Full disclosure – I’m not a barber. By trade, I’m a business adviser. But I’ve always been interested in the barbering industry from an entrepreneurial perspective. What fascinates me is that half the barbering industry is self-employed. You don’t get such a high level of self-employment in a lot of other industries. Looking from the outside in, what self-employed barbers are getting in return doesn’t seem to match their self-employment status.
When I go into barbershops as a customer, I see employees – even if the barbers have a self-employed status. This inspired me to start asking people in the industry about self-employment. I spoke to about 20 freelance barbers and they all started voicing the same frustration around the model. Namely, a lack of freedom to choose hours, prices and what they were retailing. A lot of them wanted the freedom to market their own business and establish a brand. And so my concept Cut Park was born.
At Cut Park, barbers join as members. Each barber has a pop-up studio space where they can have their own branding. There’s a fixed rent fee – with no separate utility bills or added extras. Eventually I want to see our studio owners become so successful that they’re able to take out a lease on separate premises. All the different barbershops will have different pricing structures and it’s up to the barbers to justify their price. What’s your business model? Fast and cheap 30 minute cuts or longer and more experiential hour and a half long appointments? We want to offer different options for clients and create an environment where different business models can thrive. We’re starting off in Reading, but I hope to roll out the model in other towns and cities.
I want to foster a sense of camaraderie and community at Cut Park – and make it a place to share ideas and offer support. We’re going to bring in key speakers, social media experts, offer tax advice and offer a roster of different talks. Our ethos is that you’re going into business for yourself, not by yourself. Places like We Work and BOXPARK have given freelancers and small businesses the freedom and flexibility to rent a space to work, without the commitment and responsibility of renting a whole building. So why can’t we offer that kind of option to barbers?
From a barber’s perspective, a lot of people I’ve spoken to are still cautious about being self-employed. They’re worried we’re going to tell them what to do. Legally if a barber is self-employed you cannot tell them what to wear or what price to charge. I do believe there’s a place for both self employed and employed models in the barbering industry though. There is certainly value in employed barbers and I see shop owners shifting towards that mindset so that they can build the brand and community they want. At the end of the day at Cut Park it’s the barbers that are my clients, not the people coming in getting their haircut… so if they’re happy, I’m happy.
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PV got in touch with us after he saw the article “Why I choose to employ my staff rather than renting chairs” by Chris O’Sullivan, owner of Grizzly’s Male Hair Salon in the last issue of Modern Barber. If you’ve got an article idea, please get in touch with us at charlotte@ modernbarber.co.uk, we love hearing your opinions.