"We typically know more than therapists know . . . because of that physical touch — that trust. I'd assume that if you have a razor to someone's throat and they get through that, there's a trust there."
Jason Crampton is the owner of Lincoln Street Barbers, a traditional barbershop located in Colorado Springs. Brotherhood, trust, and relaxation make up this unique shop’s DNA, as Jason and his team of “civilized misfits” create a tight-knit community through quality craftmanship and conversation.
In this episode, Jason shares his journey to becoming a licensed barber and entrepreneur, talks about the special connections formed in his shop, and reflects on how privileged he feels to serve clients in his chair every day. Listen to the conversation to learn how Jason identified and met a need in his community.
And be sure to check out our full library of entrepreneurial interviews.
Shannon: Welcome to Metaphorically Speaking. This week we have the absolute pleasure of sitting down and chatting with Jason Crampton from Lincoln Street Barbers in Colorado Springs. Joe, let’s talk beards for a second.
Joe: I’m always ready to talk beards, and you can tell on this podcast for sure it was great to sit down with another guy with an equally impressive beard. I shouldn’t say equally. More impressive beard than mine, I would say, even.
Shannon: Hard to do.
Joe: It is hard to do, I think.
Shannon: Yeah, I definitely felt like I was invading on an intimate moment. As a beardless female, I was like, “I just don’t belong in this room.”
Joe: We did mute it a few times during some special moments, but it was still a good conversation. I think everybody can hopefully get some good stuff out of it. It was cool to just hear his story of how he saw a need in the industry. He worked for years in the salon game and saw some gaps there, but saw how, really, the male had been unattended to in this world and just saw, “I’ve got to create something for that.”
Shannon: Absolutely. Yeah, and I loved how he just addressed the personal relationship that a customer and their barber has. You sit down in that chair and just start divulging personal information. You’re like, “How did this happen?” And he addressed just the power of that relationship and even the power of physical touch in that half an hour that you’re with them. So it was just really cool.
Joe: Yeah. Now I’m second guessing what I’ve told a massage therapist in the past.
Joe: That’s the secret to get me to open up is physical touch. I think even towards the end of the conversation we got into our therapy session of just talking through how we’re both trying to calm ourselves down with our new ideas and where we want to go with the business and pumping the brakes and taking a moment to breathe in life. So hopefully you’ll enjoy that part as well, not just business story and how he got his business going, but also just how are we trying to manage our lives a little bit? So hopefully you enjoy the conversation.
Joe: I’m curious. As a barber, when is the last time you shaved your own face down to nothing?
Jason Crampton, Lincoln Street Barbers: Oh man. That was actually last … I want to say about a year and a half ago.
Joe: Oh yeah?
Jason Crampton, Lincoln Street Barbers: Yeah. It had been about six years, and there was just a lot of change that happened and I just felt like I needed to cleanse it.
Joe: Fresh start, yeah.
Jason Crampton, Lincoln Street Barbers: Yeah, a fresh start. One of our newer barbers, she goes by T Rex. She shaved it, and for me, I had been thinking about it, but I just sprung it on her. So it kind of scared the shit out of her, you know?
Joe: Oh, for sure.
Jason Crampton, Lincoln Street Barbers: She was nervous, you know? She just started. She was the first one that ever shaved my entire face. That was the last time. I didn’t tell my wife. Went home, recorded the reaction. It was priceless.
Joe: Oh man, what was the reaction?
Jason Crampton, Lincoln Street Barbers: She didn’t know it was me.
Joe: Oh gosh.
Jason Crampton, Lincoln Street Barbers: Yeah. So she just looked at me. She thought I was one of the maintenance guys. At the time, we were in an apartment complex, and she just kind of was like, “Oh my God.”
Joe: Yeah, “Who are you?”
Jason Crampton, Lincoln Street Barbers: Yeah, yeah. So it was priceless. And then my son, he hasn’t seen me without a beard for, like I said, six years, so that’s a lifetime for a young kid.
Jason Crampton, Lincoln Street Barbers: So it was funny, his reaction. He kept watching me eat and-
Joe: Yeah. I’ve never seen your mouth move, Dad. Your face-
Jason Crampton, Lincoln Street Barbers: Exactly, and he was like, “Dad, you’re always smiling now that your beard is gone.” I was like, “Nah, dude. I’m always smiling. You just can’t see it.”
Joe: That is funny. We did that, I think, for my wife’s birthday. Gosh, it’s been maybe six years or longer ago. She had asked for it because I had always had some sort of facial hair ever since we’d been married. That’ll be 20 years this year, and it’s been some sort of muttonchops that I wear with some Civil War weird cut. Always had some sort of hair, and then she’s like, “Just shave it down for nothing,” and then as soon as I showed her the results, she was like, “Oh my gosh. Grow that stuff back right away.” She just wasn’t comfortable with it because she’s so used to seeing some form of hair on there. Yeah, so I’ve never done it since then. That was supposed to be part of my gift to her, and I realized that was the worst gift I could’ve ever given her. She was not happy.
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: Oh man. Yeah, I feel like I’ve got the same humble reaction. “So you going to grow it back?”
Joe: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. “How soon does that stuff grow back in?”
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: I knew right away when I looked in the mirror, like, “Oh, shit. I’ve got to grow this back.”
Joe: Yeah. Oh my gosh. So did I. The last time I was in my 20s, I had some double chins or whatever, so you shave it out and like, “Oh shit. I didn’t realize I put on a little weight underneath there. Okay,” so there’s some stuff you can hide with a beard that you can’t when you don’t have it on there.
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: Absolutely.
Joe: Also, for me, just because of the blonder, reddish hair, I look like I’m 12. So it’s better to look little older, a little bit more wiser maybe.
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: Get some respect on there.
Joe: That’s right. People don’t keep pushing me aside. Yeah, for sure. So yeah, let’s get started. You grew up around here, right?
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: I did.
Joe: Yeah, you’re the second person I’ve talked to, which is from Colorado Springs originally. That’s mostly rare from my experience in talking to people. Since I’m not from here, I’m always asking people, “Where you from?” And nobody’s from here. So it’s funny that the first two interviews I’ve done out here are people from here.
