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Female Barber: Lena Piccininni, Speaks Of Her Rise To Barbering Stardom

Lena Piccininni’s work is the epitome of modern barbering, with her versatile skills representing perfectly the way in which barbering and hairdressing are becoming more and more interconnected every day. She is also a talented makeup artist, and the versatility of these three skills mean that she is able to educate both male and female stylists in a way that they can engage with.

Aside from all that, name is an educator and ambassador for Pacino’s – an achievement that any barber would be delighted to have to their name. She’s also one of the most professional and driven people I’ve met, with a work ethic that should make her an inspiration to barbers and hairdressing alike… so let’s hear what she had to say!

 

A journey to the top

“Well, I started doing hair and makeup, and then I went through some life experiences and basically need a job – so I ended up in barbering. I realised that it’s extremely difficult for a woman to make it in a male dominated industry and I needed to make sure my skills were 100%. Sometimes I thought, I need to be better than the men in the barbershop.”

This spurted Lena on to look at educational classes, and it was here that she first met Pacino – a hugely admired celebrity barber, educator and platform artist who was impressed by Lena and able to propel her career forwards.

But while she found she was learning a lot from educators, and from watching classes, she also felt like there was an important piece missing. In particular, she felt like her fades just weren’t living up to the high standard she’d set herself:

“Because I do makeup and makeup is all about blending, I stayed saying if you have issues take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Pretend the hair is an eyelid and you’re blending the eyeshadow, it’s the same thing. You can see the same dark lines and what needs to be darker or lighter.”

As I mentioned above, Lena’s diversity is one of the things that elevates her. This has been the case since the very start of her career, when she tells me that she saw every single client as worthwhile, since she was focused on widening her client base. This is an important point for early career barbers; you can’t just chase the fades and pompadours of you want to get your name out!

It’s the same with Lena’s educational classes, where she describes her clientele as “everybody” – meaning, barbers, hairdressers and cosmetologists alike. Specifically, she tries to draw on details from each element and puts it all into her education. And, as Lena notes, as we are seeing more and more crossover between barbering and hairdressing, her style of education is exactly what a lot of people within the hair industry are looking for.

 

Humble barbering roots

I was also curious to hear more about how Lena first got into barbering – a story which is inspiring in and of itself, even if her career hadn’t reached the heights that she now enjoys:

“I was in a hair salon and they changed owners and they basically wanted to cut my pay to around half. They were paying around $5 an hour to assist on reception, clean and shampoo. At 17 I was very stubborn, so I said no way, I’m quitting. Unfortunately, then my father passed away and I had to get a job – I had to take over a mortgage, with my brother, at 17 years old. I was fresh out of high school, no money, no nothing. No clients, not really any education in hair. I couldn’t get a clientele.

Then a friend of my fathers – I feel bad now but I say thank god, he broke his shoulder – because he had a full book of clients and couldn’t cut for them. I said look, I can do this.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly given her determination, this worked out well for Lena, and from their she was able to start working in an actual barbershop, fading and learning classic barbering skills for the first time.

From this combination of luck and good judgement, it was hard work that drove Lena forwards. This is particularly evident when looking at how she came to work with Pacino, a man who has had a big influence on her career: “without him, I wouldn’t be where I am. His initial class that I attended has opened up so many doors over the past few years. From where I started, I never dreamt that I’d end up educating in so many different countries and places”.

 

Always staying classy

One of the things that impressed Pacino initially was Lena’s sense of professionalism, and desire to be considered great because of her skills and not for any other reason:

“First of all, when I was starting as a barber I wanted to make sure that anybody sitting in my chair was there because of my skills and not what I looked like.  I try to teach this to a lot of girls; sometimes I see them wearing more revealing clothing to get clientele, but that is the wrong clientele.

My clientele is very respectful to me and that’s how I like it. You want to make sure you’re barbering for the right reasons – not to meet to guys.

Thankfully, right now I don’t have any [challenges as a female barber], because I’ve worked so hard to put myself out there. When I first started, the biggest challenge was just being taken seriously. I’ve had people get out of my chair. I’ve had guys be like ‘you know what, never mind. Maybe you should just be sitting at the front desk, maybe you should be sweeping the floor. I’ve had all those comments. It just pushed me further.

So the challenge really is just getting guys to take a woman seriously in a barber shop.”

It’s a challenge that Lena has clearly overcome, as her personal brand has grown huge, with 120,000 followers on Instagram and a star status in the USA and Latin America.  Again, a lot of this is down to the professionalism with which she conducts herself and her business, ensuring that her Instagram is purely focussed on her work without personal distractions: “Honestly, that’s what Pacino noticed – he said I’ve seen your page and you’re just working and working and working. You really want to keep unrelated things private with separate pages for work and personal life so that your brand stays completely professional.”

 

Just put yourself out there

No surprises that her advice for other barbers focusses on the strong traits that Lena has demonstrated throughout her own career, and she talks about versatility as being one of the key skills to master:

“One of the questions that barbers always ask me is how do you build a clientele and being a woman, building a clientele is particularly hard. But it’s because I was versatile. I see a lot of guys who worked at the barbershop that I worked at and they didn’t build a big clientele because they only wanted to cut certain people.

I was never scared to cut a kid, long hair, short hair. I would take anyone and make sure I was versatile, and that helped me stay busy and make money.”

This is great advice for every barber, so I hope that you’re able to use it in your own career – but I also wanted to know whether Lena had any particular advice for female barbers who want to become an ambassador, an educator or an influencer as she has:

“You’ve got to just put yourself out there. Again, my number one thing is always be classy, always be professional. Really, you’ve got to practice and you’ve got to show your work; you have to promote yourself, promote your brand, get yourself out to these shows.

I drove four hours just to come walk around and see everyone, and I’ve been to these shows so many times but I still keep putting myself out there. If you have to take a day off, take a day off and come to these shows, meet people, use Instagram.

