ep17 – Nieves Almaraz

This week’s guest is Nieves Almaraz, winner of NAHA Men’s Hairstylist of the Year 2021. With a barbering license and a cosmetology license, Nieves owns a barbershop and a barber school and thrives on inspiration.

  • Opened his first barbershop at 23 years old and was immediately swamped with bookings
  • Started attending hair shows and was overwhelmed with inspiration
  • Became a volunteer at hair shows so he could walk the show floor and meet his inspirations.
  • People would stop him on the floor to take photos of his fades, asking him how he did them. So he made an instructional video on his technique.
  • Barbers are very knowledgeable and take it to the next business level
  • What’s the one thing he would tell his younger self?

Complete Transcript

Chris Baran 00:00
How great would it be to get up close and personal with the beauty industry heroes? We love and admire and to ask them how did you learn to do what you do? I’m Chris Barron, a hairstylist and educator for 40 plus years, and I’m inviting all our heroes to chat and share the secrets of their success Well, I’m really excited about this week’s guest he has two years in a row. He’s been voted the most artistic award by the cosmetologist association Chicago show. He is the NAHA Men’s stylist of the year. He’s a Wahl educator that leads Walh’s professional disrupter trifecta. He owns a barbershop and barber schools. So let’s get into this week’s headcase from Chitown, Mr. Nieves Almaraz. first of all, I’m honored to have you on bud you know, and just so the people that are watching and listening know, we Nieves and I, I’d say we’re, we’re, I would say great friends that haven’t been together a lot of us, would that be a fair assumption?

Nieves Almaraz 01:15
I love that assumption. Or that the way you put that? Yes, absolutely.

Chris Baran 01:22
Yeah, it because to me, buddy, what that comes from is just really, I’m hoping is a mutual respect. But I, to me, it’s just such a respect for what you do. I’ve watched your work, and it’s an it’s phenomenal. And, you know, just like you can see, like at some of the gigs, we’re at together, what we might be together, meet each other in the hallway and get some chat in and so on. And, and then just kind of the next show. So it’s a pleasure to have you on bud.

Nieves Almaraz 01:52
Oh, thank you. Thank you for having me. Yeah, the feeling is mutual. I think, you know, Chris, you’re the type of person that you meet. And you know, you every time you run in, I run into you, it’s always like, you know, you know, warm, heartfelt, you know, like, Hey, this is my buddy, you know?

Chris Baran 02:13
Well, it’s because it’s true, you know, and I feel that, you know, it’s especially, you know, it’s not that we’re in competing brands, and that, you know, for those who people listening and watching, sometimes what happens in our industry is people are from one brand and one from another. And they feel they can’t talk to one another. But to me, it’s about hairdressers and about the hairdressers that helped to shape the lives of other people around and you know, and you know, I’m always that guy. Also, you know, I’ve been stalking you a bit. So when I’m at hair shows, I tried to stay in the background and kind of watch the work that you do. And you’re I mean, well, I know that you do man and you do women’s hair, but it’s primarily men’s hair, correct? Correct. Correct. But you are freaking amazing at it now. And I know and I’m going to talk to a little bit later about how a lot of people in the cosmetology business are afraid of fading hair and afraid of cutting short hair, that short etcetera. I want to talk about that later. But I am a stalker. It shows and I sit at the back of the crowd and I watch your work and your work is, is amazing. But listen, I want to I want to kind of start with this. I think that everybody because there’s people out there that are gonna watch this and they know you, they love you. They fall on every word that you say when it comes to hair. And I’m sure other things but the reality is, is there’s some people out there that don’t know you. So what I want to talk about is just first off, as I always believe that there’s two kinds of people in our hair industry and, and that you’ve got one one kind of person is they kind of they know they were going to be in hair right from day one. And then the second part is they they fell into it for some reason. Which one was you?

Nieves Almaraz 04:00
I think I fell into it. Yeah. In what way? In the, in the sense of, you know, I did a lot of odd jobs before I started doing hair. But whatever I’ve always done, I’ve always tried to excel in it. You know, I tell these stories all the time, you know, to my kids to the students at my barber school. You know, there was a time when I was a janitor at a factory. You know, there was a time I worked at McDonald’s and I tell people that McDonald’s was one of the my favorite jobs I ever had. Really, you know, I hear that from so many people why? I think it’s a you know, you’re at a point in your life where you’re young, and you don’t really worry, you look forward to seeing the group of people that you work with and You just have fun at work. But one of the things that I really took out of there was the systematic approach to, to things in, in the way that McDonald’s actually ran, you know, and a lot of the things, and that I learned there, and developed along the way, I actually use them to this day, and I teach my students systems, you know, so, yeah, I kind of feel like, I had all these odd jobs, and I was trying to find my way. And, um, you know, I was seeing a barber at the time. And, you know, I started asking about, you know, what he was making doing this, and I really liked the environment. And that kind of drew me towards it.

Chris Baran 05:58
Interesting, like, did he was the figure that he said that when you asked him, and if I unless I got it wrong, didn’t you are asking him how much money is potential to earn? Right? What I mean, even though it’s relative, because I’m guessing that was more than two years ago. What was did the number that he say intrigued you?

Nieves Almaraz 06:17
Yeah, it did. It was double of what I was making at the time at the job I was at, and now and I was like, wow, you know, barbers make that much. I’m like, wow, I would love to get into this, if that’s the case, you know,

Chris Baran 06:32
show me the money.

Nieves Almaraz 06:33
Right. So that kind of made me try to you know, get in and, and pursue it. And there was a gentleman in that barber shop that was sweeping, he would just sweep the barber shop. That was his job there. And, um, clean you know, I guess he was the maintenance guy and whatnot. But he actually was selling clippers and, you know, tools that you needed to cut hair with. And I remember buying a box of clippers and talc powder. He gave me everything in there. Even a straight razor. I didn’t even know how to use that thing. But, but I took the box home and you know, whoever would let me cut their hair, I cut their hair. And I bought after two weeks or a month, I was the best barber on the planet. And one thing

Chris Baran 07:32
I’m only laughing because I go back to my career, and when I thought I was shit hot. Found out differently.

