J: Welcome to the BiggerPockets Business podcast, Show #5.
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“They say, no, I’m giving up my $1600 a month in free cash flow because I’m not hiring these two guys because they don’t fit our vision—that was really nice and I think that if you build that into your business case and you build that into your concept vision and you stick to your leadership thought and you don’t give up for it—you don’t give up, you don’t sell your morals and your thoughts for cash flow, then you can ultimately reach your destination, whatever that may be”.
Welcome to a real-world MBA from the School of Hard-Knocks, where entrepreneurs reveal what it really takes to make it. Whether you’re already in business or you’re on your way there, this show is for you. This is BiggerPockets Business.
J: Hey there, everybody. I am J. Scott. I am co-host for the BiggerPockets Business podcast and I am here with my wife, Mrs. Carol Scott. How are you doing today, Carol?
Carol: I am doing great, honey. Thank you so much. I want to tell all of our listeners something really great that happened this morning. So, we were doing a real estate deal, go figure, and no matter how many deals we do, once in a great while, there is one that we just don’t know which way to go with it, right?
So we decided, you know what? We need to go out there and get some help. So I reached out into our network, found somebody who isn’t even a real estate professional but somebody who I knew could be entirely objective, and give us some really good clarity. Well, guess what? He did just that and I am eternally grateful.
It made such a big difference and helped us move forward. So the little tip of the day from that is, no matter how knowledgeable you might be in the industry, no matter how much of an expert you are, do not be afraid to go out there, pick up the phone, ask for help, and it might just change your entire perspective.
J: Love that tip. Now, with that in mind, we have a really great show for you today. We have two guys on the show, Daniel Santana and Chris Bossio. These guys are awesome. We had a great conversation. They are literally changing the face of an industry that has been around for over 7,000 years now, the barbering industry. And they are going to help us.
They are going to teach us how if we’re starting a business today, how we can start that business in a way that we position ourselves in a way to be able to grow and scale that business in the future.
Carol: And do you want to learn how to attract business people into your business, both as customers and as people working in your business? Well, make sure you are listening all the way through because they are going to tell you their strategy for doing just that.
You’re also going to love hearing how passionate they are about every single step of their business and how their passion led to them identifying needs in our industry to help it grow even more. So throughout this episode, we are going to throw a lot of stuff at you. We are going to mention a ton, so to find out more about it, go right to BiggerPockets.com/BizShow5. But before we jump in, let’s hear a word from our show sponsor.
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J: Okay, go out and support our show sponsor. Now, let’s jump into our episode with Chris Bossio and Daniel Santana.
Let’s welcome to the show Daniel Santana and Chris Bossio. How are you doing today?
Daniel: Doing great, doing great. Happy to be here.
Carol: Thanks so much for joining us. Have been really looking forward to talking with you. We’ve watched a lot of videos on both of you. We’ve learned a lot about your shop and we’re excited to hear it from your perspective.
J: I’ve learned a whole bunch of stuff about cutting hair the last two days.
Carol: That’s really cool.
J: So Daniel, Chris, first let’s start with a little bit of background about you guys. Can you introduce who you are and where you come from and how you got into the barbershop business?
Chris: Yeah, I guess I’ll start. So, I was playing college basketball. And I had a roommate who was cutting hair in his dorm. And when you play basketball in college, you can’t get a job so you’re like broke. So this was during the recession. This is ’08. So our parents lost their businesses and I didn’t have any money and I was in the middle of nowhere Kansas. And I just saw my roommate cutting hair, making a bunch of money while I’m starving.
You know, I got homesick. I transferred over to a school in Florida. And you had to sit out a year when you transfer. So I decided I was going to go barber school and learn how to cut hair. Fell in love with it. This was around the same time, it’s funny, that I signed up for BiggerPockets, the website. I was working at Arby’s and I was just trying to figure out a way to change my life around and not struggle financially anymore.
And I started doing some self-development stuff and I told myself that if I was going to do this barbering thing, I needed to own the businesses. I needed to start the business within that niche, within that industry, and so that’s how I got started with barbering and meeting up with Danny.
Daniel: So yeah, my side, it’s interesting. Not the profile you would expect to be in the barbershop world or in the barber world. But after something in the area of 14 years in the business world, expatriate from Argentina, almost two million miles flown on a single airline by the time I was 32, running multimillion dollar teams, multimillion dollar deals.
I had a friend I had met since before puberty and he was struggling as a barber. His barbershop owner was a stereotypical barbershop owner, if you will. And we set up a shop together. Originally, it was just a loan and then I kind of enjoyed it. I met Bossio that was the first barber that came over to that shop. I was still doing some work in the corporate world.
Had a gig with a couple of VCs and ultimately what I realized is, this industry is full of extremely driven, extremely intelligent individuals who just didn’t have a formal education. I wanted to jump on their wave, man, because they were helping me out.
So I was very lucky to fall into it and ultimately, that’s how I got into the barbering world after starting my life off as an engineer, a systems engineer on the techie world, business development in the corporate world, airplane Joe for many, many years, suit and tie and now it’s sandals, t-shirts, and hair.
J: So that’s awesome. So you guys teamed up as a partnership where Daniel, you brought the business side of the equation, Chris, and I guess you have a third partner, it sounds like? And Chris, and the third partner, you guys brought the operating side of the equation. It sounds like a match made in Heaven.
Daniel: It is definitely a nemith circle, a full circle there between different teammates. A lot of growing pains, just as much on Bossio’s side coming over to this side and he’s an extremely quick learner, willing to read or listen, depending on if it’s an audiobook or paper book, as needed, for us to sync up. While I have not cut hair—I feel like I could after watching many of his videos at this point.
J: That’s awesome.
Carol: That’s very fun. So I’m wondering, you mentioned, like you said, we have the operator side, we have the business growing person side, and you mentioned there’s a loan in there somewhere. So talk to us a little bit about you decided this might be a good business to start. Did you think you were going to start with this one shop, or did you have a bigger plan from the getgo?
Daniel: It’s really interesting because in reality, the shops are called Headlines Barbers. At the beginning, we used to joke that we were like the barber rehab. We were bringing in barbers that were working at stereotypical barbershops with owners, it was a complete lifestyle situation.
When I built up a business case, I tried showing our third business partner, who isn’t here today, Perez, how he can go get an SBA loan. He went to a couple of different banks, tried to get an SBA loan off of the business case I had built in with my experience. And unfortunately, his credit wasn’t good enough. We have a lot of barbers in this industry who don’t have good credit and would never be able to get qualified.
But after some talk, he said he had a partner. He came to me with what the potential partner was offering him and it was just one of those bad deals. And me being a friend and being in the corporate world for years, I decided, you know what? Here’s the money. I’m just going to loan it to you. We’ll start there. There was no paper between us. It was just a handshake. I wrote a $50,000 check and we opened the first barbershop. And I think it was like 30 or 60 days in and I sat him down, I sat Bossio down, which was the first barber that I had met outside of my friend, Perez, and we put something together and we said, let’s do five shops in five years.
So I expanded the business case where we rolled over 100% of the revenue that came into the business. None of us took any draws and 100% of the money went back into the second shop. But of course, at the time you build your third shop, you’ve got the revenue from the first and the second shop doing it. Each business case showed the negative cash flow up from and you know, the ramp up and stuff like that.
There was a lot of learning curves on both our sides. Because we started as a lifestyle company and because we positioned ourselves as lifestyles—it was always lifestyle over profits. So we don’t have the most profitable business case but we have the deepest culture business case and that’s what really has helped launched Tomb45, which is our product line and that’s really what we’re hoping can actually make us some money as well as maintain the culture as we scale.
