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Connecticut Barber Expo Founder: Jay Major Shares His Success Story!!

Today’s barbering interview is with the talented Jay Majors, a man who has used the barbering craft to completely transform his life. As he describes it, he had a somewhat “troubled past”, and he was generous enough to talk to me not only about his current career as a barber, but also about life before finding this new passion. We also talk about one of Jay’s most exciting projects to date: the CT Barber Expo.

 

“A Troubled Past”

“The gangs were really prevalent in [my] area growing up, and to be honest I got involved just to be cool. I wanted to do what others were doing. I come from a family where my parents did their best to make ends meet, but I wanted the designer things. So, I did the wrong things in order to acquire them.

“I would get incarcerated, and my family weren’t the type of family to send me money so I would have to find ways to make ends meet. Because even though you’re incarcerated you still need to buy cosmetics, food, snacks. I started drawing, doing things like handkerchiefs and I really wasn’t that good at it. So, I got the bright idea, because I really looked up to a barber in my neighbourhood, to start cutting hair”.

Jay already had some styling practice from shaping up his own hair, so he found that he was able to make money from providing haircuts whilst incarcerated. For Jay, then, barbering started as a real necessity: a way that he could survive within a difficult environment. But it certainly didn’t end there:

“While incarcerated, I didn’t have hope. So, I would get out, and get these dead-end jobs – and I wasn’t making good enough money when I was used to making fast money from my other life. Then whilst incarcerated I had this epiphany one day. I was sitting in my cell, and they have these lockers where you put your food and cosmetics – and I had all this food that I was hoarding, hundreds of dollars-worth of food, and all these quote-unquote ‘drug lords’ were having to borrow things from me.

“And a lightbulb went off like why the hell do you try breaking the law, why are you involved with all this knucklehead mentality when you could be making all this money cutting hair? So I went down to the education department and I spoke to this lady, and she said when you get out, call this phone number and due to you being a felon, and because of the programmes you have done, you can get a grant to go to cosmetology school.”

Despite almost giving up several times, Jay stuck to it – and now his life has changed significantly from what it once was.

 

Living for Success

Jay has gone on to make a name for himself in barbering, cementing his new career by opening up the Major League Barbershop around a decade ago. He describes the shop as a family friendly environment, priding himself on the high levels of sanitation as well as the talent of the barbers he hires.

The story behind the barbershop is fascinating in and of itself, taking both good luck and hard work to ensure success:

“When I graduated cosmetology school I was renting chairs in barbershops and I managed to acquire this high-class clientele despite being in a bad neighbourhood. I ended up getting this client in my chair who people might look at as like a mobster, old-school Italian guy who owned a lot of property and he said ‘listen, we’ve got to take you out of this neighbourhood’.

This man was able to help Jay by offering him an empty shop in a new mini mall that was still being built, telling Jay to mark out the space he wanted on the dirt where the mall was about to be built. This transformed into 1200 square foot barbershop that Jay had to grow into.

“I hired some barbers; 4 chairs went to 8 chairs, 8 chairs went to 12. A lot of people just slap a barbershop together but I bought all these beautiful plasma televisions, had the waiting area as a baseball dugout. I wanted it to be a family friendly barbershop, somewhere clean, somewhere women could go and not get gawked out.

“I’m always remodelling, buying new chairs, upgrading my facilities. I think the difference between my shop and others is also the people I hire – I want people with an entrepreneurial spirit. The majority of my barbers that leave go on to open their own shop.”

Although nurturing upcoming talent might mean creating more competition for his own shop, Jay cares more about giving something back and helping people who might be disadvantaged. This includes working with people who were incarcerated in a community outreach programme, helping those with no jobs and few prospects train as barbers and fulfil a need for licensed professionals.

 

Making it Big

Arguably, though, what really helped Jay to make it big was the creation of the CT Expo, an event which may have started small but has gone on to attract an impressively wide audience.

“I’ve participated in barber battles in cosmetology and barber schools, and barbers really come out for it.

“The difference between cosmetologists and barbers to me, where I’m from, is that cosmetologists will get their license and then do continued education. Barbers get a license, get a tattoo of a pair of clippers and think they know everything.

“In order to spread awareness that we weren’t charging enough for our haircuts, we weren’t acting like professionals, we weren’t treating our clients with proper customer care… I had to come up with an excuse. And that was the battles. Barbers are really competitive people.