Unknown Speaker 07:40
So, so one thing I noticed, you know, because I was going to the barber shop like I was frequently that twice a week. I get I get a fade on Wednesday, and then I’d go and just get my lineup touched up on the weekend. You know, so I was always in there. And I would I would always be observant, you know, and I seen that. A lot of the barbers in that particular shop I went in, they weren’t really like doing shear cutting, you know, so I said I had told my wife

Chris Baran 08:14
when you did when you said what shear shear cutting shear, shear shear cutting, I’m sorry. My ears, not your mouth.

Nieves Almaraz 08:21
Yeah, well, they weren’t using scissors, let’s say Gotcha. And I told my wife, I said, I said, you know, when I go in the barber shop, I don’t see it too many people, you know, working with scissors, you know, I said, I should probably go to a school and learn how to do that, you know, and interesting. And she she had two aunts that were in the business. And well, they still are. But at the time, she was telling me how they went to hair school, you know? And I said, Oh, great. Where’d they go? And see, no one ever told me there was a barber program. There was a Cosmo program. I didn’t even know what a cosmetologist was, you know, and, and I crack open the yellow book. You know, this is how long ago this was, you know this?

Chris Baran 09:18
Well, I’ll tell you, I was I was in it so long ago, that it was pink. So. So you went to college? You went to cosmetology school, not really knowing what it was. What was that like?

Unknown Speaker 09:34
Well, I mean, I walked in there, and, you know, I was given my kid. And there were roller sets in there. And, you know, and just to give myself, you know, because people don’t understand how blind to all of this I was, you know, when when I went to the school, it wasn’t open that day. You know, I went early. And I signed up. And all I was thinking was, this is a place that I’m going to come to. And they’re going to show me how to use scissors. All right, this is what I’m thinking. No one told me. I didn’t even know there was a license involved. Okay. Oh, really. So I show up when the school is open the next following week. And I get this kit and I have everything I need to do manicures and pedicures roller sets. And, and I think to myself, even then, I think to myself, Wow, I have something to give my mother. You know.

Chris Baran 10:43
See, no, I love the positive spin on that because I was expecting, you know, whatever. But you went no, listen, here’s that like and pamper. Mom, that’s awesome.

Unknown Speaker 10:53
So so then I am introduced to the instructor, they tell me to set my mannequin up. And I am I’m asking this question. Well, when do we start the scissor cutting? And then they the instructor says, Oh, you mean shear cutting? And I’m like, oh, okay, well, first things. First, you need to learn how to palm them. You need to learn how to hold them hold your comb, and do all this at the same time. And I’m like, Okay, I don’t, this is definitely not what I think it is, you know, but a and here I am. I’m there. I signed the contract. And I’m actually very, very glad that I went that route. Because I got to see a different side of the business by going through the cosmetology program. And excuse me, although I really wanted to focus on men’s hair. I ended up learning a whole lot more than just that.

Chris Baran 12:08
Yeah, what was it? What do you think, with the cosmetology training that you had? gave you an advantage over? The average person who who did not when you went into men’s hair? What was what was that thing for you?

Unknown Speaker 12:25
I just think that understanding and have knowledge of perhaps the longer lengths, hair color, understanding chemical textures, service, you know, things of that nature, even nails, nails in general. And, and in my barber school that I have, that’s something that we teach here is nails, but I was a big fan of nails when I was in college, high school, you know, and I liked

Chris Baran 12:59
part of the grooming process, you know, it’s part of the grooming process, isn’t it for men and women?

Nieves Almaraz 13:04
Exactly. You know, and I think even the, I’m surprised how acceptive The students are to it. You know, a lot of times, there’s that standard of, hey, you know, I don’t do my nails, you know?

Chris Baran 13:22
Hey, oh,

Nieves Almaraz 13:23
and, and you’ll be surprised how many of my students are actually really into it, and I see them all the time even they, they give their selves manicures, you know, and I think it’s a big deal. It’s a big part of what we do also in the in the barber side of things, you know?

Chris Baran 13:42
Yeah. So, so you’re there you went to barbering school or you went to Cosmo school you went to barbering school. What was it like when you first got out of school? What I mean when you got out of there, where did you work at a at a place? Did you start your own right away? Yeah, what was it like for

Nieves Almaraz 14:02
you? So I actually opened up a unisex but it was more barbering I opened up like a barber shop before I graduated, actually, wow. You know, so I opened up right away with the ambition and, you know, I knew I was gonna get my license. So right away, I opened up and I actually had instant success. It was it was booming business was booming happen at the moment. There wasn’t too many people catering to the fayed service and you know, the precision lines that we were doing in my area. So, we took off and in the midst of all that, the owner of the cosmetology school encouraged me to take the instructor program. So while while I owned the barber shop. I was actually going to school still to get my instructor license in cosmetology.

Chris Baran 15:09
Well, that’s interesting. So give me give to give some perspective. What year? What years did you go? To? What years? Did you take your training? And what year was it that you open your business?

Nieves Almaraz 15:21
So I took the training in 2002. And I was there for quite some time around that timeframe. And I started the process of opening the shop in 2004. And 2005. I’d say February, we were open for business.

Chris Baran 15:42
Wow. So there’s so you’re now you’re in, you’re in your your barber shop, we are your salon unisex, optional shop. And by the way, this is tea, there is no wine in there yet. I’ve done that for some, but there’s no wine there. It’s just my mouth. So I want to how did. So there’s obviously there, you’re in the business. But all of a sudden now I want to fast forward. Like more. I know you I know you as the gentleman that is always on stage traveling the world with wall. What? How did how did you get? What was the transition? Like what happened to get you from behind the chair? I mean, a lot of people listening and, and watching will be wondering how is it that you get to where you get? Is it possible for me to do it? So what was what was the process that happened for you to get you first of all, on your first gig teaching?

Nieves Almaraz 16:41
So this is a it’s I would say this is a big or a long story. Okay.

