This week’s guest is GQ’s “Coolest Barber on Instagram”, a 4-time winner of Canadian Men’s Hairdresser of the Year, and has worked behind the scenes with the hottest actors in film and television. He has a very successful line of shops and products under the Victory Barber and Brand banner, and I feel very fortunate that I knew him before he was even a hairstylist. Our guest is Matty Conrad!
- Why Matty doesn’t believe in “fake it til you make it”
- He once lost sight of his true purpose until he realized he was doing everything for all the wrong reasons
- How his grandfather’s funeral and eulogy changed his whole life’s path
- His biggest learning is through failure and he calls it “failing forward”
Chris Baran 0:00
We discuss some images in today’s chat and you can see them in the podcast videos at Chrisbaran.com. 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 Baran, 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, GQ described it this week’s guest as the coolest barber on Instagram. He’s recognized as one of the top men’s grooming experts in North America. He has been the four time Canadian men’s hairdresser of the year, two times behind the chair, Big Shot men’s shot of the year. He has worked behind the scenes in film and TV with serious now catch this A listers. He’s the founder and owner of victory barber and brand barbershops and men’s styling ranges. So let’s get into this week’s headcase Mr. Matty Conrad. Matty Conrad, welcome to head cases. Welcome aboard, pal.
Matty Conrad 1:25
Oh, man, it’s really good to see you, man. How are you?
Chris Baran 1:27
Well, you know, I have to tell everybody that just for those of you who are listening, you won’t see this unless you hear the gulping and the sipping on the wine or the beer. If you are watching, it is the end of the day. And so cheers. Here’s to you, bud. Mescal Cheers here tasty stuff. Yeah, I just wanted to say first of all, welcome. I feel like we’ve got home grown boys, we are from the same hometown together. And I just I wanted to say it’s, we’ve we’ve had to put this off either once or twice because of your schedule and my schedule, but I’m just super jacked about this one. Because, you know, when you got friends that come on board, it can be just that just friends chatting. And that’s what this was want to be about. You know, and I have to say that I I sneak I did a little bit of I did little snooping and, and so on online. And is it true? I read somewhere that is that you boxed at one time you did some boxing?
Matty Conrad 2:26
I do. I did. I I am a serial hobbyist. You know, I’ve gotten into so many different types of recreation and so many different things. I am one of those people that wants to grab on and experience as many things in life as possible. And one of the things I got hooked on was boxing, and I absolutely loved it. It was one of those things that when you get into the gym, it’s the least boring form of exercise. And I don’t know if I’ve ever found anything that makes me sweat as hard as a good session with boxing gloves does. And I just I love it. I love the sport for what it is. I know a lot of people see it as one thing I see it as very, very technical, very difficult. It has a lot of life lessons in it. You know what I mean? I think the biggest life lesson I learned from my coach was you know, you’re you’re always afraid of getting punched in the face until you get punched in the face. And yeah, it’s an interesting punch in the gut that much
Chris Baran 3:25
harder than being punched in the face.
Matty Conrad 3:27
Well sure, but I think a lot of people their biggest fear is getting boxed in the face and when you finally get hit in the face you realize that you survived it and you get through and you can keep going isn’t that just such a big thing about life? You know, we so many of us are afraid to do so many things because we’re afraid of that that reaction that getting punched in the face and when you realize it’s not that bad. It allows you to just keep going forward.
Chris Baran 3:50
Exactly. Well I got it I got to show you something here because little known fact well I mean you probably know our good friend of both of ours Jack Nosgard who was you know many moons ago he was the Golden Gloves champion in Canada. Absolutely. But I have to show you this this was I trained this this Brian Bowman not of he’s out of Cali he you know hairdresser doing this thing He’s professor at a university now. But he was having some facilitation issues and so I was coaching him privately and he knew that I that I used to box somewhat I did more coaching in boxing than I did because I lead with my face he got he got me these that I have hanging on my wall. Oh wow. That’s which sounds which sounds great. But here’s the interesting thing behind them. I can’t go too close with my camera focus off. Yeah, but it starts with an M
Matty Conrad 4:47
Oh, you’re kidding. Is it Mike Tyson?
Chris Baran 4:49
No, no that the great before that.
Matty Conrad 4:53
Oh, Muhammad Ali for real.
Chris Baran 4:55
Yeah, Mohammed Ali. Wow. Yeah. So I had them authenicated or anything yet so it God knows. I can’t imagine somebody going and he said he found them at a at a pawn shop or a secondhand shop and because it was a shop they would have known Yeah, but he went up to a secondhand shop saw them in there he box so he, he got them for me as a gift. So obviously the person didn’t know what that signature meant. But I tell you I have that it’s on my wall like a prize.
Matty Conrad 5:27
Yeah, that that is so special to have. I am I am absolutely obsessed with stuff like that, you know what I mean? The things that speak to history and the things that speak to your own life, you know what I mean? It’s, it’s like decorating your space is almost like getting tattoos, you know what I mean? Most of us have tattoos that remind us of things or periods in our life or important stuff to us. And they’re they’re almost like a marker in our life. I really treated my barbershop like that. And I just decorated it with lots of things like that. And if you gave me two hours, I probably couldn’t go through all of the little tiny details and things like that, that I have that are so special to me. Yeah, there. Yeah. But there’s
Chris Baran 6:06
special, just acronym important. Li I want I’m gonna talk about that for right now. Because I want you to just to bring that up, we’re going to talk about the, the, your salon and I, I pulled some stuff off the web so people could see the ones that are watching and just and if you’re just listening, I want you to use your imagination here. But that what I did love is your whole marketing behind your businesses is truly it’s a barbershop. I mean, you you don’t even have to be blind. Well, even if you’re blind, I’m sure that you could still smell feel energized the aesthetic of what’s what’s what’s there. Yeah. The, the, the way that you marketed your business was truly phenomenal. You know, it is it says like, look at that. It just says barbershop. I mean, I, Clint Eastwood could walk through that front door right now. You know, it’s just so cool. Tell us about tell us about like when How do you conceptualize that were that uncomfortable.
