They’re Learning Barber Skills at Fast Clip

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Isiah Johnson was enamored by the wide range of hairstyles his uncle gave at his barbershop. It inspired him to follow in the family trade.

“Everybody likes a barber,” says the East High School senior. “It’s nice to see what you could do to somebody. It’s the whole transformation, making them look totally different from what they came in looking like. That’s also a nice feeling.”

Johnson and two other Youngstown students studying at Choffin Career and Technical Center are part of the first class of students at the Youngstown branch of Beyond Expectations Barber College at 709 E. Midlothian Blvd. The college also holds classes in Akron and will soon open in Canton.

The mission of the school is to prepare students in this trade – to provide them with the experience to start their own business and be an asset to the community.

The co-owner of the barber college, Daniel Williams, says those starting their own barber business can expect to make between $20,000 and $40,000 a year.

“Depending on the effort you put into it,” he says.

It’s an 1,800-hour program – most of which is learning how to cut hair. The rest is for practical services such as facials and shampoos and preparing for the state licensing exam. In addition, hours are set aside to enhance a student’s character, Williams says.

Barber college co-owner Eric Garrett says preparation is up to 400 hours for licensure with the Ohio Cosmetology and Barber Board.

“We have an 85% graduation rate,” he says. “We have a 90% licensure rate. And we have a 100% job placement rating. So when the people leave here, they get jobs.”

Garrett says it costs $10,500 for students to complete the program, which is based on $5.50 an hour times 1,800. That includes a $100 registration fee and $500 kit with all the tools of the trade.

The college recently provided more than 250 free haircuts to in-need children in Youngstown City Schools elementary schools.

“We want to make sure our students go out and give free hair cutting events, give back to the community and give back to the homeless for the 300 hours,” Garrett says. “It’s more than just you. It’s about the community.”

“It’s a really [good] experience putting smiles on kids’ faces whose parents are unfortunate that maybe can’t afford a haircut,” Johnson says. “We give these kids an opportunity to look very nice. That’s also a good feeling when you give back to the community like that.”

Beyond Expectations teaches its students how to open their own companies and do presentations, which they’ll eventually display to potential investors.

Of the nine people who graduated from Youngstown, one has opened a barbershop – Blazin’ Klips Barber and Beauty Lounge. At Akron, there have been 120 graduates with 25 business owners. The Youngstown branch opened in 2019.

“Our goal is to do the same thing here,” Garrett says.

It cost nearly $40,000 to renovate the Youngstown space, Garrett says, and to install all the equipment inside Beyond Expectations Barber College.

Sixteen students are currently enrolled in the college, including the three from Choffin, who have their tuition paid through a collaboration with the barber college, Youngstown City Schools and Choffin.

Carissa Benchwick, Choffin entrepreneurship instructor, hopes her students in the program and those at Beyond Expectations Barber College find success after graduation.

“Honestly, in a couple of years, it’d be nice to see more graduating students at Choffin actually start their businesses and have the capital to do so,” she says. “We’d like to have students graduating from Beyond Expectations Barber College. And the goal is for them to open up their own barbershop in Youngstown as well.”

A class begins every Tuesday and goes through the 21 chapters in the textbook, cycling through until each student has completed every topic.

“It’s not a set number of students that will be graduating in May,” Williams says.

The cost of haircuts is $6 for children and seniors, and $7 for adults, Garrett says. Those receiving treatment on their head or beard pay a $10 charge. The college is open from 8:45 a.m. until 5:15 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

“It’s the cheapest [hair cut] in the city,” he says. “The reason we keep our prices so low is because each of the students has to get 25 services a week to substantiate being in school. We keep our prices low so the people in the community will come out and support us.”

Williams tells his students that a customer’s first impression is vital, just as if he were heading into a business to buy a vehicle, shoes, clothes or other items. What if the people working at these stores never engaged with new customers, he asks rhetorically.

“I tell them all the time, even though it’s 2022, that word-of-mouth and face-to-face conversation is still the best form of advertisement there is,”

Williams says. “I know Instagram is cool – social media with Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat. I can look at you and understand you better than a Facebook post. I can tell you really love what you’re doing, and you’re sincere about it – whether you’re cutting hair, fixing cars or selling shoes. That face-to-face interaction is something that is super important.”

Johnson says a good haircut is like artwork as he gives a customer a clean taper on the side.

He’s only 17 years old but he’s looking to own his barbershop in the next five to 10 years.

“I didn’t think college was going to be for me,” Johnson says.

“I had to find something to do. I’m happy I found this program. For kids who don’t want to go to college, this is a good program to join.”

Pictured: Beyond Expectations Barber College’s Daniel Williams, Isiah Johnson and Eric Garrett show off the venue in Youngstown. Johnson, a senior at Choffin, hopes to operate his own barbershop someday.