So, I say if I can do it anyone can do it, I started from nothing. I started from being poor, from never cutting men’s hair to travelling the globe and educating. If I can do it you can do it, but you have to work hard and practice, you have to have patience because it takes time.”

 

I’m sure that Lena’s words will have inspired you to take that time and work your way up; her eclectic skills, confidence and sheer determination are certainly inspiring to me! To see more interviews with top professional barbers like Lena, please visit larrythebarberman.com, or come and find me on YouTube at barbers.tv or on Instagram as @larrythebarberman, where I am constantly putting out new videos and posts so that you can learn from some of the best in the business.

 

 

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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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Schorem’s: Leen & Rob Reveal The Secrets To Their Success Past & Present

They say revolutions happen quickly and indeed, it has been just six years since Rob and Leen, “The Scumbags of Rotterdam,” opened Schorem.  Their 6-chair, men-only shop was an immediate sensation. Their unique personalities, classic barber shop style and devotion to haircuts from the 50’s and 60’s took Europe and then the world by storm.

Today, their haircut posters are legendary, their shows pack 2500-seat theaters from Australia to Sweden, their lovingly crafted old school products sell in the thousands and their inked, bearded, straight talking, rock and roll, no BS attitude is a barbering world ethos.

The pair sat down with me during a 30-minute break in their frantic schedule at Orlando in June, minutes before hitting the stage for another jammed performance.

I away love to know how great barbers got started, and true to their blue collar image, each is self-taught.

“I started after high school,” says Leen, tall, bespectacled and full-bearded “I was 15 and my brother was already doing hair. I had to have some work, so I was in there washing hair and doing everything an apprentice does, but I also started learning how to cut hair, and I was really good at it. It was appealing and I loved the interaction with people.”

Rob started out in his northern Holland hometown after leaving high school, cutting hair for the musicians and artists who made up his social group. The path to Schorem started for Rob when he fell in love.

“I had this girl,” he recalls, “and she moved to the south because she wanted to go to school for acting, so I followed and looked for a job.”

“One day I walked into this shop and there was this guy standing on a stool putting little shampoo bottles on a shelf. He was thin and had long hair in braid dyed black and he was just about the gayest guy I ever saw in my whole life. It was super funny to me.”

Rob didn’t get the job, but “I spent the whole day there talking, and we laughed so hard. It was part of a franchise, so they gave me the number for the headquarters and I got into one of their other shops.”

A few months later, “I was at a hair show and I saw Leen again and we ripped the place apart!  We got drunk and made fun of the of the hairdressers on the stage,” he remembers.  From that time, “we never left each other.”

Leen says: “The way he works and the way I work is  similar and we never saw anybody cut hair the way we cut hair.”

“We turned the way of working with hair upside down,” Rob agrees. “The technique I learned on the streets, I never saw anybody do it, and when I walk into his shop and he’s doing it the same way and I was like ‘Where did you learn that?’ and he said, ‘ I taught myself.”  I said “I cut like that, and I taught myself!’  Maybe that is where the whole idea of Schorem was born.

 

Besides their posters (more on that later) the Schorem shop became instantly well known for its meticulous devotion to classic barbering gear. The shop uses two chairs that are at least 100 years old, a lather machine that goes back to the 1870’s, and a now world-famous mirrored art-deco cabinet, a showpiece the many photographers who visit Schorem alas want to work into the shot. It’s a French Art Deco piece from 1890, which they found in a Belgian antique shop after being steered there by a relative.

After seeing it in the store, Rob returned to Leen, who was in the car. “My face, it was very happy and he was like, ‘Rob, we have to bargain.’ This woman, we scared the shit out of her. She thought she was going to be robbed and we were like ‘We heard about this barber cabinet.’ And there it is, in mint condition, a cabinet that is 120 years old and my face just like..(jaw drops). The only thing I could say was ‘I don’t like it,’ because Leen still had to bargain.”

Finding the cabinet “that was the turning point in the whole shop,”  Leen said.

“It’s a very important part,” Rob agrees. “We are very honest that it is our shop, but we stole every idea from around the world. We love the American barber shop.”

The classic American shop of the 50’s is the inspiration for the now famous Schorem posters, which launched Schorem to social media stardom and demonstrated the pair’s marketing (and psychological) insight.

“We found that a successful barber shop is not just the haircut. It is about understanding the psychology of a guy in general,” Rob told me during our interview. He said many barbers forget that “the barbershop has always been for the average Joe. We forgot they were lost (in modern times), looking at magazines with male models who were perfect  with perfect bodies and the jawline chiseled from marble, and they had to take this magazine to this beautiful girl and say, “Hey, I want my hair like this.”

Leen and Rob decided to save men the embarrassment and take pictures of great haircuts on ‘average Joes.’  “These guys are your friends, the people you meet in bars, so (having the posters on the wall means) you can point and go, ‘Hey, man, can I have that?’  That was the best thing!  And we didn’t know shit about photography or Photoshop, so we made the most human posters possible. No models.”

The honesty of the posters made Schorem an internet sensation and they sell thousands. To this day in the Schorem shop, custom posters display the 22 haircuts available. “If you don’t see it on the wall, you are in the wrong place,” Leen says.

True to their honest ethos, Leen says “it doesn’t matter” if posters or products or cabinets go viral. “We make these things without a purpose. We just do everything that we think that we like. So it does not matter if it goes viral, and if you think like that, then it is easier.”

Rob tells me the same goes for their hugely popular stage shows. “I feel like a complete moron on stage. When they asked us to do a hair show, we were like, ‘We don’t have flashing lights we don’t have models, we are just guys from the streets.’”

Keeping their image honest and BS-free takes effort, he says. “It is hard. We don’t want to blow smoke up our asses because Schorem is far from the best barbers. We have been friends for long and we see how absurd it is that we ended up on stage, because we are really a little bit of screw-ups.”

