Our latest interview is focused on a business owner who took a memorable experience with his dad and made it fly! His name is Jim Valenzuela, the creator of V’s Barbershop.
I wanted to interview another inspiring entrepreneur (just like you) who went with his passion!!! I dove into his big brain on the “V’s Barbershop” image experience and his tips for other owners to do the same.
What was reinforced to me by this incredibly interesting, resourceful and inspiring entrepreneur?
- Keep It Simple.
- Know Your Customer.
- Create An Experience.
V’s Barbershop’s (currently 16 locations in 7 states) are attracting attention and clients because they are unique and offer an interesting experience.
And Probably The Most Inspiring Reminder of All? You have to RISK to SUCCEED!
One Very Cool Personal Interview.
NAME OF COMPANY: V’s Barbershop
WEBSITE URL: www.vbarbershop.com
FOUNDER/CEO: Jim Valenzuela
DESCRIPTION OF COMPANY: V’s Barbershop “It’s A Guy Thing”
GOAL: It is my goal to provide a first-class barbershop experience at a reasonable price. If we do our job right then you too will get more than a haircut and a shave—the experience will be memorable. My dad died in 2003 and in his memory I sincerely hope that the barbershop experience at V’s is something that you and your son remember for a long time.
Giving to the community is a core value…the most needy; the local schools, the local little league in our neighborhood…those are the guys coming into our local barbershop too.
LOCATION(S): 16 locations and growing. Arizona (8), California (3), Indiana (1), Missouri (1), New Jersey (1), Washington (1) and Texas (1). Jim sold its first franchise in 2005.
YEAR BIZ LAUNCHED: 1999
When Jim Valenzuela “V” opened the first V’s Barbershop & Shoeshine in 1999, he simply wanted a traditional barbershop to take his son for a haircut. But what he found was something quite extraordinary — massive demand for a high-end, stylish, old-fashioned men’s grooming establishment.
Word-of-mouth spread quickly among Phoenix’s affluent. Before long, V was opening additional stores as fast as he could. He had hit on something that was not only unique and desirable, but also a replicable formula for success.
WHO IS YOUR IDEAL CLIENT/NICHE?
Professional men (lawyers, doctors, CPA’s, etc.) and Grandfather/Father/Sons.
V’s Barbershops are upscale venues that resonate with successful men who value appearance and take pride in their grooming habits. There is no “quick cut” or beauty salon feel to any V’s Barbershops.
- Most current chains targeting mens’ and boys’ haircutting, including those who call themselves “barbershops”, have adopted a salon model. That is, they employ mostly cosmetologists to provide services and do not include shaving or men’s facials as part of their service offerings. The only thing that they have in common with real barbershops is that they have targeted men and boys as their customers.
- Demographic trends suggest that baby boomers will have a great impact on the economy. They are at their peak earning potential and value life’s small luxuries. Most have to be properly groomed and look good for work and tend to turn conservative as they age. That just described the V’s customer!
HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA TO START V’s BARBERSHOP?
The answer lies in nostalgia, my fond memories of going to the barbershop for a haircut with my dad while growing up in Tucson, Arizona. I keenly remember the sights and smells of Nick’s Barbershop and the real experience of being a boy among men. It was a place that we could go together and do more than get a haircut. It was a place that made lasting memories.
My son was born in 1994 and I went looking for a barbershop that would let me make memories with him. I did not find the barbershop that I was looking for in Phoenix, or anywhere else, so I decided to open one. This proved to be a challenge, as I am not a Barber and knew nothing of the industry. In 1999, the first V’s Barbershop & Shoeshine opened. We have given thousands of haircuts to men and their sons since.
WHAT SOURCE(S) OF INSPIRATION DID YOU USE TO DEVELOP YOUR IMAGE?
3 things for the venue experience…
(2) Ralph Lauren Polo ‘lifestyle’ brand.
(3) Downtown Athletic Club in NYC – where they give the Heisman Trophy each year…it’s a bask of masculinity.
WHERE DID THE NAME COME FROM AS WELL AS, THE THEME/OVERALL IMAGE?
Jim Valenzuela “V”
Décor: Nostalgia and upscale décor…real barber chairs, collection of sports memorabilia (contains those meaningful events and personalities that capture the golden moments in sports), TV’s at every barber station.
The brand was to develop a lifestyle for the company…clean, easy on the eye, stuff on walls to stem conversation – to get them talking about the iconic thing.
WHAT ARE YOU REALLY CONVEYING?
A value to the viewer that is CONSISTENT. People try to do something off-brand and mess up. ALWAYS stay on track with what the brand represents (no nail service in a barbershop).
The minute you arrive, you see the authenticity. You see the shoeshine guy. You notice the colors which are masculine. You notice the dark, hard woods which are prevalent.