Chris Baran 16:50
Well, I got a lot of time,

Nieves Almaraz 16:53
however. So just going back to the cosmetology, I’m a cosmetology student, let’s look at that time frame, I’m going to the hair shows, I’m introduced to the hair shows there. So I’m inspired. I’m like, wow, this is just a whole new world for me, you know. And, you know, I open up my shop, and one day a gentleman came in, you know, and I’m from Chicago, My shop is in the Chicagoland area. And he comes in promoting a competition for the cosmetology Association. And I go to the competition, and, you know, I ended up winning a plaque. You know, it was an honor, I was happy, you know, and I developed a relationship with that gentleman, and his wife was actually the president of the Association of here in Chicago. And, you know, I will tell him, I’m like, hey, you know, I’ve been to these hair shows, and I’m just so inspired. And he said, Well, why don’t you come out to the hair show, volunteer, signing people up for the association, and you can meet some people, you know, so I actually volunteered at the hair shows, before I stepped foot into the showroom, you know, and, and with the notion of all of that, so I didn’t know where it was gonna lead me. I just knew I was going to meet some people, you know. And, you know, in return, you volunteer your time you get to walk the floor, and you know, you, you get inspired. And, yeah, that name

Chris Baran 18:44
is I just want to I want to stop you there for just a second because I want to make sure that people really heard what you said, particularly the young generation that’s just out there right now. And while some people are saying, Yeah, but they want this and that. And the other, I think that the young industry that we have, and the young people coming up on our industry are phenomenal. And some of them are going to want what you do too. So is that’s the key is to get yourself seen. And I think you made the first step when you said look, I’m gonna volunteer my time. I’m going to you know, and we know in life, nothing is free. You gave free time but what you got back out of it was a plethora. And yes, I use the word plethora, as is that you got a lot of, of networking skills out of that and you got a lot of people to notice you. And it gives you a step up in our industry as I always say that you’ve got to be seen in our industry if you want to get somewhere so I Sorry for interrupting but I want people to really understand what you went through and how important that that is in in what we do of getting your chops within our Heron

Nieves Almaraz 20:00
straight. Right, and you know, volunteering your time is just one part of it, you know, because even from there, it wasn’t like, oh, you met all these people you network? Oh, you know, that paved the way? No what that what that paved the way for was more inspiration more exposure for me to see how the industry was moving at the time, you know, so I used to after doing that for a year or so, I used to come out, and I would take all the guys from my barber shop, and I tell them come to the show, it’s so awesome, you know, and I would put designs in their hair and cut their hair and do something extravagant. And as we would walk the show floor, people would stop us and want to take pictures of this stuff. You know, so now we were bringing attention to ourselves. And one thing I noticed was, was that it was like a huge demand that people was always saying, we want to learn that we want to learn that, you know, so that inspired me to make an instructional video. So I shot and what

Chris Baran 21:15
year was that? What is your what is your was

Nieves Almaraz 21:17
that this is 2008. Wow,

Chris Baran 21:20
see, and nobody was doing that at the time. And nobody was putting out videos. At the time guys, and I want to put this out for the people that are watching. Is you have is what what is your what is your Instagram handle?

Nieves Almaraz 21:32
My my handle is how to fade hair,

Chris Baran 21:35
how to fade hair and want people to go there. Because you can see I you know, I was scrolling through their camera, whether it was yesterday or today. And there’s some like, amazing work on there. So, you know, and to me, that’s about the inspiration behind it. And I think that inspiration leads you to a curiosity factor of how do we pick make next steps, you know, and I think that before you make a step, you’ve got to be curious and want to wow, that intrigues me. How do I get there? So that that was such a cool marketing plan that you had whether it was inadvertent or not. Let me do up our hair. Let’s make a show. And your your own show within the show. Right.

Nieves Almaraz 22:16
Right. So so then I was trying to figure out ways to how do I become part of the show? After that, you know, and you know, one thing about me, I was never the type of person to walk up to any of the manufacturers or all these people and say, Hey, how do you? How can I get put on our top? How do I become a platform artists are you know, I wasn’t never that type. So I figured I’m going to I’m going to draw them to me. And, and that’s the way I did it. I actually got my own space at the hair show. One of the major ones out here in Chicago. At the time. I believe it was Midwest beauty show. The Midwest beauty show. Yeah, now it’s America’s beauty show. Yeah. So So I got a small booth brought my DVD out there, my instructional video and I brought this small stool. And I started cutting hair out of my little booth. And

Chris Baran 23:30
yeah, and then so is that, where are you gathering people out of the audience? Just Hey, come on, get a haircut, or they were watching them say volunteering? Yeah,

Nieves Almaraz 23:38
they were volunteering. And we had that thing. So packed.

Chris Baran 23:43
And we were on Yeah, we were waiting

Unknown Speaker 23:45
in the back way in the back of the show. And I always tell this story, you know, because, you know, I do do education for a Wahl. And Mr. Wahl himself, walks past my little, no way. And I tried to sell him a DVD. I didn’t know who he was. And I gave him my pitch. And he said, No, thank you. And he walked away. And about 10 minutes later, one of the Wahl educators walks back with some Wahl clippers that Mr. Wahl himself personally wanted me to have. And I I took them and you know, I continued about my business. And you know, I think that was my first introduction to Wahl although, you know, they may have seen me there that day. They just didn’t know who I was still to that point. And I were learning. I kept on you know, I made Volume Two, volume three. And then when phone apps came out I made my own instructional phone app. And I even took hair cuts from that and put it on DVD. And, and in the midst of all of this, I understood that it wasn’t being done in English and Spanish out there. So that’s what I did with my DVDs and my instructional content well,

Chris Baran 25:22
so that that boat had both English and Spanish on there. And

Nieves Almaraz 25:27
that made my stretch goal even further. So that was a something that, you know, I was I was thinking about, like, strategically.

Chris Baran 25:39
Yeah, that’s awesome. So the net, so let’s transfer, let’s push forward. So how did the wahl link up? happen? Like, what? What made it happen? What was the circumstance there?

Nieves Almaraz 25:55
So what happened was one of my good friends, you may know him in the industry, Ivan zoot?

Chris Baran 26:03
Oh, yeah. Wow. So by the way, just for those of you who don’t know, Ivan has, what is it? He has the world record? For the what is it the most haircuts in a day X amount of time? And it was like, what was it like 54 or 54 haircuts within an hour or something like that? I don’t know, it was a lot. It was a lot, you know, I might be exaggerating a bit there. But not by much.

Unknown Speaker 26:26
He definitely holds world records. But one thing that a lot of people that don’t know about him today, but back in the day, when I met him, he was actually the education director for Andis clipper company. Oh, no way. And that’s when I met him, you know, because I have this fascination with men’s cuts and clippers. And down the road, Ivan started working with other distributors. And those distributors happened to be distributing wahl tools. And wahl, um, had a meeting, and Ivan was there. And they were telling him, they were looking for instructors or educators. And they were also looking for educators that spoke Spanish. And I even told them who I was. And that was from networking from 2006, you know, up until I’ve been with one now, eight, nine years, so you could just kind of do the math. Everything didn’t happen overnight, you know?