“So, I did a barber battle at a nightclub, letting everyone compete for free. I didn’t think as many people would turn up as did, and I didn’t think it would become what it has. I reached out to all these people to market it, only Ivan Zoot was interested. He got me clippers for the prize bags, which was astonishing. We had around 30-40 competitors – it was a great turnout”.

From there, the show just grew and grew, although not without some teething issues. Growing so rapidly meant that he had more people attending his shows than the venue he used could cope with, leading to complaints and even visits from the fire marshals!

None of this put Jay off though, and he talks about the type of touching moment that made him realise how much he wanted to keep giving back “This kid won second place in the speed fade battle, and he came with his Grandfather and his Mother and his Aunt – his Grandfather flew all the from Puerto Rico to see him compete – and the kid cried like thank you, I’ve never won anything before in my life. From that point on I said I have to give back to the industry that’s been giving to me.”

From 1100 people at that show, 2017’s CT Expo hit around 8000 attendees including vendors. I was there myself, and the event was off the scale; aside from two barber battle stages, there were also a huge range of vendor.

As Jay says, many of the most popular hair shows cater more towards female hairdressing, with barbers taking up a small area. The event that he runs is all about barbers, with a particular focus on how barbers can grow and become more professional while also charging better rates for their haircuts.

 

A Bright Future

When Jay says that “barbering has truly saved my life” it certainly rings true, so it’s exciting to know that somebody with that much passion is putting so much back into the industry. One big focus at 2017’s expo was education – he sees the battle and the vendors as an excuse for the education which give the show its real focus, working as a draw to make sure that barbers show up and get interested.

Jay is also running Major League Barber Academy, a way of ensuring a bright future for those people who are only just beginning their barbering career. So, what can you expect if you visit the academy?

“I opened my school in the beginning because it was hard for me to find licensed barbers. Or I was finding licensed barbers but they’ve come from a shop that was taught poor practices from an owner who was taught poor practices, from another owner who was taught poor practices… they don’t know how to sanitise properly, they just want clients in and out of the chairs.

“I said you know what, I’m going to start training. And right now, I’m actually in the process of getting financial aid funding, I have a great graduation rate and a great passing rate, now we’re going to be offering a class in Spanish too.

“It’s been a dream come true for me. If you would have told me where I’m at in my career today, even doing this interview, years ago I wouldn’t have believed you. Because I’m from the streets, and nothing is handed to you and you don’t believe anything you hear or see. But one thing I can say is that I work a lot.”

 

I saw that tenacity and hard-working attitude for myself when I visited the CT Expo; Jay’s whole focus was on making the show a success. His advice to young people on the wrong tracks, then, is definitely worth listening to:

“At the end of the day, you have to learn that there are two paths. There’s no in between. If you’re on the right path and you’re working hard, then hard work rewards hard work. With that, you can make it in any career. So, my advice to you is to start treating the barbering career as a career and a profession, not as a hustle or a way to make cash.”

Remember, these are words of advice from someone who has been there and knows what he’s talking about. You can find out more about Jay’s work at his website mlbcuts.com and, of course, you can get to know more barbers like Jay by visiting my Instagram page – @larrythebarberman – or my YouTube channel, barbers.tv

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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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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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Scottish Barber Colin Petrie of Hard Grind: Creative, Energetic, Expanding…

Did he Mention his 4-day Dundee-to-London Barbers’ Motorcycle Charity Run coming up July 22?

When I caught up with Colin Petrie at Barber Connect Telford we briefly reminisced about the last time we’d met two years ago, before diving into his crazy busy, creative barbering life at Hard Grind.

“We had two barbers,” says the Scottish entrepreneur, whose Hard Grind shops in Aberdeen and Dundee are home to custom design apparel, good coffee, and first class men’s styling. “Since then, we’ve snowballed. We have upwards of 14 or 15 barbers now. We have warehouses and stock people. Massive!”

Colin says this with an appealing blend of pride, wonder and weariness. “It’s hard, it’s tough,” he says, but you sense he isn’t complaining, just being real. ”Work life balance is something we preach massively but I’m one of the worst at it,” he says with a laugh.

But the barber from Dundee with the business that’s attracting customers and barbers from everywhere with a mix of great service, unique combination of products and savvy marketing has something else on his mind right now: motorcycles.  He launches the ‘Harley and Haircuts’ Barbers Ride July 22, a four-day excursion from Dundee to London that benefits London’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

“It started about a year a year ago with  Luka from Luka’s Barbers and Ryan from SD Barbers – bike enthusiasts and barbers talking about doing a charity run,” he told me. “It has grown into this monster I can barely comprehend!  Then Xavier from Reuzel in the UK and Richie from Captain Fawcett (got involved).”