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: Yeah, you nailed two Sasquatches, man.
Joe: Yeah. Exactly.
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: The running joke is if there’s a local around, it’s super rare.
Joe: Oh yeah, yeah. I’ve got some sort of, I don’t know, special luck going on right now. I need to play the lottery or something right now. So you grew up here. Brothers, sisters?
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: Yeah. I have two brothers and a sister, older brother, and two younger siblings. It’s my older brother, me, my sister, then my younger brother.
Joe: Okay, okay. So do you live true to the middle child birth order personalities?
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: I think there’s a special blend with us. My younger two were from my dad’s second marriage.
Joe: Okay, yeah.
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: So we didn’t always grow up together and all that. So I think a lot of us in our dynamic dodged any except my older brother. He stays true to form.
Joe: For sure. Yeah, he’s the top of the group. Yeah, we had a His, Mine, and Ours experience, too. My dad had four in his first marriage, my mom had two, and then my sister and I were from their marriage. So I definitely was the baby of everybody, but it was hard to know who was the middle child because for some of their life, they were the older child, but now they’re the middle child once all the families came together. So it was definitely this weird hodgepodge of people. You never could identify people based on their birth order.
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: Totally. How many siblings, you said?
Joe: Seven total. Four from my dad’s first marriage, two from my mom’s, and then a full sibling. So there’s about a 25-year age gap, I think, between the oldest and myself. So that always makes conversations interesting because you’re never really in the same life stage.
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: Yeah, totally.
Joe: You sort of catch up with adult, and that quickly passes because then now they’re thinking about retirement or they’ve got grandkids, and you’re just getting your life started. So there was always, especially family get-togethers was awkward because it was hard to find that bridge of conversation. Talk about your childhood a little bit. Paint a picture for what that looked like.
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: I think for the most part it was my older brother and I hanging out together. We had spent time either at my dad’s house in New Mexico or my mom’s house here. Typically, we’d go to school here and then shoot out to New Mexico in the summertime, either spend the time with my dad. My mom’s mom had a fruit stand close to the Navajo reservation, so we had spent summers working out there and just running around, catching lizards and messing around with scorpions and stuff. My cousins were usually there, and my brother. So that was pretty much it, man.
Joe: That’s in New Mexico, the Navajo reservation?
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: Yeah, that was in New Mexico. Then here, grew up down in Widefield, stayed down there until I got a little bit older and started working and moved out to Washington State for a little while, but love it here, man. Came back and it’s home.
Joe: Okay. Yeah. What was the divorce like on you as a kid? How old were you when that happened?
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: Oh man, I can’t even remember. I was three. So-
Joe: Oh, so you were young. Yeah, yeah.
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: Yeah, I kind of-
Joe: It’s almost like you didn’t know a life before, really.
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: No.
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: No, yeah, definitely. It was run of the mill for us.
Joe: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Same for me. By the time I came around, my parents stayed together, but I just sort of heard about it from my siblings, the drama, but … How about school? Were you good in school? Were you …?
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: I’m great at what I want to apply myself to, I’d say. Yeah, man. I was good socially in school.
Joe: Yeah, yeah.
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: When I applied myself, junior high, I really tried to make honor roll, did that. But, ultimately, started just hanging out … I wouldn’t say wrong crowd because we’re all friends. So we were left to our own vices and got in a lot of trouble and learned things differently down in Widefield that wasn’t maybe typical upbringing, but here we are. Did all right.
Jason, Lincoln Street Barbers: Thank God.
Joe: Yeah. It’s always interesting just talking to entrepreneurs because they’re all over the board with school, and you get some who are really super serious and they always had this drive to be a business owner, and then you’ve got … I’m in the same boat as you where I probably could’ve been a lot better student had I actually put the time and energy in, but I did okay with grades. Never great, but I think I could’ve done better. But you get some of those who they had different skills that didn’t sit well in the classroom or in the seat, you know what I mean?
Joe: And they get better applied as a business owner because you can create your own space, make that work for yourself versus the way school was set up for all of us to fit in this mold, you know?
Jason: Yeah, I think traditional school wasn’t for me at that age. Now I understand and can book and apply the learning concepts.
Jason: Back then, it was just, “Give me something hands on.”
Joe: Yeah, 100% agree with that. When you were a kid, without jumping too far away, too far down the story, but did you see yourself as a business owner as an adult? Did that ever cross your mind?
Jason: You know what’s funny? I never actually implanted it in my head, “I want to own a business.” I think I always did things my own way. I do remember I had a cousin, and we always played office. So it was funny, when I think of that now, it’s like, “Oh, maybe it was this cool dream,” but it was never like, “Yeah, I want to be this entrepreneur,” anything like that.
Joe: Did you have any entrepreneurial influences growing up, like aunt or …?
Jason: Yeah, yeah. I think my grandma running the fruit stand definitely. I got to see her run everything and get cash in hand. Something about that drove me as, “Her hard work is getting rewarded instantly.”
Jason: So I think it was always something embedded in me.
Joe: Just lodged away for later. Yeah, that’s cool. So you graduated high school, correct?
Joe: No, you didn’t graduate high school. I actually thought about that. I was like, “Maybe …”
Jason: I did not graduate high school. My mom, she was a single mom, did the best she could, but we were left to our own, and Widefield is unique. We learned a lot of entrepreneurial skills outside of school, and I was more into that. So it got to a point where I was just needing to make my own decisions around that time, and I was making money outside of school. It was making more sense to me. So I just called it. I just kind of … I don’t want to say quit. I moved on.
Joe: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Joe: Yeah. Never went back.
Jason: No. I got my GED just to make sure I could get job, at least have that.
Joe: Yep, yep. So then what after maybe GED? What was the next step after that?
Jason: I was already working in restaurants as a cook. Love that. I met some guys there, some mentors. They took me under their wing. Great guys, but again, different, entrepreneur road we were down. So man, we were just getting a lot of trouble, working as cooks, working, doing other stuff, making money, and did that for a while until, yeah, it was time to start growing up. Cooking was … Man, I loved it, but I was like, “I can’t be a line cook forever.”
