But how did this jaugernaut get started…? Assistant Editor Jacklyn Mendoza sits down with BSC owner Lee Resnick to get some history as well as a peek into BSC’s future…
Q: How long have you worked in the barber industry..? Are you a certified Master Barber?
The first misconception that many people have is they think I am a barber and I’m not..! I was in the music business and ran a record company after I graduated college. I came up with an idea to brand music videos and products to barbershops throughout the country and soon I was dealing with over 400 barbershops in 36 different states. I would brand music and products to the barbers, get their direct feedback and then I would go back to the advertisers.
At the time one of the rappers I managed was getting dropped by his record company and I decided to pay for his barber school tuition. Once he graduated and got a job in a barbershop in Queens, he introduced me to the barber and hair culture. I went to my first hair show after speaking to a barber who would email me pictures of his work, and I was fascinated to discover this whole, almost hidden culture. That’s when I discovered that there was no “meeting ground” for barbers to communicate. That was my motivation for starting BarbershopConnect.
Q: What made you come up with the idea of BarbershopConnect? Did you envision the site becoming what it has become when you started?
When I started BarbershopConnect, I didn’t really have a goal. I created the site under the direction of a colleague who has a “top 100” website and was generating a lot of revenue off of his site. He taught me what to do, what not to do, who to target, etc. I didn’t really have any expectations – I just saw it as a different avenue and I’m always surprised how many people visit the site daily.
Q: How have you have changed the Industry for Barbers?
Many people work on a project or a job for so long that they often forget the reason they even started. When I first started the site I noticed that if I posted a video (ex: worst haircut at Walmart), I would get 3,000 Likes. But if I posted a video that was educational I would only get 500 likes. When your income source is determined by how many people CLICK on your website, some people’s motivations tend to sway.
Lee Resnick (right) with veteran barbers Alex C Campbell (left) and Dan Brown (middle) Source: Exodus Barbershop
It wasn’t until we posted something negative about a barber on the site, that a friend of mine (who happens to be a barber as well) said “Do you realize you could ruin someone’s career with your influence?” that really made me reevaluate the content that we publish. Over the years, I have tried my best to merge exciting content that also serves the community in a positive way. My ultimate goal was to level the playing field for all barbers. So a barber in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin could have the same publicity as a celebrated barber from New York City. And the fact that I am NOT a barber helps me to be objective.
Q: How have changed things for Vendors and Sponsors who target Barbers?
I realized when we started the website we had big advertisers. But I also wanted to give space to smaller barber entrepreneurs to sell their products. What’s funny is, over the years I have had barbers come to me after sending thousands of dollars traveling to hair shows and barber battles – and when they try our platform they are all astounded. They’ll call me up and say “Wow..! I made three times more money with you than I ever did at any show.”
I love hearing that! Being a positive force in this industry is great. So, I have always understood my value and have never been afraid to walk away from money to keep the integrity of the brand and myself.
Q: How do you post so often on Instagram…? Is it all from your cellphone…?
I was never into Instagram but I left Eric (the young gentleman that works with me) to handle it in the beginning. Once I saw that our followers and audience were growing, I decided I needed to manage it. And after a while, I started getting into it. Meaning at all times of the day if I saw something cool or inspiring I would post it on our account.
BarbershopConnect on Instagram.com
Most people do not realize the power of social media. Now let’s say it is 4am in the United States, I would still post something because I could easily be reaching someone in Australia or China or any other time zone – that’s how you grow your brand! Most barbers don’t utilize all the social media platforms that are available – and social media (for the most part) is free!! Most people get stuck on using one platform instead of using a combination of 3 or 4 platforms in unison.
Q: What can people expect from the Barber Exhibition on February 3rd?
The exhibition is more of a showcase – it will not be a typical barber battle with competitions and trophies. It will be more reflective of a wine and cheese event displaying all the amazing BarberArt – so more like an art show. It is a point of purchase event for people to see things in a different way. I would love to grow this event into a traveling event – similar to barber battles – but that brings a bit more of a sophisticated vibe. So it’s not just people in the hair and barber industry that come to see what we are about – but also people in the art world, the photography world, etc.
