I started barbering by accident. I originally wanted to be a graphic designer or architect however one day my cousin who now owns “Salvatores” in Stoke Bishop asked me whether I want a part-time job working for his bosses friend in Kingswood. At 15 I had nothing to do on Saturdays therefore I accepted a part-time Saturday job at Aldo’s on Two Mile Hill. Within a year I was cutting and had decided to go full time at Brunel College at Ashley Down. The two year course would give me qualifications in ladies and gents hairdressing, make-up, manicure, wig making and beauty.
By the second year, because of my in-salon experience I been asked to enter hairdressing competitions for the college. Here our my achievements-
1988 – 3rd place Mens grooming in the South-West NHF competition
1988 – 1st place Mens grooming in the South-West NHF competition
1988 – 5th place Mens grooming in the National Finals NHF competition
1989 – 3rd place Mens grooming in the South-West NHF competition
1989 – 3rd place Mens modern blow-dry in the S.Devon NHF competition
1989 – 3rd place Mens grooming in the Avon NHF competition
By the mid 1989, my college course was over and I was in full-time employment at Aldos. I stayed there for three years building experience until I was asked by my cousin if I would run a newly purchased shop in Stoke Bishop for him. I saw this as a chance to earn more and agreed to run it for two years for him at a favorable rent charge. Saving all I earned gave me the chance to buy my own shop at an already difficulty start to the 90s. I had looked at the huge Barclay Bank on Henleaze Road but City Glass beat me, we then looked at Redland Hardware Store (now Standfast) but with another shop across the road £20k cheaper, my fiancee (now wife) and I decided to go for the cheaper shop and spend the £20k saving on the improvements it needed.
I opened in May 1995 and told the area by a special offer £1.00 off leaflet drop of our existence. I can remember that I had about 500 customers come in with the vouchers. It was a success so I did it again in another area. Most of you who have been coming in that long can remember the numerous employees I’ve had who have all now gone on to own their own salons. Thinking about it probably half of Bristol had a haircut by somebody I have trained. There was-
Mario who owns Filtons Barber Shop in Filton
Carmelo who now owns Boys to Men in Bedminster
Vince who owns V & Ms on Henleaze Road
Luigi (we all remember him) he owns Luigis in Staple Hill
Filippo who’s just opened his salon in St George
With an interest in computing from a young age and an interest in grooming products I’d by chance cut the hair of a fragrance rep at my Stoke Bishop shop. He’d put me in the right direction and by 1995 I was retailing hair and beauty products online. It was a simply static page but it was getting me orders. From the beginning, the orders grew by the amount I was adding to the site and eventually peaked in 2004 when I was one of the first to retail GHDs online. I have since split the online business away from the barbering business and grown the site by adding mirror sites retailing just one brand and now have a large Amazon and eBay shop.
Always trying and doing my best has its disadvantages….queuing. I loathe queuing, whether it’s in the Post Office, at the bar or in the supermarket. My first attempt to help customers not queue was by putting a webcam in my shop which would update every two mins. It worked in a way, if you could get to the shop in minutes but having to travel, most customers would find that half a dozen people had walked in. So we were going in the right direction but the problem was not solved.
In 2002, I had one of those Saturdays, the faster I worked, the more customers were coming in, no lunch, no breaks, not even a toilet break…was this healthy for me? At one point I counted seventeen customers queued and when it all kicked off between three customers about who was next in the queue, I knew something had to be done about it. So I asked everyone what they thought of a booking system. Everyone was positive but as they say, you can’t please everyone, some people didn’t want to book “that’s what women do” but they didn’t want to queue. So with the positive feedback about the change I went ahead. If it didn’t work we could always go back. But it work, weekdays were fuller and Saturdays were calmer. I wish I’d done it from the beginning, all those customers I had lost because of the long queues.
My challenge today is to find a good enough trustworthy barber who could help me increase my shop throughput. If that never happens I always have my two boys who could take over.
Finally, I wish I could advertise the system but think it would probably go viral in Bristol. Just imagine all those people still queuing at the barber shop.