Joe: Was there some moment in time where you were like, “Yeah, I just can’t”? Did something happen or did you just reached an age where you realized …
Jason: I think there’s just an age, and then certain people get in trouble or things don’t always go well, and you start looking at where you’re going, and I got a phone call from my older brother one time, and that set me straight. So yeah, “I love being a line cook. It’s so fun. I love the hands-on stuff, but I’ve got to put some big boy pants on.”
Joe: Yeah, yeah. Were there things when you were working at the … I know it’s a different industry than what you landed in, but were there some things that you were lodging away in your mind for how to run a business, how to manage staff? Were there some things you were taking from that from a business ownership standpoint?
Jason: Yeah, yeah. And again, I still wasn’t thinking of owning my own place. I actually went and got the most boring office job at an RV dealership because I was just like, “I just got to go get a big boy job, put a button-up on,” you know?
Jason: So it was boring, but I loved it. I learned a lot. I grew a lot in character there, and I learned how shitty that was for me and I never wanted to go back. So I thought, “I’ve got to do something hands-on, fast-paced. I’m used to making money the harder I work, the more I make.” So I was just like, “Man, I’ve got to go back to being a line cook so I can be happy, one, at my work, and just get back to charging my spirit and figure it out from there.”
Joe: Yeah. How did you get from line cook to the hair care industry?
Jason: Yeah, totally. It’s funny. Backing up to my childhood, it was definitely always ingrained in me, I always loved it, barber shops, being around them. The first time my brother and I got yelled at was by a barber in a barber shop. We were goofing around in a shopping center, running around, opening the door, screaming in the doors. We went to do it a second time at the barber shop, and the barber called us into the shop and he had this way of reprimanding us, but not humiliating us, and every other guy was in there and they were just giving us this good advice of why not to act a fool. So I just got captivated then.
Jason: Then fast forward, I’m back working as a line cook, and one of my friends was going to school for hair, and she was like, “You should do it and get into it,” and at the time my friends’ parents actually owned a school here, and they were in it. So they kept telling her, “Tell Jason he’s got to get into it.” So I was-
Joe: What were some of the reasons? Do you remember why? Did they think you had something special for that game or they just enjoyed it so much?
Jason: Yeah, I think they enjoyed it so much. We all grew up together, and I think, yeah, they definitely knew … Yeah, I can look at someone and be like, “You’re a barber, man.”
Joe: Oh really?
Jason: Yeah, I think you just know, “This would be your jam.” So I think they saw that in me, but they were hair stylists.
Jason: So I told them, “No, I want to be a barber, man.”
Joe: What are some of those characteristics that you say stand out to you about being a …?
Jason: The difference?
Joe: Yeah, like when you say you can identify somebody who can be a barber, what are some of those characteristics you see in them?
Jason: I think just when they’re talking about getting into the industry.
Jason: They’re saying the right things, and how their energy is. It’s right there.
Jason: There’s a friend of mine in school right now. He would sit in my chair and talk about it, and even before he approached me about it, I knew, “This guy is going to go to barber school,” because he’s talking about, “Why do you do that there? What do you do here?” So he asked me, and I was like, “All right. It’s about time.”
Joe: Yeah, yeah.
Jason: I just think knowing your industry and knowing when someone’s talking about it, I think that’s what frees that up.
Joe: That’s cool, that’s cool. So they were talking to you about getting into that game, and then you-
Jason: Totally. So-
Joe: … finally jumped on board with that?
Jason: I did. I went and got my hairstyling license and was doing mainly women’s hair for years, and always was with the thought of, “I’m going to get a barber shop when I’m closer to retiring,” because back then they were like, “Go where the money is at. Women’s hair is where the money is at.”
Joe: And this is what time, what year?
Jason: Oh, ’95.
Jason: Yeah. No, I’m sorry. 2005.
Jason: 2005, yeah.
Jason: So I went that route, and my thought was do women’s hair until I got closer to retiring, then open a barber shop. But as time went on, I just got more guys in my chair and enjoyed that side of things more and more, and …
Joe: In the stylist game, though, still? Not in the barbering world, still in the stylist game?
Jason: Not in the barbering world. I’m always growing. I’m always learning, so I’ll always consider myself a student in anything I do. But the barbering game, I was like, “I’m never going to call myself a barber no matter how good I get at cutting hair unless I go get my barber’s license.” That’s a huge integrity thing in that culture, and I wanted to respect that.
Joe: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Jason: So I went back and got my license.
Joe: Yeah, yeah. Were you hooked? Hooked on hair? I don’t know if that’s … Were you hooked on hair right away? Did you just like, “Yeah, I finally found my jam,” or did it take a while for you to get into it?
Jason: It took a while, man. I was terrified to cut hair. I’d never brushed a woman’s hair. Now I’m trying to cut it.
Joe: Yeah, for sure.
Jason: I’ve definitely apologized to anyone’s hair I’ve jacked up in the past when I was learning, but I just kept at it, man. And anything I was intimidated about it, I just worked on it and worked on it because I wanted to know that and be able to nail it.
Joe: Yeah, yeah. I’ve gotten some bad haircuts over the years, and that does feel like a lot of pressure on you. Everybody’s different. Everybody has their own taste that they’re maybe conveying to you well enough for you to get what’s a vision, and then you get that one time, and you can’t fix it a lot of times. You did what you did. Were there some things while you were in that phase of life where you were, again, not yet a barber, hadn’t gone to school yet, where you were seeing some things? Again, lodging some stuff away, like this seems broken in this industry. There’s some things I would love to fix?
Jason: Yeah, totally. At the time, I was in a salon, so guys would come in and it was typically no one would want to cut their hair, and no one at that time gave a shit about how the guy’s hair was going to look. And the stereotype was, “Guys don’t care enough about their hair.”
Jason: And for me, it bugged me. I’m like, “Wait, I’m a guy. I care about my hair.”
Joe: Yeah, for sure.
Jason: “What are you talking about?” So I took that on and I wanted to make sure I do a good job for guys because every time they’d sit at my chair, they were frustrated. “No one listens. No one gets what I want.”
Joe: Yeah. You’re just a waiting stop until they get to the real client they want to pay attention to.