Matty Conrad 7:05
This was our first shop. i There’s we have a couple but I didn’t start out in the barbering world. So I was coming at things from a slightly different approach. I started out in hair salons, you know, I in the 90s. When I started going to hair school, it was it was the cool thing to do. You know, it was more fashionable, it was more fashion focused. It was like it seemed to be more Rockstar barbering at that point was very different. You know, it was It wasn’t spaces that seemed inspiring. It was quite the opposite. You know what I mean? It was a it was a neon light, and you’re chained to a chair that, you know, were looked like a bunch of old guys that were just waiting to die. And I didn’t see it that way. For me, the inspiration of the shop was actually my grandfather. I have I have a number of things, Charles Yeah, I have a number of things that I purchased, to go in there that that were really reminiscent of his life. There are things that I inherited from him that are in there. The aesthetic was meant to be something authentic and masculine and had. I don’t like to use the word vintage, because vintage is like a faithful recreation of something historically, that happened. I like to think of it as like more of a heritage and heritage pays a lot of homage to the past. You know, it really focuses on the idea that there were great things to take from it. And I brought it into a place where it was available in a contemporary way. So everything in there had to be real. It was it was a big cement box. When we got it. It was a brand new building right in the middle of downtown Victoria. It was at that point, one of the biggest barbershop spaces I had ever seen. Because most shops were very small. There were like three, four chairs, maybe you know, and they were small, you know, 800 square foot spaces at the most. And this thing is 2000 square feet. And I was like how am I going to turn this into something that feels really like a real barbershop. So what we did is we took a trip to a reclamation yard where it’s up Island. It’s up near Coombs, which you might probably know up near Tofino, there’s a really cool spot and I went through this reclamation yard and I found some Touchstone pieces, as I call them, like Cornerstone pieces for what the feel of the shop was going to be I found an old pair of lockers that were painted like military green, like this olive drab color that I loved. They had just the right level of patina. They were, you know, a little rusty, but still cool. And I was like there’s something about that piece that spoke to me. You can’t see it in this photo because it’s just around the corner there. But that was a really important piece. And then I found along the right side there you see all the mirrors. Those mirrors are actually window sashes from an old hotel that was built in the 1800s that burned down and they had pulled those apart. And so I turned those all into mirrors and all of the glass in the top of those is still the old obscure glass that you could never replace. And so I turn those into when into mirrors. And we had a number of other little pieces, old crates and things that just all had this feeling this patina. And, to me, what it did is it created almost this like lens, this idea of like, here’s what I see, here’s how I want it to feel, I knew that everything in there needed to be real. And so instead of trying to buy a bunch of fakely, patinaed things, I bought legitimately old stuff. And even the floor in there came out of a house that was over 100 years old, we ripped it out of the house and we put it in the barbershop you know, the shelves on the left hand side were made from the floor joists of that house. You know, these are things that had an age already and everything about it was old. And I wanted very much for it to not feel vintage, because to me a vintage barbershop at that point felt like the 1950s checkerboard floors rock and roll, like hot rods and Chrome, you know what I mean? And for me, I wanted something that was distinctly Canadian feeling. I wanted it to feel like not like that old Americana thing. But something that had an older, more like a field in stream or just kind of felt like you were at an old hunting lodge or something, you know, in the Canadian wilderness. nods to that, you know, and as it started to come together, it was it was just every tiny little decision that I sweated and building a new space into an old space was a terrible idea in so many respects. Because well, the cost of doing that was just well beyond what I could have Fathom when I started to build a new space into a functional shop requires you to go with engineers and builders and contractors, and licensing and like a million different things that you actually have to do to make it an empty new space into a space that will pass inspections that will get occupancy permits and all these other kinds of things, you have to do probably three times as much to a brand new space as you would have to do to an existing space. And what it did is it put me in a situation where I was very much teetering on bankruptcy. I was I was it was delayed six months as as a lot of projects usually are they never open as fast as you want them to. And and I was so committed to make doing this the right way as I saw it like not sparing expense, making sure that everything I had the real feeling that I wanted, and putting so much effort into the space because to me, this space was a love letter to my grandfather who had just passed away. It was my way of honoring him. And I wanted to do it in a way that felt so like committed all the way you know what I mean? I didn’t want to do it halfway, I wanted to do something that I was so deeply proud of, because this was my love letter to my grandfather, and my way of honoring his life. And by the end of it I was I were months and months delayed my my the day before we opened, I realized how much money I had spent making it. It was well more than I had to spend. The bills had piled up this high. And I realized that nobody had done this. This wasn’t a tested theory, there wasn’t like a thing that I could point to to say, look, they did it and it was successful. At the time, barbershops didn’t look like this, you know, nobody would put that much effort into a barber shop. And the fact that I went in there and I swung for the fence, there was no there was no proof of concept, there was no reason for me to believe that this was going to be a success. And so the night before we opened, I think I lost every second asleep, I don’t I don’t even remember that whole 24 hour period, all I remember was opening my shop the next day and I was the first person in there, we had records, and I put on a Frank Sinatra record, and it was just me in the shop. And the music started filling the space, the smell of the shaving cream that I had ordered all of the things and everything he just started to kind of hit me. And it hit me in such a deeply emotional way. I was so connected to it in a way that I’ve never ever been connected to the hair salons that I’ve known before. Or just the work of a hairdresser, period. I this connected to me on some way deeper level and I thought okay, even if this goes down in flames, I’m so proud of having built this. And that day, the landlord who, who we were working with showed up for her. He was the first person to show up for a haircut. And he brought his whole family and he’s a really lovely got like the nicest best partner you could ask for as a landlord and and he brought his whole family they’re all lovely Indian family so there was lots of them. And it was just me and one other guy and it pretty much filled up our day and then the next day people were starting to walk in and have a look around and it was mixed reaction. Some people were like this is incredible like this is where’s this been all my life I’ve been looking for this and other guys would come in and look at the price board and go $30 for a haircut. Well good luck with that. Good luck with that. business model. And that was like, at that point guys were charging $15 for a haircut and we were twice as expensive. That was only 1012 years ago. And the price of barbering now has massively jumped I mean, average price for barbers haircut is now for easily 40 to $50. You know what I mean, in a lot of places. And so at that point, it wasn’t the way it was. We we pioneered in so many ways. This movement of barbering, and I, when I say pioneered, I don’t mean that I don’t have any illusions that I was in some way up. You know, the reason that that happened, it was we were just very early, we were just so early into something that caught fire and became such a massive global movement, that we got to participate at that point. We got to participate in the discussion. We got to be part of what was going on. But nobody, nobody created it. You know what I mean? barbering is such an old tradition, it’s an old thing. All the conditions were right. The Perfect Storm came along until an entire new movement in barbering was was born out of that period. And we were just one of the earliest ones. And so it was it was really exciting time for barbering back then.
Chris Baran 16:11
How did I want to what made this so obviously you started off? hairdressing, right? So you went to hairdressing school?
Matty Conrad 16:19
Well, that’s a funny story. And you’re, you’re actually part of that story. And that’s the funniest thing is when I ran into you a number of years back at a at a hair show, I remember telling you this, but and I don’t think you ever knew this up to that point. But we are from the same town. And I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a job at all. I when I got into high school, I thought I was gonna be a mechanic. I took a ton of auto shop. You know, I’m really, I’m very crafty. I
Chris Baran 16:46
love want to stop you there for a second because yeah, I had to make the choice of becoming something or a hairdresser. And I was gonna become a mechanic. Get out of here. No, I’m seriously this. My, my, my my stepfather owned a lot. And they had a mechanic in there and a mechanic’s. And I was always fascinated with cars. And so I wanted to become a mechanic and, and I just became a hairdresser because my mom was one that couldn’t get fired. But that was it’s just a coincidence that that’s where both of us kind of came from. It’s incredibly,
Matty Conrad 17:25
what’s even weirder about it is that like, I decided that that wasn’t going to be my path. I didn’t really like the environment. It wasn’t connecting with me. I didn’t really like the people I had experiences with working in that environment. And I was just like, maybe this isn’t for me. So I started, I went to go work at a restaurant. I was 18 years old, I was horribly useless. I was not that socially adept. I was not particularly confident in myself. I was a very young, awkward kid. And I walked into this restaurant that was called Mara Mara. And there was a guy who worked there named Barry. And it was right downtown in Victoria. And it was right between your hair salon, which was Christopher Jays and another hair salon called the gallery. And what was really great as everybody that worked at those two shops were friends with each other. And I managed to get a job at this place just as a busser. I was always behind the bar cleaning up and doing all these things, but at night, a lot of your staff and sometimes you and a lot of the staff from the gallery would get together there for drinks after work, as hairdressers often do. And I thought that you were the coolest people I had ever seen in my life. You were social and bubbly, and you had such great style and you had listened to great music and you all seem to love what you did. And I thought to myself, God, I wish I could be like them. I wish I could be like that that was so that that made such an impression on me. All of you guys. Also it helped that like I had a crush on every one of the girls that hung out with you guys. I was 18 That’s all you think about. You only think about that stuff when you’re 18 and I was like I remember like Lauri Zabel who is of course very famous now. Like I had such a crush on Lauri back then like she was just like, so beautiful. Like all of these people like I told I told Laurie that at a show one time to she she cracked up. But what’s really interesting is is that was all it took for me to think I guess I should go to hair school. I got into it for 1,000% the wrong reason not there was nothing about me that had anything to give the hairdressing industry I wasn’t stylish, I wasn’t socially strong. I wasn’t anything that would make you qualified to be a good stylist. I didn’t know what looked good on women. I didn’t know what looked good. I didn’t understand anything about the functionality of hairdressing. The only thing I knew about hairdressing is these people are hairdressers and they’re cool as hell and I want to be like them. And that was it. And I went to hair School in Victoria. It was called the Academy of excellence. It was a complete misnomer. It was barely academic and definitely not excellent. And by the end of that I walked out of hair school nine months later, not having any idea what I was doing. Like I couldn’t even accurately describe what layers were to you. When I left hair school, I was that unprepared. But what happened during hair school was I started to gain some confidence. I started to work, you know, in the restaurants and they taught me more about you know, how to be social and all these kinds of things. And so I really put myself out there one time there was this girl who was in our, in my school and what she she was in the esthetics program, she was kind of golf. You know what I mean? These, like these goth girls that have this really weird, but kind of interesting. Look, she was really goth. And she had this really weird haircut that kind of looked like a helmet. But she was really pretty, really good at makeup. So she was looking really beautiful. And she came into, I had a bit of a crush on her. And she came into the hair Academy one day, and it was just like, hey, we have time to trim my bangs. And I just played put my hand up right away, because I honestly just wanted to spend five minutes talking to her. And she sat down, and I trimmed.