J: That’s awesome. So I know there’s a lot of stuff to unpack there, but I want to start with something we talk a lot about on the show, which is partnerships and a lot of times we see partners come in and they have the exact same skills. They have the same strengths, they have the same weaknesses, because you guys made the perfect partner because Chris, you, and it sounds like Perez, you knew how to operate this business, this specific business.
And Daniel, you knew how to grow and scale this business. So between the two of you, basically you had everything in place to build a business and then eventually grow and scale it. But the thing that struck me was that, Chris, you said earlier in the discussion that you kind of had the same goals moving forward.
You didn’t just want to build a small business that you kind of go to. You didn’t want to build yourself a job. You were looking to build something bigger. So you both had this vision. So before we get to the building it bigger, take us through a little bit about how you started that first shop. What went right? What went wrong? How did this partnership really start out with that very first shop?
Daniel: Let me jump in really quick here. I think we took a lot of the stuff from the corporate world, when you’re hiring somebody, when you’re hiring Type A business development sales guys and the idea was, why are we doing this? We answered a lot of ‘whys’ up front before we decided five shops in five years, before we put the effort in, before we started deciding on how to focus on customer acquisition and who were our—defining our customers and market and all that.
Before we ever got to any of that, we didn’t worry about the colors, we didn’t worry about what logo we were going to use. We worried about, what is it that he wants to do, and more importantly, why? Why is it that you want to do this? Why would you jump into a five-year plan where you’re going to work your butt off and not get a single dollar? You’ve got a day job and a night job and an evening job and we’re going to be counting everything in dollars and pennies, not in hundreds and thousands.
The answer, ultimately, was lifestyle. And then when we sat there and we thought about it and the other partners, all of us got together, we ultimately decided that we were all willing to make the same sacrifices for the lifestyle, first and foremost—
J: I’m going to interrupt you for a quick second, because you’ve used ‘lifestlye’ several times and I love that. But can you define, in your words, because everybody has a different idea of what a lifestyle business is. In your words, what were you trying to achieve with a lifestyle business?
Daniel: Basically, as a barber, the hours that are put in as a barber are 10AM to 6PM or 7PM or 8PM on a daily basis. That’s five days a week, plus you’ve got Saturdays. That’s not a 9 to 5 where you can pick up your kids at work and go. You’ve got some flexibility because you can make your own schedule, but a lot of barbers like to say, I make my own schedule—no, they really don’t.
It’s really a lifestyle in the sense that, from the corporate world, a lot of us that are listening, consider our 9 to 5. Our after-hours. Our kids go to sleep, we jump on our laptops and we put in some extra work. That’s typically what we see but in this blue collar world, it’s really a matter of putting in those hours day in and day out on the weekends, and sacrificing so much family time.
That if you don’t thoroughly enjoy going to the barber battles, if you don’t enjoy going to the barber shows, if you don’t enjoy going to the get-togethers, if you don’t enjoy doing the events for the cancer societies—that’s one of the things that we do, cut hair for free. That’s one of the questions that we ask all of our barbers that are coming on board, would you cut hair for free?
If you can’t enjoy that part of it, then that’s not the lifestyle. The lifestyle is thoroughly enjoying the part where you realize the impact you’re giving to anybody who sits in your chair, the conversation you have with anybody who sits in your chair, that’s what I interpret as a lifestyle. What about you, Bossio?
Bossio: It’s funny because I feel like in the barber culture, we like to say that the barber culture is hip-hop. It’s cutting hair. It’s all the same culture. It seems like the popular belief is just grind. You’ve got to grind. You’ve got to put your head down and you’ve just got to work. You’ve got to work all day, every day. And one of the things that struck me early on as we were building this because that was my mindset.
One thing that struck me with Danny that he would tell me is, it’s a process. We have our destination but we have to enjoy the journey as well because we only have one life. So when we put lifestyle as a priority, it’s you know, are we really able to spend time with our kids? Are we really able to enjoy this? So many barbers, they work so much that they work themselves to the point where they don’t have a passion for what they do anymore.
It was like, the best analogy I usually give is when I play basketball in high school and AU, I loved it. It was so much fun. But once I got into college, they tell me every day, earn your scholarship. This is your job. And it got—I hated it. I started to hate basketball and that’s a feeling I never want to have in business or in barbering or in life in general.
Carol: That’s great, and I love that it sounds like the two of you have proven that if you do business right, that in a business that is typically not amenable to this type of lifestyle, where you can’t have passion and love what you do, but still be with your family and do the other things that are important outside of that. You have managed by making the right choices, by growing the right way that you don’t have to choose, that you truly can do both, right?
So it’s like you’ve really kind of changed. You’re starting to really change the way that the industry is working by the way that you’ve put things in place. That’s a really cool accomplishment. Okay, so back to, you decided you need to open a store. Your very first one. How’d you go about doing that?
Chris: So, it was scary in the beginning. A lot of it, we didn’t really know. Like, you know, he’s a businessman but a lot of the stuff that we needed for the shop, we kind of overlooked. So one of the ideas that we put together was tabletopping. That’s something Danny introduced and it was really eye-opening because I remember sitting down with Perez in the office at the first shop that we were at, and he was like, what do we need for the shop?
Open the door and look around. What do we need first? And things like floormats, things like garbage cans, you don’t really think about. So we didn’t realize how much money we were really going to spend to open up this shop. A lot of barbers, they just think it’s barber chairs, the station, and we’re good to go. So that was eye-opening, going through that and seeing, damn we’re running through this money pretty quickly.
Carol: Really quick.
Daniel: Yeah, it’s easy. Like let’s say you want to open a ten-station shop, a lot of barbers won’t put a power strip in their business case or in their concepts, even if they don’t write it down per se. But you’ve got to buy some pretty high-end power strips. You’re spending $60 a power strip, you just spent $600 that you weren’t expecting. That’s just one of many of the things.
So we definitely tabletopped to walk through the process several times of what you do during the haircuts. So I can come up to speed, identify the individual components. I try to write them down. Of course, we totally messed up our business case but we did put a 10% variance on our cap ex. We were pretty darn close at the end of the first shop.
Carol: How did you choose that location for the first one?
Daniel: So we looked at several locations. We were actually very scared. We got a very high rent place, but ultimately, we knew we wanted to get somewhere where our customer acquisition cost was low. That’s something that I go after repeatedly. That’s something that’s on my mind for everything we do. Customer acquisition cost.
Coming from the corporate world, we’ve spent thousands of dollars on flights and entertainments with our customers and all that, and we put that to the budget center, so we decided at the end of the day how much it costs us to sign this contract. Well, for us, customer is getting them in the door. And then the barber’s job is to retain them.
But getting them in the door, for example—we wanted to be next to high schools, next to junior high schools where the customer acquisition cost is low. We wanted to be as close as possible to a gym. And this is a very large L.A. Fitness. The same plaza we’re in has a very large L.A. Fitness. And we said, you know what? We’re going to bite the bullet and I’m going to sign us up.
Chris: And it was very scary with that location. I think that was our fifth choice because the plaza is actually not facing the main road. It’s actually the back of the plaza, facing there. So that was super scary.
Daniel: Sure, the demographics were, the street traffic was something that was advertised by the landlord but it was definitely not something that would affect us. But the demographics in the area were good. The L.A. Fitness plaza was good. And ultimately, it’s a model we kept as we expanded.
Chris: Yeah, I think four of our locations are in an L.A. Fitness plaza. You think about gyms, people who want to look good, they go to gyms. So it was a priority for them. It’s a priority.
Carol: Yeah, it kind of just fits together, right?
