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Barber Arod: Shares His Story, In a One 2 One Interview, At Elegance Studio, Melrose, Hollywood – As You Have Never Seen Him Before

It’s always exciting to get a top barber in the interview chair, but never more so than with somebody who has reached the heights of Arod, Elite Studio’s million-dollar barber. From reaching a million followers on Instagram – that’s a record among the barbering community – to charging $100-$300 for a cut, this is a barber who’s made some serious waves. Don’t forget to follow him yourself, and then sit back to read his incredible story.  

 

Barbering with military precision 

The scene is set 14 years ago in Puerto Rico, where Arod found himself fascinated by the rhythm and style of the barbershops that he visited. 

“There’s something about it that just grabs my attention for a very long period of time. If you don’t grab my attention in the first three seconds, you’re going to lose it. This was one thing where always my attention was fully into it.”  

It also played into the desire to look good and feel fresh, a big part of Puerto Rican culture. But although Arod had already started to show an interest in barbering, he didn’t immediately turn to it as a career. Instead, he began feeling the pull of the military: “My friend said it’s an option, a steady paycheque, a stable career. So, I said you know what I’ll go with you, and I took the test with him. He didn’t pass and I did – I felt bad!”  

As money became tight, the idea of a military career began to look more and more appealing… 

“Then in 2010 I joined. That first day you just walk in to a completely different environment. Whoever you are right now is going to be torn to pieces and rebuilt from scratch, the way they want you to be moulded. You enter a different life: it marks you forever.  

“But in life you’ve just got to learn from the things that you go through. Your life depends on it, and the whole nation’s too. So it’s very important. When it comes down to that one moment, you can’t make a mistake.” 

This background means that Arod is now able to operate with military precision and discipline. I ask him to share a little about how the army set him up for his barbering career. 

“Well, discipline is one of the main things that they focus on as soon as you get there. They teach you how to walk; they teach you how to look; they teach you how to communicate. The job is just non-stop, you know? 

“Normally right now I go to work, I come home, I sleep for four hours. I don’t wake up the next day fully charged, but I know that I’ve got to get stuff done. And my body knows, it wakes up and I can’t get back to sleep.” 

 

Getting back to basics 

After leaving the military, Arod had to start building a new life for himself – and that meant a return to barbering. 

“I already had clients from the military, so I had a steady beginning. I took everything slowly – you’ve got to pace yourself. I’ve learned that it’s something you get addicted to, you can’t stop.  

“I was in Texas at this point. I went to this barber contest, everybody’s hyped up, I’d never done anything like it. Everybody was waiting on this person that was competing: the battle didn’t start if he wasn’t there. His name is Marcus, my partner. Everything started there. We hooked up and started going to events together” 

Arod and Marcus began travelling to hair shows across America, and met up with another champion barber: Jay. It was a fortuitous meeting, as Jay already had the Elegance brand up and running and he was keen to get Arod and Marcus involved. Originally, this meant a sponsorship deal – but as it was clear the men’s dreams aligned, they decided to come together to create the Elegance Studio: 

“When you start it, it’s just an idea. It comes from sharing those thoughts that one night. And our visions linked together, our souls became one, and we saw that we were going after something bigger than us. Three months later we’re in LA. Elegant Studio opens its doors, and the rest is history.” 

 

Style, decorum and class: The Elegance Studio 

In a word, Elegance studio is stunning. With gorgeous interiors and a VIP space dedicated to luxury experience, it’s the barbershop that every other barber dreams of running. So how did it come to be this way? 

It evolved. It was all part of the process, you know? I’m a firm believer in the journey and the process. You just have to keep things moving: We started in a downtown loft and built from there. 

“We started trying to get clients from different states. It was hard, I’m not going to lie to you. You had to go out there, you had to go get clients, you had to prove that your service was worth the amount of money you’re asking for it. Then one day I was locking up the shop and going home and saw this space that I fell in love with.” 

After managing to secure the space that they wanted, Elegance Studio went from strength to strength. There are stunning mirrors and chairs, as well as a wall decorated with a full street art mural – enough to satisfy customers who are paying $80 minimum for a haircut, often $100. For all the barbers out there wondering how these rates could be possible, I had to try and get Arod to spill his secrets. 