Chris Baran 20:54
I’m sensing a pattern here. Yes,
Matty Conrad 20:59
it’s an ongoing pattern. But I trimmed her bangs, and it was awful. What I did was awful. Like, it was weird. It was not balanced. I just like I did this thing. As far as I knew how to work with my scissors at that point. It was it was weird looking. But she kind of pulled it off. And when she was walking home that day from school, some photographer, which by the way, you and I both are into photography, we both do this kinds of things. And we know that there’s a lot of guys out there that are legit photographers, and there’s a lot of guys out there that are just creepy guys with cameras. And a creepy guy with camera can just approach a girl and be like, Hey, do you want to do a photo shoot and be a model kind of thing like, okay, but this guy was actually legit. He shot pictures of her, they turned out really good. And they ended up on the cover of this little local fashion magazine. So as soon as I saw that, my initial reaction was I’m published. I’m a published stylist. I was in hair school at this point for maybe four months. And I was published. Literally within a month of that coming out. I walked into a hair salon in Victoria and I just shoved the magazine in the guy’s face. I said I did this, can I have a job? And he looks at me and goes, Yeah, Okay, done. And I was like, Okay, now, I’m literally eight, maybe seven, eight months into hair school. And I have my own chair. Now I have my own chair in a shop, and I’m working on the weekends cutting hair for people, and I don’t know what I’m doing at all. And there is this thing that people do when they’re in that situation, and everybody knows it. What what it is that you’re supposed to do? You fake it until you make it right. That’s that’s usually the advice that people give. I hate that advice. It’s It’s horribly broken, because what it ends up doing is it actually makes you into a fraud. And in some way, we all started out as a fraud in this industry, every single one of us like there’s a reason why there’s so many podcasts that talk about how to get over the fraud syndrome and all that kind of stuff. Because all of us start there. And the reason I know that we all start there is because nobody was honest with their very first client. Like I don’t know any hairdresser that fessed up that it’s like, well, actually, Today’s my first day and you’re the first one, you know what I mean? Because like, for a reasonable option, we’re afraid we’re afraid of saying that to our clients, because they’re gonna freak out. And if they freak out, then we’re gonna freak out. And this whole thing is going to come crashing down on us. And so we lie to them. We tell them about a year. You know, when they asked us how long we’ve been doing this, because every first client asks like the first 100 clients ask you that, like, how long have you been doing this? And you lie, you tell them about a year like you include the day you registered for hair school, as part of your experience. As a hairstylist, you know what I mean? True, you go as far back as you can reasonably defend. And then you know, it’s we do that so that the people don’t freak out. But then the fear that we have taken away from them, doesn’t dissipate, it becomes our own. Like we take it and it becomes our fear. That is now you’re going to find out that I’ve lied to you, you’re going to find out that I’m not qualified, or I don’t know what I’m doing or I’m I’m not prepared. And that is very real. That’s what causes that fraud syndrome that people have. And I had that I was terrified of every person that sat in my chair, but I kept trying to fake it through. It’s a miracle that I had clients coming back to me at that point, because I think back to some of the things I thought about hair or some of the things I was doing to these poor fucking people, but they kept coming back. And a lot of that had to do with just my personality, I think my my ability to connect with them to make them feel cared for, you know that the relationship that I had built was so important. And I could only justify it as that because I knew the haircuts were god awful, they were terrible. And we place so much importance on our haircuts at this point 90% of what we tried to do in our industry is better our haircuts thinking that that’s what’s going to pull us through and make us successful. I am proof positive that that’s not true because my haircutting was terrible, but I was successful in spite of myself. And so I became very busy as a hairstylist. I was working at this shop, you know, things were taken off For me, and it was going really well. I was terrified of every client. And so I started taking classes. And the reason why education is so important in our industry is because it kills fear. You know what I mean? Knowledge is what kills fear. And I know, I’ve been saying that for over a decade through education is, the more you learn, the less afraid you have to be of what you don’t know. And so I started taking all the classes, anything that I possibly could. And you know, the funny thing is, I remember every single class I’ve taken, I remember the names of every single instructor that made an impact on me, I remember people that just illuminated things for me, that suddenly made sense. And I was like, wow, that is life changing. And it made me less afraid to be behind my chair. And it also made me broke. You know, education, if you don’t work for a shop that has that culture of support, can be very expensive to shoulder on your own when you’re new stylists. And so I was going to all these classes, it was making me poor, and I couldn’t afford to do them. And I still wanted to get, I still needed, I didn’t want to I needed to learn at that point I needed to learn. And so at that point is when I learned that if you work for another company, they will educate you, they will train you, but then you have to take what you’ve learned and show it to other people train other people. Yeah, if you want to think of fraud level two, that’s being an early set educator, is fraud level two, because when you start out in education, and we start out teaching people, you know, maybe 10%, more than the people you’re teaching. And that’s the truth. You know, there there are a lot of people will do that as a means to getting a deeper understanding or a deeper education in hair. And that’s exactly what I did. I trained I worked with all these companies. And very fortunately, my personality allowed me to succeed in that environment as well, where I was very comfortable talking to groups of people. I don’t take things too seriously. So I always like to have a lot of fun, I really value connection with human beings, you know, I really want to see those light bulbs turn on. My goal as an educator became simply to make people less afraid of standing behind their chair, the way that education made me less afraid. And as I started to climb that ladder, which is not really a thing, by the way, I think you and I both maybe know this, having reached what most people would consider like the zenith of that ladder, like the top of that ladder, being a global creative director or working for global companies or being on stage in different countries or having, you know, whatever reputation you have, you start to realize behind you, there never was a ladder in the first place. You know, there wasn’t that ladder to climb, that’s just the thing we create for ourselves to that propels us, hopefully upward, but really, it just moves us forward. What’s interesting, though, is that the further forward I moved in that and the bigger the stakes got, the bigger the stages got, the bigger the audience’s got. And the bigger the role was, the less I was staying true to what my purpose as an educator was, because the better I got to cutting hair, and the more I got into doing big shows, and the more I got into doing large stages, and you know, huge global jobs, the more it wasn’t about trying to take that person by the hand and show them they shouldn’t be afraid, the more it was about showing them how good I got it this and if anything, it was intimidating, and made them more afraid. Because that’s nice for you. And it’s great that you’re talented, but I can’t do that. Or I don’t have clients that we want that or and it seemed to me that the higher up, the higher up it got, the further away from that message. I was. And right around that period is I don’t to hair salons in Victoria, they were both very successful. I was booked out months in advance, you know doing color and cutting and and everything else that you do. I was training four or five times a year with this technical cutting team, you know, across the country, I’d be flying to do these like boot camps, basically to just just train you into like a lethal weapon with a pair of scissors that could cut a bob that would just break your heart, you know, and and all of these things were great. But they were not aligning with what I felt was my purpose, or even who I think I am. You know? It’s almost like the way I started hairdressing to fit in with a group of people that I thought were really cool, was exactly the way my hairdressing career ended, which was just trying to fit in with a group of people that I thought were really cool. All the upper echelon artists and trying to fit in and feel like I belonged there, working so hard to do the technical work to be part of that crowd of people that everyone looks up to. But at the same time was completely not really what I’m good at or meant for or who I who I am as a person. And so it was around that time I was having that real crisis of like, do I want to keep doing this? Am I doing the right thing with my career? Am I making people less afraid or more afraid? All that stuff, no matter My father passed away. And he was my hero. And I didn’t even know he was my hero until he died. And I was sitting at his funeral. And my dad wrote out, he read his his eulogy for my grandfather. And I’d never heard my dad talk about this about anyone in this fashion, like the words that he said, and the things that he said about my grandfather were really inspiring to me. But also, the first thing that he said, it just eviscerated me, he read his high school yearbook quote, which was