“We go on stage and go, ‘How did we end up here?  We just own a little barber shop!’ “We realize we are not afraid to screw up anymore. So we just hug each other and we say ‘OK, let’s have some fun.’  We try to take the feeling from the barber shop to the stage.”

Social media success was almost an accident, the pair told me. Their advice for up and coming barbers is “be honest” and avoid filters and Photoshop. “Make sure you have beautiful photos, make sure you do it at one recognizable point, so when people are scrolling through their feed and see this one shot, it makes them say “Oh, these guys posted that.”

“Social media has gotten so big, and it’s hard,” he added. “Be sure you have a personality in everything you post, make sure people like what you are doing, that you are not pushing it on them.

Leen’s take is simple enough: “I’m not a social media guy at all. I don’t like social media.”

The next challenge for the dynamic pair was a custom product they named Reuzel. They started out with a red water-based and green oil-based sheen and added a heavier blue water-based tonic (“like barbers used to use,” Rob said) and a pink oil-based. “The water-based means you can put it in as a gel. It looks like a wax,  but you can rinse it out as a gel, and the oil-based product needs buildup, so the more it gets in your hair, the better.”

“All the tonics used to be made by the barber himself,” Rob said. “There were all these secret formulas and I love that shit!”

The expansion and ideas never stop. “ If we do a new-school product, there always has to be an old-school product. Now we’ve come out with two:  Geek Guys in pomade class, a fiber;  and a matte product,  Matte Clay Pomade.  We needed them for a looser look.

Shaving cream “that smells like grandpa,” Rob laughs, is another new product.  What he means by that, he says, is the cream has a rich aroma that’s reminiscent of soap and tobacco, “like you’d smell when you went to kiss grandpa.”

Leen: “We have beard foam that acts as a deodorizer, and we have a degreasing formula because there was a lot of asking about cleaning up oil-based products. We have a beard balm that acts more like a conditioner.”

I asked about best sellers and Rob says, “I would say the pink because that is my favorite product, together with the grooming tonic, but we know our best seller is the blue, but the fiber and the clay are breathing down blue’s neck!”

So what is in the future for two of the hottest barbers on the scene today?

“We are working on a project that has never been done before,” Rob says. “A DVD that is only partially including us; it is going to be cool shit and we are going to raise money with it to make sure kids that are born in prison or born in poverty have a chance to get an education in barbering or whatever. It is the biggest project we have ever done and you will be hearing more about it.”

I love to ask for final thoughts and I had two for these world travelers: one, what are their favorite places?

ROB:  “Dublin! I am a sucker for Ireland. I love the people, love the hospitality, love the Guinness! Ireland is it for me.”

Leen: “I just went to Tuscany and that is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life.”

Secondly, how has their success has impacted them?

Rob says it still takes them by surprise. “It was never planned.”

“But the best thing was when this older guy comes up to us in Canada and says, ‘Boys, I have had a barber shop for forty years, and the last 15 years have been so bad that I was getting close to bankruptcy. Then you guys started your shop and all of a sudden I got these kids coming in asking for haircuts,  and for the first time in 20 years I took my family on holiday.’ And he had tears in his eyes. We don’t realize the impact this little barber shop has. That is the best story I ever heard.”

Leen adds, “That is one of the reasons we are on stage, because we did not want to be on stage (at first). But so many people tell us they are inspired by us, and we are still having fun on stage.”

“And that is why we do it.”

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When I had the opportunity to sit down with Ryan Cullen of Ryan Cullen Hair at his salon in Newry, Northern Ireland, I was thrilled to learn more about his craft. It’s clear that Ryan is a standout in the hair industry; fans and clients alike are always impressed with his talent. But Ryan Cullen isn’t a traditional barber – instead, he’s a men’s hair stylist and he specializes in texture to create impressive looks for his clients’ hair. Just scroll through his Instagram page, and you’ll find photos of his clients’ sporting stylish cuts, inventive dye jobs, and plenty of texture.

 

But like most things in life, success like Ryan has achieved takes time. Before he opened Ryan Cullen Hair and gained a substantial social media following (he has around 63,000 Instagram followers), Ryan worked in a salon that primarily catered to women’s hair. He told me, “I started doing hair when I was 19-years-old, and it was something that I had a passion for. I didn’t solely want to get into women’s hair, I wanted to get into the hair industry, the fashion industry.”

 

Yet Ryan gravitated more towards working with men. At that same salon, Ryan began to slowly build up a clientele with all the men that came in. “Maybe I get on with the men better than the woman,” Ryan says. “Maybe it was the camaraderie with another lad.” Whatever it was, it worked.

 

Now at Ryan Cullen Hair, he has created an environment that is welcoming and similar to a women’s hair salon. I was impressed with the set-up at Ryan Cullen Hair, and how relaxed all of the clients seemed to be. I could tell right away that clients aren’t only visiting Ryan Cullen Hair for the texture or the cut – they’re also coming for the experience. While clients sat in the chairs or the waiting room, they enjoyed tea or coffee; they also experience the luxury of having the stylist take the time to create a unique look. Ryan told me that when he worked at a women’s salon, they would never let a woman leave without her hair looking good; No doubt, that he takes that same philosophy and applies it to his own salon.

 

Because of that upscale feel that Ryan offers his clients, I can see why celebrities and football players would want Ryan to cut and style their hair. When I asked Ryan about some of the household names that he’s worked for, he played it coy. “I’ve received work from some quite big names – from TV stars to footballers,” Ryan says. He credits his ability to work with these high profile individuals to his large following on social media. He jokes, “If anyone else wants to get a haircut, drop me a DM.”

 

It seems to me that Ryan is reaping the benefits of his hard work, but I know that he is going to see more success in his already bright future. When I asked him about future goals, he told me, “It’s quite hard to answer that. I love working hard, and I love doing what I do. I hope the future does hold a lot of things. I guess I’m just going to keep working hard because, so far, it’s worked for me. I’m progressing quite nicely in the industry; I’ve become quite well known. For me, it’s just about keep working hard and keeping your feet in the ground, and looking out for the person that’s sitting in your chair. On the social media front, I’m going to keep doing that and if that keeps progressing in the way that it is, who knows what I might do?”