Chris Baran 27:47
Yeah. See, now there’s the other thing is that, you know, because nothing that you’re doing, I’m doing, I’m gonna imply something here, but I don’t want it to be taken wrong. That if we think that we get everything overnight, and it just doesn’t happen that way. And, and you had to put in some time, learning how to do what you do, learning how to network learning how to make connections with other people. And even though it might sound like it was, you just got a break, you had to work here took us off, to get that people to know you, so somebody else could recommend you to give you the break. That makes sense. Yeah, and I really want people I really want people to hear that. That it doesn’t just happen overnight. And sometimes you got to work for 2,3,5,10,15 years that to be an overnight success as other people think.

Nieves Almaraz 28:47
And also just imagine if I never put myself out there as an educator without any fun Yeah, back in me, you know, just I always tell people you know, you can knock on the door. I wasn’t going to knock on the door. I will I kicked the door down. And I moved. I moved in there and then I made myself seen you know if you want to put some thought and so that you know,

Chris Baran 29:14
yeah, yeah, I love it. So now I don’t want to I want to talk later about some of your competition work but what I did notice in in wall gave you great credit went after you won. Nah, ha. A couple of years back and the and they wrote down and I want to just read this out to the people that he said they’re the they put down and their description of you is your approach approach to the creative process is sticking to your roots and honor your legacy. Give us a little insight. What do you do? Tell us what that means. How it was a little more. What’s that mean to you?

Nieves Almaraz 29:54
So um, to me, to me, that means I represent where I’m from. And you know, those words, I would imagine they’re speaking to competition and speaking to a collection. I did. Yeah. Because if you look at hair designs, and you’ve been around long enough, you know that, in Chicago, our hair designs are done a certain way. And some people call them free styles, some people call them wild style. Some people call them graffiti style, and

Chris Baran 30:35
then go see, that’s where I would have put it, because I was watching, I was looking at all your stuff. And in you know, and because, you know, like about that kind of graffiti on my arm as well, you know, and that style, this is more of a New York style graffiti I, I got the demo of it, the person that did it originally was from London, and my, my, when I was living in Manhattan, the the artists that was there, so we got to make it more, more New York, but I want to take that back to your style, I see it in there. And it’s beautiful, you know, but it really has that kind of graffiti kind of feel. And I think it’s so beautiful. And I marvel at how you can get that in a head of hair, that sometimes does not always have the same consistency throughout. So how, what’s that like?

Unknown Speaker 31:25
So, so I’m kind of going back to the style. So in what what wahl had to say there. That’s just me representing my hometown and where I’m from, and, and we know that that legacy is going to move on to the next generation of barbers. I teach that to my students on a daily basis, you know, when I’m, when I’m here at the school, I’m instructing them, and I’m teaching them that style, and that style. Now with the internet and social media, it’s worldwide, you know, I see it, I see it mimicked all over, you know, so definitely means a lot to execute it for me, I’ve been doing it for years, you know, so I’ve developed techniques, and I can teach that step by step to somebody. And, you know, that’s where the legacy parts gonna keep moving forward.

Chris Baran 32:30
Yeah, yeah. So, and I know you’re gonna have a hand in that I can, I can see that happening. I want to, cuz we’re in the barbering, and, and you know, when, when I was wanting to start the, there was dirt, and then I got into hair. But, you know, when I was in hair, that was during the 60s, and when, when everything was really about precision cutting, and all of that kind of stuff, and we went from roller cuts to roller sets into cutting, etc. And then, at that time, like prior to that, barbering was, like, huge, like, there was everybody, every man on the earth went to a barber. And then it kind of went into unisex and, and a lot of the male customers got pulled away into into salons or unisex salons, etc. And while barbering stayed there, it kind of took in what I hate to say it because, but it kind of took a little backseat for a short while. But then it came back with a vengeance, you know. And I know it’s been more than a decade or so right now, it’s been quite a while, but that now, everything that you see, even in women’s Harris, as reflected in some of the things that you see, in barbering, give us a like, tell us a little bit what like what do you think that if you What do you think was the change that happened to bring barbering back to you really become supernova when it when it hit the hit the mark and ministry?

Nieves Almaraz 34:12
I remember 2011 2012 even sooner, you know, doing education and you know, people speaking of barbering, being like some lost art form, you know, yeah. And

Chris Baran 34:29
I almost was it was almost, it almost was and I don’t say that, because I have the utmost respect for every barber that was out there. I went to them when I was a kid and so on. But there was it happened when they made this wild shift into it was trendy was hot. It was, you know, you wanted to go to the barber to get something cool.

Unknown Speaker 34:49
Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, we were preaching that years ago, even you know, when I just started doing education, I wasn’t doing education with manufacturers or anything, we were talking about fusion and bringing that world with this world and, you know, putting the two together, Cosmo and barber and, you know, that was something also Me Myself personally how, you know, like I said, I went to Cosmo school and then I did the instructor program and Cosmetology, and then like you and your cool graffiti tag, so I went and got a barber pole tattooed on my arm. Oh, and sweet. And I said, Well, you know, I own a barber shop and you know, I have barber tattoos, but I’m not officially a barber, you know? So that encouraged me to go and get my barber license. And then I also got my barber instructor license. So I did 4500 hours in Illinois. And you know, most most people think one program is a lot. I did four of them. Wow. But I like I said, I was glad I did it because I got to see both sides. And I knew that cosmetologist wanted to learn what barbers know. And barbers wanna know what cosmetologist know, you know, go. And so I think that our industries have been tying both together for some time now. And especially when there wasn’t a barber craze, right, like, we could, we could say that. I think it brought a lot more on to our industry and a lot more notoriety. And people just really wanted to go back to the barber shop because of the environment and the atmosphere though, all the things I fell in love with. At that moment in time back then, when I was just seeing the barber that was giving me a fresh fade, you know? Yeah, and I think, I think with that, um, you know, the barber started to, to grow more, and I think barbering is still evolving, and it’s infusing with cosmetology. Now, you have a lot of barbers very interested in cosmetology. And interesting, the styles are changing, and I also feel like barbers are now, very knowledgeable on taking it to the next business level, at this point.