amazing, because in high, I don’t know if this is an American thing or a Canadian thing, or if it’s universal thing, but in grade 12, you get this like graduation photo and a yearbook. I don’t even know if they do yearbooks anymore, to be honest, you know, but like I’ve likened it to this, like, you get a you get a high school graduation photo, you get a quote next to your name. Nowadays, we have social media, you can literally put up a new quote every single day, okay, you can change your quote, you can evolve, you can do whatever, you everybody gets to share their message to the universe, back then. It was like if you only ever got to make one single post, what would that be? What would that say? You know, and it has to sum up your whole philosophy on life. His was phenomenal. At 18 years old, he wrote this, he said, I will never let anyone be more of a gentleman than I. And I don’t know why that is, his whole quote was, I will never let anyone be more of a gentleman than I. I honestly don’t know why that hit me so hard. But it was like, it was like getting hit by a truck. I was sitting there and everything about me felt just pure conviction of How incredible is that? What a remarkable man, what a remarkable generation of men. And how far have we gotten from that mentality? How have we lost that in society? How have we divorced ourselves from that? He looked, oh, you know, always the same haircut his whole life, he always had the side part and classic and polished, I looked like Rufio from the movie hook at that point, because it was like, you know, hairdressers, right? Like we all we all went through young hairdresser phase bright colors and spiky shit and too many chains and piercings, and whatever, you know, and, and that was him. And that just absolutely set me on a completely different path. And it set me on a collision course with barbering, that I did not anticipate, because that was what fueled my research, my passion for understanding that type of grooming, the fact that putting yourself together was not about being high maintenance, it wasn’t about self importance, it was about self respect, and is about showing respect to the people around you. It was about so much more. You know, it was such a rich culture that seemed to have kind of been forgotten and disappeared, and been forsaken in, in kind of the effort to find something that was newer and shinier, and cooler and trendy. You know what I mean? And so I fell in love with barbering. At that point I encompassed everything I wanted, everything I love to do, which is connect with human beings make them feel good about the way that they look, be able to offer advice to them that matters to their day to day. Technical haircutting is something I’ve always loved. There was such a massive hole for education in that field, and such little understanding of how to do those things. And even even as I was trying to figure it out myself, the things that I was teaching very early on are not things I would do now and I, I evolved in my own education of teaching men’s work and clipper work and all those things it was, we were doing it on the fly, because there was so few people to teach it and there was such a thirst to learn it. And so I’d be you know, traveling so much and teaching and the shop opened and everything just exploded overnight, you know, magazines from all over the world, were writing about our shop, and then suddenly, like everything, just it was a whirlwind. It just it just absolutely exploded. GQ wrote these articles about who are the coolest barbers in the world to follow and somehow I was on that list and ranked at number one. And at that point, social media was a pretty new animal, and I had no following at all. But they had found me somehow and we’re like, You got to follow this guy. What he’s doing is cool. And next thing you know, literally overnight, my my follower count jumped up 20,000 people, which at that point was insane. You know what I mean? It was and it just, it put this new type of pressure on but it also really enlightened for me that when you are doing something that aligns with your values, when you’re doing something that is authentic to who you are. There is a flow to life there is a there’s an ebb and flow and a pocket that you belong in like a like a lane that is yours that you belong in. And things come to you instead of you having to chase those things. They all just start showing up for you. Because you’re focused on the important part, not the unimportant part. You know, you’re the Important part of, of what you’re passionate about. And growing into that and trying to do that as honestly and with as much integrity as you can, is what draws those things to you. And trying to do those things for attention. Trying to do those things for money, or trying to do those things for fame is absolutely the wrong thing to focus on. And all you’ll ever be doing is chasing after those things, because they’re never going to come to you if that’s what you’re after.
Chris Baran 35:23
This episode is sponsored by the salon associate accelerator from trainers playbook.com. Are you struggling with the time and cost of associate training? Do you feel like your salon is running you will get your associates on the floor, all with 90% Less time from you. So you can get back to building your business. Get them world class design, finishing color, and client care skills they’ll use every day for the rest of their career. While you focus on realizing your vision, go to trainers playbook.com and get the salon associate accelerator. And now, back to the show. It’s interesting, you, you You brought up a couple points in there that really resonated with me. And I want to bring up one of them because I think our business gives people the opportunity of entrepreneurship. Yeah, and I know you said in there and people always say that, you know, if you’re going after just after money, then it’s the wrong thing to do. But the entrepreneurship isn’t just going after money. And when I love that you were you’re talking about is it because you have several salons now are syllables. barbershops pardon my language in my wrong terminology. Alright, we I’m from the I’m from the hairdressing, so everything is same law. And but I love no job to have. No, but the point is, is that I think that the more that we can help our industry with understanding entrepreneurship, and that we can help to change our industry and be profitable, and absolutely help other people. And I don’t think anybody gets into business because you want to lose money. But you know, is you have to learn how to make money as well. And because that’s the way we feed our family. That’s the way we feed our industry. That’s the way that we we earn our respect in, in society as well.
Matty Conrad 37:34
So I think you mentioned
Chris Baran 37:35
to me before, go ahead, well, I
Matty Conrad 37:38
don’t think it’s a matter of whether things should make money, they absolutely need to make money, like it’s a necessity, like you can’t get into this thing for it to just sustain itself. That’s the same as losing money. And you can’t get into this thing to lose money, obviously, because that’s that’s has, you know, a zero return and it’s a zero sum. So you’re eventually going to run out of gas, it just can’t lead is all it is like, things are very obvious if they’re led led around by money, if all the decisions are made by money, if all of the all of the intentions are set by money. There needs to be smart structure to it without question. It’s just the creative decisions, the passion, the you know, there’s always is going to come times where you have to make sacrifices. And if your goal is to get money, then the first four or five years of owning a business are going to be very tough for you. Because there won’t be a lot of it to go around. And if you can make it through that first couple, to make it through that first couple you need to have those other things. Like if otherwise it’ll fail too quickly, because you’re like, well, it’s not making money. It’s been a year, let’s call it a day. You know what I mean? I have businesses that didn’t make money. I have businesses I’ve owned for five or six years that still haven’t 100% paid themselves off, but are but are growing and are strong and are healthy. And these these are good things to it’s a short game long game kind of idea in some respects depending on what it is. But you’re right their opportunity in this industry to be an entrepreneur is immense. It is not something though, that you are naturally prepared for as a hairstylist or as a barber. Do you know what I mean?