 

When it comes to social media, Ryan advises professionals in the hair field (or any field, for that matter) to take advantage of the online tools that are available. “Don’t be afraid to put your work out there, and don’t be afraid of the criticism that may follow,” Ryan says. “Don’t be afraid of what people think, and stay positive.”

 

When Ryan first started posting photos of his work on Instagram, he jokes that he did receive a little flak from his friends, but Ryan also recognizes that a huge part of his success and following is due to putting his work out there.

 

It’s inspiring to see how Ryan has used social media to build a fanbase and spread the word about his work. Sometimes it can be easy to fall into a pattern of keeping our work to ourselves because we are afraid of being critiqued. However, if you are going to be successful, you have to find a way to promote your work and be your own advocate. It’s also important to take any negative comments, and find a way to turn them into something positive. Even if people are quick to point out that they don’t like one of your techniques, that doesn’t mean that you quit; that means that you work harder and become better at your craft.

 

But Ryan does have one more solid piece of advice if you plan on promoting your work via social media: buy a solid camera. I couldn’t agree more.

I’ll leave you with those final words of wisdom, and I hope to see more of you sharing your styling skills on my Instagram timeline. All that’s left to say is thank you to Ryan for the interview, and thank you to all of you for reading – come find me on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram if you’d like to see more interviews with talented professionals in the industry. If you’d like to see more from Ryan, check out his Instagram.

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A Must See Barber Interview, With Danny Amorim A.K.A Success Addict

When I met Danny Amorim at the International Beauty Show in New York, I was overwhelmed by his electrifying energy. Danny is the kind of man that speaks, and everyone in the room takes note; his wisdom and charisma are the perfect match to motivate anyone feeling a little slack. In fact, Danny’s resume is packed with job titles such as owner of multiple barber shops, international educator, Gibs Grooming ambassador, and, of course, motivational speaker. So when I sat down with Danny for our interview, I took notes; who wouldn’t when they’re in the company of someone so successful?

 

But more importantly, I wanted to know how Danny built his empire, and how his journey in this industry began. When I asked Danny how he got into this business, he said, “Picked up my first pair of clippers at 14-years-old… The craft just turned into something I loved.”

 

When Danny graduated from high school, he knew that college wasn’t the right path for him, so he went to work at a barbershop. “I took it seriously, and I built a strong clientele,” Danny said.

 

There’s no doubt that Danny took the job seriously, and I loved hearing his story about how he opened his first shop. “I asked the owner of the shop how much it would cost for me to have my own landline in his shop. He looked at me like I had three heads,” Danny said. “I wanted my own line because I was tired of the customer service his clients or his barbers were giving to my clients. I had my own shop in his shop at 20-years-old.”

 

I find it motivating – and humorous – that Danny was able to open up a shop within a shop, but it shows that Danny was always going above and beyond for his clients, even during the beginning of his career.

 

It’s that same work-ethic that allowed Danny to open up his own shop, Klippers Barber Shop, within a year of obtaining his own landline (for all of you Gen Y kids, that’s a home phone). Today, that same phone number still works at his original shop, but Danny has gone on to open up three more barber salons.

 

Barber battles and the value of networking

 

“Right now, our craft in our industry has risen at an all-time high,” Danny said. He’s seen the rise of the barber industry, and how the profession is becoming more valued.

 

“It’s become cool to be a barber now. When I was a kid, I never had that barber I looked up to, that I want to be him when I grew up,” Danny said. “I walked into a barber shop, they’re charging seven dollars, and everyone’s smoking cigarettes in there – that wasn’t something I really wanted to do all of my life.”

 

Now that the industry is booming, Danny knows young kids (his son, included) that want to be a barber when they grow up. One of the reasons that the barber industry is seeing more of a “cool factor” is because of barber battles. When barber battles were just beginning to become popular, Danny was one of the competitors.

 

“I started competing in barber battles back in 2002, 2003 – when they were way smaller scale than here. They would happen maybe, once a year if you were lucky. Now barber battles are popping up every corner you can think of. If you go on social media, sometimes there’s two, three barber battles going on the same weekend,” Danny said. “It’s become a little saturated, you could say. When I used to go, It was more than winning those trophies. I remember going to these battles, and meeting and networking with people. I am where I am today because of my network.”

 

Personally, I think Danny is right. While it’s great to win trophies and new titles (who doesn’t like a resume booster?) – it’s more important to build up a strong network with people in your industry. You never know when an opportunity is going to arise, and knowing the right person can open many doors.

 

Motivational words for those trying to make it

On that positive note, I’d like to note that Danny is, in my opinion, one of the best motivational speakers in the business. Danny isn’t going to tell you what you want to hear, but he will say what you need to hear; and really, that’s the kind of inspiration that we all need.

 

“My speeches will touch you way more, and change your mindset way more, and make you want to grab a pair of clippers,” Danny said. The man knows that he’s good, and he wants you to know that you can succeed as well. But he’s going to be honest with his intended audience.

 

“Some guys, they have the gift. But they don’t have the responsibility, the reliability, customer service, or respect for this industry. They act like people owe them something – no, you owe them something. They’re paying for a service,” Danny said, serving up some realness.

 

I’ve gotta say – Danny is absolutely right. It’s not enough to cut hair well; you’ve got to make your clients want to come back, and to feel comfortable recommending you to their friends. This industry is about the people, and you’ve always got to treat others with respect.

 

While Danny was upbeat and positive during our interview, I was still dying to know what he dislikes about the barber industry. He told me, “What I can say hating is.. the unprofessionalism,” Danny said. “Certain people go to a certain barbershop, and feel like we all run our business like that. No, they run their business like that. I run my business as a business; he runs his business as a playground. There’s a difference there. It’s customer service.”