Enthusiasts of any motorcycle make are welcome, Colin emphasizes, not just Harley riders. The launch event is July 22 at Hard Grind in Dundee. Following a (no doubt extensive) after party and an overnight, wheels hit pavement July 23.

“We will be stopping to do barber seminars, and we will keep it intimate, focused on education,” he told me.  No big stage shows. He wants to attract eager-to-learn barbers who can get value from the events.  “But we’ll obviously be drinking a bunch of beers and high tailing it to London, so our bums will be sore.” The event will assist not only the Children’s Hospital; Colin adds the Lions Barber Collective for the prevention of suicide is also involved.

Tickets for the seminars are £25, “and you will get a £25 baggie of goodies from our sponsors,” he said.

The ticket for the full four-day ride is £250. “You also get a £250 goodie bag from our sponsors and entry to parties and events.”

“There are ‘giving pages’ for those who don’t ride,” he added. “Go to barbersride.com to find out all about it.”

So, besides running two shops that feature a line of your own apparel and organizing an island-spanning motorcycle ride for charity, are you keeping busy?

Colin’s answer shows the business savvy so many barbers can learn from. “We took our foot off of the gas (after the Aberdeen shop opened) to make sure we were running as we should,” he tells me.  “You can push too hard and too quickly and oversaturate something, and we made sure that didn’t happen.  We needed to hold on to the crux of what we want to do.”

And now?  “Things are running smoothly again to the point we can open up another few shops by the end of this year.”

Another clue to success is Colin’s appreciation for his staff, his willingness to share the human and business side with everyone at Hard Grind.  “Just incredible,” he says of Hard Grind employees. “We got guys on the stage today (at Barber Connect), guys getting in publications, which is fantastic. They all moved here from Wales, from Ireland – we have a girl from Melbourne in Australia, Larissa. It baffles my mind people want to move away to work under the Hard Grind brand. It has been incredible and crazy, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

I was curious about Colin’s approach to social media, since his brand is so talked about (his Instagram has shot up from 8,500 two years ago to 43,000+ today).

How has he done it?

“We are not afraid to show our personality, which is what people like,” he said.  “It’s not just haircut, haircut, haircut. There are stupid videos of us, just shop life.  We hang out outside of work, a lot of us are dads, we take our kids, we all get together as a family.”

“If you build something honest people will relate to that. Sometimes it is personal things. Sometimes it is inspirational.  It’s whatever it is, and it seems to resonate.”

“We also show the stresses, the dark side of the business.  Not just, ‘everything looks great on Instagram.’  There are hard times, so we portray all of it and that is why people respond.” But as far as strategy, “there is no rhyme or reason.”

The emphasis on reality is built into the Hard Grind name.  “We were the first to make coffee in a shop and you grind coffee beans, so it was a play on words, but it’s really about the actual grind.”

“Anyone who cuts hair knows it is not as glamorous as Instagram makes it look,” Colin said. “You’re on your feet, you are cutting back to back, and you rarely take a break. It is a grind every day. So the name is a nod to people who go out there every day, not just barbers. If want to get somewhere you have to grind really hard, so it seemed like a great play on words for us.”

I came away convinced that barbers everywhere can take a tip from Colin’s energy and willingness to try products, ideas and sponsorships in creative combinations.  Hard Grind has an experimental, even a “crazy” vibe (as Colin says) that people find irresistible.

Right now, he’s working with Brew Dog brewery and pub.  How many barbers are doing that?

“We’ve got beer taps going in all the shops, like a full-on bar with kegs,” he says.  At last! Beer and haircuts!  “We are working on our own ale as well. I love the idea of telling people ‘beers are in the fridge, help yourself,’ and pulling pints of our own special brew.”

I am seeing now how Colin very intelligently sets himself apart from the competition.  But there is even more: a reciprocal commitment to his partners. Smart business!

“It’s not, ‘Give us free beer so we can give it to our customers.’ That is not what I am about,” he says emphatically. ”I don’t sit here and ask for handouts and do nothing for you. With Brew Dog we are at their AGM every year with free haircuts and talking up the company.  I want to do things for them. We go to the Rock Star factory and do a big popup and free haircuts for the staff.”

