At the CT Barber Expo in Connecticut I landed one my best video interviews ever, and it was a stroke of luck: I bumped into 360Jeezy, the barbering sensation from California with the biggest YouTube following in the industry.
His big smile, high energy and cheerful camera-ready personality come off as completely real. It’s no mystery why the30-year-old (he doesn’t look old enough to have a pint!) has more than 600,000 people following his wave tutorials and haircuts.
I knew I had to interview him for you, and he graciously agreed. As Jeezy settled into a Takara Belmont chair at the Hartford Convention Center in April, I realized having no questions prepared was no problem, because Jeezy, aka Jarrod Stovall, loves sharing the journey from unhappy rug salesman and homeless student to YouTube star and product endorser. It’s all about faith and determination.
YouTube journey: from a few thousand to more than 600K
I asked Jeezy about the phenomenal growth of his YouTube channel, which he launched in 2012.
“I wanted to teach people how I got my wave,” he said. Inspired by other YouTubers, Jeezy started filming with an iPhone 4 and brush before he was even a licensed barber. He added haircut videos “because I love doing haircuts, too.”
“I wanted my career to be barbering so I started uploading videos throughout my journey at school and I got a big, big, huge response,” he said. “I kept uploading and I kept getting good response. As people showed me love, I couldn’t help but keep the energy going and give them love back.”
Homelessness and struggle
What his YouTube followers did not know – nor did people at school – was that Jeezy was broke and struggling during his studies. “I dropped everything (to go to school) and I lost everything,” he said. Those months included a stretch with no fixed address. “I was basically homeless,” he said. “People at the school didn’t know I was living over here and over there and trying to keep the school thing going.”
Amazing. I wanted to know more. Jeezy told me he got motivated for school by working unhappily as…a rug salesman.
“Yeah, the Oriental rugs, the carpet that you have in your home, the really expensive rugs, we were basically selling those out of Costco,” he says with a smile. “I was traveling around northern California, selling rugs.”
“I was miserable,” he continued. “I was telling my uncle and he said, ‘You need to go to school.’ I took his advice.”
But it wasn’t that simple. In fact, it took a near-miraculous event concerning a past student loan (he had debt from a brief stint at a San Francisco art school) just to get him through the barber school door. The school said he couldn’t enroll until he had a history of paying on the debt…at least a 6-month history.
That’s a pretty big roadblock, but Jeezy was ready to face it down.
“I called the loan people and they are like, “Give me your info and we can do something for you,’” he recalls. But they could find no record of his debt. “They were like, “What are you talking about?” and I was, ‘Come on, man! ‘”
Then the voice on the other end made the big reveal: “…I can’t find anything (about your debt), because you paid it off!’” Jeezy recalls with a laugh. “I was like ‘Huh?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I can fax you over the information and everything. It’s all good.’”
Not one to question good fortune, no matter how mysterious, Jeezy got started in barber school immediately.
YouTube: from 3,000 to 50,000 to blowing up
“When I first went to school I had about 3,000 subscribers,” Jeezy recalls. “As I was going to school, which took 7 months, I was recording every step of the journey and I was able to get up to at least 40,000 to 50,000 when I graduated.”
“After that, we opened up the shop, and I did this one video on how to cut your woof off – at the end of your 360 wave journey when you grow out your hair and you cut it all down and it’s real refreshing – and that video got crazy views, like over 3 million now, so that kind of launched me into like, “Oh, he cuts hair? He makes barber videos?” The buzz just kept going from there.”
Velocity Kutz and the love of family
“The shop” Jeezy refers to is Velocity Kutz, an 8-chair establishment in Vacaville, Calif., he operates with his uncle, Kevin Stovall. “My uncle owns it and I am the manager. I want to be clear,” he says laughing. “We are basically partners. It is a family-owned business and we both look out for each other.”
How did Jeezy and his uncle become close enough to open a business together?
“I have to say it was a God thing the whole time,” he says with a smile. “Because we were talking about what we were going to do after (leaving the rug sales job) and it just hit him – BAM! – that raiment from God hit him and he said, ‘You need to go to barber school!’ and I was, “What?” He was like, “Yeah!” He was so emotional. He called his wife and he was, ‘I know what we need to do. Open a barber shop.’”
With a professional platform for his talent, Jeezy now devotes his time to waves, cuts and video. “100 percent of my time goes to work, I am always at work,” he says. “If I am not cutting, I am editing and filming ‘cause not only do I have to give my audience haircuts, I have to give my other audience, my wavers, my hair tutorials. So it is nonstop.”
Jeezy is definitely not complaining, though. It is obvious to me he loves very minute of what he is doing, and he’s smart at managing himself, like when he’s editing video at home after a long day: “I rush and go home while I am inspired, ‘cause if I don’t, the video will just sit and I will be like, ‘I’ll get it next time,’ and I will be inspired by something else and that video will get pushed back and then I’m like ‘Dang!’”
So, “I put out videos back-to-back-to-back. It’s all about consistency.”
The future for Jeezy360: a million subscribers and testimony
Anyone in business knows success builds on success, and Jeezy gets that, too. Opportunities have opened for the man from Vacaville. He was at CT Barber Expo on behalf of Self Cut Systems, who flew him to the event (“They didn’t have to do that,” he says modestly).
Now, the formerly homeless barber student finds himself posing for selfies with people he’s never met, thousands of miles from his home base.
“But I don’t focus on that. I focus more on helping others. When they come up to me and say, ‘Man 360 Jeezy, you helped me, man!’ That brings me more joy than anything else.”
“I don’t care about the numbers, per se, but my ultimate goal is to share my testimony at a million (followers),” he said. “It will reach more people. It will seal the deal. It is not to gain money or to have sponsors or to come out with a grease. It is really to share and give back. “
360 Jeezy’s final thoughts for up and coming barbers
I wanted to know Jeezy’s advice for people starting out and he was very direct: “Do it because you have a passion for it. Don’t do it because of opportunity. There are a lot of barbers who get caught up in, “Oh, I want to be flashy like that or I want to drive those nice cars, but that was never my focus.”
“Do it because you have a passion, and don’t stop. If something happens in your life that prevents you, it doesn’t have to prevent you from barbering or whatever it is you want to do. Just keep at it. Don’t let the distractions come and tear you down. Keep pushing. Keep everything positive in front of you.
“Who would have ever thought I would be 360Jeezy? When I look back, I’m thinking, ‘Man, what if I had stopped?’ ‘Cause I could have stopped. So, don’t stop. Y’all keep grinding, keep going. Go hard and give it your all.”
My thanks to 360Jeezy for his time and fantastic insights. You will definitely want to see his version of the ”360Jeezy Jingle,” which finished off our interview! Catch that at my YouTube Channel larrythebarberman. Also follow me on Instagram @larrythebarberman and email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org