Kickstarting our new regular series MB Mentor, BarberBarberUK owner and straight-talking maverick Johnny Baba shares his pearls of wisdom with new barbershop owner James Harding.
James says: “Five years ago I worked in Manchester and walked past BarberBarber every day. I loved everything about the shop and that’s when I thought ‘I want to do that’. I finally committed and went to college in 2018 for my NVQ Level 2 and qualified in February 2019. Before my training ended I bagged myself a job in my local barbershop. I was thrown in at the deep end and pretty much learnt on the job. I’m now running my own business and was due to open my shop on 27 March, but lockdown happened so I ended up opening on 4 July. I’m constantly educating myself by watching barbers on social media and networking, but I want to make more of a name for myself in the industry.”
James Harding, owner of Rogues Barbershop in Blackburn
Johnny says: “I won’t lie, the fact that James has gone from training to owning a barbershop in two years surprises me. It takes time to know how to run a successful business. But fair play to him – he’s clearly got guts!
I think he needs to learn to walk before he can run. Get the basics down and your business running well before starting to make a name for yourself. I’d recommend you revisit your foundations. Technical ability and vision are important – you MUST have both. If you rely solely on technique, you won’t be successful. If you just have vision, you won’t have longevity.
One thing I know very well is how a barbershop is run. I’m a good business man but I started when I was 12 years old and I’m now 41. You need to put in the work. I mean ACTUAL work, not just work on Instagram. Sure, the early days of Instagram were beneficial to me in terms of inspiration, but don’t put too much weight on social media.
What do you want? A shop where people come in asking for a haircut that they’ve pulled from Instagram that’s been Photoshopped within an inch of its life? There’s nothing wrong with that, but think of where your bread and butter is coming from and what’s got longevity. I call Instagram the window of fake life. The number of followers you have doesn’t mean anything unless it’s resulting in cash.
In terms of your brand image, you need to believe in everything you say. Don’t create a persona that isn’t you. I’m in my shop at 8am every morning, talking to customers – that’s the most important thing.
Luck has a large part to do with success too. But the harder you work, the luckier you are. Don’t be scared of failing. I love this Samuel Beckett quote: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Johnny Baba, owner of BarberBarberUK