Small Business Success Story: A Barber on the Cutting Edge

He offers an old-school experience with a modern, masculine twist.

(Image credit: Benjamin Rasmussen)

Kiplinger's spoke with Anthony Full (pictured at left), 56, founder and owner of Rock Barbers, a Louisville, Colo.-based barbershop. Here, he discusses why he decided to start his own business after years of working for someone else. Read on for an excerpt from our interview:

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What prompted you to start your own business? Since 1979, I’ve worked in and run hair salons and barbershops. My previous job was good, but it felt routine. I’m a self-starter, and I wanted to accomplish something that I could model for my children. One of my clients shared a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes that resonated with me: “Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them!” If you have a well-thought-out idea, the risk lies in not taking it.

Why a classic American barbershop? Men always feel conspicuous in a hair salon, and barbershops are making a comeback. Rock Barbers focuses exclusively on men, and we practice old-school barbering with a modern twist. We still offer hot-towel shaves, but we’ll also detail your beard and give expert haircuts. We advertise, “Dude, Get a Haircut!”

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For two bits? No, the cuts are $29 and up, and the hot-towel shave is $35.

What’s special about your shop? It’s designed for masculine comfort. We chose substantial chairs and outfitted our stations with Kobalt toolboxes. We have flat-screen TVs, a putting green and a guitar for anyone to play. You can converse privately with your barber or join in shopwide chatter. Clients can book their appointments online.

Did you have a business plan? Absolutely. Writing one forces you to answer questions that you don’t want to answer: What is my true market? What is the cost of the advertising I’d like to do? What are the tax implications of my decisions? I needed help with financial projections, so I consulted two of my clients who are accountants and another who is a CFO.

Where’d you get financing? I took a home-equity line of credit—the cheapest money going—for $150,000. The line isn’t paid off yet because we’ve consistently reinvested profits back into the business, but we regularly make extra payments against the loan principal.

Is the shop profitable? Yes. In 2010, our first year, when it was just me, Rock Barbers grossed $50,000 in sales. Now I employ eight other barbers and four front-desk staff. The business grossed more than $400,000 in sales in 2014 and will exceed that this year.

Are you making a living? My wife is also a hairstylist and works out of our home. We combine our businesses under Rock Barbers LLC and take a combined annual salary of $50,000. That’s much less than I made previously, and like all founders, I’m working eight days a week and 25 hours a day! But my business rewards me in ways other than money.

What’s next? I’m launching a line of hair-care products called Rock Tools for Men in early 2015. We’ve earmarked about $50,000 to get it off the ground. New product lines typically get purchased by makers of existing products. So this is probably a shorter-term play if the line gets traction.

Will you ever retire? No. I’ll probably reduce the days and hours that I work, but the social part is so rewarding. I’ll die with my boots on.

Patricia Mertz Esswein
Contributing Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Esswein joined Kiplinger in May 1984 as director of special publications and managing editor of Kiplinger Books. In 2004, she began covering real estate for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, writing about the housing market, buying and selling a home, getting a mortgage, and home improvement. Prior to joining Kiplinger, Esswein wrote and edited for Empire Sports, a monthly magazine covering sports and recreation in upstate New York. She holds a BA degree from Gustavus Adolphus College, in St. Peter, Minn., and an MA in magazine journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University.