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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