How to Start a Barber Shop

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Quick Reference

In today’s fast-paced world, a trip to the barbershop encourages us to slow down. If you have experience working as a barber, then you probably already know the meaningful connections and relationships that good barbers forge with their customers. When you start a barbershop of your own, you can continue to develop these customer relationships while turning the business into the store of your – and your customer’s – dreams. Owning a barbershop can be a financially and emotionally rewarding venture as you help customers to achieve their ideal looks.

Business Overview

Barbershops have been around for centuries, and they’re currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity. These shops specialize in grooming for men and boys. They offer services including hair cuts, shaves, hair care, and more, and many sell specialty hair and shaving products, too. 

Many barbershops thrive on the small-town, close-knit feel that they can establish with their customers. Traditionally, shops are small, with just a few barbers on staff. Barbers are known for striking up conversations with their customers as they work, leading to a relationship and familiarity with customers. In many ways, barbers offer their customers an experience, rather than just a cut or a shave, and that experience and focus on the customer’s individual style and preferences is what helps barbers to earn loyal customers. 

Industry summary

The barbershop industry has recently experienced growth, and that growth is expected to continue. According to IBIS World, the industry experienced 1.8 percent annual growth from 2013 through 2018. During that time, the number of businesses increased to 147,406 and industry employment also grew to 160,037. In 2018, the industry brought in $4 billion in revenue. 

The industry’s increased revenue is due to a number of factors. While demand for services hasn’t necessarily increased, a growing population has increased shops’ customer bases. As shops have expanded into more specialized services, they earned more money per customer in 2018 than in 2013, leading to increased income. An increase in per capita disposable income during that same time means that customers are more likely to purchase elective services, like shaving, than they were previously. 

Industry trends

The barbershop industry is constantly evolving, and barbers need to keep up with all of the latest style trends to deliver what their customers are looking for. According to the National Barbers Association, one major trend that barbers should embrace is that women are increasingly looking for shorter hair cuts. While barbers traditionally cater to men, encouraging women to step into the shop could open these stores up to a new customer base. Celebrities, moms, business women, and more are looking to change up their styles and go short with their hair. Barbershops should showcase their cuts to both male and female audiences. 

Elegance notes that barbershops stand to benefit from the increased focus and value that men are placing on grooming. While customers can order cheap razors and products online, they’re willing to pay a premium for the personalized service and the higher-quality products they can get at their local barber. Specialty services, like hot towel shaves, are increasingly in demand, and barbershops are experiencing a resurgence as a result. 

Who is the target market for a barbershop?

Barbershops traditionally market to men with hair care or personal grooming needs. Many shops also offer hair cuts for children. Some shops also market to women. A barber shop’s specific target market will depend on the services it offers and any of its specialties, like providing luxury, higher-end services or creating cutting-edge, bold looks. 

Skills, experience, and education useful in running a barbershop

While starting and running a barbershop doesn’t require a business degree, certain skills and experiences can increase the chance of this business being a success. 

Barber experience. In addition to holding a barber license, a shop owner needs to have experience working as a barber to understand the challenges and nuances of this industry. 

Active listening skills. A barber needs to be able to actively listen to clients to understand what they want.

Interpersonal skills. Great interpersonal skills are a must, since any barber needs to know how to listen to customers and create an environment where they feel welcome and understood. The ability to make small talk and establish connections with people is important, since this can help to build customer loyalty. 

Attention to detail. A barber needs to pay attention to all of the details in a business, from the work they do for clients to the cleanliness of the shop. 

Physical endurance. Barbers spend long hours on their feet, and shampooing, styling, shaving, and tending to customers is physically demanding. A shop owner will need physical strength, dexterity, and endurance. 

Costs to Start a Barber Shop

Barbershops tend to have significant startup costs. The size of the shop will affect the cost, especially when you’re outfitting multiple stations. Plan to spend $75,000 to start a smaller shop with just a few stations; larger shops can cost $150,000 and more. 

Common startup costs for a barbershop include: 

  • Shop equipment and supplies
  • Inventory
  • Furniture
  • Signage

Steps to Starting a Barber Shop

Step 1. Write your Business plan

After coming up with an idea, the next step in starting any business should be to write a business plan.  Not only will a bank require you to have one, but multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business.

How to write a business plan
Free sample business plans

Step 2. Form a Business Entity

A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and LLC.  Each type of entity has its own pros and cons such as liability exposure, costs and administrative requirements. 