Jason: Exactly. Totally. Kind of a filler. And then, culturally, I notice guys are … We’re missing that dwelling place. That kind of place to hang out, those old traditional barber shops were kind of fizzling out. I didn’t grow up with them, kind of missed them. I noticed in our generation, younger guys, we’re missing that camaraderie and that communication with guys and goofing around in a place where we could throw our hats off and be ourselves.
Joe: Yeah, yeah. So you went to barber school. How long does that take? What’s a …?
Jason: I already had my license. So those hours transferred.
Joe: Got you.
Jason: So, for me, I went for three months and then had to take a state board test.
Joe: So then what did you do with that? Did you take those skills back to the salon you were working at, or did you have to … Were you not able to put those to work until another gig?
Jason: No, so what I did was I was already filling my books with male clients.
Jason: So when I went to the school, I would work at the salon during the day, and then at night when I was at school, I would just have clients go there and work on them there.
Joe: Got you.
Jason: So my transition was I would just pick a day where I would only focus on guy clients, and I’d ask the front desk, “Just book guys,” okayed it with the owners, all that.
Jason: And slowly started building my barber shop idea with the clients I had while I was going to school. Had a little corner in the salon that was just designed it and all that. So it was a little more masculine feel. Guys would come in, run over, hide. We called it the Corner of Real because we could just go be ourselves. One of my barbers, Graham Davis, awesome guy, he was actually working front desk there at the time. So we would all just goof around in that corner because he was super close to us, and that’s where our little tiny culture started growing.
Joe: Yeah, that’s awesome. I know even massages, I’d get a massage at a place, and some of those places, they’ve certain changed over the years, but initially it was part of a salon. You felt like you were in the wrong place or you had to duck in the back corner and go get your massage, but you walk by 45 chairs and you were the only man there, and you always felt like you were out of place, and I totally can respect the need that you saw in the industry because it was like we always did feel like we were not only second, like not paid attention first, but at the same time, we don’t necessarily belong here in some respects. So what happened, I’m talking about some of those things that happened that you said, “Okay, I’ve been doing this. I’ve been doing this in this shop, but when do I start my own thing”?
Jason: Yeah. Honestly, I was going to school and one of my buddies, we would always talk about it, Gray is a super awesome guy. I wasn’t really thinking of opening my own shop at the time. I was just like, “I just want to go work in this place,” and this place didn’t exist. So he asked, “Where are you going to go work? Where is this place?” And he was kind of nudging me, “You’ve got to create it.” So that’s what we started doing, man. We started sitting down once a week, and he helped me out, and here we are.
Joe: Yeah. Was he a part of the business or just helping you get some ideas together?
Jason: Nah, he was just a great guy at getting some ideas together. I had met him years ago when I was apprenticing under a hairstylists. She was cutting his hair, and I always dug this dude. He was super nice, well spoken, smart as shit, and killing it in life, but his humbleness was what really gravitated me towards him, like, “Man, he’s so humble, but has it.”
Joe: But successful, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jason: Exactly. Years down the road, the lady moved on, he comes into the salon and gets his hair cut by another girl, and we start chatting, then he starts coming to me. So yeah, we just started planning it. His deal was, “I’ll help you with the business plan if I’m the first guy in line to invest.” So I’m like, “Shit. Hell yeah, man. No problem. You want to get some money out of me and help me with this?” You know?
Jason: So he’s a blessing, man. He’s still a great dude, a great mentor. What ended up happening was we got to the end of the road, and I didn’t need investors.
Joe: Oh yeah, okay.
Jason: So we had to have that talk, and he’s like, “You’re right. Hit me up if you ever need anything bigger.”
Joe: That’s awesome. Sounds like you didn’t have to have an awkward conversation. He was supportive of wherever you were?
Jason: Yeah, so supportive, man. I can’t think thank that dude enough for that.
Joe: That’s awesome.
Joe: So when you were dreaming this thing up, what were … I was thinking about when I was a kid I used to go to this barber shop, and he was in this basement of this guy’s house, and he had the barber pole outside, and it was a guy who had served in the Navy, I want to say World War II, and just cut traditional haircuts, but what was so fun about going there with my dad was just the conversations and some of these guys had been there for hours before we got there. I’m sure their cuts were already done, if they even got a haircut, but they were just hanging out.
Joe: So that’s what I think about when I think about barber shop experience. What were some of the things you were thinking about, “I’ve got to integrate this into that,” like, “This, to me, is a barber shop experience,” what were some of those things?
Jason: Yeah, I think, first and foremost, it was quality of haircuts and quality of experience and quality of gentlemen interaction between two guys.
Jason: I feel like that was dead in the barber realm. You get this ego and all that, and I was like, “Nah, man. I just want to create a cool place where everyone’s cool and accepted,” and we do great work. We’re always educating ourselves. Culture was just as important. Those conversations, that kind of banter where everyone … It’s a barber shop that has their culture down, in my opinion, is just the ultimate community because everyone leaves what they are in society at the door and comes in and is just yourself, you know?
Joe: Yeah. How did you foster that? Are there some intentional things you try to work in to create that culture in there, that community, or was it more taking stuff out of what existed before to make that stuff possible?
Jason: Man, I don’t think it was any of that. I think it was just authenticity. I like people. I like people, man. I like hanging out with people. I like having a good time. There was this passionate need for the community, not like, “Create this for a business.”
Joe: Yeah, yeah.
Jason: So it was-
Joe: Just coming out of who you really were, yeah.
Jason: Yeah, and that’s who we are today. Who we are is who we are.
Jason: We try to stay true to that and authentic to it as possible.
Joe: Yeah. How do you find the right kind of talent? I think you call them misfits in your-
Jason: Yeah, Civilized Misfits.
Joe: Yeah, so how do you make sure you find the right ones to fit into that community that you’re trying to create?
Joe: Or not create, but just offer, yeah?
Jason: Yeah, absolutely. I’m still learning. I’ve gotten extremely lucky. Definitely have not made the right calls all the time. That’s going to happen. I open a business three years ago, four years ago, I’m a white belt, man. I’m not sitting here and trying to write books about leadership and shit. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m learning, but I got extremely lucky. The people I did see it in them and are with us today, understand the vision, and trust me, the biggest thing is we all trust each other.