Chris Baran 39:15
At the end when we’re just on before we started the podcast we were having our as I was called them shits and giggles and and talking about old times and talking about stuff that went on from when we when I left Victoria etc. And you You were telling me this story just about how that you opened up the Vancouver your Vancouver shop rate so just I don’t want to give it away but just just to tell that so
Matty Conrad 39:45
the Vancouver shop, here’s an interesting lesson and hubris things were going so well for me personally my education career, you know working for all these big companies start Even even just starting my own brand. You know, that’s another story we can talk about too. But the the idea was that we were so cocksure that we knew what we were doing with barbering that we hadn’t really figured out we had it dialed in, we knew exactly, we were one of the most popular shops in North America. At that point, you know, we were being written about you’re famous, and we really bought into our own press a little bit. And this company, had tried to replicate our shop in Vancouver. They tried to copy our vibe or everything else. And about a year or two into that they weren’t barbers. They didn’t didn’t come from a hair background. They approached us about purchasing their shop. We were in that phase where things were going so good. My partner and I looked and we said, like, Yeah, we should do this, what a great opportunity, we can expand into a more globally recognized city, we can really establish a foothold for our brand. This is a great idea. Look at this shop, it’s beautiful. We can we can go in there and we can do the rentals, we can make it more on our own. And then we can, you know, have a thriving business in Vancouver. Think of how amazing that will be. If the one in Victoria is successful, the one in Vancouver will be five times as successful. It’s a much bigger shop, and oh my gosh, where are we ever wrong about that? We expanded out into two shops and the expansion from one shop to two shops is immense. It is equally immense. If you’re not in the same locality. If you you have a travel time, or you’re in a different city that’s farther away, there happens to be a ferry between Victoria and Vancouver. That is about three hour journey from town to town because of the ferry. And it doesn’t make it easy to be there. Having a good manager is paramount. One of the things we ran into in Vancouver was the presence of fairly substantial amount of competition. Bigger companies with deeper pockets were taking on barbering and succeeding, you know, it did become kind of this runaway train we had. Anytime you have more barber shops, then barbers you have a real problem trying to find talented staff or trying to keep staff trying to manage a shop from a distance is very difficult. And we really, really worked hard at trying to make a good culture there. And until at one point, I think when we got into it, we did not understand the culture of that city. We didn’t understand that they could be so drastically different from each other. And there was one point where we walked into a staff meeting, where there was a bit of a mutiny going on, because people we had hired, the egos had kind of gotten well at a check. A lot of the things that were happening weren’t what we had envisioned for our shop. And they were trying to take control of the ship, so to speak. And they were doing it in a manner that was very disrespectful to me and my partner who had put in an awful lot of money and a lot of time and weren’t getting anything out of it. We were just you know, we’re we bought the shop, and we were trying to make it work. And it came down to the point where I learned something very, very valuable. Like when when there is a bad apple, they will spoil the bunch. And unfortunately, at that point, getting rid of the bad apple is not going to save the bunch. So we ended up going and having a staff meeting where my partner and I were getting talked to you in a manner that we were just dumbfounded. We walked outside and took a break from our meeting. And he looked at me and said, Hey, I don’t even know what’s happening here. It’s like, I’ve never been spoken like to this, sir. I’ve never been spoken to like this in my life. And I was so just over it. I looked at him. I said, Do you trust me? And he goes, Yeah. And I said, Great. And we walked in. And he said, Gentlemen, this has been a distinct pleasure to work with you. But I gotta let you know that all of you were fired. And I’d like you to get your stuff and get out of here right now. So I did that. And what happened was, is in the age of technology, of course we were we were too trusting of everybody and to free with allowing them to have access to to the technology aspects that run our shop. And we lost all of our staff and all of our clients because they had everyone’s phone number. Friends of mine, were calling me going, Hey, why is my barber calling me telling me he left your shop and I’m like, I’m sorry about that. We had a bit of a thing. And we had to start again from scratch. So we did that. And we very fortunately, were able to do that because I still had an excellent reputation. We had a lot of draw from international interests, like a lot of people had come over from the UK and from Australia and even you know, across Canada from the US and people wanted to come and work with me and that was awesome. We built a great team there. We had some amazing people working there. And we were able to build it back up. It took a lot of first year basically if not making money because of that. So first year, maybe two years it didn’t make a penny in fact it barely survived but it was there and I am very proud of that shop. I do We love it very much. But we’re in a neighborhood Matty, I
Chris Baran 45:03
want to stop you there, I want to stop you there for just one second, because I don’t want people to miss something that’s happening here right now. And that is that the difference between being an employee and an entrepreneurship is taking on risk. And the risk is the risk that it took to say, gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure. You know, in essence, we have different philosophies, you don’t fit anymore, but by and then to have the risk of and the courage to start over. And, you know, I’ve been through it many times, and it’s been through walkouts, I’ve been through people leaving, you know, not hiring, right. So that you don’t, you don’t have the right person to fill in. But I want what I, what I really want people to get out of this, particularly where you’re where you’re going right now, is that it turns around. And the fact is that when you when you recognize something is going wrong or going wrong, you have to make a change. You know, it’s like in in the power model, you went from abundance, and then you went back down to emergency. And you’ve got to get above the line as fast as you can and make changes as fast as you can. And that’s the true mark of entrepreneurship. And you know, and I want people to listen to what you’re saying, just because, you know, so many people will fold, they’ll say, you know, staff left, to hell with this. I’m done. But you went in and you corrected you course, correct. It takes you a while to get back there. But now it’s back on track. So I Sorry for interrupting, but I want to know know you didn’t miss.
Matty Conrad 46:52
The owners are afraid of getting punched in the face. Yeah, it really comes back to that it comes back to that idea that you’re afraid to get punched in the face, you’re afraid of the consequences of those decisions. And you think they’re going to be so catastrophic, that it will cost you everything and you’ll lose and you’ll you’ll you’ll fail. We’re all afraid of like punched, getting punched in the face is tantamount to failure, and a lot of us are afraid of that. But you don’t fail back, you fail forward. You know what I mean? Even though this was a bit of a failure in my ability to create a team out of those people, I want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt the opportunity to rise to the occasion, once you recognize that they are not intending to do that, then they have to go. And that is something that’s very hard to learn as a boss, again, you’re you’re a hairstylist, you’re your barber, you’re not a business person, you’re not you’re not trained as a business owner, you’re not. There’s books that you can read, and there’s things but most of the hard work of learning to be an entrepreneur is learned through failure. It’s learned through doing by I’ve even haircutting like I learned more about how to cut hair by fucking up hair cuts than I did by getting them right. You know, and that’s, that’s the nature of that’s the nature of what we’ve signed up for here. We’re going to fail, just fail forward. And when I failed at that, I realized, okay, I have another opportunity to do this, it’s going to cost me time, it’s going to cost me money. But I still think it’s worth fighting for. And I did and we got a great team. And I love that shop very much I at that point was traveling a ton. So I didn’t get to work in that shop very often. But I had built for myself a few clients that were coming to see me in Vancouver, I was predominantly on the road, all the way up until 2019. And 2019 was interesting, because for me, I was still living in Victoria. I was traveling over to do work at the shop occasionally. But I was mostly on the road. And in fact, in 2019 I was on 151 flights that year alone, everywhere from Dubai to Tokyo, where I was teaching classes and doing showcases and doing all these things. I was getting invited to all this incredible stuff. And it was it was so weird, because you’d think at that point, you’re like, Well, this is it. I’ve made it. I’ve made it. I’ve never felt like I’ve made it. I’ve never had that part where it dawns on you that you’re like well I’ve really done it you know, there’s never been that that finish line of yes I finally am here I belong I’m finally here. I am this person this icon this whatever you never feel that way. Sam Via and I talked about this frequently. He doesn’t feel that either, you know, any Sam via like, he’s one of the biggest names in the industry. You know Sam very well as I do. And he is he’s never had that feeling either. And we’ve talked about this a couple of times, but it’s interesting. You don’t you don’t get that. And you’d think okay, well this is when you feel successful, but you don’t. Life becomes a list of things that you are trying to check off constantly and you’re trying to manage that list to this big and every day new things populate below and you cut them down and then more things come below and when Your that level of busy and that level of like, quote unquote, external success, your life isn’t your own, you’re, you’re constantly on to the next thing and on to the next thing and just trying not to drop the ball. And like can feel like that a little bit for busy people and for when there’s a lot of things going on multiple shops or a