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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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Kevin Vorley’s Of K Barbers Emporium, Barbering Story

I recently sat with Master craftsman, Kevin Voley, founder of K Barbers Emporium in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex to discuss the success of his brand and how he and his team developed what has become known in the industry as the ‘K Way’ of doing business.

 

Kevin, also a UK ambassador for Andis, is known internationally as an educator/consultant who is able to train people of all abilities, sharing his 25 years’ experience of barbering and his extensive knowledge of the tools, techniques, and methods that not only work but have helped to shape the industry.

 

Starting his working career as a plumber, Kevin saw the opportunity to go into hairdressing during the 90s recession. He had been plumbing for 5 to 6 years before economic pressures meant that he was doing a 3-day week and he felt it time to consider going in another direction.

 

Kevin worked as an apprentice/assistant to Calum Jade in Blackfriars, put himself through night school, and discovered his love for cutting, which he describes as his forte. Inspired, he went on to ‘volunteer’ with Roger Wigmore (inventor of Denman Pro Edge comb), while he finished his hairdressing units – eventually working with Wigmore for over a decade.

 

“It’s been a very very interesting career,” says Kevin, explaining that he never looked back, “amazing actually.”

 

Putting in the effort

 

One of the most important aspects of Kevin’s approach to both business and life is education or self-development and he says that he learned what he did through volunteering and putting the work in. “I think the most important thing for me is the will and desire to self-develop and improve and progress and adapt all the time,” he says,  “That’s what this industry does.”

 

Kevin has been witness to more than 20 years of industry highs and lows and what he describes as the recent massive surge in barbering. Dividing his interests among education, helping people and developing his business has given him a unique perspective and says Kevin, “the developmental part of barbering” is now “incredibly progressive.” He advises that one of the most important things that barbers can do is discover how they learn because individual learning styles have a big impact on personal development.

 

K Barbers Emporium’s Client Focus

 

Having worked for other people, Kevin says that he brought his observations to the development of his shop. K Barbers Emporium is one month shy of being 10 years old and while many shops revolve around the personality of the barber, Kevin says that he wanted to ensure that his business followed in the footsteps of the industry, by being centred around the needs of clients. Describing his perspective as coming from a “left-field angle,” Kevin created a 3-part system that forms part of what has become known as the ‘K Way’ or the way that K Barbers Emporium does business. The 3 focusses are:

 

*Quality – which Kevin says has to produced every single time.

*Consistency – or how to get the same results again and again and again and

*Continuity – an area that Kevin says he takes responsibility for and is about ensuring that everyone in his team is “singing from the same hymn sheet.”

 

Kevin admits that it is a challenge to take barbers from diverse backgrounds and train them to be effective behind a chair at K Barbers Emporium, but he says it is an incredibly rewarding journey. This is because everyone wins, he explains, especially the clients. Services match the clientele and barbers at K’s can handle everything from a baby’s first haircut to meeting the exacting standards of retired barbers. “All the barbers have the quality and armour in their toolkit to approach any haircut and nail it!”

 

K’s has a huge client base, he says, who appreciate the “care, attention, and service quality” they receive, as well as, the little things, like how staff at the shop help them with their coat and say goodbye at the end of the experience. It is the small things Kevin believes that barbers already have control over, that can help the barbering industry to move forward.

 

 

More about the ‘K Way’

 

The way that Kevin and his team approach the business of barbering has earned them a number of awards including one from the British Barbers Association and another from their local newspaper, Echo. Kevin himself has been honoured with the title of Master Craftsman in Barbering.  The fact that most of the awards earned have been for business is one of the things that Kevin is proudest of. K Barbers Emporium has sometimes competed for awards with big businesses in everything from retail to manufacturing and plumbing, and “outgunned” them all. “As a business, I think we have the perfect business model,” Kevin says by way of explanation, “and I am always refining and polishing [it].” Part of that model is the ‘K Way,’ that interestingly was borrowed from the way that other people described the experience of the shop’s service. “We knicked it,” says Kevin, who went on to define what it is as a reproducible system.

 

For me the word SYSTEM is an acronym for “Save Yourself Significant Time, Energy and Money,” and the truth of this becomes apparent in what Kevin has developed.

 

The ‘K Way’ may have 3 legs (quality, consistency, and continuity) but its foundation is structure, says Kevin. “For me, structure starts at the foundations,” he says, “and K Barbers Emporium has an absolute concrete foundation.” According to Kevin, he and his team have put in an incredible amount of time into the development of their structure, which has led to the ability to build their foundation even higher. Many barber shops fail in structure and struggle with discipline in the areas of barbering, themselves and even clients, says Kevin, who also has a consultancy arm to his business that offers other barbering shops the value of his expertise in this area.

 

While structure is the main thing, it is supported by technique and design. “Techniques are extremely important,” says Kevin, explaining that they are what go into the structure of a haircut, while design is about “understanding the geometry and shape of the cut.”  Returning to his commitment to education and qualifications, Kevin says that this is why qualifications matter. They teach discipline he says and provide the basics.

 

 

The Evolution of the Barbering Industry

 

Developing his business alongside his role in the educational team for the Andis clipper company, Kevin says that he has noted the shift from show work’s focus primarily on hairdressing to sharing an equal footing with barbering. He says that barbers are now holding their own and perfecting their skillsets. The strength of the UK team, which includes the likes of MK and Kieron Price, and the opportunity to connect with professionals on stages in places like Florida and New York, has been part of his professional development, says Kevin. He encourages that every barber shop should have a team as diverse as the Andis team.  “Andis has taught me a lot,” he says, “… again it’s win-win. Our knowledge and experience help Andis in developing their tools and increases sales for them. We get exposure and education, and we learn from each other.” Kevin underscores the importance of not only the opportunity to share skills with other masters but also how indispensable it is that all of the barbers have equal respect for each other. This is one area in which Kevin feels that the industry can develop, explaining later that it isn’t uncommon to hear people talk about an absence of “barber love.” Social media has offered barbers who may not be at the same level of their career as Kevin, the opportunity to connect with barbers across the world, share their work and see what others are doing. This makes you want to up your game, says Kevin, and to learn more. However, not everyone uses social media in a supportive way and he says, barbers should use it to show love and respect for their international counterparts rather than be negative.

 

“Learning from each other,” he says, “is key to development.”

 

“Work Hard, Aim High, Be Nice and Stay Humble”

 

My interview with Kevin really highlighted the depth of the knowledge that he had to share and it was incredible that we covered as much as we did in only 30 minutes.

 

One area in which Kevin definitely excels is in brand development and K Barbers Emporium is synonymous not only with quality haircuts, but also professional training, coaching and consultancy, and even its own line of professional products. Only K products are used in the shop and according to Kevin, their sales make up 10-15% of the business bottom line. The most important aspect of K’s product development, however, is that it is used as a business calling card, reflecting the importance of taking a “left field angle’ to all aspects of business including marketing.

 

Apart from his own systems that Kevin so generously shares, he advises that those interested in opening their own barbering business discover their strengths and build their business around it. He suggests deciding on a market and learning everything there is to know about it before taking an unconventional approach to capturing it. Surrounding yourself with other barbers who support your vision is critical, says Kevin, who shares the motto he lives by – “Work Hard, Aim High, Be Nice and Stay Humble.”

 

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