Jason: I got lucky. The first guy that came with me was Graham. Super awesome guy. He was going to cosmology school when I started barber school. He was my first straight shave. I love him. I shaved his face into a creepy curved stache. It was awesome. That was the first time we met, and it was funny. I told him, “You’re a barber.” And he looked at me like, “What does this guy even mean?”
Jason: So a year down the road, he starts working at the salon I was at. So we just hit it off. There was just some things. I think he could’ve been treated better there as far as educating and getting his full potential in him that I saw. I felt bad because he got this job there, and I’m like, “I want to steal this dude and tell him to go to barber school.” So he was my first guy. I talked to him. At first, he was like, “Nah, man. I gave a lot into this place.”
Jason: But it wasn’t the happiest environment. So soon enough, his wife actually told him, thank God, bless her … She’s awesome. Told him, “Dude, go to barber school. The only time you’re happy about talking about your industry is when you’re talking about what Jason’s doing.” So he went to school. We were opening the shop. We were helping each other build it out. I was teaching him how to cut hair in my backyard, getting him ready to go.
Joe: That’s awesome.
Jason: So him and then after that we got to a point where we had a few people come and go. We got to a point where we got Jay, our front desk guy who’s now our manager. Super awesome. Great help. My wife. She’s co-owner. She was there, learning front desk. We all didn’t know what we were doing. It just took off.
Jason: Then after that, man, we got Brandy, and she’s super awesome. She was a veteran barber, has had tons of experience. So she had been in enough shit-show places to where she dug what we were throwing down and has been with us ever since, and then we got a few other barbers that just blessed us with referring their friends there, and they were in some not so hot environments. And we’re all just blessed to be there and happy and loving it.
Joe: Yeah, that’s great. You talked about some of the shit-shows that people have worked in before. Do you think you’ve fixed some of those issues at your shop? Is it still an evolution, or do you feel like you’ve created an environment that resolves some of that stuff in the past?
Jason: I think we created an environment and were really refining it now. For me to sit here and say, “I don’t need any leadership training or something again,” that’d be totally egotistical. So I’m doing my part to help the team, teams. We’re always educating and helping each other out. Yeah, I don’t know.
Joe: Yeah, yeah. It still just continued to evolve, yeah. And you’ll have your own issues, right? Trying to fix stuff from the past, but you’ll have your own issues that are unique to your place that you’ll have to continue address.
Jason: Yeah, and I think that’s it, and I think we have a strong crew that, again, we have great communication and I’m big on accountability, and I can’t emphasize being authentic enough, and I think they see that, and we all learn that and appreciate each other and let each other make mistakes and grow from it. We’ve been in enough drama that everyone … They’re all at that shop right now protecting it because it’s their baby, too.
Joe: Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, that’s really unique to get them to be, in some sense, part ownership, whether that’s actual equity in the business or if it’s just the feeling of, “This is mine. I can create this thing and be a part of its growth.”
Joe: How would you describe your managerial style? You’ve sat in there, you’ve stood at their stations, done your own game. What are some things you try to bring to the business as far as leading that crew?
Jason: I think most importantly is being in the trenches with them. I cut hair with them. I’m there with them. They know if I’m not there, I’m putting in work if they’re working. So …
Joe: What I’m always curious about with salons, but definitely barber shops, too, is this therapist feel that you get sometimes. There’s something about getting your hair cut that just makes you open up in some ways. You develop that relationship with the barber, the stylist, whatever it may be. I don’t know. What do you think it is about that environment where people just feel comfortable to share to this person who you only see maybe once a month or once every couple months and you’re only there for 35 minutes, but there’s some sort of conversation that goes deeper than other people you’ve known for a long time.
Jason: Totally, totally.
Jason: Honestly, I don’t have a deep answer for that. I read something years ago. It was a study, and the conclusion of the study was they thought it was because of the fact there’s physical touch.
Joe: Oh, wow.
Jason: So we typically know more than therapists know, more than a lot of people know because of that physical touch, that trust. I would assume, if you have a razor to someone’s throat, and they get through that, there’s a trust there.
Joe: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, that’s a great point. That is awesome. Yeah, I always found that interesting. Do you feel maybe a heavy sense of responsibility with some of the stuff that you take on, some of the things you hear or not?
Jason: There’s a boundary there, you know? You don’t want to be inhuman to people, but you’ve got to be protective of your own energy.
Jason: People have a bad day, and you’re taking all that energy on, you’ve got to either do something to reverse that or block it during the process or just have good boundaries so you’re still having compassion for that person, but you’re not draining or jumping in their pit.
Joe: Exactly. Yeah, yeah.
Jason: Also, I think staying true to who you are is going to gravitate that clientele to you. So even if your client has a bad day, it’s not … My guys have a bad day, it’s like, “Aw shit, this happened.” I’m like, “Aw man, that sucks,” whereas if I was taking on every drama queen that ever sat in my chair and try to save him as clients, I’d be a very drained human.
Joe: For sure.
Jason: So I think just being who I am and being true to that, and I preach that to barbers. I’m like, “You guys are all cool. Just be yourself. If someone needs that person, they need to drain someone, don’t fight for them to be your client. Don’t be a dick, but they’ll move on and find that person, and you’ll get someone that fits your personality in that chair.”
Joe: Yeah. When you think about, I guess I see two major skillsets there. You’ve got the actual artistry of cutting hair, and then you have the conversational artistry. How does that break out percentage-wise when you’re trying to hire? Is it you want them to be a people person more to work within your culture, or that will come, but as long as they’re great at their craft?
Jason: Yeah. I think it’s people person. It’s different. We have some barbers that are amazing and they’re just kind of quiet. I think the biggest thing that makes our staff comfortable is follow the person’s energy. If you have a client coming in first thing in the morning and they’re not saying anything and it’s just one word answers they’re giving you, it’s okay to chill and just be present with each other and not say a word. You guys are both tired. It’s okay.