 

I can understand where Danny is coming from since he wants everyone who visits one of his shops to be comfortable – from the alternative-looking kid to a suburban mom. There’s an atmosphere that he likes to create where everyone is welcome. He even said, “I don’t care if you’re purple, yellow, or green – I want to cut your hair and service you.”

 

But before I let Danny go, I needed to ask what he would tell a barber that is down on their luck. He said, “Just hang in there. We all have rough days… Whatever you do, just go hard at it.” While the advice is simple, it’s also something that we all need to hear occasionally. You don’t become successful without a struggle, so just keep hanging in there. And don’t forget to work hard for what you want.

 

I’ll leave you with those final motivational words. All that’s left to say is thank you to Danny for the interview, and thank you all for reading – come find me on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.

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Danny Robinson started his barbering career with few opportunities – but that’s never kept him down.  He now owns two successful Oldham shops – Danny and Co Barbers – and also holds the Men’s Hairdressing Federation Young Fed title while on the road as European Artistic Ambassador for the Oster clipper company.

Any one of these achievements would land Danny on my list of incredible barbers, but his multi-faceted successes – and his fight to break into the industry – make him a compelling figure I knew I had to meet.

Humble Origins lead to TV

As I always like to start at the beginning, and Danny told me his beginnings were humble indeed.

“I’m from a single-parent background,” Danny says. “My Mum brought me up on her own when she was just 15.”

If you think Danny’s face might be a bit familiar, there is a reason.  The acting bug found him in his humble abode – and bit hard!

“Throughout school, barbering was never something I wanted to do,” he told me. “Instead I went to Manchester and studied at a performing arts school, landed a TV agent and went on to get loads of TV credits on shows like Shameless and Spooks.”

But the lure of the bright lights didn’t last.

“I started to fall out of love with it. It’s a very fickle industry – you can quickly move to the bottom of the pile and find you’re just waiting by the phone for auditions for scrap roles,” he said.

“It was my Mum who pushed me into getting a fall-back job, and she always noticed that I’d enjoyed messing around with my hair, so she suggested barbering.”

Initial foray into Women’s Hair

Danny started working with women’s hair, but it wasn’t the right fit.  “Women were scared to death of someone across from them in a La Coste tracksuit with a pair of scissors!” he laughs.

“The salon pushed me towards the men’s side and I enjoyed it; I found I had things in common with the clients, so it progressed quickly.”

From there Danny began a 5-year journey to find his identity in the industry. “I went from shop to shop, eventually breaking away from Manchester City Centre as you couldn’t make much money in a salaried role,” he told me.   “I worked on a self-employed ‘rent-a-chair’ basis at a local shop in Oldham and stayed there for 5 years learning my trade there. My old boss showed me the ropes, and taught me the business side.”

Breaking into Business

Having steady work at a job he enjoyed might be enough for most people, but not Danny.

“I’ve always had to stand on my own two feet,” he said. “ I think I’ve got a little bit of a reputation in the industry -I say what I think and I don’t hold anything back.  That’s because of my background; I’ve had to learn to fight, to stand out.

“In the end I thought ‘Look, I’ve been working in the same shop for 5 years, lining the owner’s pockets, pretty much running the shop when he’s not there.’ A lot of the clients were coming in for me, and so I realized I could do it myself.”

Gas Explosion Creates an Opportunity

Danny’s search for his own place was made attainable by…a gas explosion.  “(The explosion was ) nearby, blowing up a lot of buildings in the area,” he related to me. “This shop was quite rundown, so I bought it cheap. Renting my chair cost more than running the shop!”

“From there I guess you could say the rest is history: it just rocketed off.”

Danny is always shifting his sights to the next level, and once he had his own shop and excellent barber skills, he began looking at the bigger industry picture, entering competitions and following big names on social media.

A career-defining victory soon came his way: being named one of Men’s Hairdressing Federation’s ‘Young Feds’.  How did it happen?  Danny acting training paid off: he focused on image and presentation.

“I’d figured out that iPhone could only get you so far, so I started putting up pictures using a high-end camera. This meant that, three years ago, my work just popped out because… it looked so professional. Especially at competitions, it got me noticed very quickly. Now it’s the norm, but it wasn’t then.”

Danny’s savvy self-marketing got him the final of the Simon Shaw Search for a Star contest, where he was noticed by Joe Sloan from the Men’s Hairdressing Federation. They eventually met at the Shaw Salon International Competition, which is where I also met Danny for the first time.

“I completely reworked (model) Abdul’s hair (at the competition), doing a completely different look on a different stand, completely mixed it up. Adam and Joe Sloan loved it, like ‘Wow, this is unreal!”’

Once again, Danny’s performance training paid off. “Because I come from an acting background, I could get a crowd going around me. Adam and Joe saw this…and asked me to come down and replicate the cut on camera.”

Two weeks later, Adam and Joe Sloan called to tell Danny one of their four Young Fed winners had to drop out, and they had chosen to award him the position.

He also named the cut he’d created at the International Competition “The Bombay Pompadour,” and it completely blew up on social media.  Danny was on his way.

With doors opening, Danny was soon cutting hair for celebrities such as Craig David, Tinie Tempah, Stomzy, Matt Bellamy from Muse and the international Drum & Bass DJ Wilkinson.

And great things just kept happening.

Stepping Up to the Oster Ambassadorship

Every barber covets the chance to serve as a brand ambassador, and Danny recently became the  European Artistic Ambassador for Oster clippers. He says he fell in love with Oster’s clippers – specifically the Oster ’97 – at an American Crew course:

“American Crew are known for using nothing but Oster ’97 clippers, so I bought a pair and absolutely loved them, thought it was one of the greatest machines I’d ever held,” he recalls.

“I worked them to death, but I didn’t know you had to change the carbon fibre brushes and thought they’d broke!  So, I sent them back over to the distributor,”

Danny met Oster’s Maria Stafford and began sending her pictures of his work and accomplishments, noting he could help Oster in the underserved UK market.