Related: Comparison of Business Entities

 Step 3. Select your Location

Barbershops will need spaces that can be modified to accommodate their needs for space, different stations, sinks, and more. Rental costs will vary depending on the size and location of a building. Buildings in prime retail areas that are convenient and easily accessible will carry higher rents, but they can also generate walk-in traffic and help to build public awareness of the business. 

Related: Choosing a business location

Step 4. Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

A barbershop will need to obtain certain business licenses and permits. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located.

In addition to business licenses and permits, Barber License states that all 50 states regulate and license barbers. Because a barber’s work affects public health, barbers must acquire a license before opening a shop. Different states have different licensure requirements, and you may need to complete a barber program, an apprenticeship, or both.  Training for certification typically takes around nine months to complete. 

In addition to a state barber license, a few common registrations for a barber shop include a sales tax permit, Employer Identification Number, Occupancy Permit among others. 

Related: Common business licenses, permits and registrations by state

Step 5. Find Financing

Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a barber shop is another.  Funding to start a barber shop business can be difficult.  In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs.

Related: Finding the money to start a business  

Step 6. Get your Marketing Plan in Place

Marketing is important both in starting a barber a shop and in continuing to bring in new clients. Marketing can take on many forms, from print advertising to social media to radio advertising. The costs of these marketing efforts will depend on the type and volume of marketing performed. A shop owner who can do some (or all) of the business’ marketing can save on the expense of hiring a professional marketer. 

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

 Step 7. Get Insurance

Barbershops need several types of insurance to be fully covered: 

  • General liability insurance protects the business if a customer is ever injured while on the business’ property. This insurance can cover costs like legal fees that result from the accident. 
  • Commercial property insurance protects the shop against the loss of property and supplies after an event, like a fire. 
  • Workmans comp insurance helps to cover potential expenses like medical bills or lost wages if an employee is ever hurt while at work. 

Factors like the shop’s location, the value of the building and equipment, and the number of employees on staff can all affect insurance policy costs. To get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, be sure to consider important factors like coverage limits and exclusions, premiums, and deductibles. 

Step 8. Hiring Employees

It’s possible for a barbershop owner to act as the sole barber, but at some point it’s likely that the business will need to expand and hire additional barbers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, barbers make a mean hourly wage of $15.97 and a mean annual wage of $33,220. The hourly wage can range from $9.27 to as much as $25.29, while the annual wage ranges from $19,280 to $52,600. Factors like a barber’s location and years of experience will affect wages. 

In addition to budgeting for employee salaries, a shop will need to budget for other expenses like workmans comp insurance, paid time off, and health insurance contributions. 

Instead of hiring employees, some barber shops will instead rent out chairs to other barbers.  While this guarantees monthly income for the owner and not having to hassle with payroll taxes, the owner is somewhat limited as to controlling the work of the renter. 

Related: Hiring your first employee

How much can you potentially make owning a barbershop? 

According to The Barber School, barbershop owners make an average salary of $30,000. However, many factors can affect a barbershop owner’s income. The number of years the shop has been in business, the size of the shop, and the shop’s location can all affect its profits. 

Things to consider before starting a barbershop

Good planning is essential in successfully opening a barbershop. Many shop owners are enthusiastic to get started, but they can overlook some of the essentials and try to grow too fast. Instead, set your shop up for success with a solid business plan and a growth plan for your first 6, 12, and 24 months. This plan should include plenty of marketing, which is another element that new shop owners can overlook – to the harm of their businesses. With the popularity of social media today, taking the time to develop and maintain a quality social media presence is a low-cost yet highly effective strategy that can help to bring new customers through the doors. 

It’s also important to focus on hiring quality barbers who support your brand. Hiring licensed, professional, established barbers is a great strategy. Though these barbers may require higher salaries, they may also come with existing customers, instantly growing your business’ customer base. 

To help your barbershop stand out, don’t underestimate the importance of turning each customer’s visit into an experience. Small elements, like having quality reading material and complimentary water and snacks available, can instantly elevate a customer’s experience. Providing great customer service is essential, so focus on hiring barbers who are engaging, friendly, and who can easily establish connections with their customers. 

American Barber Association
National Association of Barber Boards of America
National Association of Barbers
National Barbers Association
Professional Association for the Beauty Industry

Additionally, Amazon has several good books for starting a barber shop such as:
The Rich Barber Method: How to Attract Clients, Keep Them, and Charge More
Book Your Chair Solid: 150+ Tips To Grow Your Business (For Stylists, Salon Owners, Booth Renters, Barbershops and Spas)
The Salon Building Bible (Ready Set Go!)
How To Start A Barbershop Business Plan