For many, “Eric Pacinos” is just another way to say “international celebrity barber.” When Eric is not cutting Nas’ hair at the Cannes Film Festival or trimming up Jay-Z for an album cover shoot in New York, he is promoting his wildly successful line of quality hair products and speaking at hair shows all over the world. He definitely has it goin’ on like no one else in the industry.
So you can imagine how excited I was to get a few minutes with him, one of my biggest goals since I started my interview channel. We met up at Premier Expo in Orlando and Eric did not disappoint. You will want to view the whole interview on my YouTube, firstname.lastname@example.org
Eric: Started with no food in the fridge, young son
Eric’s life story is more inspiring than most, so I asked him to dive right into it.
He said he started cutting his own hair in his childhood bathroom, then graduated to cutting his friends for a small fee. “I was going to school with money in my pocket, and it felt good,” he told me, “not just because of the money but because I was making my friends look good. That was the defining point. Always trying to transform all my friends; more than just a haircut.“
Even joining the Navy couldn’t separate Eric from his calling. “I always found myself cutting hair on the ship, and even when I was going out with my friends, I would say “Before we go, let me cut your hair.” That is when I thought I should go to night school to get my license.”
But post-Navy he was still 500 hours short in his studies and had a young son to care for. The times were desperate. “At that point my son was three, and I had hit rock bottom. I could not find a job, and it was like, ‘Man, my son’s got to eat!’”
“That is when I took barbering seriously,” he continues. “Because I did not want that feeling of being hungry anymore, that feeling of not seeing my child eat. I know what it feels like to know you have nothing in the refrigerator when you open it up. I know what it feels like to use the restroom in your own house and not have toilet paper. I literally would go to McDonald’s and leave with extra napkins. Don’t tell this to McDonald’s, but I did it just to have toilet paper in the house.”
“It was hurtful as a man,” he continues. “ So I think I attribute any success or whatever you call it – I just don’t feel I am as successful as I could possibly become – but I attribute that to desperation and the necessities of living. I never want to go back to that.”
Eric eventually obtained a license and found work. For many, that might be the happy end of the story, but Eric found the fire inside was burning hotter than ever. “I knew I wanted more than just being a barber,” he told me.
Sacrifice and persistence to build barbering success
Before we got into Eric’s accomplishments, I wanted to know more about his trials and tribulations coming up. As usual, he was candid.
“One of the biggest was all different types of sacrifice, from working long hours to having a dream and not having people believe it,” he said.
“Not knowing, not being educated was the biggest trail, having no blueprint,” he recalls. “I had to create ways of figuring things out because we didn’t have social media, there was no book about creating a barber shop and creating a product brand. There was nothing. That was the biggest trial, just not knowing where to start.” This experience, he said, makes him an eager mentor to other young barbers today.
“Thank God, what has helped me is Google. If it weren’t for Google I wouldn’t have done a lot of things. But you have to do your homework; you have to the studying.”
Eric: Every barber can increase sales by offering products…and a variety of brands
All along, Eric kept his entrepreneurial eyes open. “I created my own brand because a lot of the products we were using weren’t really good, they weren’t for the types of haircuts and hairstyles I was creating. I had to combine three or four different products, and I said, ‘Man, if someone would come out with a product that did these three or four things; from the hold to the texture being better, to it not being so diluted.’ I wanted something like a pomade-like matte with no shine finish.”
“I created these products to give my clients the best aids without sending them to a store to buy three or four different products to create that hairstyle.”
Eric strongly believes every shop should sell product. “I can’t emphasize enough: it is one of the easiest sells! It will increase your sales dramatically,” he told me.
He added: “Once a client’s hair looks good, the first thing they will ask is, ‘What is that you put in my hair?’ If you have it on your shelf, if it is already there, they are going to leave with that. They are going to try to emulate the same style that you just did.”
Providing better customer service and increasing your sales – a no-brainer!
“And a month later they will be back for another haircut and more product. Some of these products cost as much as a haircut – our product is $16. You are selling another haircut by selling product.”
He recommends everyone step up and negotiate with product sales people, varying brands and asking for wholesale prices. “Diversify,” he said. “It’s like when you walk into a sneaker store you don’t just see just Nikes. Give your client something to choose from. They might just ask you, ‘What is this?’ They might want to try it out ‘Will this work in my hair?’ ‘Sit down let’s try it.’ ‘Oh, yeah! I want this!” It is that easy.”
Eric has realized enormous success with his high-quality products.
“Right now we have three men’s hair grooming products. One is the matte finish, which is a great hold but has no shine to it, which a lot of people like with the pomade haircuts.
“We have pomade that is a more flexible hold. That one does give some shine. Then we have a crème; a cream styling wax that is in between the pomade and the matte and it does have a semi-shine finish.”
We also have a beard oil. We have a beard and face scrub. We have razor bump soother. We got a shampoo and conditioner and a black mask. It is really popular can’t hold it in stock! Matte finish (is number one), then black mask and the pomade is number three.”
Customer service: No phone calls, please!
When Eric talks about customer service, he says he focuses on the person in the shop and in the chair. That’s why he doesn’t accept phone calls on the job and prefers online haircut appointments. His favorite app is the grooming-industry-only software booksy.
“I am very old school, and I like to speak to my clients,” he said. “But I’ve learned I would rather speak to my clients in the chair rather than on the phone, because (on the phone) it’s never ‘Can I get a haircut?’ It’s about, ‘So what are you doing this weekend?’ It is hard to tell somebody ‘Hey, I will talk to you when you’re here.’ So the client doesn’t know better if you are in the middle of a haircut or something. So you have to respect people’s time.”
Advice from a successful barber: Write it down, learn the craft, fix your weaknesses
Time was running short with Eric, and I wanted to get his advice for young barbers just finding their legs. From a man who came from ‘borrowing’ McDonald’s napkins to Cutting Nas and JayZ, this is the kind of advice you should take to heart.
First, very practical: “Write everything down. You will see a long list on my iPhone of things I need to execute. Write it down and do not erase it until it gets done. That is one of the biggest things I have learned.”
“After that do your homework on it, Google it, find out more about it get out there and get it done! Nobody is going to do it for you nobody is going to put in the hours and the work that you are going to put in.
“If you want to be a great barber, do as many cuts as you can do not get intimated by the different textures. That is what happened to me early on and I would mess up some curly haircuts. But I would learn and get better at those haircuts than I was with straight hair. “
Lastly, Eric shares hard-won honesty that will benefit anyone in any profession: “What you are not good at, work extra hard and get better. That is the biggest difference of somebody who continues to grow. That is how you become complete. If you are only good at one thing – if you are only good at a #2 and a skin fade, but you’re not good at shears – you are never going to grow. When somebody needs you at a movie set, or when you’re needed to cut a client who is paying top dollar, or might want to take you on tour with them, but you can’t use the shears, your opportunity was there and it’s gone. It’s gone because you did not want to get better at something you know is your weakness.”
With that, we bid farewell, and I got busy sharing this unique moment with you. Hope you enjoy and find Eric’s words inspiring! ‘Til next time, happy barbering!