They met again at Pro Hair.

“I did a haircut with a pair of Pro Powers and she asked me to jump on their stand and do a cut,” he said.  Danny began doing shows free of charge “because I believe in the products, and helping Oster bring brand awareness to the UK.”

Oster soon brought Danny on as paid rep.  He loves the products, saying of the Oster ’97  (or ’76 in America):  “The key word is clean – you get clean, clean cuts. It’s your all-in-one clipper, and every barbershop should have one.”

This wouldn’t be a proper Larry the Barber Man interview if I didn’t end by sharing Danny’s advice, and his success lends extra weight to his wise words:

“Always develop yourself – don’t just look at Instagram. A lot of it is smoke and mirrors. Stop looking up to American barbers and look at the great talent we have here in this country.

“Think outside the box. Look at my photography work  –  it’s different to everyone else’s.  Be creative, and be you – every top barber is the best at being themselves, so you need to be you”.

I hope you put these words into practice in your career, and remember:  there is always support, advice and inspiration for barbers at my YouTube channel Barbers.TV, or my @LarrytheBarberMan Instagram profile.

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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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Babyliss 4 Barbers: Educator, Sofie ( StayGold31) Tells Her Story

When I caught up with Sofie Pok  A.k.A  Staygold31 at the International Beauty Show, it was hot off the back of an incredible achievement:  being named BarberCon’s “Best Female Barber of the Year.”  All the more remarkable is this L.A.-based artist won the coveted prize after just seven years working exclusively with men’s hair.

Every barber has to fight to make it to the top, but as a minority within the industry, female barbers find an amplified struggle.  I’ve met many formidable women barbers, each one unique.  Sophie’s tale is a fascinating blend of heart, creativity and hard work.  I am delighted to share more about this delightful person, so let’s get to know Sofie!

Barbering: Something that makes you want to wake up in the morning

Sofie started as a hairdresser in Los Angeles but found the field didn’t generate the excitement and creative sparks she was seeking. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard this from both men and women barbers.  I wanted to know more about what motivated her jump from one side of the hair styling industry to the other and how she  felt about the journey.

“I started doing hair about seven years ago, the first year I got into cosmetology,” she says. “Going through that first year was a little bit tough because I couldn’t find that feeling where you’re just excited to get up every day.”

“So, the second year I thought, ‘ before I give it all up, let me try men’s hair and see how that works.’ I jumped into a barbershop, “she said.  Sofie is an incredible presence, an Asian American with magnificent blondish hair and a fantastic scheme of tattoos covering most of her visible skin, many of the inspired by her Cambodian heritage.  Despite the power of her look and personality, she says entering a barber shop “was probably one of the most uncomfortable and intimidating moves I’ve done, working by myself as a female, with all guys who had way more experience.”

But Sofie had found her calling, and went for it hard. “Pretty soon it developed into a passion where it was challenging, it was fast-paced, and it made me want to go to work and keep learning. And my main focus was just to do what I could and try to make it work – because it was fun and I enjoyed it.”

Sofie was soon discovering the creativity for which she is becoming so well known, crafting exceptional haircuts. “You have to!” she said.  “We are the minority of this entire industry in just the barbering world alone, so we’ve got to cut twice as hard. That helped me separate myself from everyone else”.

While reflecting on her barbering roots with me, Sofie was still expressing amazement at her BarberCon achievement.  She says it was a total shock, not least because her only intent in going was to showcase her work.  So how did it feel to be told she’d won a huge barbering prize so suddenly?

“I was completely speechless,” she says with a smile. “To be recognized after all these years of knowing how hard it is first of all to be a barber, but then to be a female which made it extremely difficult in the beginning”.

At my prompting, Sofie shared a theory about why she was selected for the honor, telling me what she puts out is very real, never sugar-coated, and she loves connecting with others who are still coming up, offering advice, inspiration and the energy to keep going.

 

 

 The rise of female barbers

Seeing a woman cutting hair on the barbershop floor used to be rare, but the growth of the industry has gone hand-in-hand with a very welcome rise in diversity, Sofie said.

“Now,  I see growth in a lot of States where women are not afraid anymore. They are coming into this world and trying to hold their own.  It’s starting to change where people aren’t just saying, “Oh, you’re good for a girl.”  No. “You’re good, period.” And that’s what it should be.  It shouldn’t be segregated. “You’re OK for a chick.” But those little things that have pushed me to where I am now; you’ve got to find those moments that drive you even further”.

Sofie is finding ways to help people find that drive, including a YouTube channel of how-to videos: “I think it’s important to show people that you’re not just taking shortcuts and making it look nice,” she said. “I represent BaByliss for barbers, and it’s important for me to show that I’m actually using these tools to do things.”

Sofie’s message is that tools connect you to your work…and bring out your creativity.  “People want to feel like it’s real and attainable,” she said. “I want to break it down and make it easy because I know what it’s like to just be handed a pair of clippers and not really know the specs or what is out there,” she added.  “I break down tool knowledge because it’s important for us to understand why we’re using it so we can do it better.”

Sofie’s Instagram – staygold31- is home to many of these videos and I encourage barbers everywhere to follow her not just for the videos,  but for her inspirational posts and background on the BaByliss products she reps.  Picking up an ambassador role for an excellent product line is a big dream for many barbers, so I asked  how Sofie landed the job:

“A lot of companies are looking for people who can already sell themselves,” she said.” The first four or five years I’ve built my page off of things that I enjoy. You have to find what’s pure to you and that’s how you’re going to build an audience because people want to follow real people.”

She said she was initially skeptical of going into product promotion, but  BaByliss tools are a real part of who she is and what she is doing. “I took the risk and I’m so glad I did,” she smiles.

BaByliss has grown in credibility recently, and it’s great to see barbers embrace another set of tools -after all, the more diversity in your clipper collection, the more opportunities for you to provide different styles. For Sofie, this means getting up on stage and showing what these clippers can do, a role she is clearly good at and enjoys.

