Nothing beats a trip to the local barbershop: getting a professional hair cut in a shop with vintage decor, a congenial atmosphere, and the strong aroma of male grooming products is an experience every man should have from time to time.
While most men are content in visiting the local barbershop on occasion, for budding entrepreneurs skilled in cutting hair, opening a barbershop of one’s own is a viable business venture. After experiencing a steady decline in the ’90s and 2000s, barbershops are back and more popular than ever, with barbering becoming one of the fastest-growing professions in the country. There’s no better time than the present to start this type of business.
In this post, we’ll examine the characteristics that make a great barber and then run through the step-by-step process of opening a barbershop. After the hard work of establishing a new business is complete, you’ll find that being a self-employed barber is one of the most rewarding professions around.
Is opening a barbershop right for you?
Running your own barbershop takes more than just being able to cut hair and give a tight shave (although those skills are important). Here are some traits that make a good barbershop owner.
You have attended barber school and/or have years of experience in men’s grooming.
Cutting and styling men’s hair is more complicated than it appears: a skilled barber must know how and when to use the various types of clippers, scissors, combs, and other tools of the trade while staying faithful to a customer’s stylistic vision.
There’s no substitute for barber school when it comes to learning the trade. Typically, a barber school program costs $5000 – $10,000 lasts one year. During the program, experienced instructors train students on everything there is to know about the art of barbering while providing plenty of opportunities for trainees to hone their skills. In lieu of a barber school education, a few years of on-the-job training and experience might fill the gaps, but it’s not quite the same.
Bottom line: if you haven’t received a barber school education or spent at least a few years working in another barbershop, you probably aren’t ready to open a shop of your own.
You enjoy conversing with clients and don’t mind small talk.
In many neighborhoods, the local barbershop is more than just a place to get a haircut, rather, it’s a central communal hub where men congregate to shoot the breeze, talk about what’s going on in their lives, and discuss current events.
Being the quiet type that isn’t much for small talk doesn’t automatically disqualify you from opening a barbershop, but having a willingness to chat with customers is a definite plus.
You can find the capital necessary to open a shop.
The start-up costs for opening a barbershop can cost between $100,000 and $150,000, a considerable sum. If that amount seems unattainable at the current moment, perhaps its best to put in a couple more years at another barbershop to save some more money. Alternatively, a small business loan may be able to bridge the gap.
Barbershop industry statistics at-a-glance
- The mean annual wage for a barber is $30,480, however, those that own their own shops can earn a great deal more.
- There are around 20,000 professional barbers in the United States.
- The barber, hairstyling, and cosmetology industry is expected to grow by 8% by 2028, which is faster than average.
- Barbershops are a $5 billion dollar industry in the U.S.
How to open a barbershop step-by-step
1. Develop your business model
Upon deciding to open a barbershop, the first step is to write a business plan that covers all aspects of your prospective business, including the hair care services you plan to offer and financial goals.
Consider the following questions:
- What decor theme and atmosphere are you aiming for? A vintage feel, a more modern look, or something else?
- Beyond haircuts, which barber services will be offered by your barbershop?
- Which amenities (beer, snacks, etc.) do you plan to provide to your waiting customers?
- How much will you charge customers? Pricing should be determined by several factors, including your experience, the average income of neighborhood residents, and what you think is fair.
- Who is the target market? Are you aiming to attract young people or catering to an older crowd?
2. Select a location
Next, its time to rent out a commercial property in which to open your barbershop. Try to find a spot that’s affordable and in a well-trafficked area that will bring in a lot of foot traffic. The cost will vary considerably depending on the area.
3. Calculate your expenses and purchase equipment
After you’ve settled on a location, you can draft an expense sheet that includes all the necessary equipment, furniture, and other important items that you expect to purchase. Here’s a list of barbershop essentials you’ll likely need to pick up:
- Barber equipment – Clippers, scissors, trimmers, shaving kits, razors, brushes, and every other tool of the trade.
- Barber chairs and furniture – Get at least three chairs that fit with the decor that you are going for. Additionally, you should set up a waiting area for customers with a couch and coffee table.
