The High Street Barber: Claire Lawrence

Published 19th Jun 2024 by Josie Jackson

Modern Barber caught up with high street barber Claire Lawrence to get her insight on making the most of the space you have, utilising the relationship you have with your clients  and channelling your passion into motivation…

Claire Lawrence, owner of The Barber Station in Walsall

How long have you been a barber?

I started barbering about 25 years ago; initially I was studying hairdressing at college, but I didn’t like perming, so I didn’t end up finishing the qualification. A few years later, after working an entirely different job, I saw a job listing for a barber. I’d done some barbering training alongside hairdressing at college, so decided to give it a go. I ended up working at the barbershop for a few years before opening my own little shop, however after a couple of months something went wrong, and I was forced to shut it down.

After this, I ended up leaving the trade completely and went to work in the prison service, where I stayed for about 13 years. I didn’t intend to stay that long, but it just happened – I had bills to pay. Barbering was still on my mind throughout this time – I even went to look at a shop, but it needed too much work doing to it. Then one Sunday morning, when I was at work, I fell over. My ankle was broken, and I was given 12 months off before having my employment terminated on medical grounds. I ended up using the money I received from the prison service to fund my new barbershop.

How did Covid-19 impact your business?

I opened my shop in January 2020, and only eight weeks later I was forced to shut down. It was so frustrating, because it felt like things were starting to get on track for me, and I was panicking, because I had just spent a lot of money on the shop. Eventually, we were able to open back up, and we were quite busy. I think that in some respect, the pandemic helped me grow my business, because people were so desperate to get a haircut that they were willing to go somewhere new, if it meant getting an appointment sooner. It helped me grow my client base.

I’ve now had the shop for four years, and in my opinion, it’s still not where it needs to be. I think the industry has had quite a slow recovery ­– although it is getting better now. However, last year I had thoughts about closing the shop down. It was a hard time – I’m so passionate about what I do, and I’ve always worked so hard, but sometimes it feels like you’re not getting anything back. It didn’t seem worth the stress. I think because of my dyslexia, which I wasn’t diagnosed with until I was 40, I’ve always struggled with my confidence. In the end, I reminded myself that I’ve worked hard to be where I am – why should I give that up? That’s when I decided to renovate the shop. 

Can you tell us about the renovation process – what have you learnt? 

One thing that I’ve done, and it’s worked really well for me, is to ask my friends, family, and even customers, for help or advice. I was initially quoted £3k to have a private treatment room built within my barbershop, but one of my clients recommended his handyman, who was able to do it for £1k – and it looks great. Another client came in for a hair system, and it turns out he lays flooring for a living. We came to a deal where I did his service at a discounted rate, and he returned the favour.

I would also suggest asking your clients for their opinions – some might have a great eye for detail. I put some wallpaper samples out so clients could share their thoughts. It helps to foster a sense of loyalty, because if you end up choosing one that a lot of clients have liked, it shows you listen to them – and clients will be more inclined to keep returning to a barber they know listens.

What advice would you give to other barbers struggling with their business?

I think you’ve just got to try and carry on. Do the best you can do, even if you don’t have a lot of funds. Shop around and do your homework. And if you’re passionate, keep going – I think it’s much better to be in a job you love for less money, than in a job you hate for more money. I just want people to know that it doesn't matter how big or small your shop is, you can still make it a welcoming place on a budget. Your shop size doesn't bring clients in, your personality and customer service will. Just make the most of the space you have and utilise it well.

If you have a dream, regardless how old you are, you can live that dream. All you need is a budget, a personality, good work ethic and passion. I am severely dyslexic and suffer with lots of confidence issues, but I am living my dream. Yes, it's stressful and tiring, but I love my job and have the most amazing family, the best clients ever and a fantastic, supportive colleague, Gemma. 

Josie Jackson

Josie Jackson

Published 19th Jun 2024

Josie supports the team with content for the print magazine, website and social media channels at HJ. Having grown up in a salon environment (thanks to her hairdresser mum) and even working as a Saturday girl before getting her degree in English Literature, Josie feels right at home in the industry. Although she’s experimented with a few creative colour looks in the past, she always comes back to blonde, and loves all things hydrating and bond building.

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