The final element to Sofie’s work is building her personal brand, with a range of Stay Gold apron pins for barbers.  You can check these out on Instagram right now and her new website, coming soon.

She’s also focusing on building her photographer chops. “It came with cutting hair,” she told me. “ I used to use an iPhone, but with higher quality photography you can not only put your work out there better but also study your haircuts a little more, see the details.  Overall, you create a better portfolio for yourself, and I think that’s really important as well as your presentation. .”

Sofie stresses a topic in which I believe too many barbers lack awareness: marketing and promotion. “You know you could be a good barber but if you don’t have good presentation, how are you going to get clientele, build business opportunities?” she asks. “People will notice the little details, it separates you, because of the quality that you invest in yourself”.

 

 

Reflecting on the industry

Before I let Sofie get back on stage, I wanted one final insight: her take on the state of the industry today.  I love getting reaction to this question since everyone has a unique insight. With that in mind, and to embrace the positive spirit of the IBS show, I asked Sofie what she loves about the industry:

“How much men’s hair has grown,” she said enthusiastically. “ Because a little while ago men weren’t into their hair as much, but that stigma for men who want to get their eyebrows done, that’s gone.  Now men want to look better and feel better. Men are getting their hair cut 3 or 4 times as much as women now, so the industry is coming up to the same point as female hairdressing.”

That should be a motivating message for every barber!  Hope you enjoyed getting to know another wonderful up-and-comer like Sofie, who bring so much energy and enthusiasm and have inspiring and practical insights to share.  Don’t forget to find her on Instagram as StayGold31.

To get more motivating interviews with the principal industry figures, follow me on Instagram – larrythebarberman- and then head on over to my YouTube channel at barbers.tv.

I’m planning more barber profiles soon. ‘Til then, happy clipping!

 

 

 

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Barber: SharpFade Shares His Social Media Success Story

During my time at the International Beauty Show: New York, I had to interview Byrd Mena, better known as Sharp Fade, to get the scoop on his branding and marketing techniques. Byrd has one of the more interesting stories on how he rose to prominence in the industry; he managed an anonymous Instagram account, named – you guessed it – Sharp Fade, and gained a large following. In fact, when I interviewed Byrd in March, he had around 450,000 followers. Now, as I write this blog post in April, he has approximately 479,000 followers. The man doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

 

Eventually, Byrd decided that it was time to go public with his Instagram account. When I asked him about how he came out to the barber industry as Sharp Fade, he laughs and says, “That’s a funny story.”  Byrd tells me that people would invite his Instagram page to events, and he decided to show up even though no one knew who he was. “Slowly, it started to reveal itself who I was,” Byrd says.

 

When Byrd revealed who he was, he had been running his Instagram account for 18 months. When I asked him why he stayed anonymous for so long, he says, “I figure these people would get jealous or envious because I’m young and trying to do something new.” Byrd even admitted that he told a few people about his double life as Sharp Fade, and he received negative feedback that he says kept him from sharing his identity.

 

But ultimately, most people were supportive. “I told my barber around the same time I told everybody else,” Byrd says. “He was like, ‘Wow, bro! How’d you keep it a secret for so long?’”

 

Yet Byrd has extended his influence beyond his catchy Instagram handle. He’s savvy with online marketing so it’s not surprising that Byrd would come up with an event as innovative as online barber battles. “I’d say six years ago, the barber battle started to pop a lot. No one took it to where you could do it online,” Byrd says. “I decided to do it online, so we can battle with people all around the world. Having the chance to battle with someone in London against somebody who’s in New York – made it more fun for the industry.” As Byrd notes, it also gave these people the opportunity to network through social media.

 

But online barber battles were not an overnight success. In the beginning, Byrd only had about 30 barbers sign up for the battles. The numbers began to increase once Byrd stepped away from promoting behind the screen, and met with people face-to-face at events to get the word out about online barber battles. Now, Byrd has to chose specific barbers to participant because around 400 people will sign up.

 

I think that Byrd’s experience with promoting the online barber battles is a great learning lesson for all of us in this industry. Byrd had a forward-thinking idea, but he still needed to outreach to people for the online barber battles to become a success. While it’s always great to promote our work online, sometimes the best way to get people interested is to have that face-to-face interaction.

 

However, I still think that it’s important to build a social media following, but don’t underestimate the networking opportunities at events. Even Byrd says, “Just networking in person is probably the best networking that you can do.”

 

Through Byrd’s networking, he’s been able to work with companies such as Elegance, Red One, JRL, Bevel, and many more. Byrd has been working with Elegance for a few years, and they provide him with different products that he gifts the winner of his online barber battles as a prize.

 

It’s hard to keep up with all of the projects that Byrd has taken on, but he’s also created a Creative and Elite Program for barbers. If barbers join the Creative & Elite Program that Byrd has created, they can get a discount on products from the companies that Byrd has worked with. They also get a certain amount of posts on Sharp Fade’s page, and the location of their barbershop on his website. When I asked Byrd about the Creative and Elite Program, he said, “I wanted to change the whole game, and help these barbers in a unique way.”

 

As successful as Byrd has been with his online marketing techniques, he’s not done growing and expanding his brand yet. Right now, his newest project is an email newsletter – or as Byrd likes to call them, email blasts. He’s been working on the project for a few months, and only has around 250 subscribers. But knowing Byrd, with his determination and network, he’ll have 250,000 subscribers in a few years. I’d bet on it.

 

I’ll leave you on that note, and I hope that this interview helps inspire you to build your network and expand your online presence. I know that it has reminded me to keep working at building a strong network – through social media and in-person opportunities. I’d like to thank Byrd for taking the time to sit down with me for an interview – it was greatly appreciated! I’d also like to thank you, dear reader, for following me on my journey. Without your continued support, I would not be where I am today. If you’d like to see more of my interviews with professionals in this industry – follow me on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

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Famos: Barbering King Pin Shares his Secret To Success

I hope some of you were able to tune into my first ever live Instagram interview, which was broadcast directly from the Nomad Barbershop in London to your Instagram feeds! The interviewee was none other than the wonderful Canadian barber Scott Ramos aka Famos, here in England for the Great British British Barber Bash. If you missed the live broadcast, then you can still catch the whole interview right here – so get comfy and enjoy the wisdom of a particularly talented barber.