I started at $3. As you get experience and get better at what you do, you charger higher amounts. You get to know your value. You want to get paid and work normal hours. Us barbers, we don’t have someone who can give us a raise. We are our own bosses: you have to increase the price. You can also add things that increase your value as a whole. Services, learning, education, product lines… You’ve got to pay attention to those things. Because if you want to charge 100 dollars, that client is going to come and check you out and if he doesn’t like you or feel your work is worth the value then he might want his money back. Or he might just never come back.” 

Of course, there’s also the Elegance Studio VIP experience. At a cost of $300this is easily one of the most luxurious cuts I’ve ever heard of. So how can an ordinary barber who’s watching this today raise his standards to that sort of level? 

Make a note of this! When you open the door, the first thing you need is communication with your clients. ‘Welcome to Elegance Studio’ should be the first thing the client hears when they come in the door, so they can get comfortable with their environment. You tell them: ‘we offer drinks here. We offer water, tea, coffee, lemonade, all kinds of drink – it’s included in the service’. As soon as they walk in, I make sure they feel comfortable. 

We also have a long line of products that make my job easier and upscale my service. I put the cape on, start talking to the client trying to find a conversation… where are you from, what do you do? Find a way to relate to them. Then I start with the services: I try to be smooth with the clippers, be smooth with my hands. Give the client that smoothness. We have gels, pomades, hair serums, razor blades, aftershave lotions. We have a lot of things that can upscale your service – and they do. 

“After the haircut is complete, we have a steamer, a facial scrub and a shampoo that we can use as part of the service. We style. We make sure you can leave the chair and you are ready to meet the love of your life, to walk onto a TV set, to land a job. They’re the things that you came here to get service for. So I charge $300 but it includes drinks, a shampoo, a haircut, facial hair, it includes a steam, a black mask, facial scrub, deep cleansing, hair styling with whatever product you like… gel, pomade, wax, serum. We do treatments that can justify the price of the service. 

 

An Insta-star is born 

Another side to Arod’s success has been reaching 1 million followers on Instagram: I don’t believe that this has been matched by other barbers. From everything Arod has told me so far, though, it doesn’t seem surprising that he would reach this goal. 

The big key to Arod’s success has been appealing to people outside of the barbering industry, as well as barbers themselves. He has also chosen to work with influencers, people who share his energy and can help to spread his name. 

Arod has achieved all this by making videos that combine barbering and comedy. These videos are appealing to everyone from kids to older people. By studying the analytics of his videos, he can also work to replicate that success, and review what could be improved upon. As he tells me, “The world is changing. We have to adapt to it. 

Since hitting the million mark, he’s had plenty of people in touch to try and do business with him, seeing him as an influencer in his own right. Now people want to come to his barbershop just to associate with him: “I have a lot of celebrities that have found me on Instagram. It’s something that other people use it and they don’t understand what they are doing. They are not assimilating. It’s not there for people to talk negatively about others, it’s there for you to promote your own work.” 

Of course, as with any success, people have inevitably been accusing him of not getting there legitimately. But Arod has little time for the doubters who claim he bought his followers: “They’ve always been saying it since the beginning, it’s nothing new. If you see something that is not normal then you are going to think that it’s not real.”  

Upscale your service with the elegance range 

One of the big things that I’ve hinted at throughout this post is the great Elegance product range, so now it’s time to find out more about these products. I wanted to know which products Arod finds particularly exciting… 

The hair gel. I’ve seen the extra strong and the triple action gel actually change someone’s life. That product right there is exciting. We have the pomade, that’s exciting. We have the gel with colour, that’s exciting. Someone with greys can use that and immediately get rid of the greys. That’s called Elegance Hair Gel with Colour.” 

And what about the game changing products? “The shaving gel. This is a product that landed in the market, I’ve never seen it before. Ad the facility that it gives is just a game changer. It’s better than anything. There’s videos where you see them just slice a grown man’s beard and he feels like he’s 9 years old.” 

One of my favourite products is the Elegance black mask, a face mask that could be a real game changer for a lot of barbers. Arod suggests a couple of reasons to have one in your barbershop: “One reason is that it’s something else that you can offer, and you can profit out of it. So there’s no reason that you should be sitting between a haircut doing nothing when you can apply the black mask and charge $30 more.  

“Second of all, it just gives you a whole new glow. It just cleans all your pores and takes all the impurities out. It makes you feel fresh: after a haircut you already feel fresh, but when you take that mask off it’s different. It’s like the cherry on top.” 

These products can also give a barber a huge return on investment. Taking the black mask as an example, one big bottle can do around 50 applications. But if you buy a bottle for $20 and charge $30 per treatment, you’ve made your money back after the first application. The rest is pure profit! 