career where you’re traveling a lot, or just even people that have families to juggle and all these things like life just starts to feel like you’re just trying to not drop the ball. And again, if you live in that, if you live in that long enough, you’re trying to not fail, you’re trying to not get punched in the face, you know. And instead of enjoying it, instead of being like, wow, this is incredible. And enjoy. You’re constantly worried about the next thing. And so oddly enough, at that point, I had been in a relationship with a girl who lived in Vancouver, we you and I were talking about this before but every relationship when you’re on the road that much is a long distance relationships, it doesn’t matter if they live where you live, or if they live somewhere else, every relationships a long distance relationship when you’re on the road. And so I she wanted to move in together, I decided even though it terrified me to move away from Victoria, because I had such deep roots there. I had so much going on. I was like okay, you know what, let’s go for it. This is this is what I want for my life. I want to have a balance. So whenever relationship I want to have not just career career career career, it was time for me to start settling down a bit. So I moved in with her into an apartment in Yaletown, and five days later, we were locked in there together because a global pandemic had hit that nobody saw coming. And my shop that I had built out of largely international artists and other things, lost all of its staff, because everybody had to go home. And we had to shut down. And we had to shut down all of my shops. And in that period before all this I had also opened a bar in Victoria that had a barbershop in the back of it that’s like a restaurant that’s very, very popular. They’re called St. Frank’s we had opened a tiki bar that was again, like another. So everything was diverse in these service establishments that I had built these things that I had done, these creative endeavors I wanted to express and everything all at once became a liability. And that’s the other thing about entrepreneurship is that even though to everyone else, it seems like you are so well insulated. In reality, you are horribly exposed, because they can walk away, free, you know, they they lose a paycheck, you will lose a lot more than that there will be a mountain of debt. And there’s been a number of businesses that failed and left a mountain of debt behind for, for the people that owned them through the pandemic, there was enormous amounts of loss in our industry, shops that failed things, lease leases that couldn’t be honoured, like all of these different things, you are exposed and everything became a liability. So instead of getting into a phase where it’s like, well, thank God, I’ve got all these businesses to lean back on where I’ll be fine through the pandemic networking, it was quite the opposite. Everything all of a sudden, was losing money at a catastrophic rate. And you’re like, how am I going to keep all of this together? For my shop in Vancouver, what that meant was me staying in Vancouver, despite the fact that due to all that stress, and due to the pandemic, and everything else, my relationship within six months of moving there had imploded. We didn’t last through the pandemic, it just we were dealing with very different levels of stress, and it didn’t vibe together. And it it collapsed. So here I was now in a new city where I didn’t have any friends, I had a business that had to be shut down. And I was living in a city that I didn’t particularly like, because when you’re raised in Victoria, you know, there’s almost ingrained dislike for the mainland. And that’s such a Canadian thing, the Mainlanders and the islanders, but um, it’s interesting, though, I was forced with a lot of tough decisions, you know, it’s okay, do I close this place, I’ve lost all my stuff, I fought so hard to get it back. And it had just come back. And it had been maybe a year of good operation. And then it just imploded again. So now, it required me to be there not just to put the pieces together, but for me to be there doing the heavy lifting. And at that point, it was everything about my life in the pandemic had completely changed in such a short span of time. Up to that point, I was very involved in social media, I had a huge following. It was my main channel of communication with people. And I fell off that that drive I had, I had grown a completely different relationship with social media largely because of what had become of it. And I took a break from that that turned into almost a completely changed relationship with Instagram, to the point where now when people come up to me and say, Hey, I follow you on Instagram. I apologize. The first thing I do is I say I’m sorry, I I’m sorry, let you down. I am not that involved. I’m not that active on Instagram anymore.
You know what? Partially because I felt when the pandemic hit, I was in a place of leadership in my industry, or at least influenced that I felt like somebody needed to stand up front and be like, Look, guys, if everybody just comes down, we will get through this together, we created programs to help barbershops, we did all these things through my brand that I thought would help. And we just got absolutely eviscerated for it. Because all anybody wanted to do is flail, flail their arms in any direction that they could cast blame on somebody or make someone else feel shitty, or accused them of whatever. And it just became the ugliest playground in the world. And so I just politely open the gate and let myself out. And I’ve never, I’ve never had the same relationship with it. Since it didn’t seem to me, like it was going in a direction where the goal was inspiration. And it was something that was echoing. I think that happened in my career before that, where I started to realize that most of our industry is not purely creative, it’s actually really creative. You know what I mean? Where the majority of people are just recreating other people’s haircuts or other people’s work. And then there’s a few people that are actually really creative. And to me, the whole scope of social media has changed from creative economy to a re creative economy, where the majority of people now in the desperation, to get attention, are now just recreating other people’s things, they use the same soundtrack, they use the same music, they use the same theme, the idea of the video, they just copy it and make their own version or whatever. And they’re not doing that, because they’ve created something they’re proud of, they’re doing that because they’re recreating somebody else’s things so that they can garner attention. And then commoditize that attention. And for me, when I first started growing through social media, what I loved about it was it was a pure it was it was a pure format for people to show off their creativity. You know, there’s like I made this thing that I’m proud of, and I want to show you, I’m involved in this community that I’m proud of, I want to show you, I am passionate about this craft, and I want to show you, and it doesn’t feel like that anymore. You know, it doesn’t feel like that anymore. And so for me, I still have a love hate relationship with that, but it’s how I found YouTube. And I was I’m a late adopter for everything technology, but I got into YouTube, because it offered me a format where I got to teach again, and I got to show people things. And it wasn’t that I was so desperate to teach barbers. This is another conversation we can have after rebuilding my shop and working in my shop with clients a lot more frequently. And really understanding what the needs were of the clients, the focus of my work changed the focus of the work that I do the focus of the work that I want to do, the focus of the things I want to share and teach and the people who I want to teach started to becoming started to become the clients, it started to become the people, where I realized that a lot of us were just kind of gatekeeping this information away from people, so that they wouldn’t know anything about it themselves. So they were dependent on us, I started realizing that I was in such a better place by sharing that information with those people so they can understand for themselves, how they can look and feel better. And that I am their barber every day, not just the day they’re in my chair. So that if I can teach you something, give you something that will help you get through the four weeks that were apart so that you come back in again, feeling like that last four weeks was successful, and you felt good the whole time. And you look great. And you’re really happy with everything that I’ve done my job much better than if you only look good coming out of my shop that day and go I can never styled as good as you I can never make it look like you make it look, you know all these things. It’s like, yes, that might be true, but I it doesn’t mean you should look bad. You know what I mean? No, it doesn’t mean you should look. So there’s a huge shift for me. And truth be told, nothing has been the same since the pandemic. And I don’t mean to harp on the pandemic as a thing. But I think a lot of us tried to put up this artifice of we’re back, you know, everything’s back and everything’s great. Everything changed. Going to shows again, didn’t feel the same going on stage again. Didn’t feel the same. Nothing did nothing felt the same. It didn’t feel bad. It just it different. You know, there’s a difference. Yeah, different. And maybe like how did I know that? This is like we’re having a you know, an interview here but like how did you feel through that? You know, because I mean you and I don’t run into each other at these things. And you know,
Chris Baran 59:26
