business

Small Business Success Story: A Barber on the Cutting Edge

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

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:

See Our Slide Show: 6 Surprisingly Simple Ideas That Made Millions

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!”

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.

Most Popular

The 11 Most Expensive Cities in the U.S.
real estate

The 11 Most Expensive Cities in the U.S.

From metro areas on both coasts to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, these are the priciest cities in the U.S. to call home.
August 9, 2022
Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
You'll Save More on Green Home Improvements Under the Inflation Reduction Act
Tax Breaks

You'll Save More on Green Home Improvements Under the Inflation Reduction Act

Tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements will be extended and expanded by the Inflation Reduction Act.
August 12, 2022

Recommended

Audit-Proof Your Small Business
small business

Audit-Proof Your Small Business

Eight tips for keeping your business expenses and record-keeping organized.
August 1, 2022
How to Control Your Business Exit
small business

How to Control Your Business Exit

Many business owners reach retirement age only to find they don’t have a viable exit plan. Avoid falling into that trap by getting your company ready …
July 17, 2022
Economic Pain at a Food Pantry
personal finance

Economic Pain at a Food Pantry

The manager of this Boston-area nonprofit has had to scramble to find affordable food.
June 28, 2022
Most-Overlooked Tax Deductions and Credits for the Self-Employed
Tax Breaks

Most-Overlooked Tax Deductions and Credits for the Self-Employed

If you've recently gone into business for yourself, don't miss these tax breaks for the self-employed.
June 11, 2022