There is no doubt that the grooming sector is a lucrative one, and as the modern man realises his appearance is part of his journey to success, those that have mastered the art of running grooming parlours are happy campers.
Like any other child growing up, James Ngare, 31, had a dream, and his was to become a pilot. But this dream never came to fruition, instead, James, fondly known as Jimmy Jey, found his footing in the grooming sector.
His interest in barbering was sparked while still a high school student.
“I used to hang out at the shop of a barber called Onyi Papa in Lakeview, Nakuru, and would watch with fascination as he shaved heads,” he begins.
One day, during a visit to the barbershop, his friend stepped out to run an errand, and on returning, found James experimenting on a schoolboy who had come for a cut. Instead of the barber admonishing him, he guided him on how to do it better, and just like that, he became his mentor. James took his apprenticeship seriously.
“I would go to the barbershop every weekend ready to learn. Upon competing secondary school, I joined Onyi as a full time employee, receiving a commission of Sh20 for every client I shaved,” explains James.
In 2010, he sought greener pastures at a different barbershop in Nakuru town center, where he was making Sh8, 000 per month. The amount seemed good, but a tragedy in the family forced him to seek employment with better terms.
“My mother died four years after I started my new job, and as the first born, I had to find a way of fending for my father and siblings.”
The idea of starting his own barbershop took root, and he begun saving towards it. By then, a friend had offered him a job that paid a monthly salary of Sh20, 000.
In December 2014, with his savings in hand and a loan from a chama, James resigned, and on January 2015, officially became his own boss having set up his business, Jimmy Jey Barbers, located at Masters Plaza in Nakuru.
The businessman employs a diverse cost-effective marketing strategy which includes promotions, social media advertising, special offer activities on selected dates, referral marketing and participation in events and community activities.
He says that the best business credit comes from recommendations and shared experiences, that the success of such a business comes from great customer service.
“You cannot run a successful barbershop or excel in sector if customers don’t feel good in your salon. Their experience and service should be memorable,” he says, adding,
“Talent is the most important part of the job, though extra attention can be effective too. This could be coffee or a small snack, or even a complimentary cut for most loyal customers.”
Since the service industry is competitive, to stay ahead of the game, James keeps learning and training his employees. Social media has also played a big role in his success.
“It allows people to see aspects of the industry that they never knew existed. Social channels also offer a constant source of inspiration for barbers. I look at other barbers’ work to learn new techniques..”
With a steady growth pattern, increased respect for the industry and a fresh perspective, it is no surprise that modern-day barbering is much different from that of years past.
“One of the biggest changes I have noticed is the variety of products. Long gone are the days of finishing a cut with some water and a comb. Well-groomed hair requires a variety of products,” says the businessman.
Fast-forward from 2015 when he started his business with just two barber chairs, his bigger barbershop now has 16 barber chairs having moved to a new location in October 2022. The facility also has two massage rooms serving at least 20 clients in a day. Currently, he has three employees on permanent terms of employment and 10 more workers paid on commission basis.
“We offer haircuts, hair dyes, beard trims, massage, gel application, pedicure and manicure, facials and waxing under the same roof. Our charges vary from Sh500 to Sh5, 000 depending on the services offered.”
Giving back to the community is important to him.
“I and my friends in the business visit children’s homes as part of our CSR and also give free haircuts to street children twice a month on Sundays, something I want to involve other barbers from different counties in.”
In 2017 during the Hair and Beauty Expo at the Sarit Centre, James was awarded Best Barber and in 2022, his business was voted Best Barbershop and Spa in Nakuru, during the Nakuru County Mums and Dads 2022 Awards.
“I am glad I have created employment for the youth, I might have missed living my childhood dream, but I am proud of what I have achieved,” he says, adding that he intends to launch his own hair-care product line, as he works towards opening branches in other towns and starting a barber and beauty school in Nakuru. Investors, he adds, are welcome to partner with him.