Jason: If you do have that person that’s talkative and all that, I feel it’s our job to step it up and have that conversation because that’s what your client wants with their time. So that’s how we judge it, is we do it per client. I don’t tell everybody to come in and be me. I’m super hyper. I actually calm myself down in the shop. I’m an early riser. We get there at six. I’ll be off the freaking walls, but I respect my more slow risers. So I think it’s just that understanding community.
Jason: I’ve got one barber, my man, he’s super quiet. He doesn’t say much. He’s super booked, but it’s who he is. He’s not a dick. He’s direct, amazing, and his clientele want that direct precision even in their conversation. So it works. If he was like making people made and offending people, we’ve got to talk and adjust that, but-
Joe: Yeah, I like that. So there isn’t one particular style you’re trying to hire. It’s really that blend because a certain person will work with this clientele and-
Joe: They’ll all be served well with the end result, but they’re finding what they need.
Jason: Yeah, and they got to understand the teamwork, the accountability, the humbleness. So if all that’s in play, a willingness to learn together, yeah, we’re not so …
Joe: I’ve got a good friend who’s just started his own salon. He worked for years in it. I would say, even though I’m not in the industry, he was one of those guys who … I think he was going to law school, then he just went into this hair care game. His wife was in there before, and once he got in there, he was like, “Oh, yeah, you should’ve been in this a long time ago.”
Joe: Even I saw this was his skillset for years, and then of course it led him, eventually, into starting his own place, but he always talked about some of the drama that was always around him at that salon, and not just the clientele, but the staff. How do you keep that at bay? Is that intentional or it’s, again, just the hires that you bring in there who are just the right fit for that and you don’t have to deal with it at the end of the day?
Jason: Yeah, I think getting fortunate with the right hires, and then that accountability across the board. I think it’s a delicate accountability. That’s something I’m learning. Everybody has bad days, and people vent and get back on track, be human. But we’re all cool, man. If we have someone that’s going down that road … We haven’t had an issue between staff yet. We’re great communicators, everybody’s okay with accountability.
Jason: We have a checklist. I’m the worst at marking it off at the end of our shifts to make sure we cleaned. I do my part and clean. I always forget one freaking thing. My staff knows that, but I’m accountable. When they come tell me, “Bro, that’s out there,” I go get it. I will walk out into the parking lot, and if I haven’t marked off my sheet, the staff will call, “Bro, you haven’t marked it off.” I think just that-
Joe: Just that respect and the safety that they can come to you and you’ve created that you’re not going to rip their head off for calling you out on your stuff.
Jason: Totally, and again, I’m not perfect, man. I started from a place with ripping heads off. I’m learning, but yeah, again, we know, and again, everyone walks with grace with everyone.
Joe: Oh, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. Well, like I said, that comes from you. You’ve created that, and yeah, you’ve screwed up, but the ability for you to take ownership of that kind of stuff and move forward … I just think about it from a parenting style. For me to apologize to my son. He knows it’s safe to make mistakes and to confess that versus, “Dad’s always right, I’m always wrong.” I don’t want him to get that vibe, and so I’ve got to deal with you, like, “Yeah, you screw up, too, and that’s cool. We’re all in this together.”
Joe: You talked about your wife co-owning the business. How’s that work for you guys? I guess I’m asking for a friend, maybe, because I just like the working relationship. How does that … Does it work well? Is it a challenge? How do you maintain balance between life and work or create some separation there maybe?
Jason: Absolutely. Again, all learning. It really wasn’t the plan when we opened it. My wife’s a yoga therapist, so that was her path. The shop took off, and I was like, “I need help.” So thankfully she jumped onboard, and again, we learned all this together and we were day-to-day operations for a long time together, and that took its toll. So my wife knew this from the beginning. Naturally, I’m hardheaded. At times, I was like, “No, it’s going to be fine.” Didn’t go well. She knew, “Is this going to be too much for our relationship?”
Jason: So we backed off and we’ve really worked towards separating that now. So it’s great now. As far as day-to-day operations, it’s mainly my manager, Jay and I that handle things. My wife, Julie, she handles things with our accountant, behind-the-scenes stuff. All that keeps the shop afloat. So right now that’s kind of where it’s at, and it’s working good. It’s freed her up to get back to her career. It’s gave me my clubhouse back. Me and my manager can run things. Right now, I feel like it’s a good dynamic. We check in every now and then as far as if there’s anything else she wants to delegate or let go of, and just keep working that.
Joe: I just always relish those … Not relish, envy. That’s the word I was looking for. I always envy those who can make that work because I know my wife, she’s worked for other businesses all her career, and I’ve done my business for the last seven, almost eight years, and any time we’ve crossed paths, “Here, help me on this, and what’s your thoughts on this?” It always seems to end in, “I didn’t want you to say that. I wanted you to say this,” or “You’re supposed to be okay with this risk I wanted to do,” or something like that.
Joe: It’s always interesting to see the relationships that work well in co-ownership or both people doing their own entrepreneurial thing because … Not that it’s like we’re fighting or anything like that. We just have learned, “Maybe this isn’t a safe space for us. We work better co-working on the marriage or parenting, but anything to do with the work, it sometimes gets a little bit more hard to manage.”
Jason: Yeah, it does. I think we’ve learned and are continuing to learn our boundaries within that and found a way to be great co-owners together and still love each other and like each other at the end of the day, and my wife forces, and thankfully, makes us set that time aside because I’m that guy that just nose to the grindstone, and so she’s thankfully there to make sure we slow down. Life gets so busy, and the last thing you want to do is admit having to put quality time with your wife on the calendar, but you need to. Make sure it’s present.
Joe: I’m sure it helps to have her in that particular field where that’s her role, right? She’s trying to create space, physical space and-
Jason: She is. Yeah, she’s all about recharging those batteries and-
Joe: Yeah, that’s good. That’s a good balance, I’m sure.
Jason: Yeah, man.
Joe: Who helps keeps you grounded so you’re not … You talked about some of those challenges you’ve learned over the years, are there some people or some resources you’ve leaned on over the years?