J: I love the fact that, and Daniel, I was on your Instagram earlier today so I’ve noticed you posted some things like spreadsheets for how, for barbershops for other people that might want to start a barbershop how they can do the numbers to create a profit and loss statement and kind of model out what it would take to open a barbershop.
So I love the fact that you guys like, from the beginning, it wasn’t just, let’s open a barbershop and see what happens. You actually sat down and thought about this. You thought about your location. You thought about the demographics. You thought about customer retention. You thought about the cap ex, which is capital expenses, all the big equipment that goes into the store.
You thought about all those costs. I assume you actually created a budget, a spreadsheet that said, if we have this many people cutting hair and we get this many customers per day, and they pay this much, and our costs are this much, at the end of the day, week, month, year, this is what our profits are going to look like. And you actually did all of that before you went out and you started building your first shop.
Daniel: Oh yeah, I mean I calculated MPV. My first spreadsheet, I sat down with Perez and Bossio and they just scratched their head and I realized that you know, this was going to be a journey. So we dumbed it down and built it up and at this point, I’m pretty sure Bossio can build his own fairly complex business cases.
It’s one of those things where, as a barbershop owner, we started defining different things. I define our customers as both the barber and the person getting a haircut, which was a different concept. And it took a while for us to sync on that, if you will, but the barbers ultimately pay us.
We took the, again, going back to the lifestyle term, the lifestyle method where we wanted to give the individual barber an opportunity to make more money as long as we made our rent, basically. If we can recover, our business case showed a 36-month breakeven point and we weren’t getting a real ROI until month 48. So we built out 48 months and at that point, we stopped. I think we had been in business for six months so yeah, it’s been fantastic to actually build that out.
Bossio has been trying to convince me to do the business classes per year so we decided up front, maybe not up front, but once we decided to focus on the expansion, that we needed to provide value up front through education. And again, customer acquisition costs. We defined it as barbershop owners that our customers were also the barbers.
And the barbers, we needed to acquire them just like we would any other customer. And we wanted to attract a higher level of barber, a higher caliber of professional, and we did that by putting out education and increasing our pool of addressable market and the addressable market grew quite a bit because they knew who we were and they wanted to come work for us. And that’s where we were.
Carol: That is huge. I swear, you read my mind, because I was going to ask you about this. You’re on your first shop, right? And you figured out customer acquisition, but clearly, you need people to serve those customers, so how would you go about getting them? And it sounds like by providing education, that you were able to do that. So how many barbers did you draw into your shop and how did you set up their payment structure or their shared rent structure and can you talk to us about how that worked out?
J: And also how you guys differentiate. Because I know a little bit about reading your story. I know a little bit here, I’d love for you to talk a little bit about how you guys basically changed the way you do things compared to much of the rest of the industry.
Chris: Yeah, I think it was just putting the barber first, like Danny was saying earlier. We started doing a whole lot of YouTube videos and putting content out there and it was a blessing because we started getting barbers who probably weren’t the best at cutting hair. But they were moldable. They were teachable. They were ambitious. And with our channel, we didn’t just educate but we also inspired and motivated barbers to step their level up, of barbering.
Because I think a lot of barbers, they think of barbering as kind of like a hustle. They don’t see it as a real career. And so we wanted to change that mindset for the upcoming, the new generation of barbers. And that’s been amazing for us because just like when I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad and it changed my entire mindset about how I think about money, I think we’re doing that a lot for the new generation of barbers and that’s what helped us get all these new guys in.
But you also have to invest into them. You also have to spend time training them and teaching them how to cut hair and teaching them how to save their money. And teaching them how to make more money and we’ve set up a pay structure that pretty much amplifies that. And elevates them to be able to do the best that they can in our environment.
Carol: That’s cool. And even, I can tell from the language, simply from the language that you’re using when you talk about your barbers. You want to elevate them. You want to educate them. You want to amplify their careers. I think that’s a very different mindset, if you will, than how the industry is. I mean, I think that in most women’s hair salon, for example, it’s simply booth rental.
You come in and it’s a salon professional. You rent booth space. You pay a certain amount of dollars. You keep the profit. End of story. But it sounds like you’re doing it completely differently.
Chris: Danny jokes all the time that we’re terrible businessmen. Because businessmen would see what we do for our barbers and say you guys are crazy, right? And that goes back to the whole lifestyle thing.
Daniel: It’s long-term vision, right? Short-term vision, we turned down so many barbers that would walk in and want to work for us. And I mean, we would ask them some pretty horrible questions over the barbers and insult them. If that was an issue, then we knew that was going to be a problem. If you couldn’t answer why you wanted to work at my shop other than we have great traffic, other than I hear you’re the up and coming shop, then that wasn’t—they weren’t listening to what we were saying.
What we were saying was we want to not dominate the industry. We want to elevate the industry and by elevating the industry, they will follow us. There’s a lot of fake leadership in this industry, a lot of guys that say they are leaders. But the thought leadership is only from a few different people. And those people are respected and thought of as in the industry as true leaders.
And you know, sometimes we give it up. It was nice to be able to say, for a couple of years, that we didn’t need to manage the income. These guys were living off of their haircuts. I was living off of my previous money from the corporate world. And of course, that was nice, the two or three years where we were able to completely reinvest 100% of everything worked really well for us.
And being able to say, no, I’m giving up my $1600 a month in free cash flow because I’m not hiring these two guys because they don’t fit our vision. That was really nice and I think that if you built that into your business case and you built that into your concept and into your vision, and then you stick to your leadership thoughts and you don’t give up for it—you don’t sell your moral and your thoughts for the cash flow, then you can ultimately reach your destination, whatever that may be, right?
J: That’s awesome, and another thing that I saw and it struck me that you guys are doing is, you’re aligning incentives amongst everybody in the business. Like Carol said in a typical barbershop, it’s not just women’s hair salons but also the barbershop I go to, everybody is renting booths and so all these barbers are competing with one another.
So if I walk up and I say, I want to get my hair cut by Jane, Mary is over there saying, okay, I just lost his business and there’s that competition there. And competition is good, but it doesn’t, to use your words, it doesn’t elevate the business.
And what you guys are doing is more of a, hey, we’re bringing in people and I don’t know if they’re technically employees or not—that doesn’t matter but basically you’re bringing in people and saying, this is a family. This is a business. And we’re all striving for the same goal. We’re all striving to make the business successful, not ourselves as individual successful. And that’s great. That alignment of incentives is good for the business.
Daniel: Well, it’s that gig economy, right? So, in the gig economy, everybody’s out for themselves. They want to catch the next ride. They want to catch the next customer. But in reality, what ends up happening in the barbershop world specifically is barber owners will over-expand because their rent is their rent. And of course, there’s all kinds of analogies that you can use that you have to pay your rent regardless if you’re there or not, which is the situation for many barbers. So that’s really where the downfall in the industry is, if you set up rent without providing any income to the business, then the business can’t strive and the individual barber is a business and we want them to survive so that we have longevity.
We have barbers that have been with us for seven years. Five years ago, we built a flyer that said we have six or seven barbers going on to open their own barbershops and then in big parentheses, and we’re proud of it—even though they opened across the street from us.
That’s not going to affect me, per se. They’re not going to affect us. They’re just creating more of the same culture where the barbershop world can be seen as somewhere I can take my kids. I’ve got a 13-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old boy and I want to be able to walk into any barbershops and make it happen.
Carol: How did you know? What was the tipping point for the shop, where you said yeah, this is working. We’ve got something good figured out here and it’s time to move onto another.
Daniel: So the first couple of days, we thought we were going to go out of business.
Carol: What? Share, please.