 

Paying it forward 

We’ve talked a lot about Arod’s personal success, but I also love his commitment to helping others and supporting his own team:  

Well, they play a big part in my success. I couldn’t be here doing this interview if I didn’t look right, with someone from the shop to give me the freshest beard that is out there right now – that’s Taylor Cutz, make sure you follow him!” 

Not just anyone can join Arod’s barbering team – it’s something that has to be earned. However, anybody is welcome to reach out to him: he tries to read all of his emails personally and is always happy to meet people in the shop. He’s also got upcoming shows all over the world: If you want to keep up to date with these then Instagram is the place to be. Head there right now using this link, to make sure you’re the first to know what he’s got plannedYou can also follow him on YouTube here 

Arod is going to be hitting YouTube hard this year in an effort to bring in his next million 1 million YouTube subscribes. Make sure you’re there to enjoy the content he’s putting out and help him reach another milestone!  

While you’re at it, take a moment to follow @LarrytheBarberMan on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook – you’ll be the first to see interviews with huge barbering stars like Arod! Now let’s hear some closing words of wisdom from the man himself:  

 “My advice to all the young people out there is to believe in yourself, believe in your service, and make sure you evolve as the whole industry evolves. Because we’re moving as a group. Just because I’ve got a million followers and I’m a little bit ahead because of the way I work – that doesn’t man that there’s no room for anybody else.  

No, I’m just paving a way for other people. Because there are thousands of lanes in the barbering industry. So upscale your services, educate yourself, share with the barbers around you, don’t let nobody put you down – and the only person who can actually stop you is yourself. 

http://www.instagram.com/larrythebarberman.com

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Instagram Sensation Harry Karolis And Team, Of Ego Barbers Tell Their Story

EGO Barber’s are pulling no punches, calling themselves ‘the next generation of barbering.’  Just a glance at the work they’ve published on Instagram (@egobarbers) reveals they have the skill and the flair to back up such a bold claim. I knew I had to share their story with a wider audience, so today we will dive into their barbering careers and discover the story behind the EGO Barbers brand.

Putting the Team Together

I met up with director Harry Karolis and barbers Tabby, Stell, and Alex at their shop in North London. I always love group interviews; there’s something special about bringing a barbering team together to get the full picture of how they work. But first, I wanted to hear the unique stories that brought them to EGO.

First up is Tabby, who fell into barbering because he wanted to find a decent job that could bring in some money: “I was about 18 when I started – I was at uni studying business property law.  I liked where it was going, but I’d been in the industry for a couple of years by the time I finished and realized I just really like the atmosphere of a barbershop.”  His specialty? “I’m the celebrity barber in here… I’m also very down to earth and a very bubbly character so I can entertain people.”

Next up we have Stell: “I’ve been doing it for about 17 years now. I started with barbering and then moved into women’s hairdressing, found that it wasn’t really for me and moved back into the barbering scene. About four or five years ago I got into education.  That’s a real interest to me and I think that’s where my special touch resides.  I like to embed knowledge and just watch people grow. I think it’s a lot more satisfying”.

Alex started barbering in Cyprus before heading to London and discovering EGO.  According to Harry, “Alex literally told me ‘I am going to work here’ after coming in as a client”.  He came into the shop and blew Harry away with impressive cuts and particularly flawless fades.

Introducing Harry Karolis

Harry Karolis is the man pulling it all together.  Harry’s career has taken him from Daniel Galvin to New York as a session stylist, then back to London as a session stylist and freelance barber in Shoreditch. He tells me about the journey:

“I was taken to Daniel Galvin by my Uncle – my Uncle was a hairdresser from Cyprus – and at the time I was a young man who was up to no good, hadn’t really been doing anything after leaving school, so my Uncle decided to take me to learn a craft. He took me to Daniel Galvin and that’s when it all started for me. I was lucky enough to have one-on-ones with Joshua Galvin. After that, I wanted to further my career and got the opportunity to move to New York as a session stylist.”

Harry was working on film sets and fashion shows – but missing his Mum brought him back to London, where he decided to cross the gap from hairdressing into barbering. He focussed on the traditional values of the trade, going beyond fading and focussing on classic skills and techniques.

“Then I got married about seven years ago, and my wife wanted me to be closer to home, so she suggested I open my own shop. I bought this shop when it was six months old and pretty much started from scratch”.

