairdressing to sell shampoo but if you’re not selling shampoo you’re not gonna have a successful salon.” Nick has even introduced a retail course at his academy so that hairdressers can learn how to sell well.

 

There’s a lot of food for thought in Nick’s words, so I’ll leave you to chew them over and think about how you can apply them in your own work. If you’ve found this insightful then it would be great to see you over on YouTube at my Barber.TV channel, or on my Instagram and Facebook pages where you’ll find me as LarrytheBarberMan. I regularly put up new interviews with leading industry professionals like Nick Arrojo, so there are lots of other stories to help you build your own career.

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Barber Eric Pacino – From Desperate Times to Cutting the Stars

For many, “Eric Pacinos” is just another way to say “international celebrity barber.” When Eric is not cutting Nas’ hair at the Cannes Film Festival or trimming up Jay-Z for an album cover shoot in New York, he is promoting his wildly successful line of quality hair products and speaking at hair shows all over the world. He definitely has it goin’ on like no one else in the industry.

So you can imagine how excited I was to get a few minutes with him, one of my biggest goals since I started my interview channel. We met up at Premier Expo in Orlando and Eric did not disappoint. You will want to view the whole interview on my YouTube, larrythebarberman@barbers.tv

Eric: Started with no food in the fridge, young son

Eric’s life story is more inspiring than most, so I asked him to dive right into it.

He said he started cutting his own hair in his childhood bathroom, then graduated to cutting his friends for a small fee. “I was going to school with money in my pocket, and it felt good,” he told me, “not just because of the money but because I was making my friends look good. That was the defining point. Always trying to transform all my friends; more than just a haircut.“

Even joining the Navy couldn’t separate Eric from his calling. “I always found myself cutting hair on the ship, and even when I was going out with my friends, I would say “Before we go, let me cut your hair.” That is when I thought I should go to night school to get my license.”

But post-Navy he was still 500 hours short in his studies and had a young son to care for. The times were desperate. “At that point my son was three, and I had hit rock bottom. I could not find a job, and it was like, ‘Man, my son’s got to eat!’”

“That is when I took barbering seriously,” he continues. “Because I did not want that feeling of being hungry anymore, that feeling of not seeing my child eat. I know what it feels like to know you have nothing in the refrigerator when you open it up. I know what it feels like to use the restroom in your own house and not have toilet paper. I literally would go to McDonald’s and leave with extra napkins. Don’t tell this to McDonald’s, but I did it just to have toilet paper in the house.”

“It was hurtful as a man,” he continues. “ So I think I attribute any success or whatever you call it – I just don’t feel I am as successful as I could possibly become – but I attribute that to desperation and the necessities of living. I never want to go back to that.”

Eric eventually obtained a license and found work. For many, that might be the happy end of the story, but Eric found the fire inside was burning hotter than ever. “I knew I wanted more than just being a barber,” he told me.

Sacrifice and persistence to build barbering success

Before we got into Eric’s accomplishments, I wanted to know more about his trials and tribulations coming up. As usual, he was candid.

“One of the biggest was all different types of sacrifice, from working long hours to having a dream and not having people believe it,” he said.

“Not knowing, not being educated was the biggest trail, having no blueprint,” he recalls. “I had to create ways of figuring things out because we didn’t have social media, there was no book about creating a barber shop and creating a product brand. There was nothing. That was the biggest trial, just not knowing where to start.” This experience, he said, makes him an eager mentor to other young barbers today.

“Thank God, what has helped me is Google. If it weren’t for Google I wouldn’t have done a lot of things. But you have to do your homework; you have to the studying.”

Eric: Every barber can increase sales by offering products…and a variety of brands

All along, Eric kept his entrepreneurial eyes open. “I created my own brand because a lot of the products we were using weren’t really good, they weren’t for the types of haircuts and hairstyles I was creating. I had to combine three or four different products, and I said, ‘Man, if someone would come out with a product that did these three or four things; from the hold to the texture being better, to it not being so diluted.’ I wanted something like a pomade-like matte with no shine finish.”