Chris: Everything that could go wrong went wrong. I’m in the middle of a haircut, the power goes out. My clients had to call out of work. Like, we were scared like crazy. But I would say we started attracting some barbers like we said earlier, that were abused in the barbershop that they were currently at, and they came over and they brought clientele with them and their passion with them, and then from there, just start snowballing and I would say, by the end of year one, we felt like we had something.
Carol: How many barbers did you have at that first one?
Chris: I would say we opened the second one when we had ten barbers?
Carol: At ten. So you had ten. Go ahead, J.
J: I was just going to ask, did you have a plan for when you were going to open the second one? Was it we get ten barbers so we open the second one, or we get a year in where we open the second one, or is it just natural organic growth?
Daniel: No, it was the cash on hand row on the spreadsheet. So when the cash on hand was enough to justify the next business plan and still provide a cushion for the original business shop and all that jazz—once we felt we had enough cash on hand, as I said, it was rolling over month to month. That’s basically when it went in.
For some reason, we decided to put in a cash injection, and by cash injection, I’m talking like $2000 each. We’re not going to put in $15,000 to $20,000 each. If something happened, then we would do that at different times for different shops but for the most part, it was the rollover from Shop 1 to Shop 2 to Shop 3 into the cash on hand account. And then once that cash on hand was enough, we would jump to the next one.
Carol: That’s cool. And when it was time, and you do have enough cash on hand to do that next one, were you able to apply a lot of those initial things that you did from the first shop so did you find that you made significant changes when you went to Shop 2?
Chris: Shop 2, we got creative and we tried something different. We wanted to—we did so good with the first shop and it worked but then we deviated from that and we decided we were going try to change, be innovative. That’s always our thing. We want to be different. We wanted to bring in complimentary beer and have the barbers dress up nicely. We wanted it to be a higher end barbershop. And our customers just didn’t want that. We found that like after six months of trying that, we had to change it up and go back to what was working.
Carol: So were they just like—what did they say? How did you know? Were they polite about it? I’m so curious how it went down.
Chris: They loved it at first. But we knew when no one wanted the complimentary beers. No one—you could tell that it just wasn’t working with our customers.
Carol: It wasn’t worth it but you experimented and you were innovative and you tried something, so kudos to you for doing that. That’s cool.
J: So from an operational perspective, obviously Chris, you can’t be managing shop number one and cutting hair and at shop number two, and at the same time, be watching shop number one and at the same time be over at shop number two and managing that one or shop number three, so at some point, did you have to transition from cutting hair into a manager role or how did you cover the management of each of these shops?
Chris: The second shop, I definitely had to be a leader in the shop and I learned a lot through managing other people who believe that they are their own bosses and they are independent contractors and it’s really hard to manage those different personalities as well. I definitely had to change up the way—they used to call me Hitler because I wanted everybody to do everything the way that I wanted it.
I had to learn that there’s different ways to lead people, to get them to do exactly what you want and do it in a different way. The way that it worked out was Perez stayed back and he managed New Tampa, which was our first location, and then I managed Northdown. And we learned from that and we found our leaders in each of those shops and they ended up being the ones that would go out to three, four, five, six.
Daniel: Yeah, from a macro perspective, from my perspective in not being in a day-to-day operations. Trying to teach my management model to these guys of hands-off macro was interesting. I’m the kind of guy that says we go north, and if we’re going northeast, that’s okay. Try to nudge more towards the north. So I’m definitely not that sniper. I’m much more of a shotgun, if you will. A lot of my pellets and shots miss but then you’ve got the managers that are very sniper but they take three months to make a decision.
That’s definitely not the style and the concept that I was after. I left the corporate world specifically to get away from some of that and you know, from that perspective, when you’re looking at the business case, you’ve got to put—I’ll use the Spandex CEO’s term here, “oopsies”. Right? You’re going to have some oopsies and you’re going to talk about them and you’ve got to put some money aside for these oopsies and know that they are going to happen and remember Bossie and I had a heated discussion one time about how good this direct mailing was going to work, that we were going to do and you know, we were going to do it the least expensive possible way.
We went out and sorted all of the postcards. We did the rubber band on them and we dropped them off ourselves and all that, but sure enough, it didn’t work. But what you learn there and what you learn from allowing your individual managers as you scale to find themselves and then nudging them in the direction of the vision. And losing some barbers. Some really good barbers along the way because you’re invested in that management team, no different than the corporate world.
You’re going to lose some employees but you’ve got to invest in your managers and you’ve got to invest in your partners so that they can then realize the confidence that they have in their leadership and their thought and it’s okay to lose some money. It’s okay to lose somebody. It’s okay to lose a resource if you will. Make some mistakes and then learn from them as long as they are all going north.
J: That’s great. So it’s always about the business and the long-term vision, not necessarily about what’s easy in the short-term. Sometimes it’s easy to deal with employees that don’t see the same vision you have in the short-term by just saying, okay, well, we’re just going to disagree. But that’s not good for the long-term viability and health for the business.
Daniel: Yeah, you can’t just veto your management team and your leaders and what you’re trying to build. If you just veto them, you’re blocking their personal growth. You’ve got to realize that there’s a cost to that. I mean, some of us went to school and had that cost. Others sent out some mailers.
Others lost an employee that would have brought in some revenue for a couple of months and you lost that revenue for two or three months. And that personal growth ultimately I think is what built a team that has become you know, kind of where we are, not just in the barbershops but with Tomb45, the product line.
Chris: Yeah, we’ve done the flyer thing four times knowing that it wasn’t going to work. We’re still doing it.
Carol: Doing it anyway. Well, you mentioned your flyers and your track mailers and that type of thing. I’m curious, it sounds like so far we’ve talked about the leadership that you have at every store. On kind of the more corporate level though, have you brought in other people like in addition who aren’t barbers, who their main expertise isn’t barbering? So if you brought in or considered bringing in or even consulting with other marketing people or PR people or other types of leadership? Is that a road that you have explored yet? Or how does it work?
Daniel: So we do have, oddly enough, we’ve got a meeting set up where we’re flying in a few different guys. We do have a guy that we call our acting CTO. Mostly not into the barbershop business but into the Tomb45, into the products business.
So he’s our Acting Technical Officer. And then we’ve got a couple of other guys that we do bring in, into the software side, we’ve got a COO. Pretty penny there but he’s definitely a business guy and helps us manage and run that. And bring some brain power and thought process to our vision and helps us implement it. Not even enough hours for the rest of us to do a lot of that.
Carol: That’s great.
Daniel: Between the software and the product company, we have brought in marketing, technical, and executive support.
Carol: That is awesome, and again, that is, I think, completely unheard of in your type of industry. So you are really so innovative in this. It’s really cool. Now, before we move onto the next part of our show, let’s hear a word from one of our show sponsors.
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Carol: What other marketing efforts do you have in addition? I know you have a YouTube Channel. Do you think that is drawing a lot of customers as well as barbers? Are there other channels that have been really effective for you in gathering those people?
Chris: We have a team that we call Tomb Squad. It’s a group of influencers that we’re friends first. We all have a very common vision and common ideas of where we want the barber industry to be. But we also happen to be influencers. And you know, the name came out—I don’t know how it came about but that’s what they call us now. It’s probably me and maybe four or five other guys that we like to say, we influence the next generation of barbers.
So I think that’s our biggest draw as far as customers and followers and supporters. And then we do other things, too. We’ve tried Facebook marketing and things of that nature, but I would say influencers is our biggest draw.
Carol: Influencers. All right.