“Almost of the brands have more followers than the shops, anyway. So it’s, ‘What can I do for you?’  That’s how it works,” he smiles.  This attitude has paid off in partnerships with the likes of The Bluebeard’s Revenge, Sailor Jerry, SB, Dickies, Luc Belaire, the aforementioned Brew Dog and Rock Star, Reuzel, Captain Fawcett, the list goes on.

The man never stops running. He’s branched out to custom products (“We’ve got our own beard oils, salt sprays, all made with custom scents”) and he is growing his apparel line (“We take a lot of time on design and the quality. I don’t put out something out I wouldn’t wear myself”) and now – why not? – he is launching a blog, the Daily Grind.  I’ve read it and I have three words for striving barbers everywhere: check it out.

Colin is keen on using the blog to talk about business. “In this age of people wanting to do their own business, it is important to show the true madness that comes with it, the sleepless nights. It’s something I love to do, but I want to paint both sides of it.”

So while on the subject, what is his nutshell advice to struggling barbers trying to build success? Colin’s observations are so extensive and worthwhile, it’s best I list them for easy reference.

  • “The best thing to have is a business partner,” not just to share the financial load but someone as emotionally invested as you are.
  • “I like people second guessing me. If I can persuade them that I am working on the right thing, (that improves my judgment). Trying to do it on your own, you spend a lot of time second-guessing yourself.”
  • Don’t mimic others. Think about how you can put your face on something unique to you.
  • Soak up all of it! Come to the shows. “Education is massive thing.”
  • Have patience. “People don’t want to do two years of training or to build things steadily. It’s a long game, not a short game. Don’t expect overnight success and don’t expect there will be no hurdles. “
  • Understand business basics. “Some think having a barber shop is, ‘I’ll put a man in a chair and that’s it.’ But you don’t know about taxes and VATs and all the stresses, all the struggles, like losing accounts because you are cutting all day. Who is going to answer your emails when you are busy?  Who is going to take care of your paper work?  It is a minefield.”
  • You don’t have to take classes, “but look at Google, look on websites. There is plenty of information out there that can help you. Download stuff not just about barbering but about business.”

As we bid farewell, Colin had a few parting words I want to share with you, since they sum up Hard Grind and Colin so well:  “I feel lucky because I’m not trying to be anything. I’m just being me, one big dysfunctional Hard Grind family, it just kind of works.  There is no trick.”

Thanks, Colin!  A lot of food for thought there.  Hope you look forward to my next interview as much as I do!  Stay tuned and til 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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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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Braid Barbers: Rob & David Talk Barbering Success & Photography

Brothers Rob and David Braid are co-owners of the wonderful, award winning Braid Barbers – with three barbershops now open in Milton Keynes, Banbury and Leamington Spa. As well as being excellent barbers, the brothers clearly both have very creative minds, with Rob also producing some exceptional photographs that are making waves within both fashion and barbering, and David turning his hand to the interior of the shops and conjuring up an incredible atmosphere. David is also responsible for the business development and accounts, while Rob is in charge of their social media, marketing and advertising. I was very excited to chat to them about their work, find out more about their plans for the future, and pick their brains on how to find inspiration.

David kicks things off by telling me how they got into the industry: “Dad started with hairdressing 40 years ago, with 5 shops at its peak, including one on Bond Street, a couple in Birmingham, Northampton and Milton Keynes.” They both started working within the shops, and although at the time Rob found hairdressing a lot more exciting than barbering, David took to cutting men’s hair. Although he confesses that it was originally down to his nervousness about cutting women’s hair, he adds “I started to love it. Customers start asking for you, and then before you know it you’re just buzzing every day.”

The transition to owning their own barbershop came a few years later, after Rob had been away travelling, leaving his brother in charge of the shop. When he returned, it was to a very different barbering world – one with interesting styles and patterns, and clients starting to take a lot more risks, inspired by figures like David Beckham. With a fresh burst of energy, the brothers opened their first shop: Braid Barbers in Banbury, expanding as they found more great locations to set up in.

Interior Inspiration

Now, if you watch the video interview then you’ll be able to see that one of the things that sets Braid Barbers apart is the design of the shop, something which seems to be David’s domain. I’m curious to know how he decides on the look for each shop and what the process is like:

“First we find the shop and then you start from there. It takes me around 12-18 months to put together the furniture, scouting antiques fair, and travelling all around the country. I try to work it around a few key pieces. The thing I like at the moment is how textured everything is, how aged – you can’t buy the life of a good piece of furniture. Sometimes I buy things not knowing if they’re going to work but I love them, so I take them home and live with them for a bit then try to work them in”.