“I created these products to give my clients the best aids without sending them to a store to buy three or four different products to create that hairstyle.”

Eric strongly believes every shop should sell product. “I can’t emphasize enough: it is one of the easiest sells! It will increase your sales dramatically,” he told me.

He added: “Once a client’s hair looks good, the first thing they will ask is, ‘What is that you put in my hair?’ If you have it on your shelf, if it is already there, they are going to leave with that. They are going to try to emulate the same style that you just did.”

Providing better customer service and increasing your sales – a no-brainer!

“And a month later they will be back for another haircut and more product. Some of these products cost as much as a haircut – our product is $16. You are selling another haircut by selling product.”

He recommends everyone step up and negotiate with product sales people, varying brands and asking for wholesale prices. “Diversify,” he said. “It’s like when you walk into a sneaker store you don’t just see just Nikes. Give your client something to choose from. They might just ask you, ‘What is this?’ They might want to try it out ‘Will this work in my hair?’ ‘Sit down let’s try it.’ ‘Oh, yeah! I want this!” It is that easy.”

Eric has realized enormous success with his high-quality products.

“Right now we have three men’s hair grooming products. One is the matte finish, which is a great hold but has no shine to it, which a lot of people like with the pomade haircuts.

“We have pomade that is a more flexible hold. That one does give some shine. Then we have a crème; a cream styling wax that is in between the pomade and the matte and it does have a semi-shine finish.”

We also have a beard oil. We have a beard and face scrub. We have razor bump soother. We got a shampoo and conditioner and a black mask. It is really popular can’t hold it in stock! Matte finish (is number one), then black mask and the pomade is number three.”

Customer service: No phone calls, please!

When Eric talks about customer service, he says he focuses on the person in the shop and in the chair. That’s why he doesn’t accept phone calls on the job and prefers online haircut appointments. His favorite app is the grooming-industry-only software booksy.

“I am very old school, and I like to speak to my clients,” he said. “But I’ve learned I would rather speak to my clients in the chair rather than on the phone, because (on the phone) it’s never ‘Can I get a haircut?’ It’s about, ‘So what are you doing this weekend?’ It is hard to tell somebody ‘Hey, I will talk to you when you’re here.’ So the client doesn’t know better if you are in the middle of a haircut or something. So you have to respect people’s time.”

Advice from a successful barber: Write it down, learn the craft, fix your weaknesses

Time was running short with Eric, and I wanted to get his advice for young barbers just finding their legs. From a man who came from ‘borrowing’ McDonald’s napkins to Cutting Nas and JayZ, this is the kind of advice you should take to heart.

First, very practical: “Write everything down. You will see a long list on my iPhone of things I need to execute. Write it down and do not erase it until it gets done. That is one of the biggest things I have learned.”

“After that do your homework on it, Google it, find out more about it get out there and get it done! Nobody is going to do it for you nobody is going to put in the hours and the work that you are going to put in.

“If you want to be a great barber, do as many cuts as you can do not get intimated by the different textures. That is what happened to me early on and I would mess up some curly haircuts. But I would learn and get better at those haircuts than I was with straight hair. “

Lastly, Eric shares hard-won honesty that will benefit anyone in any profession: “What you are not good at, work extra hard and get better. That is the biggest difference of somebody who continues to grow. That is how you become complete. If you are only good at one thing – if you are only good at a #2 and a skin fade, but you’re not good at shears – you are never going to grow. When somebody needs you at a movie set, or when you’re needed to cut a client who is paying top dollar, or might want to take you on tour with them, but you can’t use the shears, your opportunity was there and it’s gone. It’s gone because you did not want to get better at something you know is your weakness.”

With that, we bid farewell, and I got busy sharing this unique moment with you. Hope you enjoy and find Eric’s words inspiring! ‘Til next time, happy barbering!

 

 

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