Chris Baran 37:39
Give me more what does that mean?

Nieves Almaraz 37:41
So they understand that there’s money to be made now. And there’s a lot more information out there now. And you have a lot of barbers that have had success in in their field. And they’re now giving back, you know, they’re, they’re starting companies that are consulting, the newer generation, I’m how to build wealth. And you have instructors that are very knowledgeable, and educators that are knowledgeable now opening up their own schools, like myself.

Chris Baran 38:20
Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, that’s, I’m glad. I’m glad that you, you’re talking about that. Because, you know, I think that whether it’s hairdressing or barbering, I think it’s almost the I mean, I’ve heard it as termed as the second oldest profession in the world. But I’d like to think of it as sometimes the best case best kept secret in the world of money making because the amount of money that you you have the opportunity of earning by by how you apply yourself behind the chair, how you the social aspect of using social media to gather to gather information, gather clients and get your work out there. To me, I think that the more that we can let people know that there is a tremendous amount of money and opportunity to create a tremendous amount of money in this where they don’t see us as I was just doing I would do on a podcast just the other day and we were talking on there how the US information the US it comes out on an annual report that the in the hairdressing in the hair world barbers, hairdressers, etc. is something like the average is like $28,000 a year. I don’t know many, many people that only make 20,000 $28,000 a year in our business and most of them make a lot lot more than that. So how do you what do you feel about that? How do you feel about those numbers? When you hear that?

Nieves Almaraz 39:56
I feel like um, you know, that’s not the first time I’ve heard that. And I think, you know, it’s up to the leaders in these industries to inform and give that knowledge to the newer generation. So that they know that they should be doing things like paying their taxes and showing what they’re making, you know, and a lot of people just don’t know, they just don’t understand. And they’re, they’re used to trying to, you know, beat the system when the system is the system, you know, it’s there, it’s there. And, you know, if, if we start reporting, and we start showing what we’re making, it’s going to elevate us even more.

Chris Baran 40:52
Yeah, and if they notice, get proper guidance from accounting and from tax people that you know, that you don’t have to hide your money, you can have tax implications, by the way that you, you. You make preparations in advance let’s, let’s not do I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole too far. But I love what you said out there is that it doesn’t matter whether you’re working on your own, whether you’re working for somebody, you know, we want everybody to get all the tax breaks they can is not a boiler saying throw your money at the at the government, but you want to make sure take care of yourself. But also make sure that if we’re reporting everything out what we everything that we do everything that our hair people in the hair industry, are guarded by or ruled by is what they think that we make. And, and we cheat ourselves when we do it. And I want to take you back I want to take you back just one quick thing here because I don’t want to let this go. Because I was reading a report that you were talking that somebody was interviewing you and where you said that that barbering needs a louder voice in the hair industry. And and I agree that for every part, but what what is it about? What is it tell me why that what is it that you feel is going on that you want to have barbering have a louder voice?

Nieves Almaraz 42:18
Just in general, I think that, um, even though our worlds are meshing, technically, what, technical wise. I think that cosmetology has had their side as far as financials and everything. They’ve had it on, on lock for some time, you know, and barbering could also, you know, take a lot of that knowledge and spread that around as well, you know? Yeah. And just kind of like, thinking about what you said, Can you repeat that again?

Chris Baran 42:59
Yeah, like I was just reading and this was, I think it was an it was, I think it was in I was in one of your bios, or something they said, but it was it was said in there, because you were talking about that, that barbering as a whole needed a louder voice and hair, you know, and I kind of took that that, you know, because of the position that it’s in, right? Now, barbering is so strong right now. And I took it that you were saying it wasn’t getting to the the accolades that you thought it was, and I’m not trying to put words in your mouth. Yeah. Well, if

Unknown Speaker 43:38
if I kind of touch on that subject, think about it like this. Right. The the Naha award that I’ve won? Was was for men’s hair stylists of the year. The year after the category changed to Barber of the year. Okay. Yeah. So in my own eyes, I feel like a a work. We’re trailblazing right now. Where’s we’re, changing the industry and barbering is getting that recognition now, you know, in, in this world of NAHA awards or whatever, yeah, whatever is associated around that, you know, so if you look at what the categories that category was like before and who was entering it, and it wasn’t necessarily barbers. You know, I remember inserting the year before I got nominated the year before I won, and I was honored to be nominated and then you know, the person who received the the now he kind of went up there and said, Hey, I’m not I don’t consider myself a men’s hairdresser. You know, I’m like, Wait, how could you accept this award and say that, you know, so? Yeah, to me, I felt like a the barbers really need to start stepping over to this, but I also feel like it’s a growing process as well. Barbers have to be, they have to put the work in, and they have to present themselves in a way where they’re showing that they’re on that level. And they’re, they’re actually showing something to be recognized for what they do. You know, yeah. So. So that’s kind of what I’m looking at. And I would piggyback off of that and talk about more on, you know, the industry and, and the shift, you know,

Chris Baran 46:03
yeah, yeah. And, you know, it’s kind of full circle, isn’t it? Where barbering was at the top of the list and everybody went to a barber. And if you’re listening, I mean, actually using air quotes right now, actually, I’m only using the right hand side because I have my notes the other hand, but, but it’s full circle, wasn’t it because we talked about barbers beforehand. And then it went become it was unisex, nobody used the term barber as much. Then barber came back into it again, as soon as we every time as soon as we went back to fades, and everybody was tapering hair and putting designs in their hair. And for a while there, and I mean, some hairdressers might be a little bit peeled at me at this, but actually could with all the long hair that was out there, and men’s was the coolest hair that was really out there. Because they had, you know, really cool short hair designs. And most of the women’s hair was longer and it was much more refreshing. That makes sense to, to see all this cool stuff in the men’s hair. So it’s been kind of full circle where they went from memes are to the unisex. And then it was just men’s styling, as opposed to Barber. And now it’s back to barbers and given their proper recognition. It’s awesome.

Nieves Almaraz 47:18
So awesome. Even even at that, Chris talking about that, and talking about the men’s hair styling category and barbers recognition and whatnot. You know, that’s what inspired me also, to say, hey, you know, it’s been so many years that hair stylists have inserted into the men’s category. Well, why don’t I go into the hair cutting category, which is predominantly, you know, the people who win or the cosmos or the hairdressers, and well, why don’t I try there? And yeah, that’s what led me to join that category this year. And behold, I did get nominated for hair cutting.