While not every barber puts this amount of energy into making sure their shop looks right, I agree with David that it’s an important part of the overall experience, and it certainly seems to be working for them since they have now won the accolade of Best Barbershop from the Hair and Beauty Awards. For the full story behind the win I recommend watching the clip – suffice to say that the brothers well deserved the title.

So with that in mind, what separates their shop from the rest? Both brothers are incredibly humble and modest, so it’s no surprise that they try not to compare themselves to others, focusing on being their best rather than outdoing others. Rob does add, though, that “the one thing that sets our shop apart is the way it’s designed really, comfortable and relaxing. Use of social media helps, that has put us on the map so that people will come to us for the next new style or the latest style”. From my perspective, it seems like one thing that sets Rob and David apart is how much they love their customers, as David says: “we’re so fortunate that we get such a broad scope of customers – young and old”.

An Eye for Photographs

Even the models that they use for their impressive photo shoots start out as regular customers, as David tells me that Rob has a knack for spotting people who will look great captured on film. These photos are the work of Rob, and as somebody with a keen interest in cameras and photography myself, it was great to find out more about this side of their business. Rob was kind enough to share the story of how he got into taking such incredible pictures:

“When I went travelling there was no social media, it was all film. I wanted to document my experience, and I found that I wanted to take pictures of people rather than landscapes, people being natural. The second you put a camera in front of some of them they just freeze. In Mongolia, some of the people had never seen a camera before, so I had to try and catch them unawares. So I got a lot of practice there and when I came back I started taking pictures of my kids, chasing them around a bit. I try and capture people naturally, I don’t want them to look like they’re posing. When you get that shot it’s magical”.

He adds that it was this love for photography – and in particular the desire to create great shots that could be used on magazines – that actually encouraged and helped him to improve his hair styling skills. After all, getting the perfect photograph is difficult if the barber work that’s gone into creating their style isn’t just right.

Now these skills are being used to share the wonderful styles of the men who come through the door and get their hair cut at Braid Barbers, and Rob’s work has shown up on magazine covers as well as social media, and decorating the barbershop walls. Yet again, this is a great nod to the clients, and it also shows that the Braid brothers are well aware of the importance of a good publicity shot. My opinion is that, as barbering becomes more and more well regarded as a profession and an art, barbers across the world are going to need to start creating images of this quality.

Right now, a lot of barbers are taking pictures on their mobiles and creating shots that just don’t do justice to the barbering work – so I’d love to see Rob and David start offering a photography course tailored to barbers. This is something that they’ve been discussing, although for now it sounds like it’s left on the backburner. Rob tells me that they’re very busy, with a few things in the pipeline, but this is definitely something they’re considering: a course that covers their way of cutting, as well as how to take a great picture while you’re doing. I certainly hope to see this become a reality, it seems like something that a lot of barbers could benefit from!

Reflections on the Industry

I couldn’t let two talented barbers like the Braids get away without getting their perspective on the industry, so for my final question I ask them what they’re loving about the industry and what they’re not liking so much. David starts: “The thing I don’t like is the sort of ego, it’s almost become like an episode of X Factor sometimes – people who don’t go into it because they love it but because they want to be famous. Don’t do something unless you love it and you’re passionate about it.”

They also think that the industry might be a bit more professional if there were licenses: “People do these quick fix courses and then just go and open a shop. In our experience, once people are qualified, it still takes 12-months to be a good barber, at least. 22 Years down the line, I’m still learning. Some people just get a qualification and open a shop, and I hate to think what goes on with the cut-throats and that sort of thing!”

Those things aside though, it’s clear that Rob and David love the industry as much as I do. Rob tells me that “it’s vibrant, I love the way its exploded and people are getting a chance to express themselves and show their pride for what they do. I’ve made so many friends in the industry, all over the world. It brings out the creativity in people, especially being able to share it.” While David adds that “we’re all bringing each other on, looking at each other’s work and bringing each other forward.”

I think that this message of cooperation and shared creative spirit is a great one to end on, and definitely in keeping with everything that I’ve learned about Rob and David Braid. I hope you agree with me that this was a very inspiring interview: if so, like and subscribe on my YouTube, Instagram and Facebook pages to make sure you don’t miss any great content!