Daniel: For Tomb45, that’s definitely true. So for the barbershops, it’s a little bit different as well. On the barbershop side, what we’ve got—again, focusing on the acquisitions side, we talked about some acquisition as an owner, acquiring a barber as a customer, right? Somebody is going to process that. But getting people in the door is very interesting. So when you have your barber, unless your barber leaves or you move, a lot of the people who you want as customers are pretty faithful to their barbers.
So to get them to change is rather expensive. So what we did is we focused on the young crowd. Basically when your child tells you to stop taking him to SuperCuts, when the kids stop letting mommy and daddy take them to SuperCuts and wants that fresh cut from the barbershop, that’s who we went after. So we went after the middle school kids, the high school kids—it got to the point where the sports directors for two different counties in our region knew us by name.
They would call us and say hey, get us some more Gatorade. We know how much Gatorade you can fit on a palette because we would buy it by the palette, put our names on it, drop off two bags of Gatorade at each high school in the area. At this point, we have seven shops and quite a few high schools and middle schools and say hey, if you want more, here’s my business card. Call me. We would love to support you.
Instead of dropping off a whole box, that way we generate our conversation, we met the football moms, we met the basketball moms. We used our relationships from the people who sit in our chair, Beef O’Brady’s, these other restaurants, and said hey, this football team needs a meal sponsored on Friday. You know, we’ll pay half of it or give it to us at a really good deal and then we bought the meals and we took them the gameday meals. So by influencing the middle school and high school kids in these sports and the band and stuff like that, that gave us the expansion, if you will.
We never gave discounts. We’re not a big fan of discounts for acquiring customers. Groupons and stuff. No Groupons ever. I hate them. I think it’s horrible. I don’t want that customer who is chasing the discount. I want that customer who sees the value. And so what we did was we gave the coaches free coupon codes and we told you, listen, we want you to give this free hair coupon code to your MVP for the week.
Don’t give it to your quarterback. Give it to the guy who got good grades, to the guy that had to walk home because he didn’t have a ride. And that really worked for us. That really helped us generate a relationship with the community and to different middle schools and high schools.
J: Love it.
Carol: That’s awesome. That’s a really humanizing touch that really builds relationships and ultimately drives your business at the same time.
Daniel: For Tomb45, it’s definitely Tomb Squad. For the barbershops, it’s much more local and micro.
Chris: You know, at the barbershop, we say it all the time. It’s the community hub for a lot of areas, a lot of communities. And if our barbers aren’t giving back to the community or aren’t creating a relationship with the community—and it starts with schools. It starts with parents. It starts with kids. If we’re not doing that then you know, what’s the point?
Daniel: And if I may, I’m going to give a shout-out to True Hair Culture. It’s run by this guy, Tony Suarez. He is a manager at our St. Pete location and after spending I think 15 years in jail, turned his life around. And is now running this True Hair Culture, which basically uses all of its profit to help at-risk youth. And sometimes he goes to the schools, he finds the kids that can barely make it, he gives them rides to and from school. He buys them tools as needed. And that’s definitely something we’re happy to support. And I think that level of community interaction is definitely helping us.
Carol: Absolutely wonderful.
J: Awesoe. Okay, let’s jump ahead. We’ve talked about the first store. We’ve talked about expanding to the second store. I assume at this point, you guys have gotten this down to a science. You have a spreadsheet. You know what it’s going to cost. You know where to find your locations. You know how you find your barbers. You know how to find your customers. And so, I assume over the last few years, you’ve just kind of grown this and grown this.
So I’d love to hear a little bit about where you are today, how many stores you have, how you’re expanding geographically. But you guys have also started, and we’ve kind of touched on this a little bit but I wanted to save it until the very end here. You guys have also started your own product line where you’re going out and you’re manufacturing products to help barbers and help the industry, so I’d love to hear about that as well.
So I guess break that into two questions. Where are you now with your scaling of your shops, and tell us a little bit about the product side of your business.
Daniel: You want to start by telling them how we accidentally opened our last shop?
Carol: Yes, please. We have to hear that now.
Chris: So, we actually, we got on this you know, in this mode where we opened three barbershops, I think in a year?
Daniel: A couple of years, yeah.
Chris: And then we opened those shops but then we told ourselves, we weren’t going to open anymore shops. We were going to focus on the product line. And then we get a call from one of our landlords, who is an amazing person, that she was opening a plaza and she wanted us in there. So we said yes and ended up opening this barbershop. I’ll let you explain kind of the details of it.
Daniel: Yeah, so basically we established a relationship with a couple of different landlords who would basically call us and that’s how we ended up opening, going on a rush there at the end. I think like at the end of year three through year five, we went on this crazy rush where the cap ex wasn’t as intense. The tenant allowance wasn’t being provided.
It was much better—they weren’t used to barbershops that paid the rent on time, that elevated the traffic to their salons, that got good responses from the neighbors, that didn’t allow, if you will, a riff-raff of clientele to hang out in front of the door and stuff like that.
So because of that, that relationship was established with the landlords. They came to us and provided a lot more, tenant allowance, gave us much more favorable lease terms.
Chris: Offers we couldn’t say no to, right?
Daniel: Build-outs. Complete build-outs. So yeah, I think there’s one lined up for 2022 that they wanted us signing and even though we’re not really looking, we’re going to go ahead and do that because hey, if it’s not going to cost us any cap ex to open it, we can definitely run it.
Chris: We literally sat down and said, no more barbershops. We’re done for a while. And now we’re opening—
Carol: They can’t stop. They need you. They need you in their space.
J: That’s awesome. Now, tell us about your product line. I think it’s called Tomb45?
Chris: Tomb45, yeah.
J: How did that get started? What’s the goal? Tell us a little bit about that.
Chris: One of the things that I was doing because of YouTube was educating a lot. And I started touring. I started doing my own tour, put in a list of cities and people would book me to go to teach their classes. And I started going to these shows and these expos and seeing the level of education that was being provided and like Danny was saying, earlier, it’s almost like the same thought leaders for so long, and they were really I feel like old school with their education.
Daniel: Selling out.
Chris: Yeah, that too. So we wanted to go to the shows and start teaching but the we found out that there’s a cost. And that when you go to these expos, you’ve got to pay them to do free classes. So we needed to figure out a way, how to fund this. So I talked to my subscribers and I told them what I wanted to do and how I want to help them physically, not just through a video, and they told us, why don’t you just start making product?
And the first product they asked us to make was the shave gel. And we made that shave gel in our kitchens in a bowl with a hand mixer. Literally.
Carol: You did not.
Chris: Yes, we did.
J: Has the time expansion passed for the FDA to still come after us?
Daniel: Hopefully not but like literally hand labelling, hand pumping, hundreds and thousands of bottles of shave gel.
J: Hundreds and thousands?
Carol: Wait a minute. From your kitchen? Hundreds and thousands of bottles?
Chris: No, thousands.
Daniel: So I sat my wife down and I mentioned to her, babe, I need you to understand that these boxes are going to be in the garage for the next five years, okay? This is something your boss really wants you to do. I think it’s something we need to support. It’s one of those things that you’re going to invest in your leadership and invest in your management.
And you know what? This whole training situation and education team, is it even going to get us out so we can get more barbers? And my wife is like great, so what’s going on in this kitchen? What is all this stuff everywhere?
Chris: So we thought of a name and one of the things I wanted to do was stay true to what we were about and so barbering started during Ancient Eyptian times. It’s one of the oldest professions that’s still around. Back then, you weren’t given a tomb or a proper burial unless you were royalty, a priest, or super wealthy. But there was a barber named Barber Meryma’at, who was actually given a tomb. His tomb number was 45.