Introducing EGO Barbers

 

 

EGO Barbers has picked up a huge client base, and I was interested in what keeps clients coming through the door. Harry believes the atmosphere they’ve created attracts people, plus “when they leave the shop, they’re well -groomed.”

The EGO ethos is strong:  “We focus on shape before fade,” Stell told me. “We construct a haircut by looking at the shape first because we feel that’s the most important element. The fade comes in after. We want our client to have a haircut that will last, however long they’re away from us. The fade grows out quickly, so the haircut needs to last”.

Everyone on the team uses the same structure, so clients can relax, knowing they can get the same result from any team member. “We call it the EGO way, and it’s as simple as that.”

Blowing Up Instagram

The @Egobarbers Instagram page blew past the magic number of 200,000 followers recently – despite team members’ initial trepidation about the site. But Harry soon realized how much inspiration Instagram offers barbers everywhere, and after seeing some great barbering videos, he started sharing his clips.

I’ve looked through their Instagram work.  They’ve posted some incredible one-minute clips focussing on stunning angles, all backed by great soundtracks. Although Harry doesn’t speak on camera, you get a real sense of his personality.

Instagram success inspired the team to move into education, “born out of the demand that Harry was getting on social media,” Stell said.  With her educational background, it was natural Tell was involved from the start.  “Harry messaged me after I left the London School of Barbering, and we spoke about what people would want from an education system. “

“We’re focussing on what we do in the shop. It’s very much about shape before fade. We’ve found many barbers are excellent at fading, but when it comes to structuring a haircut from start to finish and bringing all the elements together, there’s a lack of understanding. And vice versa for hairdressers, who are very comfortable with their scissors, but don’t feel comfortable with fades and clippers.

I wanted to know what Kings of Tomorrow would look like from the consumer’s perspective. “We’re going to offer seminars here in EGO, and we want to make sure it’s an intimate setting. We also want to offer going out to people and working with them on a practical level”.

They team is even producing a course-related textbook so barbers take away a reference to help them maintain their skills. Stell says they want people to “leave and think, ‘Wow, that was too cheap. That was more than I thought I was going to get.’”

Taking to the Stage

Harry is not one to seek the spotlight, but since EGO blew up he’s had little choice.  He will make his barber stage debut at the upcoming Irish Barbering Expo. I imagine there’s a lot more of that sort of work coming his way – a crowning achievement for any barber.

Harry has been in the hair industry for 21 years, so who better to ask about today’s state of the barbering industry?  “Everyone wants to be a barber now; it’s a phenomenal craft,” he told me. “The industry has grown so much, and there are a lot of passionate barbers out there.

“Instagram has given us that platform to showcase. It’s an amazing craft and if you want to become a barber, do it. We have fun all day.”

 

 

Stell adds, “If you were a barber, people used to think you were thick.” Now barbers wear the title proudly, and feel the profession has earned recognition it has long deserved.

In my opinion – and the EGO barbers agree – a lot of this is down to education, with barbering catching up with hairdressing in the breadth and depth of training on offer.

With so much experience behind him, I have to find out what Harry sees as his greatest moment.  It’s a good one:  Harry is a huge Tottenham fan, and he got to cut the hair of Tottenham’s manager, Mauricio Pochettino.

“My other great moment is having such great staff; we’re like a family in here. We’re all from Cyprus, so we have banter in Greek as well, and the clients are all such characters. Honestly though, Pochettino, the Tottenham manager, was the big one.

Before I left the guys at EGO, I just had time to get words of advice for barbers still finding their feet:

“Surround yourself with positive people who think alike. Once you surround yourself with positive people just don’t give up, keep believing and never stop learning. Your dreams can come true,” Harry said.

Tabby adds that the more you practice, the better you become, and Alex shares a key example from his career: “I remember a time when I thought I was never going to get fades, ever. I just wanted to give up. But I kept going and it worked”.

For Stell, it’s all about persistence. “Complacency kills off a lot of people. Someone said to me that talent will only ever take you so far, but when you have persistence, you’ll outdo somebody with just talent every time.”

The EGO team gave me so much to take away and I hope it has inspired you, too.  Please do find them on Instagram at @egobarbers, and look out for the Kings of Tomorrow course, as it’s sure to be exceptional.

You will always find new, exciting content from me @LarrytheBarberMan.  There are plenty of interviews just as entertaining as this one. To see my full on-cam interview with the EGO barbers, head to my YouTube channel, Barbers.TV.

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