The love child of lockdown boredom and resourcefulness, the Barber86 Barber Van was created by Liam Kirkham to reignite his two passions – barbering and travelling. And now it’s a pretty successful business to boot!
When did you start barbering?
I did a bit of barbering on the side as a hobby when I was younger, but I became an electrician when I left school because it made me more money. However when I decided to go travelling about 5 years ago, I lived in boxing gym in Thailand and I cut everyone’s hair there. It properly reignited my love of barbering. I came back and decided to do my passion as my job, even if it meant earning less.
What happened next?
I ended up getting a job at Northern Barber Company and worked there for a year and a half. But eventually I went back to being an electrician – again for the money. I knew I need to set up on my own as a barber to make enough to quit being an electrician, but I didn’t want to open a barbershop because there’s so many in my local area. But during lockdown I was off work and needed a project to keep me busy. And so Barbervan86 was born!
How’s the van gone down?
It’s proved really popular, especially post-pandemic as everyone’s apprehensive about going into town and inside shops. Plus, it suits the nomadic lifestyle I loved when I was travelling. The van itself gets loads of attention as I drive around Leyland, Preston and Chorley. I feel like the ice cream man when I drive down the road – everyone comes out to look at me!
How do bookings work?
I’ve got an online booking system – people put their address in and I drive there. I do worry about the decline of the high street and everything going online, but I feel like the barber van combines the best of both worlds. When you shut the door it feels like a real bricks and mortar barbershop inside. People are really taken aback by how authentic it feels.
“I feel like the ice cream man when I drive down the road – everyone comes out to look at me!”
How much did it cost?
Well, I already owned the van and I didn’t have a great deal of money saved so pretty much next to nothing. I used a lot of pallets and reclaimed stuff rather than buying new. My cousins got a car garage so I was forever foraging there – I felt a bit cheeky.
How long are your appointments?
They are 45 mins-1 hour, then half hour to clean up. The volume is not great but I’m building loyal clients. I’ve had great reviews and I’m giving them one-on-one time.
I’ve just finished doing my own product range to put in the van. I really want to build the brand. In the future I’m thinking of getting a few more vans. I get at least 2 or 3 messages a day from other barbers intrigued about the business so there’s room to grow.
What have you learnt from building the Barber Van?
You’ve got to take the best out of a bad situation. Lockdown has really made me reassess what I want in life.