- Shop equipment – A cash register, card readers, etc.
- Grooming and styling products – Most men buy their grooming products at physical locations rather than over the web, so you should make a wide range of high-quality products available at your shop.
- Decorations – There’s nothing attractive or memorable about a barren barbershop, so fill it with framed pictures, knick-knacks, memorabilia, and other decorative items that align with the shop’s atmosphere and your personality.
4. Hire employees or rent out a chair to an established barber
Your barbershop should hire at least one additional employee to work on your off-days and take care of customers during busy hours.
Additionally. it’s common in the barber industry for shops to rent out chairs to experienced barbers, who charge their own price and earn a 40%-70% commission on their earnings.
5. Acquire funding, choose a business entity, register your business, and obtain federal and state tax ID numbers
Refer to our How to Start a Business Guide for instructions on how to complete these essential steps.
6. Obtain the necessary licenses and permits
Laws vary between states, but there are one or two licensing requirements that a barbershop owner can expect to fulfill, including:
- General business license – In some municipalities, anyone opening a retail business in town is required to obtain a business license from the local government. Check with local officials to find out if it’s necessary for your area.
- Barber’s license – Even if it’s not required to open a barbershop in your area, getting a barber license to hang on the wall will boost your confidence and let your customers know that you are an experienced professional.
To become a licensed barber, applicants typically need to fulfill certain requirements, such as completing 1000 hours of barber training and passing a written exam. The barber’s license application fee is usually affordable, ranging between $20-$100.
- Reseller’s license (or permit) – A certification that allows business owners to buy goods wholesale and sell them to customers. Necessary for barbershops that stock shampoos, conditioners, and styling products.
7. Buy insurance coverage
Taking out one or more forms of insurance for your barbershop is a good idea considering the cumulative value of the equipment, furniture, and other goods in the shop.
What’s more, if a business has one or more full-time employees, federal law requires it to have two forms of insurance, while others are highly recommended, or even required in certain states.
Here are the forms of insurance you should consider buying for your barbershop:
Required forms of insurance for all business with employees:
- Workers’ compensation: Covers medical costs and disability benefits if an employee is injured or becomes ill on the job.
- Unemployment insurance: Provides benefits to workers after a loss of job through no personal fault.
Recommended forms of insurance for barbershops:
- Professional liability insurance: Covers losses as a result of property damage, medical expenses, libel, slander, and negligence claims.
- Commercial property insurance: Covers property damage to business-owned properties and possessions as a result of fire, theft, or storm.
- Disability insurance: Provides short-term benefits for employees suffering an illness or injury. Required in certain states such as California, New York, and Hawaii.
8. Market your barbershop
Don’t bank on exterior signage and word-of-mouth to bring in new customers: these days, no barbershop can thrive without local advertisements and a well-established online presence. Here are the key steps for promoting your business:
- Create a website. Register a domain name for a company website (You can use domain.com, Bluehost, GoDaddy.com, or Namecheap.com). Hire a web designer to develop the website (or do it yourself). Be sure to include detailed contact information on the site.
- Open social media accounts. Register accounts on the popular social media services (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)
- Register a Google profile. This will allow you to add pictures of your business, respond to positive customer reviews, and address customer concerns.
- Respond to online customer feedback. Register accounts on business review platforms such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. This will allow you to write thank-you notes in response to glowing reviews and address negative reviews.
- Take out ads on billboards and in local publications. It still pays to increase visibility by buying ads in local newspapers and on highway billboards.
Barbershop business resources
- Barber Depot – An online shop devoted to barber equipment that offers a wide range of clippers, shears, barber furniture, barber poles, and other accessories. Barber Depot generously provides free shipping on most US orders over $85.
- Barber Supply – Another online barber supplies store with a vast assortment of barber tools, accessories, and grooming products for sale.
- American Barber Association – The nation’s leading barber advocacy organization. The ABA offers industry news, business advice, and opportunities for members to acquire industry-recognized certifications. Every barber should seriously consider becoming a member.
National Association of Barbers: The Top Five Barber Programs – A list of five excellent barber schools located across the country selected by the National Association of Barbers, another reputed barber organization.