 

 

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Smith Hair Studios, Barbershop – Team Talk With Larry The Barberman

I rarely have this many people for one interview, but when you’re dealing with a group like Smith’s Hair Studio you have to get as many people from the team involved as possible. That’s because their whole operation is based around bouncing off each other, supporting one and other – and as they share their story with me, the chemistry is absolutely incredible, with energy flowing from one member of the team to the next.
So, I’m here with Atila, Ev, Nathan, Nathanial and Kat to get a sense of what makes them tick, and to inspire all the other barbers out there with such clear passion for the craft.
Of course, while team spirit is one important part of Smith’s Hair Studio, they’re all talented barbers and hairdressers in their own right, with individual stories about first getting started. For Atila, Ev, and Nathan the stories all start similarly – cutting their own hair and giving their friends trims and shape-ups as they developed their skills. Atila tells me learned different styles by working at different barbershops before joining Smith’s Hair Studio, while for Ev it was case of wanting an artistic skill that would also be practical for everyday life. He adds that “Mum said listen mate, there’s too many people in the house, you’ve gotta go to a barbershop”, and so the journey with Smith’s Hair Studio began.
Nathan’s self-start in barbering had a lot to do with the talented MK, who I’m sure many people reading this are familiar with. On the one hand, MK’s reputation and success was a huge influence for Nathan, and on the other his prices meant that Nathan wanted to try and do it for himself!
For Nathaniel and Kat, the journey to Smith’s Hair Studio was slightly different. After losing his job, Nathanial decided he didn’t want to work for someone else again, and instead wanted to learn a trade. After renting a spot at a local barbershop his passion grew, and he turned to the internet to educate himself using barbering videos. At the same time, Kat was finding her love of hairdressing was waning; after working in a salon for four years she was getting bored of never being able to do the haircuts that she enjoyed. Luckily, Nathan’s persistence got her on board with the Smith’s team, and now it seems like she wouldn’t dream of doing anything else!
These guys really have burst onto the scene over the past year, suddenly making their presence felt at barbering shows. Apparently, this is all down to Atila, who convinced them to head to Champ’s Barber Battle. He tells me: “It was fantastic, it was different, we met a lot of people there (…) saw so many different things, it was an eye-opener so we knew we had to start going to shows and learning more”. While there, they’ve picked up everything from new hair styles to branding ideas, and it’s become a core part of how they come up with new ideas and connect with other barbers.
Ev adds that it’s difficult to imagine them not benefiting from this experience: “We were always going to end up going to the shows, only because we understand that whatever you’re passionate about, it’s good for you to meet people that share the same passion and have a similar craft”. The others seem to feel the same: as Nathan says, it’s good for the whole team and the customers too. I’m also pleased to hear that they’re finding these barbering events useful on a barbering level, and Nathanial discusses how he has felt “a personal transition from somebody who thinks on a shallow scale to being somebody who think on a deeper scale” simply by meeting other barbers who have inspiring ideas or work ethics.
Rather than specialising in a particular style, they consider their speciality to be the customer service that they offer, treating everybody the same, getting each client seated on time and offering an excellent haircut – no matter what the style is. It also goes a little deeper than this, as they see hoe their work can be really important for the younger clients that, as Atila says, might need advice to help them avoid going down the wrong path. From this, his motto of “saving lives, one cut at a time” has emerged, and it’s wonderful to see a barbering and hairdressing group be such an integral part of the community. Kat adds that “cutting hair is the easiest part of the job. You’ve also got to work out what the clients want from you – a quiet haircut or plenty of banter”.
Watch the whole video and you’ll hear loads more about their ethos, their skills and what they love about the barbering industry right now. I’m going to leave you with the one thing that they each see as the secret of their group’s success…
Kat: “Bonding outside of the shop”.
Nathanial: “Determination”.
Nathan: “Positivity”.
Ev: “Creativity – how to solve a problem”.
Atila: “Being self-motivated. How to master your craft and attack it”.
And finally, their biggest inspiration which, as a team, they all agree is MK – the barber who not only inspired Nathan to get into the trade in the first place and go on to set up the studio, but who has continued to spark ideas off for the whole team. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for this gang in upcoming events, I’m expecting to see great things from them! In the meantime, head over to my YouTube, Instagram and Facebook pages and hit those subscribe and follow buttons to make sure you don’t miss out on any great content.

 

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