Q: You have an inside track within the Barbering world – especially events. Also, there seem to be Barber Battles popping up everywhere and all across the country. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?
I think barber battles are great! It reminds me of the beginning of the Hip-Hop and Rap era. It’s expanding the craft. (But) From a brand perspective it is confusing. Think of it this way, you want to go to the barber battles or hair shows where you will get the most out of the event. The problem is most people do not know which show to go to and with so many different shows or battles going on, someone might go to a low-key barber battle in NY and miss out on a BIG event in their local area. Or vice versa! You could easily spend hundreds of dollars going to all the barber battles in your area and not have enough funds to go to a major barber event.
As far as the actual barber battle, only negative comment is the expectation of the barbers competing. A lot of barbers will enter a competition for the chance to win and then be able to say “I am the 2013 winner of said category”. The problem is there is no standard of judging – so these competitions almost become a free-for-all. It would be great if the Barber Museum could develop a standard to judge these competitions that everyone would go by.
Q: Will there be a consolidation of major players into LARGE events like there is for the Hair/Beauty industry?
It would never happen!
Q: You mentioned recently that a new version of BarbershopConnect.com will be launched soon. What will be new? (features ? videos ?, etc.)
There will be a (completely) new version of the website. My main goal with the re-launch is to create a platform where the older generation/more traditional barber and the new-school/more technology savvy barber can unify.
We wonder what the next version of BSC will be…?
Think about Jay-Z and Roc Nation – a man who owns the Nets and sacrificed ownership for a bigger opportunity. That is exactly what the new website will become – it will be the meeting ground between the distributor and the customer.
Q: What would you like to see as your role in the industry going forward?
If you go to a hair show or a barber battle, you see all this promotion and hype BEFORE the event. During the event, Instagram is flooded with pictures by individual barbers or passer-byers. But you never see the organization that held the event display pictures of the event AFTERWARDS. You have all these competitions and winners but you either see in-progress haircuts or the winner with his/her big trophy. You never see the final product!
It would be great if organizations would follow-thru, get a professional photography to capture the day of the event. We go to hair shows and barber battles to see the haircuts!! Not only does it give those who were not able to go to the event an idea of what occurred but it is also a great marketing tool for why more people should come next year or to the next event.
My advice to every barber would be to get a GOOD camera to take photos of your work. Quality photos (not just using your iPhone) can easily elevate the recognition your work receives and allows brands like BarbershopConnect to re-distribute it. A haircut can be amazing but if the picture quality is crappy, then we can’t use it for our site.
Q: How big is your team? Do you have a large staff and do you expect to grow your team in response to the need for these new services?
I’ve never had a big team – I have a team of 3 people and one of them doesn’t even touch anything on the barber side. I prefer to have a small team of people who are passionate and are able to learn through other people’s mistakes so we can create a better product.
Just because you have an Instagram page doesn’t make you a “marketer” – I do not even consider myself as a marketer, I am an idea guy but the difference is I execute! If I promise someone something then I follow-through with it.
Q: What predictions do you have for barber culture and the industry in 2014…?
My goal is to position myself so when all these projects take off and advertisers are ready to spend millions of dollars – they know I am the guy they should work with. Plus I know if I am the guy, I will know the right people to work with, the people who have a vision, who want to set a positive image to this amazing culture and who are business smart.
Q: Besides BSC, what other ventures do you have going? Is the rumor of a reality TV series true..? Can you tell us more about that..?
The show will primarily be a showcase of the barber culture. It is going to give tons of barbers the opportunity to be seen by America.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Since the interview, Lee has announced “Barber Battle”, a reality-based TV show hosted (and produced) by Cedric The Entertainer which will air later this year on the CW Network. Alex C Campbell sheds some light about the show in this video…
Q: Any final words….
It is very easy to hate on us but if you every stop and take a minute to see all the positive stuff we have done, you should re-evaluate your stance and the reason why you hate. We have done more good than I can count. And I think sometimes people need to look deeper.