It’s easy to think of Famos as a Rockstar of barbering: he has a huge following, and gets a lot of positive attention from fans and other barbers alike. I wanted to know how he got to this point, but ever the humble barber Famos tells me “I have no idea man, it’s still extremely overwhelming to me. But to answer your question, I think it’s just being myself – ever since I first picked up my clippers at 12 years old.”

Scott has also picked up some impressive friends and connections within the barbering world, a testament to his ability to connect with people from all walks of life. In particular, he considers himself to be extremely lucky to have worked with the wonderful Eric Pacino, and tells me all about the inspiration Pacino has brought him and how they first met:

“If I was a musician, I would have a certain drummer or guitar or singer that I would follow, listen to all their music, read about them, do research. So as a barber I was always looking for somebody I could follow, see what tools they used – I found a couple of guys on YouTube, but Eric really stood out for me. I downloaded Pacino’s app I was watching his videos and really learning about different techniques and clippers, and from the success of his App he did a tour. I took a week off work to go and see him with money from commission on product sales that I hadn’t even realised I’d earned. I met him, shook hands, and then and there realised the power of social media. It was eye-opening”.

Famos’ Path into Barbering

Now, some of the stories I’ve heard about Famos before he found barbering cast him as something of a bad boy, but speaking to him face to face it seems more the case that he was a resourceful youngster willing to do whatever it took to get by:

“I didn’t come from a rich family, but always appreciated nice things – so I would steal things like clothes and sell them to get money for clothes of my own and food. This is also when I started cutting hair, trading haircuts for money and food”.

While it may have started as a way to make money at the school yard, it quickly turned into something that Scott had a clear passion and aptitude for, so he joined a hair styling programme at a local college. Unfortunately, while it’s become increasingly common for men to study on hair styling courses, at the time he was the only guy in the class – and found that students on other courses would make fun of him, to the point that he dropped out. Luckily for the rest of us, his family was able to convince him to head back and finish the course: the rest is history.

After getting his training, Scott worked in a range of shops for a number of years, before finally deciding to set up his own shop last September, Saints: “I think I could have opened my own shop a long time ago, but I go with my gut – I had so many opportunities, but when I moved back home after travelling the world, that’s when it started to come together. The shop just represents me, and I’m glad to have my big brother their beside me as well as an excellent team.”

Doing Battle

Recently, British barbers have been jumping on board the barbering battle trend, something that’s been going on in America for quite a while now. Like a lot of top professional barbers, Famos has certainly been involved with barber battles; as I already mentioned, he came across to the UK for the Great British Barber Bash, and also has plenty of experience with the big US battles:

“It’s scary. The first time I ever competed it was in a hair styling competition, all women, high fashion – a lot of bright colours. It wasn’t really my thing. I did a fade on the model with a rose design, and I could hear that the judges didn’t like it. I didn’t place so it was quite discouraging. Then while in Montreal I started networking, and booked last minute for a barber battle with Exotics in Miami. I didn’t know you were supposed to sign up online, so I turned up ready for the combover category and it was full. There was an opening in the duplicate category, but I managed to trade with another barber for the fast fade category: 15 minutes to do the best haircut. I was the last one to finish, but in 15 minutes got the model’s really long hair down, blow dry, did some styling… and ended up winning the fastest fade with the lowest time.”

For me, this is undoubtedly one of Famos’ most inspirational stories: the fact that he just took a chance, threw caution to the wind and made it work. It really goes to show that as a barber, and really in any walk of life, you just have to seize whatever opportunities you can and do everything to get the best from them.

Carving His Mark

Barber battles aside, there’s a lot more to Famos’ work, including the invention of the 4AM fade, a style that he was responsible for creating. As with any creative art, Famos tells me that the best ideas draw on inspiration from elsewhere – in this case, from the exaggerated edge parts that Filipino barbers popularised a while back. Scott started working with this basic idea, coming up with his own three line design and using another popular barber, Julius, as his model.

He tells me that one of the best things about the 4AM fade is that it’s not just a cool design, it also has a story behind it, and went on to lead to another great friendship with Diego, a barber who won a contest for creating the best 4AM fade and then went on to tour with Famos.

Scott has also made his mark in another way: with a fantastic logo designed to be simple and instantly recognisable. Taking the form as a pair of scissors positioned to form the letters S.R. – Scott’s initials – he started using it as the design for branded pins, positioning them in photoshoots to ensure his brand was visible. This is something that has really taken off among other barbers since Famos popularised it!

Fantastic Advice for the Next Generation

Before I let Famos get back to enjoying his time in London, I wanted to find out what he wants next in his career, and any advice he has for the hungry up-and-coming barbers out there. Having already achieved so much professionally, he turns to personal life when looking at future success: ““I just want a little Famos man, I want to marry, I want a family.”

I have no doubt that he’ll achieve whatever he sets his mind to, and his advice to younger barbers is an absolute testament to that: “Put in long hours, practice, practice, practice, appreciate life, be grateful. Don’t complain, and if you find yourself complaining work harder. If people make fun of you, work harder. Always try to be different, be inspired, reach out, connect. Save up. Fly places, travel, shake hands. Brand yourself, make business cards… eat Nandos chicken. Always try to believe in yourself”.

Follow these words of advice and you really can’t go far wrong! If you want to find out more about Scott’s work and the brand he has created then I highly recommend checking out his website, www.wearesaint.com, where you can also pick up some fantastic branded clothing and help support the work Scott’s doing. For more of my work, head over to YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, where you can find more interviews as well as some helpful barbering tutorial videos: I hope to see you there!

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