And I found this guy because I was trying to find the most successful barber ever. I couldn’t point to you. There’s no one to look up to in the barber industry like there is in any other industry, right? And so you know, this guy has a statue in the museum in Pennsylvania and it showed me that were barbering started, it was respected, it was a real profession. And the culture that I wanted to build was bringing that back. So that’s how we came up with a name Tomb45.
Carol: That is so cool. That is such a good story. While we’re on stories about naming things, I think I got a little glimpse of the story about how the name Headlines came about and I think our listeners would love hearing that. Can you share it?
Chris: Yeah, that’s a funny one. We were in the barbershop and Perez wanted to name it some name that we’re embarrassed to talk about. He doesn’t like people knowing about it. But we’re coming up with names and we hear the song that Drake made, Headlines, come on.
And I’m like, you know what? That would be a really good barbershop name and we talked about it for a little bit but I didn’t think he was actually going to go get the logo made in a couple of days later, and I’d be looking at a logo that said “Headlines”. So that’s how we came up with the name for the barbershop.
Carol: Very cool. And I love how your logo, you mentioned earlier, it kind of all comes full circle now when you’re talking about who your target market is, with all the middle schoolers and the high schoolers and the whole community. It really looks like your brand very much reflects that. It’s almost very comic-book like. Kind of just, it’s cool and hip and fun. Yeah, it’s still very professional, all at the same time, and it really reflects like raising people up in those communities. It’s a really good fit.
J: I’d love to hear more about where you’re planning to go with the products. Are these products that you are selling out of your own stores or are you trying to sell them through retail or at other trade shows to other barbershops and what types of products are you looking into expanding to? Is this going to be a key part of you business or is this just a secondary thing to try again to push your education side of things like it originally was?
Chris: I think the company has grown way, way bigger than we ever anticipated. Again, we started with shaved gels and making it in our kitchen then in our backyard and then when we talked about scaling up and Danny, he’s a great businessman. Two million miles flown. Scaling up wasn’t the normal typical scaling up. Scaling up was going from a bowl to a five-gallon bucket to a drum to backyard to a garage. That was scaling up for us.
Chris: But we got so much support from our followers and subscribers and stuff—
Daniel: So just for the record, we buy containers from a real factory today. Everything is done legit. FDA-bottled.
Carol: I wasn’t questioning you. Of course it is.
Chris: But it was definitely humble beginnings. Now, like I said, it’s crazy the growth we’ve had and where we’re at today with the product. We didn’t think it was going to be our focus like it is today. Today, it is our focus.
Daniel: So, we are focusing on distribution and I think that when you launch a new product line, regardless of how you’re doing it, a lot of our listeners are probably looking through Amazon podcasts and how their people are building their businesses on Amazon and one of the ways you can build it is through your own product line.
But the pull-through is something very interesting. Amazon has opened a direct distribution like to many, many customers. You’ve got direct access. The direct consumer model, if you will. That does not mean that B2B is dead or business to business and the distribution concept and the distribution value chain is not there.
What it means is we have a different line and a different vertical for attacking those customers directly. So when we launched a new product and we started putting it on Amazon and we put our own label on it, we had to pull through because we had the name recognition. We had the name recognition because we had the online presence. We had the online presence because we provided value first.
So unbeknownst to us, we were building this trend of a culture where the industry was hungry for something along those lines. And it kind of worked out. If I was to go back and say I was going to do that purposely, and I wanted to build my own product line and be able to launch it, I would say, you can do it in the same way. You can follow all the rules that they tell you to follow with advertising your product and trying to build up the clientele.
You can go after influences but buying influences is not the same thing as syncing with influence. The synergetic view of the influencers and the team that we call our core team that actually have the same vision, that is actually what creates the strength for the brand. So we do have a direct line distribution to the consumer, either direct through the website, which we have a decent amount of volume through.
I would say today that it counts for 50% of the business. And the other 50% of the business is probably through distribution. We are opening international distribution, which has been a logistics nightmare and an extreme growing pain for us. How do we do it? Especially when you consider that our strategy is both to direct consumer as well as distribution. Old school B2B distribution. When you got direct consumer, you’ve got to worry about opening all your taxes, opening all your VATs in European countries and Canada and South America.
Yeah, so it is all of that. The main thing with our growth and our growth strategy is through innovation. When you look at our shaved gel bottle, which is we’ll start with the first product. Bossio brought me the shaved gel bottle and I’m like, this doesn’t look good on a shelf. There’s no way that this is ever going to sell. But when a barber sees a shaved gel bottle and they’ve never seen it before, they’re like, this is fantastic. Why didn’t somebody think of this before?
So obvious to them. You can see it’s clear when they are running out as opposed to opaque, which when you know you ran out is when you pump it for the last time and there’s nothing there, kind of like a shampoo bottle. That’s when you know you ran out so you have to go out and buy something. Here, you know when you’re running out. You’re good. It’s got an applicator nozzle so you hold it upside down and shake it and you can get 100% of the product out.
Because you can get 100% of the product out, you’re not cutting the bottom of that pump so that you can scoop it out with your fingers because you’ve run out at the last minute. And there’s so much innovation in a very simple package that I was just blown away. We even colored the gel green because green means ‘rebirth’ in Ancient Eyptian times. So everything we did was on purpose.
When we looked at the next product, you want to talk about the razor handle, our second product?
Chris: Yeah, the razor handle was interesting because we see things in different perspectives. I’m in the shop working and he comes in and he looks at our behavior in the shop. And one of the things he noticed was, we have these razor handles and you put cartridges in them. But barbers, they want the razors that sits in the cartridges to be exposed or non-exposed or medium-exposed. Why don’t we just include all the cartridges in one package? No one has ever done that before.
Carol: There you go.
Chris: It’s like one of those things, like TV products where you’re like, why didn’t I think of that? Nobody thought of that. So that was our second innovative product that I thought was really cool.
Daniel: And so the same business model, when you look at the spreadsheet that we built for Tomb45, it looks very similar to the Headlines business model, especially with the cash on hand. It’s a rollover month to month. There’s a learning curve when you talk about somebody’s—myself and the rest of the team. Nobody on the team had managed inventory and the logistics and online shipping and none of that.
So there’s been a learning curve with that. And we still mess that up quite a bit. Fortunately, we’ve never run out of product for long periods of time. We’re out of gel right now and backordered and we’re going to be out of gel for ten days. So I think we’re going to survive this one as well.
And that’s happened a couple of times where we’re running right on logistics. But I think that as we look at the real fun part of what we’re doing and where the money is coming in and what we’re looking at down the road, it’s definitely through innovation that fixes a problem.
So it’s not a commodity. Even though shave gel is a commodity, we were able to add that value. We were able to find somebody that was value add, market the value add, define the value add to the market, ad get it going. When we had the razor handle, we did the same. And of course, now, we’ve just launched this week a product which we’re really proud of, which is a wireless charging mat
So we’ve got three patent-pending innovation on this one and basically what it is, is we’ve got a device that connects to the clipper, trimmer, or shaver that converts a wireless clipper shaver trimmer that does not charge wirelessly into wireless charging.
If you’ve ever charge wirelessly into wire charging—if you’ve ever been to the barbershop, there’s a lot of wires everywhere. And when I walk into the barbershop, it’s just like, oh, God. All of these wires everywhere. But they need it because they plug in. Because at the end of the target—your battery is dying down. They’ve got this rat’s nest. They’re cutting hair with the crazy rat’s nest rattling around everywhere.
But if you can charge throughout the day, it would work so we innovated an input device, a conversion device. We were able to get a patent on that. Or a patent pending on that.
Chris: I would have brought it if I knew it was going to be on video. It’s beautiful. It’s a mat that lays on your barber’s counter. He puts the attachment to his clipper, lays his clipper down, and it’s charging. He’s never going to have any issue running out of battery. It stays on—it’s a game-changer for the industry.
