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Master Barber Tyrik Jackson, Lays Down: The Good, Bad And Ugly Of Barbering

Tyrik Jackson bills himself as a coach, mentor & educator as well as a barber, showing that he understands what’s needed to keep the industry going as well as to satisfy customers right now. His Instagram page is full of sharp lines and clean fades – the kind of stuff that makes any barber jealous – and he also has built a reputation as the owner of two Sharper Image barber shops in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. More than enough to catch up on when I met with him at the CT Barber Expo earlier this year…

What was your entry into barbering?

“I got into trouble for singing in high school. Part of my punishment was that the principal wanted me to sing in the talent show. He said if I didn’t sing in the talent show, I would be suspended. When I sang that night, there was a gentleman in the audience who stopped me and said you did a dynamic job, can I give you a ride home?

“He gave me a ride and we stopped by his barbershop. I was impressed, I didn’t know any African American males with a successful business. My way of showing gratitude was to go back to the shop and sweep. So I started as a clean-up kid at the shop. Then I ended up going to cosmetology school with my Mum – we went together.”

Wow – that’s a new one on me! How did you end up studying with your Mum?

“It’s an interesting story. I was already cutting in the barbershop as an apprentice, but I knew that I could only get so far so I wanted to enhance my skills. I decided to sign up for cosmetology school – my Mum signed me up and said oh, by the way, I’m starting with you. It actually made our relationship stronger.”

How long were you working for others before you started your own brand?

“I worked at Champs for about eight years. I got my barber licence and then my manager’s licence a year later, and then in about eight years I was running the shops before I branched off to open my own.”

Now you’ve built on that brand enough to have two barbershops up and running: Sharper Image I and Sharper Image II. What experience can customers expect from your shop?

“We utilise technology. People live in their phone, so we decided to put our shop in their phone: we developed an app. So, what you experience when someone first walks in is a technological experience. People are either scheduling from their phone or their signing up to a walk-in list on their phone. This is cool because we can acknowledge them by name. It’s more personal.”

We’re going to get onto your academy in a minute – but first, could you tell us about the podcast you’ve been running?

“It’s more like a videocast – I have a lot of people who listen to it on the way to work. I have a personal app, with close to 60 hours of video content designed to help the business mind of the barber and the apprentice. We’re evolving as an industry, but the mindset for a lot of the barbers is still the same. I’m trying to change that.

“I go live every Tuesday morning at 9.30AM Easter Time, doing a live broadcast from my Instagram page. It’s almost like a Sunday Service, but with live feedback. The app is free, and a lot of tools in there are free, but for the live videos you would subscribe.”

These videos have covered everything from how to take better images when promoting your work, to financial tips, to personal stories of Tyrik’s life – including overcoming a battle with depression. Sometimes the more personal content can really hit home and provide listeners with a much-needed new perspective. Download the Tyrik Jackson app to see it for yourself.

Now, let’s talk about the academy: what’s it called and what makes it different from all the other academies in the area?

“Premier Barber Institute. We’re the only academy that offers financial aid, so the government helps students go to school if they’re eligible. There are a lot of regulations if you want to give financial aid and we have covered all that red tape. They examined us, probed it and said this school is eligible. We don’t have another eligible school within 20 miles of our location.

“The other difference is that our school isn’t confined to four walls. Because I go live and share my content, we are able to connect with people globally. People in different time zones can watch what I do.We’re expanding beyond those four walls.”

I know you’re not into hype, but I dug up some hype on you – which is that you won $25,000 in a barber battle. Tell me about that experience.

“I remember some guy came to visit my shop and said ‘man, what you’re doing is amazing – people need to see this.’ He encouraged me to compete. He said if you compete, it’s a doorway to education. He actually paid for me to compete in a competition. And because of that, my photos got onto the desk of the show coordinator for Bronner Brothers. She contacted me and asked me to compete – I turned it down three times. It’s a huge, Broadway style competition. She said: ‘why won’t you compete?’ I said I just don’t want to compete, I want to do education. She said, ‘don’t you know that I have the largest education of multi-cultural brand in the world? I can put you in those classrooms. But you’d better win.’

“I reviewed some of the previous champions, I committed to it. We did a hospital theme, so I was doing hair and the hair was transforming these people and bringing them back to life, bringing them back to sanity, bringing them back to health. It really was a catalyst and a conduit for my education – it helped launch my career.”

Two quick-fire questions in closing. Firstly, what would you say is really good about the barbering industry right now?

“When I started in 1998, I would go to the shows and barbering was the armpit of the hair industry. I wanted to bridge cosmetology and barbering, so my haircuts were different and unique. What I see now is that people are embracing hair colour and product. It’s what we were trying to do years ago.

“Because of social media, people can see it. It’s happening instantly. It’s a gift, because it’s created a platform for barbers to get paid. But it’s a curse because now a lot of education is just information. Instead of an educational class, it’s ‘let me educate you on how to use our product. It’s a gift and a curse.”

Secondly, what bad things do you think are taking place that could be detrimental to the industry?

“If we don’t elevate the industry then we continue in a perpetual cycle of barbers doing the same old same old. What I think is going to happen is that these companies are going to understand that some of the barbers they’re hiring have fake pages and fake followers and fake information. The smoke and mirrors is getting exposed. At one point you had repost pages that were charging to promote. People aren’t paying any more because you have a lot of pages that are fake. That’s the bad part.”

Thank you to Tyrik for sharing such a wealth of experience through this interview. I know that I feel like I’ve learned a lot, and I hope that everybody reading this does to. Remember that you can follow me on YouTube and Instagram if you want to see more sage advice from industry greats like Tyrik.

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