Jason: Yeah, man. I’m very lucky to have the people that sit in my chair. I think barbers are some of the smartest people in your community, not because we went to some great school, but just because we have sat down with so many people and so many men in so many walks of life that have given us these pearls of wisdom. They gave us a collection to have knowledge. I think a lot of it is just getting those 45 minute sessions with guys. If it’s friends, we can just talk as friends. If it’s one of my mentors or a therapist sitting in my chair, I’m down. I’m going to pick his brain.
Joe: Oh, for sure. Exactly.
Jason: But yeah, so I think just though the barber shop, through my wife, everything she learned, open to hearing all that, it amazes me. Yeah, I think just mentorship, books, I love podcasts.
Joe: Yeah, yeah.
Jason: I think, yeah, there’s so much out there now.
Joe: Yeah. It sounds like, yeah, such a cool spot where you’re in where you can … They come to you. You know what I mean? You’re not having to always seek them out or, “Hey, can you pour into my life?” Like, yeah, they are, but they’re naturally doing it, and they’re not … You just have the great resource right there all the time.
Joe: That’s really cool.
Jason: Yeah, I make sure to give it back. That’s my mission with people that I work with, my coworkers, my buddies that want to sit down with me and have meetings. It’s so flattering. I mean, ou’re a doctor. What the fuck do I have to tell you? You know?
Joe: Yeah. Yeah, for sure.
Jason: It’s cool. I definitely want to give pearls of wisdom, but always, always, man, I’ll always be just a white belt mentality, always learning and …
Joe: Yeah, no. That’s awesome. Yeah, I had a couple … Since I moved out here in June, I’ve had a couple meetings with people who were either getting their business started or wanting to get a business started, and they’re like, “Let’s grab coffee.” It’s always a privilege because I have the same reaction. I’m still figuring it out myself. I’m not sure I’m going to help you. But then you learn their questions are from a standing of, “Hey, I haven’t got this thing going. I know you’ve done this for seven years. You’re going to help me out at some point,” even though I know I’m still learning. It’s such an honor to know you can help somebody else, a younger … And a person who helped me out, too, way back in the day.
Jason: Well, it’s funny. When we met the other day, I almost felt bad because I’m like, “Man, I felt like I wanted to know more about you because you’ve been in your game longer.” So I’m like, “Oh God, this guy’s been …”
Joe: Oh, wow. Wow.
Jason: I felt like, “I hope he got enough out of me,” because I felt like I was asking a lot of questions and …
Joe: Oh man, no. It’s so funny how sometimes there’s just a different perspective because I was like, “I just want to learn more about you.” I think that’s a good way to look at it, too, where you’re just … Yeah, you’re not figuring you’ve already arrived. You’re just like, “Let’s just keep moving together and help each other out.”
Joe: Last question, what’s next? What’s on the horizon? What are you dreaming up? If you want to share, or maybe some general thoughts of where you guys might be going?
Jason: Man, there’s just tons of options. I think having the luxury of growing up in this town and just being part of the community since you were a kid and we have tons of barbers that grew up here as well. There’s a lot of avenues and options we can go. I just think of shit all day. Barbers are visionaries. They think of stuff all day. I think right now what we’re practicing is pumping our brake and we’re just enjoying the sunshine.
Jason: We talk about so many things, and our practice right now is slowing down, and enjoying being present. I got stuff lined up I want to get out of the way so I can think more long-term, and I think that’ll free up some energy, some room to really sit down with the crew, and it’s important for me to build with them. So it’ll be decisions we make together. So I don’t know what it’ll be, but there’s a lot of them. A lot of ideas.
Joe: You and I talked briefly when we first met about the Enneagram. I don’t know if you remember that. I was saying I was a seven, my wife is a six, and we help challenge each other. There’s those nine numbers they go through. I don’t know enough about it to really unpack it here, but I know that me as a seven, that’s one of the things that I struggle with is just looking down, acknowledging where I am today because I’m always onto the next thing, and it’s harder for me to be present and just be respectful of what I’ve got because I’m so quick to move onto the next adventure that I’m not appreciative of how I even got to this place, so it’s cool to hear that because that’s a good reminder to me to acknowledge that.
Jason: Yeah. Yeah, and I think you always appreciate it, but I don’t know if you’re letting it emotionally sink in because I appreciate and I’m grateful, and I say it every morning, but if I’m not careful, I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. This is what we’re doing now. This is the next goal,” whereas, again, thanks to my wife, Julie, she’s pumping those brakes and making sure, “Hey, you enjoy where we’re at. It’s cool. We know there’s options.” And then my job, I think, what I’ve just learned recently, is to relay that to the crew because we’re all a bunch of excited visionaries that like doing shit.
Joe: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, we’ve learned each other because I used to just assume she was not a risk taker and she was pulling me back from the next adventure, but to your point, she was really causing me to sit and enjoy the moment and not always move onto the next thing. Yeah, there’s some times when she probably pumped the brakes and caused me to not move forward, but at the same time, there’s so much stuff I would’ve ran after and run right off a cliff. You know what I mean? I needed that kind of experience or that input as well.
Jason: So it’s hard for you to sit still?
Joe: Yeah, for sure. At least my mind, for sure. To your point, it’s always running with, “I talked to so-and-so. I wonder if we should do this,” and there’s this endless list of ideas of things to consider and ideas to think about of the ideas to think about.
Jason: Yeah, totally, totally.
Joe: And she’s good at, “Don’t take on everything. You just can’t do it all. How do we help prioritize and push some of the ideas off to the side and bring some other stuff here,” but always keeping me balanced in life, too, so I’m not only running after work. She’s great at keeping the investment in family and fatherhood and that sort of stuff, which is good. Yeah. It keeps me balanced, so hopefully I’m doing all right.
Jason: What’s a practice you might do on your own? Because my wife will tell me this, and then it’s my responsibility to channel that energy and harness and calm it down.
Joe: So personal practice to calm. . .
Jason: To stay in the moment, I guess.
Joe: Yeah. I’ve been doing this new exercise, and we actually talked about it episodes ago on this podcast, but I just started it this year of just taking some moments in the morning to literally look in the mirror and just talk about things that I appreciate about myself because I wasn’t brought up with a philosophy of self care or self love. It was always like, “We love ourselves too much. So you don’t need to do that,” but I think when you don’t get a lot of affirmations growing up, you don’t accept the good things you can add to the world, so I’ve been trying to do that.
