Striving With Style

“West Company was my School of Life, basically. They taught me how to use the tools I possess.”

 

 Marc Saavedra cuts a clients hair at his business, Airport Barbershop, in Ukiah, CA.

Marc Saavedra has found his niche. Having grown up in a household where his mother cut hair, it’s not surprising that he owns Airport Barber Shop. His social savvy and style are innate, but his aptitude for business was discovered and learned.

Mark came to the small business world in a happenstance way that feels destined in retrospect. He was working at a market and learning to cut hair when his teacher suggested he take over the Truckstop Barber Shop. He was unsure, but when friends and family urged him on, his vision for himself changed. He skipped renting a station and went straight to renting a business. When he needed financial help, he was referred to West Company and that’s when things started coming together.

He credits West Company with creating his business plan. They crunched the numbers and put together a presentation for a loan. “I had a very short window and West Company helped me get through it quick.”

West Company had the expertise and Mark had the hustle. Truckstop had been in business for 50 years and had a built in clientele, but Mark brought in his own as well. When he was still in school, he gave free haircuts to his co-workers at the market. He went to the senior center and gave free cuts to firefighters and kids. He has given many kids their first haircut and after, he takes a picture of them with a fake mustache. It’s just fun and the moms love it. “You have to people skills to do this. And you have to be involved in the community because that’s who’s coming in here. I’ve always got my work face on.”

The road was bumpy, but Mark’s confidence was growing. When Starbucks bought out The Truckstop and Mark had to apply for another loan for a new a shop, West Company helped with a new business plan. “I don’t think I had business sense, but a lot of that came with their workshops. I didn’t realize it, but I’d already been doing guerrilla marketing. West Company was my School of Life, basically. They taught me how to use the tools I possess.”

Now in his third year of business, Mark has been able to expand his shop and give himself a raise every year. He sells products and has brought in another barber and a cosmetologist as independent contractors. “This is the best money I’ve ever made, working for myself… but the feeling is great. It’s like a weight off my shoulders, not having to clock in.”

Beyond creating a living for himself, Mark is fulfilling a role in society. The barber shop has always been a kind of social scene, where men from all walks of life can let their guard down and shoot the breeze. “We get the firefighters, police and criminals just out of jail. Youngsters and seniors.. and they’re all under the same umbrella here.” In the barber shop, everyone gets along. He’s carrying the torch, so to speak and expanding the tradition as well, by adding services that bring in women. He’s serving as role model for the kids. Showing them through action, what a lot of hard work and a little education can do. “It’s been nothing but positive. It feels bigger than me. People look to me.”

When asked if he is a barber for life, Mark answers with a proud lift of his chin. “Yes. I do believe so.”

Torrey Douglass