Chris Baran 48:16
Yeah, and it’s awesome. I mean, I tell you, you’re showing your skill all the way around there. So I want to I want to I think we might have been into some of the why behind it. But I want to jump into your into the photography that you’ve been into, et cetera. What like, was there? I think we kind of got the vibe that you had been doing a lot of, you know, filming your own work. What jumped you into the, into wanting to transfer to pictures and for nah, ha. Like, was there something that led it to you? Was it to be seen? Was it what like, what really pushed you into, okay, I’m taking my chances. I’m buying the ticket, and I’m going to enter my work. What was that?

Unknown Speaker 49:01
Well, well, I knew that I knew about NAHA for years. And the first year I entered you know, at the time, I was called by the National Director of Education for wahl and she told me she said, Hey, I need you to meet me at the studio. We’re going to shoot a creative we’re gonna do a creative photo shoot. Okay. I wasn’t told I will shooting for NAHA. Okay. So, so I show I show up, and then I’m told I’m shooting for NAHA. And I’m kind of like thrown back, you know, because I do that. Understand the severity of this. And mind you. I didn’t know who my models were, either, you know, but this is something that I always say I always say preparation. You know, I’ve been preparing for that moment, all throughout my career. So when it came, when it finally came, I was prepared for it. So I took, I took a deep breath. And then I’d be like

Chris Baran 50:18
buckle up here. puckered up here, but just a little bit jumped in.

Unknown Speaker 50:25
I said, Okay, these are going to be the models I choose. And, you know, I started to strategize. I wanted to show variety and different hair textures, ethnicities, and I went for it that way. And that was the year I did get nominated. But I didn’t get the NA. Right. So, so the following year, was when I was like, a little more prepared and a little more strategic. And yeah, that’s kind of what got me into, into shooting the creative photo shoot, you know, I was just spur the moment. I was doing a creative shoot, and it happened to be for NAHA. And, um, you know, it’s like, once, once you get bitten by the bug, you kind of want to keep going, you know,

Chris Baran 51:23
there it is. There it is, there it is, right there. It’s just like I always say when it’s, it’s nerve wracking as hell, because you’re going to be judged, and most people don’t want to be judged. You know, and but the other side of it, I think the big I just had a conversation with a wonderful young lady. Just yesterday, as a matter of fact, and she was talking about nah, ha, and I just said, look at, you just need to jump in with both feet. And don’t be afraid if you lose, you know, I mean, if you go in and you win your first time, God Bless. But you got to just go in and do it. And you got to find out what you’re doing wrong the same the way you did your first haircut. It’s just the same thing. But you you, you don’t want to lose. But you have to be prepared to lose because especially at the beginning, you got to learn your chops, and you got to learn what works, what doesn’t work. So I want to take my hat off to you on that. That’s, like I say, one day, I swear to God, you and I are gonna get together. And you’re gonna put a clip on my hands I can clip or cut but I can’t clip a cut like you and you’re going to teach me how to do those designs. That’s something I would I would be nothing that would please me more than that. So what we’re talking about, are you Oh, well listen, we’re gonna make that a date. Brother. Nia Nieves what, what pushes you what, when it comes to just you and moving forward, I just kept hearing about, I’m gonna, I’m not going to knock at the door, I’m going to, I’m going to kick the mother. Yeah, I’m going to kick it down. I’ll just leave it at that. But what pushes you do that?

Nieves Almaraz 53:02
I just think, where I’m from my upbringing, you know, rough neighborhood, you know, you had to survive. And you had to be tough. And there was no, there was no time to feel sorry for yourself. And you got to keep it moving. And, yeah, you know, it’s just that drive that flame that’s lit inside of me that’s going to, you know, keep me going and, you know, now I have kids and, you know, I’m building for them as well at the same time, you know, and failure is not an option, you know, and it never has my son. My son is doing barbering now. Actually, both of my sons are

Chris Baran 53:53
Oh, really? Is it Jake, Jacob, did I get the name right?

Unknown Speaker 53:55
Yeah, yeah. Jacob. And then there’s, and then there’s Jason. And then my, my wife, Christina. She loves doing nails. So, if you look at my NAHA collection, she did the nails on my Naha. That’s awesome. But she also has her Cosmo license. And she also has her barber license, and now she’s enrolled for the barber instructor program here at the school. So she works with my students a lot as well. And, you know, it’s becoming a family business. And, you know, you know, the the drive, everyone’s always gonna say, what motivates me is my family. Of course, but also, I credit everything to my upbringing and things that I seen growing up and, you know, a lot of people that are not here today that You know, I could have handled the same situation, you know? Yeah.

Chris Baran 55:06
And well, I’m glad you are, is there in your evolution that from, you know, the street to, and that might have played something that was way off. But you’re where you were, where you came from, and the process you went through and how you evolved into who you are now? Is there something in there that you wish you wouldn’t have done? Or you would have changed about the way that you did it to get to where you are faster?

Nieves Almaraz 55:38
No. No, I mean, you know, I started my first barber shop when I was 23 years old. Okay, so, so you got to think even as I’m in my 20s, and, you know, in hair school, and I’m looking at everything, you know, I was, I was out of my parents house at 17. You know, I was driving a car at 14, you know, I didn’t even have a driver’s license.

Chris Baran 56:12
Can I was gonna say late. Is that legal age in Chicago? No. So,

Nieves Almaraz 56:21
so, you know, I feel like, I was in a position where I had to grow up fast. But yeah, um, I loved every minute of it. And, you know, every step of the way, if, if I was never losing, I was always learning. And yeah, you know,

Chris Baran 56:41
hit pause there. Pause there. Because I want I want everybody to hear that. I wasn’t. You said I, if I wasn’t learning. Notes, I want you to say that again.

Nieves Almaraz 56:53
I was never losing. I was always learning,

Chris Baran 56:57
always learning. That’s brilliant. I, I was wasn’t always that say it again. Because I want to get in my brain because I love that I was never losing. I was always I was never losing. But I was always learning. I love that. That’s, you know, most people, more people should think of it that way. Because you’re not you might not have got what you exactly what you want. But you did learn something. So you got it. Well, he got it later. I love that. One more for you here. What? What is it that you know, now that you didn’t know in the past? That would make a difference in your life? And listen, I’m going to ask you to I’m going to put that differently to you. If you could talk to the 20 year old or 23 year old Nieves and you had something to say to him. What would you say to him?