Joe: It’s been a good morning exercise for me to affirm the things that I like about myself and things that I can add, hopefully, as a business owner, a father, husband, all that kind of stuff, and helps me out at the beginning of the day to … Then you get those shitty emails five minutes later, and you’re like, “Okay, it’s not going to hit me as hard because I’ve just re-centered myself,” versus what I tend to do is grab a coffee and just get after it, and then I’m not starting off in the right place. Just derailed immediately.
Jason: That’s cool you say that, reestablishing that self-worth. That’s what I’ve been working on, too.
Joe: Oh, really?
Jason: You’ve got to affirm yourself every now and then and give yourself credit, and no matter what, I’m still good.
Joe: Yeah, well, and-
Jason: I don’t got to hit that next goal to validate who Jason is.
Joe: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, and my wife, she uses this line from Avett Brothers of … I’m going to screw it up, but I think it’s “I wish you saw yourselves as lovely as I see you,” so it’s really … Again, it hits me, knocks me off my chair because if you don’t see yourself in that way, you don’t expect other people to see you in a positive way because you feel like everybody sees you the way you see you, and she’s like, “No, no, no. I see you as way more special than you do, and I wish you saw yourself better.” Yeah, I imagine that our upbringings were similar in some respects of just family is all over the place, my dad was working multiple jobs.
Joe: Yeah, they were together, they were married, but he still had kids from his first marriage he was taking care of. We’d see them every once in a while. He was working constantly just to pay for them and pay for us, and there wasn’t a lot of time for sit-down conversations and direct investment in each other’s lives. That’s definitely something I’m trying to not repeat in my son’s life, try to be direct and say, “I appreciate this about you. I love this about you.”
Jason: Yeah, totally.
Joe: But I imagine that’s good for both of us to hear those things for ourselves.
Jason: Oh yeah, absolutely, man. I think like you said, what I’m learning is I think everyone has that, and I’m quoting what I’ve learned. I’m not the guy making this up, like the guru over here. But our inner coach is typically not the “Atta boy” coach. You know?
Joe: Oh, right, right, right.
Jason: It’s the demeaning, the negative reinforcement coach. So kind of learning that tidbit, I would say, maybe nine months ago, and even checking that when I’m talking to myself, like, “Oh, be a nice a coach, bro. That’s cool. I’m nice to my kid. I’m nice to my staff. Be a nice coach to yourself, too.”
Joe: It’s been slowly sinking in. My wife reads a lot of Brené Brown stuff, and she talks a lot about that-
Jason: Yeah, yeah, that’s where that came from.
Joe: Yeah, okay, and sounded probably familiar from that, and it sounded interesting, but then it’s taking time for me to take hold of that. It’s like, “Oh, that’s a cool truth. Well, I’ll get it eventually.” But then you start to-
Jason: Now it’s time to get the brain pathways.
Joe: Yeah. Yeah, exactly, reform those paths that have been set for decades. See, this is a counseling session right now. This is me in your barber shop right now without the haircut.
Jason: I feel like I’m getting a little session in, too.
Joe: Nice, nice. I’ll definitely be in there one day. It’s funny. We’ve been out here since June, and that friend of mine who’s got … It’s like I’ve been back to Indiana two or three times, and I just always have got it like, “Hey, give me another trim. Give me another trim.” So I’ve never been out here long enough to warrant it, but I’m getting closer to that, so I’m going to stop in just to check it out because I’m going to just check out that culture and see how it is, man.
Jason: Yeah, come in and say hi, man, whenever you’re hanging out at the coffee shop, whatever.
Jason: We’re like that. We had our guy that owns the chiropractic studio down the hall came in today with his daughter before school, and they just had some time to kill. They just came in to play checkers.
Joe: That’s awesome. Yeah.
Jason: We welcome everybody to come, hang out, say hi. We love it.
Joe: That’s such a cool culture because you’re usually assuming, “If I come in here, they’ve got to put me on the books. I’m taking up somebody else’s spot. There’s just a sense of, “No, man. You can hang out here as long as you want.”
Joe: That’s cool.
Jason: Yeah, you can hang out. You’re not going to get an appointment, probably, if you walked in because that might be a few days-
Joe: Yeah, for sure.
Jason: … to a week, but yeah, come in and say hi, man. I can think of guys right now that get their haircut and then they’re doing the first part of their emails, whatever, in the shop. They’re staying there. That’s their calm place. It’s important for me to have the right energy. So it’s such an honor when people do that or stop in to say, “Oh, it smells so good in here.” It’s like being a kid.
Joe: Did that stand out to you about that space being in the school where you’re connected to those other entities around you, the coffee shop and that kind of stuff? Did you see, “This is going to work great for what I’m imagining,” or just what you described, hallway traffic where people are going almost from class to class, you know?
Jason: Totally. Absolutely. Again, it wasn’t my plan to have a barber shop in this strong community-oriented center. I got lucky again. I did want to open it in the neighborhood it’s at right now. Roswell, Patty Jewett, because I live there and it was more on our side of town where we’re at, it was just a little sleepy. So my thought was a stand-alone barber shop to get this little heartbeat going. So when I got approached about the school and everyone that was on board, it was a no-brainer. So that heartbeat just … It’s huge now. It’s way more than just one barber, one coffee shop. They all wanted to do this. Now we’re doing it as a bigger thing, and this has been great for the community.
Joe: Yeah, I love that, this whole scholastic environment that they’ve created there. I never saw that in Indiana. I think they converted schools into apartments and stuff like that, but I never saw a business community out of that. I just love, especially as an entrepreneur, I can work in there and just meet other places, and you do feel like a little kid back there, and you’re just going to the urinals, and then you’re heading back to meet some other people down the hall to get your class in over there. I love that environment.
Jason: It’s super fun.
Joe: Yeah. Well, cool, man. Thanks so much, again, for the time, and we’ll talk again soon.
Jason: Yeah, man. Thanks for having me, brother.
Joe: All right, later.
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