Carol: That’s just so cool listening to all these stories. Did you bring a lot of outside consultants or did you really just realize by operating your shops that these are just things you need? And so you just kind of figured it out.
Chris: We do like crazy stuff, the whole shotgun theory. We didn’t know how to get things started, but Danny, I remember one day we just bought flights to China.
Daniel: Jump on a plane and go. Because in reality, none of us had been a product of the element, like true product development. Like R&D of a product. None of us had defined a product, engineered a product, and managed that. I had done some product management in the corporate world but it was all business intelligence software stuff. It was never anything physical.
Right, so when we look at something physical, you’ve got to physically draw it. You’ve got to draw it in Autocad. You’ve got to create tooling for it. Then the tooling has to go through, you’ve got a source component. And we basically jumped on a plane, went over there, wasted a lot of time on our first trip—and money. Actually, we took a big step back with the amount of money. We bought a product that we were going to launch the product guide here, and it was so horrible, we had to throw it all away.
And cash on hand, we spent the cash on hand for this next product. And we literally opened the dumpster and threw it in there because we weren’t putting our name behind that. We were not putting our name behind that. The manufacturer was not backing it. They weren’t going to replace it and we were done with it.
So then we built the cash on hand back up. We jumped on the flights, went back out there again. And you know, by the third or fourth time, we realized that we didn’t need a consultant. We have a team in China now that helps us out quite a bit. We land. They pick us up. And they’re with us until we take off.
All of a sudden, the food is so much better. All of a sudden, I can take a taxi. We don’t have to fly everywhere. We can jump on the trains because getting a train in China, if you don’t speak Chinese, that’s fairly difficult. And our airports and our hotels are much cheaper, too. To the point where if you’re going to spend ten days in China and you can hire one of these consultants, he will probably be cheaper than what you’ll spend on your learning curve.
Daniel: And a much better experience.
Carol: That’s a great tip.
Daniel: And then of course, we launched a product, an air compressor last year in September and we were told that this was going to be exclusive to us. We helped them finalize the design of it. We launched it, and two weeks later, we saw a competitor with it. And now two and a half months later, we saw it on Alibaba for a fifth of the retail price.
Chris: It was one of the products that we made the market for, we developed it, and yeah—they screwed us over.
Carol: Ouch, that’s painful.
Daniel: But we learned from that. We moved on.
Carol: You learned.
Chris: We learned and we recently launched our newest compressor, a cordless compressor. It’s got double the power of anything out there, wireless charging capability, it’s another game-changer for the industry. But if that wouldn’t have happened, we wouldn’t have come up with the new innovations we have now. So I guess you’ve got to fail.
Daniel: But I’ve got to say, the coolest part of launching that was when we added wireless charging to that device. So we launched it on December 9th and what we did was, I wanted to fly in our influencer friends and we realized, wait, that’s a big ticket item. Why don’t we associate with the training thing?
So we did the training class where we did some education and then from there, we also had the influencers and we basically launched this product. We tried to do an Apple Steve Jobs thing. As we learned, we’re going to get better at that. But when we launched it, we launched it and we had this wireless charging capability built into it.
We could not tell anybody because if we told anybody, they would obviously put two and two together. They would start thinking of wireless charging additional tools. So we launched it, sold it. People were receiving these devices and not knowing that it charged wirelessly until we launched.
Carol: That’s awesome. What a great—if that’s not icing on the cake, right? We’ve got this great tool, and oh, P.S., you can charge it wirelessly. Boom. That’s amazing.
Daniel: Value up front, right? Lifestyle.
Chris: We launched and then, they’re like wait? My compressor charges wirelessly? Wow.
Carol: That’s so cool.
J: So I think the thing that stands out to me so readily is you guys have really been innovators in this industry that’s been around forever. You’ve innovated on the business model. You’ve innovated on the marketing. You’ve innovated on the employees or the contractors in the business and now you’re innovating on the product side. And I absolutely love that.
Again, this isn’t a new industry where there’s always a lot of change going on. You guys took over an industry or jumped into an industry that like you’ve said have been around for thousands of years. Tremendous credit to you guys for what you’ve accomplished.
Daniel: Thank you, yeah. We’re definitely looking forward to a post-September or December maybe follow-up. We’ve got a software as a service product that we are launching and again, I think that innovation is because it’s looked at how to make life easier. We’ve identified problems, not problems, but challenges inside the barbershop from the individual barber and from the barbershop owner’s perspective. And how can we make life easier and more efficient?
Not just from that perspective but when you look at a charging mat, it’s a modular growth, if you will, because of the economics behind it. You can start off slow and then you can add modules to increase the capacity. So everything we’ve done has been from that concept where it’s—we’re conscious of the cash flow available for many of these barbers. We’re consciously of the cash flow for the barbershop owner and we’re conscious of the individual growth that they can have.
And I can’t wait until we do some software stuff, which is our next one. Because as much success as we’ve got going on now, we’ve got some products that are launching June 2nd. We are going to be introducing the additional adapters for more hardware that will allow that hardware to charge wirelessly. But that’s done and over with.
Chris: The next big thing is our software bit.
Carol: That’s so cool. I think it’s fair to say that you’re not only innovating, I think it’s fair to say that you’re revolutionizing the whole barber industry. Because the way you’re talking about this is clearly just stuff that hasn’t been done in a many thousands of years old industry and you’re just changing this whole thing up and it’s amazing. So much fun to listen to.
Thank you so much for all of that. So now we’re going to jump into the part of our show that we call Four More, okay? So we’re going to ask you four rapid fire style questions. You can take turns answering them and then at the end, you’re going to tell us about where we can find out more about you. Sound good?
Daniel: Let’s go.
Carol: Okay, J, you take the first question.
J: Okay, and this is for both of you. I want to hear answers from both of you. What is your first or your worst job that you’ve ever had, and what lessons did you take that you’ve used in your industry today?
Chris: Dishwashing at a buffet. Worst job ever. And my dad used to pick me up and laugh at me because I took the job because I was upset about him. Or upset about the job he was giving me. And the thing that I learned from that is, take control of your life. You’re not going to be happy with everything that you receive, but look at the cup half full, not half empty.
Daniel: I was thinking about it while you were answering. I’ve only really had one bad job. And it was just micromanagement hell. I’ve been lucky enough to be upper directorship level management, executive level management in the white collar world for most of my corporate career and then working for myself, I get to call the shots and that’s pretty much my personality.
And when you’re managing a group of such talented people, kind of like I am, I got really lucky with the Tomb45 group and the Tomb Squad with the talent they have and the drive and passion that they have, you cannot micromanage that personality. I mean, I realize that it’s doing really well for Elon Musk, apparently, but not me. I can’t do that. I can’t be managed like that. It was micromanagement from hell.
It was very late in my career. It was a gig that I was looking forward to. I’m a nerd at heart and I want to do some cybersecurity stuff and I wanted to play with it. So I took a job and three months later, I had to tell them I had to go. And what I learned was basically reinforcement from that. Yeah, I’m definitely macro in my style and my beliefs are much more micromanagement styles than micro.
Carol: Love it. Okay, next question. What’s an opportunity along the way that you’ve said no to? And do you think it was the right decision?
Chris: A lot of sponsorship offers with bigger companies. I didn’t sell myself out. I wanted to be able to give an unbiased opinion on all the products that I use. And then what I was doing and not taking these sponsorships. I feel like a lot of people would or the culture, in the barber industry, they kind of look up to that and decide no, we’re going to build our own thing. We’re going to do it ourselves because we can. We can create our own platform. And I think that was the one thing that I turned down that I’m happy I did.