we had I mean for us it was because we had a you know more from my son side you know is that he we have our hair side which kind of shut down but because I had been teaching virtually from 2012 on via video etc. It kind of set us up so for the first year and a half of when pandemic was we were rolling because that everything was on virtual and we knew how to teach via virtual now that I’ll be candid with you. That didn’t mean that I didn’t have. You know, to me, I think if you went through that, there’s everybody’s still suffering from some form of either anxiety, depression, etc. But we’re trying to keep ourselves always up and aboveboard. So but it did change. And what I didn’t notice was the change in our industry. And I’m seeing now how everybody is trying to get back to what it was, which is never going to be what it is, I really don’t believe we’re ever going to go back to 2019. Prior, it shifted people, if we had a shift in our, in our world, we had a shift in global attitudes. And, and I think that we, as entrepreneurs, owners of, I’m going to speak in from the baby boomers who not a lot of them around here anymore, but I am the Gen Xers, etc, we have to be more accommodating. That the accommodating to the, to the new crowd that’s coming up, it’s shifted, and the more that we can adapt to them, the sooner our business is going to carry on. And I I want to I don’t want I want to go back just a step. Because I know when you went back, and again, it when when shit hits the fan. Some people will fall like just down on the thing. And some people will rise up and take over the fan. And I don’t want people leaving thinking that you didn’t rise up in your Vancouver salon. Yeah, very much. So you recreated it one more time, just step by step by you going back in and doing all the damn work yourself, and then rebuilding it again. And I mean, it’s like you said, it’s about failure. And you know, is is what I and I think I want this if I I always wanted to write a book I’m too afraid to but I know I have to and want to, but I already know the name of the book is going to be failure way to the top. Because I think that people that don’t fail, life is failing and you read a damn bike, you got your toes stuck in the in the spokes, you fell off, you had skin, knees, elbows, you went home crying, you threw the bike down and said, I’m never going to ride this damn bike again. And yet, you know, two months later, you could do skids wheelies, flipping on the bike, etc. Because you stuck it out. If you want to wring that I want to make sure that people get is if you’re you have to have some tenacity in this business. And if you’ve got some tenacity, and you’re willing to work, and you push yourself and you fail, and you get up and you dust yourself off, and you start again, it is for you is, you know, there is nothing wrong with failing because that’s what life is. But if you try to say that I’ve just failed and failed, and I’m not going to do anything about it, then and only then are you a failure. So I take my hat off to you, Maddie, because I’ve seen the work that you do. And you know, the one thing I am a bit worried about is the last thing I want you to do. And we’re gonna go a little bit over on this because I want to talk about two things. Firstly, here is number one, your talent and the way that you can capture people when you’re on stage. And the fact that I want to talk just very briefly about about your brand, about your place, victory, the shop, but also the brand. And how that because I know you had one saying that I think we’ve talked about it, I read about it, and but you said so many people start their own brand. And they’re knockoffs because they just take and they repurpose the, the label that’s on it, they just take a product, and they report on but you made all of your stuff yourself, you researched it, et cetera. And I want to make sure that we give tribute to that to the brand. So tell us a little bit about
Matty Conrad 1:04:08
the thing that I always give people is like, if you’ve just taken a white label product and put your sticker on it, then you don’t have a brand you have a sticker. And I think that’s really great. Like it’s fine to have a sticker if that’s your purpose is you’re trying to make money at it. I think you’re gonna be a little surprised at how hard it is to make money a white label products, because you need other people to sell them. And if other people can do exactly what you did with that level of ease, then they’ll do that. The reason I started a product line was not because I thought there needed to be another product line. And it wasn’t to it wasn’t because I wanted to make a larger chunk of the pie. You know what it was was I was working for other brands and they were asking me to help them design products and I was and I always just got so frustrated. At that point. I was asking you know, as I was getting offers to be creative to vector for a number of different fairly significantly large companies, you know men’s brands and things like that, that people are trying to launch and and the problem always came when I gave them an idea for a thing, I told them exactly what it needed to do, I would go even down to the idea of like, testing samples and going, this is perfect release this. And then it would get to some boardroom, it would get to some accountant, it would get to some other level where everything got stripped away from it that made it great until it made it mediocre at very best, but made it much more profitable, and then ultimately made it fail. Yeah, and I just didn’t want to do that. In fact, right before I was ready to launch my own product, I had I designed three products, I called them, in my mind, I thought of them as the handshake. Because I feel like you’re your first product that you are introduced to and align is kind of like the way you shake hands with somebody, it’s like you get a feel for that person by shaking hands with them, that one product is going to beat a handshake. And I made three products that were in my mind the handshake, and I was thinking like, Okay, if if I make enough money, or if I put enough here, it’s very expensive to do. I was again putting myself way out extended beyond what I was really comfortable with what what was not I was exposed, right? Then these are the risks that you take as an entrepreneur, you take deep risks sometimes. And that was a deep risk. And right before that I was I was just at that point where it’s like, I don’t know if I can afford this. And this company, I’m not going to name who they were, they don’t even I don’t even think they exist anymore. But this company had approached me and they had offered me fuck off money to be their creative director for this brand. They wanted to start it was tied to like this really big name in the industry and all these things. And they wanted me to be their guy, and they were offering me stupid amount of money. And I was like, Oh my gosh, and I just like sent me the products, send me the products, and I’ll have a look. And they sent them to me. And they sent me their whole package and their whole branding kit and their whole deck and everything. And I read through everything. And I tried them and I hated every one of them. I hated them. And it wasn’t because they were terrible. It was just because they weren’t what I thought was needed. They weren’t what I what I wanted to exist. And I thought if somebody had come along and made the hand that made the products that I just made, and they were as good or close enough, I’d be a fool not to take that deal. And they weren’t. And at that point, I had to stand on my integrity and say I’m sorry, I don’t think I can do this job. And I launched my own. And I put myself into really historic amounts of debt, which I’m still working my way out of. But I’m so deeply proud of the products that we made. And they are very small line. It’s only eight products now. And but it started really honestly it started out as, as our uniform. Actually the very first product I we ever made was an apron. It wasn’t even a hair product. That’s an apron. Everybody seemed to like our aprons. We I just there was just a uniform for our shop. Everybody’s like, Where can I get that? Where can I get that? Where can I get that? I came to a show I was invited to be part of a behind the chair show. I think yeah, so really weird. I got a really weird, really random phone call from Mary Rector Gable, one day out of the blue and said, Hey, we would Who are you working with right now? And I said, Well, actually, I’m currently between brands. She says, Well, I would really like for you to be on stage with with Mark Bustos, who’s a very good friend of mine from New York, I would love you guys to be at our show. Because we’re going to be adding a cutting segment and we want you guys to do the men’s thing. And this was the first year they had the color and cut show it was called it originally was just the color show. And then they did the coloring cut show. We’re in the very first one. And I was like, Wow, that’s amazing. She’s like, Do you have any products to sell? And I was like, No, I don’t. She’s like, well, if you think of anything, let me know. And I was like everybody asked about our aprons. So I had the company that made the aprons. I had to make us 100 aprons. And I thought man, this is gonna last us like a year easily not we’re not going to sell 100 aprons. We sold 100 aprons in the first 30 minutes of the show. Wow, it was just runaway hit and were like oh shit, this is a thing. And so I made a couple more designs. I did a couple more things I ordered a few more. And the next show we just we they just they caught fire a couple of artists big artists started wearing them. Next thing you know a few years later, we have the number one selling apron in the industry. Along those lines, I was also like, well, I didn’t set out to start an apron company I wanted to start a product brand. You know I want to make grooming products. Because my goal again is to get to consumer is it’s to get to the customers, the clients. It’s not just to support the barbers it’s to get to the customers because what I want is for people to feel empowered and good about the way they feel and handsome you know, like one of the things my grandfather always imparted to me was like if you put a part of man’s hair and a shine on his shoes, he becomes his best self. And to me that really stuck with me because a guy acts different when he feels confident when his chest is open, his chin is up, you know like the the barbershop motto is not do the best haircuts you can so that everyone knows how good a hair cutter you are the barbershop motto is make him walk taller at the door, then he walked in. And that’s about how he feels it’s and so for that to exist, it had to connect to the customers, it had to connect to the to the men using the products, what we’ve managed to do is we’ve managed to create products that people dearly love. I don’t have the giant team, I don’t have a giant marketing budget, I don’t have the monumental contraption and organization that it takes to be a massively competitive and globally recognized brand. But somehow, we are. You know, we have people asking for our products all over the world, we have over 1000 shops in North America that carries it were regularly mentioned in a number of publications. Somehow that happened, because what we were doing aligned with our values. And what we were doing wasn’t leading with financial decisions, because we made the products the way we wanted to make them the way that we felt they needed to be made. And they’re because of that loved for what they are. They’re not for everybody. They’re not perfect. No product line is, but the people that get that product really, really love it. And to me, that was enough it in eight years, I haven’t taken personally a dime out of that company. It’s just grown, it just keeps getting more and bigger. If I did that for money, it would have been a failure. At this point, if I did it for money, it would have been an abject failure. But I didn’t do it for money. And because of that, I feel I see it as a success. And one day, maybe it will make money, you know what I mean? But you have to be willing to go through that period where it’s not making money, you have to be willing to go that road, I would have something more than just profit loss.