WHAT IS THE “WOW FACTOR” YOU WANTED?
I wanted it to seem as if you had walked onto a movie set…because barbershops have the ability to be that visual…the barber pole, the barber chair, the barber.
DOES YOUR STAFF WEAR UNIFORMS?
Our barbers are actually employees not independent contractors – in order to maintain quality control over the barber staff. They all wear white collared shirts with the V Barbershop logo on the right hand side.
DO YOU HAVE A BACKGROUND IN MARKETING?
No, my background is not in marketing, it was in physician management and real estate.
I was raised with style and class, raised to dress differently (sharp, shoes shined). I’m a traditional, short hair, button down shirt Spanish guy…so V’s was/is ‘natural’ to me.
The brand is a part of me as far as look and feel; who I am, what I knew, what I experienced.
WHAT TYPE OF AMENITIES DO YOU OFFER?
–Well-trained and courteous barbers
-Traditional and updated men’s and boy’s haircuts
-Straight edge shaves (hot towels, hot lather and massage)
-Facial and face massages
-Straight edge neck shave after every service
-Relaxing shoulder massage after every service
-Professional shoeshines (at most locations)
-Current and wide selection of newspapers and magazines
-TVs at every barber station
-Cleanest damn barbershop around!
Tune-Up : In between haircuts? Let V’s Barbershop tighten the edges and shave your neck.
The Works : Shampoo & haircut, shave, shoeshine.
The Whole Deal : The Works, plus a relaxing facial and face massage. It’s the Best!
The Big Day : Getting married? Let V’s Barbershop give you & your groomsmen The Works. Includes complimentary cigars.
Clean-Up : Are you a V’s customer and need your neck shaved? No problem, it’s on the house!
Every haircut will include a hot lather neck shave and will always end with a relaxing massage.
Fathers & Sons Extra Incentive: come in with your father, son or grandfather, and V’s will take a buck off each haircut!
WHAT WERE SOME CHALLENGES/MISTAKES YOU MADE ALONG THE WAY? (Basically, if you could go back, what would you have done differently?)
Putting store #3 in downtownPhoenix before downtown Phoenix was ready for a V’s Barbershop. We went from Arcadia, to Kierland, to downtown.
Yes, clientele: lawyers, CPA’s, Drs. BUT found out that things close down after 5:00pm, there’s no weekend traffic and guys rather get hair cuts near their home – rather than getting cuts during their lunch/work day.
This ‘mistake’ opened our eyes and we learned a TON from it…mostly ‘Be Smart About Where You Locate!’ You can have EVERYTHING going for you (brand, experience, marketing) but you have to have the RIGHT location.
I wish we were better at Product Sales…a tough sale for a guy…a $20 bottle of shampoo. But we have done well with gift cards!
GREAT MARKETING: Gift cards – I was offering them when no one was doing this for a barbershop. This has been tremendous. The card even looks like a ‘masculine pampering’ gift…that a woman can buy for them and a man will use.
WHAT ARE YOUR 3 BEST MARKETING STRATEGIES TO GETTING NEW CLIENTS?
- Reach out to charity giving…funds to local area schools, things for auctions. This promotes good will and makes them money for their cause. It’s a relatively inexpensive way to market and at the end of the day you get biz from the local community around the stores. A win/win. Mantra: Always say YES!
- Brand Specific…no stock photos. Use affluent/professional customer males (doctors, lawyers, cpas) not a model.
- Promote in-house…own promotions, not stock or rote. We create our own custom message(s) that come across to our patron in the store…no templates here!
IF YOU HAD TO NAME ONE THING THAT HAS BEEN INSTRUMENTAL IN CATAPULTING YOUR BUSINESS TO SUCCESS, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Never deviating from the brand. We offer a small menu of services, we are who we are…an AUTHENTIC barbershop (you won’t see a pedicure station at our place because you wouldn’t see this in an old style barbershop), and great haircuts, great shoe shine.
WHAT ADVICE/LESSONS DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS?
From day one, I tried to create a male space…A “CHEERS” – where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came.
When you become a convenience (no entertainment, no value), you need to differentiate and create comfort between you and your client – when you do this you have a chance to be successful. I’ve learned ‘you have to be good, not perfect’.
People keep coming back because it’s a FUN place to be. A place where people know your name. A familiar thing. You can have this with a mechanic, dentist, primary care doc but the list doesn’t go much longer than this….but you can also have this with a ‘habitual’ service like a barbershop.
A place to come in. Make them happy. It’s an EXPERIENCE.
Our image (and logo) SET THE TONE for who we are. The IMAGE and LOGO became instrumental in ALL thought processes – in everything we do…from the first day to today!
Thank you Jim for the in depth look of your MEMORABLE business!
*All photo’s/images via V’s Barbershop.