Daniel: Yeah, I think for me it was basically, I married my middle school sweetheart and somewhere around 34 years old, my wife came back. We were expatriate in Argentina. We came back to our home in Tampa and she didn’t pack. She was done. She wasn’t going to expatriate. And I think most of my peers would have just kept their career. I gave up my career at that point for my family. And I’m thankful I did, obviously. Everything’s worked out.
J: That’s awesome.
J: So what is some of the worst advice you hear in your industry or some of the worst advice you’ve been given, and how do you turn that into good advice?
Daniel: There’s so much bad advice in this industry. There is so much bad advice. In this industry, we hear a lot of people talking about hey, I’m going to go get my LLC. Okay, so who are you partnering with? What do you mean who am I going to partner with? It’s just me. So you’re just going to do a single-member LLC. Why are you doing a single-member LLC? Well, I was told I have to have my own business.
And there’s no context and understanding that an LLC is designed in order to protect him from me and me from him. It’s limited liability from your partner, not from your customers, people. They’re piercing the corporate veil. Come on, you still need insurance and all that. So there’s this misinterpretation of business setup which is the very first conversation. And unfortunately, from there, it goes downhill.
I would definitely say sponsorship is the second one. A lot of people say, go and try to get sponsorship. But then you’re selling out. You’re not standing for everything. There’s no why. It’s just a what. There’s so much what to do. You need to get a company. You need to go get a sponsorship. But nobody really asks why do you need to do that? And does that flow with my mentality and my vision and destination?
Carol: Great. Okay, so fourth question—in your personal or business life, what is something that you’ve splurge on that’s been totally worth it?
Chris: For me, I don’t know if this is splurging but I went on like a year where I spent a lot of money on self-development, on education. Like, classes in our industry for continued education are pretty expensive. There’s been times where I’ve spent my month’s income on taking a class because I wanted to better myself and be able to share this information with other people. So I splurged a lot of money on that and cars that break down.
Daniel: He won’t let me buy him a nice car. This is a true story. Bossio drives a $1000 car. His car broke down. We went and I find him a $15,000 car and I’m like, I’m going to buy it. Let’s buy this car with the company money and stuff, and that way we’ve got a reliable car. He says, no way we are spending that much money on a car right now.
Find me a cheaper car. So I found him a $7500 car and he says, no way. So I jokingly showed him a $1000 car, which he says, that’s the one I want. So now we manage—we define every expense on the number of Bossio cars. So if we spend $3000, we spend three Bossio cars. When we spend $10,000, we spend 10 Bossio cars.
Chris: I just have really bad luck with cars so I’m not putting more money into it.
Carol: That’s a true entrepreneur right there though, who is proud of their car if it costs next to nothing. That is like entrepreneurship wrapped up in a nice package.
Daniel: I splurge on my home. I live on the water and it gives me no excuse to not pick up my six-year-old son and go fishing three times a day. Because it takes me five minutes on my boat, two minutes to get on the water where I can fish. I sat next to a lot of what I call airplane Joes where we are obviously workaholics.
We obviously put in 60-hour work weeks. We’re listening to this podcast and every other podcast that can feed us information and we’re not present when we’re home. I try to leave my phone at the dining room table when I take my son fishing. I try to put my phone down when I’m driving 99.9% of the time in the car and talk to my daughter.
And I sat next to so many airplane Joes for so long that have told me, don’t let your kids’ life go by. And you wake up and they’re gone. So for me, I splurged on the house and being on the water and I do a lot of fishing with my six-year-old. And he swears, he’s caught 15-pound bass. He swears he’s gotten this close to catching alligators. And that’s perfect.
Carol: Of course he has.
J: Awesome, awesome. Well, thank you guys so much. Daniel, I think you wanted to mention a little honor for Chris.
Daniel: I am super excited. This weekend, we attended the world’s largest barber expo dedicated to barbers, known as Connecticut Barbers’ Expo. It’s put on by a fantastic person, Jay Majors. He’s definitely elevating the industry. We’re very proud of where it’s going. And we did the first ever Barber Grammys, which is just put on fantastic.
I mean, it was done right, it was elevated. It’s something that the industry is going to look forward to. The cosmetology industry already has something like this and now we’ve got something like this, too. So the first ever Barber Grammy was won by Chris Bossio for Educator of the Year.
Carol: Congratulations, that’s amazing.
Daniel: He almost got emotional on stage. He was right on the edge.
Chris: I almost cracked but I held my composure. It was just amazing to get some recognition.
J: I can imagine—do you know how many people are in this industry?
Chris: We don’t, but there’s a barbershop on every corner here in Florida. I don’t know about you guys.
J: It’s got to be a ridiculous number of people. I mean, that is a huge honor. Congratulations, Chris.
Carol: Congratulations. It’s wonderful.
Chris: I appreciate it, guys.
J: That’s awesome. Okay, we’re going to take this last piece of the show and I want to give you guys an opportunity to tell us a little bit about where we can find more about you, how we can follow you on social media, how our listeners can get in touch. And most importantly, how we can buy your products and visit one of your shops.
Chris: So for me, I’m all over social media. I’m on every platform as Chris Bossio. You can just look up my name and I’ll pull up, especially YouTube. That’s where I spend most of my time and Instagram. And the website, you can find us at Tomb45.com. All of our products are there. And then we have an app.
We didn’t even talk about the app. But we have an app, Headlines Barbers that you can go and see all of our locations as well. And then Danny just started becoming an influencer. He signed his first autograph the other day at the Expo. And so he’s on social media now.
Daniel: Yeah, so our industry is in need of some basic education so I’ll be putting out some very basic stuff. And then hopefully building it up. The more complex we get, the more we’ll lose people so we need to keep it basic and eye-opening. But yeah, Tomb45.com. I’m on Instagram at @TombDoc. But Tomb45 is spelled as Tomb Raider, but Tomb45. That’s where you can find us.
We are on Amazon as far as North American markets go and we are expanding internationally at this point. Hopefully in the next couple of months.
Chris: The Tomb45 Instagram is @OfficialTomb45.
Daniel: That’s right.
Carol: Official Tomb45. Excellent.
J: And all of your shops are in—I don’t think we even mentioned. You mentioned New Tampa at one point, but all of your shops are down in Tampa, Florida?
Chris: In the Tampa Bay area, yeah.
Carol: Awesome. Can’t wait to come see you guys. Thank you so much, you amazing barber revolutionaries. You’re inspiring people, for sure.
Daniel: Thank you for having us. It was fun talking about this stuff. It had been a while since we told anybody. Actually, I think we kind of kept it under wraps though. We actually did the actual product in our kitchen for a little bit. This may be the first public time that we tell people that we did this product in our kitchen for thousands and thousands of bottles.
Chris: I’m proud of it, though. To be where we’re at today.
J: The Origin Story. I love it. Cool. Well, thank you guys so much. We appreciate having you here and we will talk to you soon.
J: That was an awesome show. I love those guys. What did you think, Carol?
Carol: They are such the real deal, right? They are so completely authentic and I love how they immerse themselves in the community and they talk about elevating the industry. It really shines through in every single thing that they do. I love talking with them.
J: And I love the fact that they make such a great partnership. So Chris, he’s the constant operator. He knows the business like nobody else. And then you have Daniel who, he’s the business guy. Between them, they figured out how to scale and grow this thing tremendously. I love it.
Carol: Me too.
J: Okay, are we good?
Carol: Let’s wrap this up, baby.
J: Okay. She is Carol. I am J.
Carol: Now go do something small but figure out how to make it big today. See you later, everybody!
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