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Barbers: Chris Bossio and Christian Perez popular with their employees and barbers everywhere

Barbers

YouTube has been a huge part of the revolution in men’s grooming and one reason I wanted to meet Chris Bossio and Christian Perez of ‘Headlines’ in Florida is their natural feel for good video.  Christian has an instinct for using the camera in amusing ways, and Chris had the brilliant idea of “Wifey Challenge,” where their wives cut the barbers’ hair, all posted on their channels, of course. Great video and hilarious fun!

But these two long-time partners are all business when it comes to business, telling me when we met at Connecticut Barber Expo 2017 that they started out as disgruntled barbers in someone else’s shop.

“We’d gather in the lunch room (that’s back room to us Brits!) to complain, and I’d always say, ‘One day, I am going to have my own shop,” Christian Perez says. “Chris is the kind of person who says, ‘There isn’t a ‘one day.’  There is only now. So seize the moment and run with it.’ He pushed me.”

Chris: “We got to the point where we were like, ‘Hey, let’s do it.'”

Seven shops, separate YouTube channels and more than 100,000 followers later, the two men are focused, forward looking, and generous, making major contributions to the industry.  More on that later.  First, I wanted to know what it was like opening that first shop.

Christian: “First shop, first day, first hour – major rainstorm. The power went out in the entire plaza halfway through a haircut. They say it’s good luck if it rains on your wedding day.  I didn’t think it was good luck on your first business day. I didn’t think we were going to make it.”

But Chris Bossio, who abandoned a full college basketball scholarship to pursue a barbering career, brought his athletic-style leadership to the situation.

“I was trying to be the strong one,” he remembers. “I was saying, ‘Hey, don’t worry about it. We’re good. Don’t worry about it.’”

“Inside, I’m thinking, ‘Am I going to have to get a side job at Walmart or something?’”

To you budding entrepreneurs out there, Chris says anxiety is just a natural part of the game. ”I’m thinking, ‘How am I going to pay my bills? Dang, did we mess up?’  ‘Cuz it looks like the grass is not greener on the other side. It gets scary.”

“But six months later we opened up eight chairs,” Perez laughs, “And Chris was saying, ‘Hey, we are going to have twelve barbers!”  I thought he was crazy, ‘cuz I am trying to figure out how to feed eight families, not 12. Six months later we had to remove the pool table and add two more stations, and today, yes, we have twelve barbers in that store.”

Chris:  “There is so much a volume now, it’s just ridiculous. There is no break, there is no time at that shop.  It’s busy Monday through Saturday.”

Ah, yes, Saturday.  By Saturday night, most barbers are dead on their feet and looking forward to a little relaxation. But that’s where these two separate themselves from the pack, and I don’t mean by staying open late to hustle more clients.  I mean by being amazingly generous, even altruistic.

Christian: “For months, we would shut down the shop at the end of the day and do hands-on classes with students or whoever wanted to come in, and we would do it for free, live on Instagram.”

Chris: “We allowed anyone, regardless of what shop you worked at,  whoever you were, to come to our barber shop on Saturday nights, bring a model with you, and we will do hands-on workshops for free.”

Perez: “Not just hands-on, but networking and how to build clientele and how to set up your station correctly, how to conduct yourself.”

Crazy?  Chris says some barbers wonder way the two are so giving.  “They say, ‘It should be sold, not told,’” he says.

“I just tell people, ‘I live life like that. You guys play 2k when you get home from work because that is what you enjoy doing. I will stay after and make YouTube videos. Being in the shop, cutting hair, making videos, it’s what I love to do.”

Which brings me to the unique Headlines ethos. I’d heard the pair are very popular with employees and never fire anyone.  True?

Christian: “A  lot of people throw the word ‘family’ around but we take it seriously. When we were working for someone else, we felt like we were being held back, so we agreed we want our shops to be a collection of individual brands.  When someone wants to build up their personal brand, start a YouTube channel, reach out and grow, we are here to help.”

“We have seven barbers that have gone on to open their own shops, and we have told them, ‘We want to help you find the chairs.’ The hurdles we have gone through when you open the first, the second and third, you learn from each one and we share that. I think that creates a culture where employees want to help you, because you are helping them.”

That spirit was on full display in Hartford, where Chris and Christian rented an RV and invited any of their barbers who was interested to come along.  How many owners do that?

Chris: “We are dedicated to helping. We don’t fire people. Other barbers are like “What?”  I say ‘No, we don’t fire people. If you don’t want to be part of the culture here you are going to be miserable, and if you are miserable making more money, if you are miserable in a place that has no ceiling…”

Christian finishes the thought: “You just stick out like a sore thumb so bad, you kind of fire yourself.”

After 4-and-a-half-years and seven thriving shops, what’s cooking with Chris and Christian these days?  They are focused on their new product line, ‘245,’ an unusual name that shows their passion for barber respect.  That story starts with that basketball scholarship I mentioned near the top.

Chris:  “I had a full ride, and I quit after a year to go to barber school. That is the most depressing thing I could ever tell my Dad as far as he was concerned.  For years, he would tell my family in Columbia and Puerto Rico that I was an engineer.  He didn’t tell them I was a barber.”

“I did some research and discovered that in ancient Egypt, there was a statue of a very respected man, a barber named  Merryma’at,” he continues. “To this day, that statue is at the University of Pennsylvania museum. The man was given a tomb at a time only priests, royalty and high society had a tomb. As they were discovered by archeologists, the tombs were given numbers, and Merryma’at was Tomb 245.”

“We stayed honest to that with the name of our products and apparel, showing people that our craft has a history of respect and honor. We are bringing that back.”

Meanwhile, 245 has its own great history, starting in Chris’ kitchen as the team scrambled for a spot at Orlando Premiere.

“I asked Orlando what it would take to teach a class and they gave me an astronomical number I couldn’t get my head around,” Chris recalls. “I realized the only people who can afford it were selling products.”

The team started a Headlines legend by creating a shave (WORD?) from scratch in 30 days to make the Premiere deadline. “There is a video on his channel that documents it,” Christian says. “There was no product, no label, no bottle. We made it in his kitchen; 2500 bottles, capping by hand, putting stickers on. It was collaborative team work.”

Once they were in at Orlando, the 245 brand started to grow and quickly became a focus of Chris’ passion for legacy.

“I want to break down barriers, I want to be an innovator in the industry,” he says. “The last thing I want to do is pass away and my children’s children don’t even know who I am.  My children’s children’s children will never even hear my name. I feel life is such a great thing, we are so lucky to have life, and if you don’t live it to the fullest, how can you leave a legacy?”

There is so much more these two driven and passionate individuals have to say, such as the story of Chris’ initial terror of straight razors and their sharp remarks about the negative impact of trolls in the industry.  But you will have to check the whole interview on YouTube a@Larrythebareberman to take it all in.

I wanted to know, as I always do, what their advice is to barbers coming up.

Chris:  “Number one, you have to look at things like a businessman and put yourself out there. You’ve got to stop thinking so much and DO more.  More action. Don’t be the guy who talks. You have to DO it, and you’ve got be consistent with it. It is action over everything.”

Christian:  “I agree.  Learn from your failures. Don’t be afraid to fail. You are going to get better.”

And as for respect?  “Well,” Chris laughs. “My Dad is telling my family I am a barber, now.”

Thanks, guys!  I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did.   I can’t wait to bring you another of my conversations with people across the globe who are making barbering a fascinating, always-changing world.

Til next time, happy barbering!

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