Nieves Almaraz 57:51
I would tell him to save your money. And, and, you know, learn more about the financial aspect of business. You know, when you’re young, and you’re successful, like like I said, I opened my shop, and it was instant success, you know, and so I thought, you know, I had a lot of cash at hand, and a lot of a payment in one hand and went out the other you know, So had I had I

Chris Baran 58:28
believe me, brother, I know exactly what you’re talking about.

Nieves Almaraz 58:31
Had I been a little more savvy on that. I definitely. I would be telling myself at that age to be more cautious with your money and save it and, you know, have a plan, you know, have a plan in motion. Think about the future a little more. And that’s the way I would go about talking to my younger self. The way for you, that’s the way I talk to my son. Yeah, yeah.

Chris Baran 59:03
Experience. Right, man. Right. Yeah. It’s just like my mom always used to say to too soon old, too late. Smart, too. So I also read in there that you on you have a donation box, haircut events at your barber schools. Right, tell us a little bit about that.

Nieves Almaraz 59:24
So it’s through a local church, and the pastor of the church. He’s a longtime client of mine. And when I converted over because my barber shop is actually in the location where my school is now. So I converted that converted the barber shop over to a school. We just we did a little expansion and, you know, that’s what it is now all of a school. So, you know, a lot of the faces that were coming in here, they still continue to come in from the barber shop base. And the pastor from the church, he comes in and, you know, just looking for ways where, you know, we can start to be more of a community driven business as well, you know, and get involved. And that’s one of the ways we were able to get involved, you know, with the community, what we do is we have a donation box, anyone from that congregation that comes in and they get a haircut with us, we don’t charge them, you know, they could donate whatever they’d like, put it in that box. And at the end, at the end of the week, we do do like a flyer, and we put a date on it, so we can drive them in, at that specific time, and at the end, when that date is expired, we tally up all the money, and we donate it back to the church.

Chris Baran 1:00:59
And where does that so the money goes to? Like, I think, where does that? Where does that money go to? Like, do they give it to? Is it homeless? Or is it what do they? Where does the money go to from? Like, is there a, is there a place that is contributed to specifically or is it a variety of different places? Yeah, I

Nieves Almaraz 1:01:17
have a variety. And at one point, we contributed to the construction of their new new temple, they built a whole new building there. So that was part of it. You know, and, and I think it’s more, you know, on the lines of the way the haircut goes with us, and the satisfaction that the person that comes in and, you know, they actually really like to come in and talk and, you know, they’re, they’re glad to be a part of, of that as well. And they feel like they’re a part of, of the growth of the church, and, you know, the events that are being held as well.

Chris Baran 1:02:02
Yeah, yeah, that’s awesome. And I think just that to give back, you know, like, we get a lot from the community, so the more that we can give back the better you know. So when you’re on the road I mean, we talked a little bit about this before we opened up the thing but is to talking about you know, some of the when you’re on the road just for those of you don’t know it’s sometimes you’re on the road and your fellow partners, etc, that you’re out there with is you can do you can do play pranks on them. And a lot of you in the previous episodes before I’ve heard of some of the stuff that that we’ve done on the road, everything from in the salon sending people around for supplies that don’t exist to doing pranks on our on our friends on stage. What were Is there anything that when you’ve been on the road that pranks either that you’ve had done on you or pranks that road stories that you would have done just for a laugh here? Partners?

Unknown Speaker 1:02:59
So So I think I think at this at my age now I’m kind of like the the older dude in the crowd, you know, when we went on solar, that disrupt or with wahl, yep, a lot of the guys were younger than me. And we have our film crew with us. And, you know, it was just one big fun time, right. But one of the things like these younger dudes, at the time, were, you know, they’ll say something like, let me get it. Oh, yeah. But they do it in this in this voice like, Oh, yeah. Even more even more high pitch than that. Yeah. But, um, so one of the things we used to do to kind of mess with everybody is when we would stay in these hotels, sometimes we’re on different floors. So if you were the guy that got off on the lower levels, and we were all on that elevator as a crew, when you walk off into the hall, all you want to hear yelling out the elevator down that hall was Oh, yeah. Yeah. About, you’d have about you’d have about five or six voices of that just echoing down the hall and down the hallways. So the guy, the guy who got off that elevator first off last, he was running into his room.

Chris Baran 1:04:41
You wanted to be on the top floor, I take it. I laughed at there was a group that out of the UK that came over to America and we’re doing a class and every night they would tape different things on the door. They would have a sign and they’d say A add on to this and they would tape cigarette butts or whatever it was onto his door. And then on the final night they they got duct tape and duct tape his whole door shut with a like a roll of duct tape so he couldn’t get out in the morning. If he had to call down for the maintenance people that come and dig him out of his own room. Oh, that was funny stuff. Listen. I’m gonna throw some stuff at you rapid fire here. And just first word or first, you know, things that come to sense just got a sentence great, but things that come to you come to your brain. What are the things that that turn you on in the creative process? Clippers glampers. Love it what stifles it stifles your creativity. Clippers, clippers love it. An event or a show that you’ve done that you loved. Okay, the one that really kind of that’s the one you went, oh my god, that was one of the best ones. While I’m sure there’s many the first one that comes to your brain.

Nieves Almaraz 1:06:14
I would say we we did the BTC show out in New York. It was one of their one of their tour dates. And it was right when the pandemic hit. Al Wow. And actually the IBS show cancelled. And we went along with the young BTC show. And I remember being in there and it was just so packed and so full of energy. And I shared the stage with a couple of people and even one of them cracked open a Corona on stage. And lo and behold, you know the whole world shut down. Yeah, that wow, that was a monumental moment, though. For me. Yeah, it was all of it.

Chris Baran 1:07:06
Okay. Something that, you know, in life in general, not necessarily industry things in life you dislike the most

Nieves Almaraz 1:07:15
in life? What is this life? This like the most? Yeah. When people have the ability, but don’t apply it? Mm hmm.

