At the ripe age of 23-years-old, most blokes are only beginning to figure out what they want to do with their life. But Mark Gaye is not your average 23-year-old man. He is already a multiple barbershop owner and founder of the Irish Barber Expo.
Sure, there are young people who find success early in life and then aren’t capable of dealing with its stressors. However, Mark knows what he’s doing, and he didn’t get to where he is with luck.
He did, however, begin his journey in the barber world much like the rest of us – by cutting his own hair. “I got fed up with one of the barbershops not getting exactly what I wanted,” Mark says. At first, Mark saw cutting hair as a hobby, but eventually went on to cut hair in college. Mark did decide to leave Uni once he began making money through his business endeavors.
Fast forward to present day, it’s been two years since Mark opened his first shop, and he already owns three salons and is planning on opening two more. Owning that many barbershops would be a lot for anyone, but I’m impressed that Mark has the maturity to run his operation in a way that promotes growth. I know that at 23-years-old, I could not have done the same.
When I sat down with Mark in Athlone, I wanted to know what inspired him to name his salon Notorious Barbershop. But when I looked around the shop, I saw iconic photos of Notorious B.I.G., and I knew that Biggie Smalls was a source of inspiration for Mark. However, Mark did not originally plan to name his salon after the late nineties rapper. “I planned on calling it King Cuts,” Mark says. “When I went to go register the name for King Cuts, it was gone to a shop about 45 minutes from here… I was sitting there with Biggie [playing] on my headphones, and I had two weeks to open a shop and no name.”
Now, Notorious Barbershop and Mark are flourishing. In fact, the shop offers a 12-week course for aspiring barbers and those looking to improve their skill set. “We started advertising a course, and we got a huge response. The first course sold out within the first two weeks, and that was just word of mouth,” Mark says. They’ve also created a Notorious wet product line. But Mark insists that they don’t want to be seen as “too commercial.” He says that when a client comes in for a cut, they’ll advise them on a product, but they don’t push the product.
I think that says a lot about Mark’s products. When your product is good, you don’t have to oversell it. Your client will want it because they want to go home, and recreate the same look that you were able to achieve in your salon.
But Mark has expanded his horizons outside of the barbershop; right now, Mark is gearing up for the Irish Barber Expo on April 30th. The event has become larger than Mark anticipated, but I know that it’ll be a hit. With big names like Rob the Original (who has been on Oprah, so you know he’s a big deal), Lou the Barber, and SharpFade
aka Byrd Mena attending, it’s hard to imagine that the expo won’t be a success. “I didn’t plan on it being this big, but it just took off,” Mark says.
Mark decided to create the Irish Barber Expo to bridge a gap in the Irish barber community. He says, “Predominately in Ireland, we have go on a plane and fly over to the UK to see a good show.” But now, Mark wants to help put Ireland on the international stage. More Irish barbers will have the opportunity to learn, network, and compete in barber battles without having to deal with the hassle of traveling too far.
I know that I’m excited to see what Mark has in-store for us at the Irish Barber Expo. I’ll leave you on that note, and I hope that this interview taught you a few things about young people acting as pioneers in our industry. I’d like to thank Mark for taking the time to sit down with me for an interview – it was greatly appreciated! I can’t wait to see you at the Irish Barber Expo! I’d also like to thank my readers for following me on my journey. 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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