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!