Chris Baran 1:07:26
And what do you love the most

Nieves Almaraz 1:07:29

Chris Baran 1:07:32
Bingo. Most difficult time in your life.

Nieves Almaraz 1:07:38
Difficult. It’s a tough one for me. Because I just, I try to be optimistic, you know. And I feel like a lot of those difficult times, like I said, I learned from, you know, yeah,

Chris Baran 1:07:55
give us give me an example of one of them.

Nieves Almaraz 1:07:57
I would say I’m losing friends. Oh, wow.

Chris Baran 1:08:04
Yeah, we’ve all been there. Excuse me. The things that you hate the most about our industry.

Nieves Almaraz 1:08:13
About our industry unlicensed professionals. Exactly. License cutters. Yeah.

Chris Baran 1:08:23
person that you admire the most.

Nieves Almaraz 1:08:27
Admire the most. You know what? These days I’m really really admiring my wife.

Chris Baran 1:08:34
Oh you’re gonna get a nice meal tonight buddy. See something that people don’t know about you? Yes, yes, she does. Well, all of the wives who are married to us deserve a lot more than they get. And I’m speaking about myself personally on that one. The the person you wish you could meet

Nieves Almaraz 1:09:01
a person not only do I would want to meet them, but I would want to like hang out with them for a while. Dave Ramsey

Chris Baran 1:09:13
Oh, interesting. Something that people don’t know about you.

Nieves Almaraz 1:09:22
Some people don’t know about me. I like to read.

Chris Baran 1:09:32
Interesting. Okay. I just gave you a month off. Where would you go can’t be about hair. Where would you go? What would you do?

Nieves Almaraz 1:09:42
I seen some pictures of some people out in Bali. I would love to go to Bali.

Chris Baran 1:09:50
Love it. Things that you’re terrified of

Nieves Almaraz 1:09:58
I guess making the wrong decision at the moment and then having to count up if it’s not a good one.

Chris Baran 1:10:08
Favorite curse word.

Nieves Almaraz 1:10:10
curse word. I would have to go with the universal one. P H U C K.

Chris Baran 1:10:18
I got you. I got you Oh, I love it. favorite comfort food.

Nieves Almaraz 1:10:29
Ooh, see, I’m a foodie. So

Chris Baran 1:10:35
don’t have to worry about calories. You don’t have to worry about anything else. Just your favorite one. You want the one you go to when you need some comfort.

Nieves Almaraz 1:10:44
There’s so much so much good food out there. But I do enjoy me a good steak. A good steak.

Chris Baran 1:10:50
Oh, yes, brother. We’ll come on to how rare medium rare well done.

Nieves Almaraz 1:10:55
I’m a medium well, God.

Chris Baran 1:10:59
A medium well. Okay, we can’t be friends anymore. Just kidding. Okay, good. Something in the industry that you haven’t done that you want to

Nieves Almaraz 1:11:10
win two novel awards?

Chris Baran 1:11:14
There you go. I’ve since that’s kind brother. On the same day, yes. Okay. In Canada, we call it a do over. Do you know what that? Do you have the same expression here do over. a do over? A do over is I did something. But I just wish I could do that over again. So I get a different result. I’m going to give you a do over what would be

Nieves Almaraz 1:11:47
anything that requires a contract, make sure you get the contract.

Chris Baran 1:11:54
Oh, there you go. Okay. Last one of the rapid fire. Tomorrow, you couldn’t do hair anymore? What would you do?

Nieves Almaraz 1:12:06
Nothing hair related.

Chris Baran 1:12:07
Nothing hair related. Nothing can’t do hair. Nothing to do with the hair industry? What would you do?

Nieves Almaraz 1:12:13
I think whatever I do, I will excel at it.

Chris Baran 1:12:17
Now come on whatever. Gotta give me something. That’s give me some what would you do? I probably

Nieves Almaraz 1:12:22
I probably get into the real

Chris Baran 1:12:25
estate business. Oh, interesting. Interesting. But I

Nieves Almaraz 1:12:31
will say, I will say this, Chris. If if I was successful, and money wasn’t a factor, and, and I couldn’t do hair no more, but I wanted to do something to get myself out the house or whatnot. I’d go work at McDonald’s.

Chris Baran 1:12:51
Oh, back full circle. back full circle. Now, if anybody didn’t believe what you said at the very beginning, when we talked about jobs that you had this cements at home right here what you said, Okay, I got two more. Two more questions for you here. If you had one wish for industry, what would it be?

Nieves Almaraz 1:13:15
One wish I wish people would stop saying that the Cosmo and the barber world are so far apart and and it needs to be put together. And I think we’re beyond that point. At this point. You know,

Chris Baran 1:13:35
it’s just our doesn’t have a gender. It’s just all air. No, yet. I love it. Okay, just for the people who are watching and whistling, whistling whistling that which in another language meant listening. But for the people watching and listening at home and if you if you could get them to, to let go of something or to stop doing something in our industry what it would be what would it be? Um, stop complaining. Nobody cares. Yeah. Yeah, I agree. I, I think that it’s, you’re pretty much hit it on the head. And I it’s interesting, I find that generally the people that are complaining are the people that are watching something else, and they’re wishing they had it but not wanting to do anything about it, you know, so, you know, there’s this whole saying that we have and one of the foundations what this platform started with was what we call Goya. You know, just get off your assets and do something about it, you know? Yeah, because while like we said, we’re always best hallway friends. I truly hope that one time that we can get together, raise a glass, have a dinner together. shoot the breeze and I and just you know, as friends talking across the table from one another so I’m honored and thankful for you for being on our show and I just want to say thank you very much. Oh, thank

Nieves Almaraz 1:15:10
you for having me, Chris and I look forward to that day.

Chris Baran 1:15:15
It’s a date we’re gonna make sure that happens. And I want to meet Christy at Chris crystal Christy. We are my wife,

Nieves Almaraz 1:15:22
Christy Christy, she goes by Christie or name’s Christie Christie.

Chris Baran 1:15:25
Well, she’s got the right names. It’s always in there. So I want to meet the both of you. We’re gonna have you’re gonna have a dinner together and I’m buying, okay, you’re buying the wine state that they can last for? steak and lobster. There we go. All right, brothers. So in the meantime, thank you guys very much. I really appreciate you for being on here my friend. And for those of us listening and watching. Thank you and see you on the next go round.

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