Chris Baran 1:11:59
And then I know Yes, before it’s one thing I want to do, I’m just, I’ve got this written down here. I’m gonna send you a book, I’m gonna send you a book, my gift, my gift to you. And it’s gonna call profit first. It’s made a huge difference in our business. And and I’m gonna send you that book. Sure. And, and I and it’s gonna do great stuff for you. The I want to, you know, we’re, I don’t know where the hell the time goes when we do these, but I’d love to have you back on for a part two. Because I think this this was this was great stuff. And I there’s so many more things that we can talk about in here. kind of wrap this up here on show I’ve got some rapid fire questions that I’m just gonna throw at you just you know, one one word one sentence one quick sentence. What is it? And what’s your responses to them? So what turns you on in the creative process?
Matty Conrad 1:13:01
Oh, man, passion. Honestly, I can listen to other people talk about something with passion all day long.
Chris Baran 1:13:12
And what stifles
Matty Conrad 1:13:15
Chris Baran 1:13:20
Okay, an event or a show that you just loved? I’m sure there’s many but what’s the first one that comes to your mind?
Matty Conrad 1:13:26
Wow, there’s been so many. There was one that really stood out to me. It was at the Brooklyn Bowl in New York City in Brooklyn, and it was just a bunch of barbers it was put on by a friend. It was a small show, but man, everybody there was turned on everybody. It was the most engaged audience I’ve ever seen. And it was so fun.
Chris Baran 1:13:49
Yeah, that’s awesome. And then we went in life in general. Sorry, go ahead.
Matty Conrad 1:13:54
Well, it was at a place called the Brooklyn Bowl. So we did this show. It was really great. And then we all went bowling after I mean what’s better way to end a show than bowling?
Chris Baran 1:14:01
Oh, love it. Tanner. 510 pin or five pin? It was it was 10 pin Yeah, five pin is it’s America would have intended and only in Saskatchewan isn’t five channel. thing a thing in life that you dislike the most.
Matty Conrad 1:14:19
Chris Baran 1:14:25
And what do you love the most? Humility proudest moment of your life
Matty Conrad 1:14:38
there’s so many. Honestly, I was on the cover of a magazine called Barbara Evo. I was asked to be on the cover of this. It is, in my estimation, one of the best publications in barbering. It was certainly the one of the best reputations for being a very respected Magazine. When I was asked to be on the cover of that magazine and appeared on the cover of that magazine, it was the first time I think I ever felt like I actually belonged, in barbering, like was honestly accepted by the barbering community. It was very hard to bridge that gap from from hair styling hairdressing at that point, where there was a very heavy division, and it was not seen as particularly beneficial to have come from a hairdressing background. And being a barber, you were looked at as a tourist. And now, because the trends have changed, and because the emphasis has been put much more on hairstyling now, it’s actually seen as quite an asset to have come from that
Chris Baran 1:15:40
awesome person that you admire the most
Matty Conrad 1:15:43
was my grandpa.
Chris Baran 1:15:45
As my grandfather’s and you wish you could meet?
Matty Conrad 1:15:48
Oh, man. I got to meet Vidal Sassoon incredibly briefly, one, one trip I was on. And it’s not that I wish I could meet him, I wish I could sit and talk to him at length. He was he was changed, he changed the world. Like he changed the world. I think very unintentionally, to I think he just did what was natural for him, and it changed everything.
Chris Baran 1:16:21
Something that people don’t know about you.
Matty Conrad 1:16:26
I have a, an actual impediment for the fact that I decided to work with my hands is that I have a deformity. And it’s something I must never talk about. In fact, I’ve never talked about it in the podcast. It’s something that somebody noticed the other day and was kind of blown away at, I broke my wrist when I was little, my wrist doesn’t actually straighten out. So this is a normal wrist. And this is and the fact that I work with my hands. And I do something that is so required to make specific angles and required to do certain things, I actually have an impediment there. And I had to learn how to work around that. And the fact that I have something that actually would preclude me from doing this, and yet I’ve managed to succeed to the level I have is something I’ve never really talked about, but somebody told me maybe I should share that because there’s other people that feel like there’s things that stand in their way of being able to do that. And I It never occurred to me that it would be that it was something that was particularly unique or special. But yeah, I’ve I shouldn’t be doing the job that I do.
Chris Baran 1:17:32
You know, and the funniest thing is, is I pride myself on my, my observation skills, and yet I’ve never noticed it. Now it’s pretty well, thank you something. If you can have a month off, where would you go? What would you do?
Matty Conrad 1:17:48
So this is something that my missus and I talk about frequently. i In the absence of something immediately pressing for me to do I will create something. So time off for me is hard. But I very much love Italy it’s my favorite country. I’ve been to it probably five times. Every every time somewhere different and every time it’s a completely unique experience. And I think the you could easily get lost in Italy for a month and just come back with just a generation of travel knowledge.
Chris Baran 1:18:26
I love I love Italy something you’re terrified of
Matty Conrad 1:18:36
letting everyone down.
Chris Baran 1:18:39
Wow. Welcome to that club though. Favorite curse word.
Matty Conrad 1:18:43
Fuck. I am favoring the company and I am notorious in our industry for using that word on stage frequently because I can’t get fired because I work for myself. So it’s my it’s my secret joy. Other Other artists are like I wish I could do that sometimes my favorite comfort food. Yeah. Oh, you know what? It’s it’s This is funny. Tuna wraps. I made a tuna tuna salad wrap is something that I make almost all the time. Well, I would have never guessed that. It’s like almost like a grilled cheese like a tuna melt. But in a rap. And Cornish something in
Chris Baran 1:19:21
the industry you haven’t done but you want to.
Matty Conrad 1:19:25
Okay. Something I haven’t done. But I want to do I have recently and this is maybe something for your next episode. I’ve recently started to let go of the idea of being the young cool. Awarded artists, toast of the moment and I’m moving into what I call my Anthony Bourdain phase, where I am trying to break down the walls between the culture of barbering and the outside world and the idea of being able to showcase some of the most incredible things about the culture that we’ve built in the last 10 years. And I’m working with GQ and a couple of producers right now to create a series that actually does that. And so that’s my goal for the next couple of years is to hey,
Chris Baran 1:20:12
I can see that. Thank you. If you had one do over in your life, you know, what would it be?
Matty Conrad 1:20:21
Man, I try not to regret anything, because I try and embrace where I am as a result of all of the good and bad decisions I made. And I don’t really think that there are such a thing is the right or wrong decision, I think decisions are just a general rudder, rather than they are, you know, you steer into a wall or steer onto the highway, I think I would have started my brand in a different fashion, I would have turned it into something that I started smaller, and let grow more organically than trying to force it. Because when you try to force things and make them too big, it’s very easy to lose control of those things or to constantly be trying to push, push, push, push, push, instead of letting things evolve as they should.
Chris Baran 1:21:14
Okay, tomorrow, if you couldn’t do hair, or have anything to do with the hair industry, what would you do?
Matty Conrad 1:21:20
I’d be a carpenter.
Chris Baran 1:21:23
Oh, I’ve seen you tiling and putting up stuff and so on. Yeah. Okay. Last question. If you had one wish for the barbering industry, what would it be?
Matty Conrad 1:21:38
I think one of the things that we’ve lost in the last couple of years is a sense of humility for what we are, which is a service, we’re a servant Job, doesn’t mean that we’re servants. It doesn’t mean that we’re, you know, slaves to what we do. But it does mean that we need to approach our work with the understanding that what we do is given to other people, we’re, we’re more artists, and then we are artists, you know, we are conditioned to create something for someone else. We’re not creating purely for our own satisfaction, which is the difference between an artist and an artist. And so I think that I would like Barton, new barbers to really embrace and understand that the humility with which you approach your work is usually in direct proportion to your ability to succeed at it.
Chris Baran 1:22:29
Hmm, wow. I want you to say that again, that’s the human
Matty Conrad 1:22:34
Well, yeah, just it’s not like a saying it’s just it’s just how I feel about it. It’s kind of how that came out. But it’s it’s the the humility with which you approach your work is directly proportionate to your ability to succeed at it in the long term. It’s how it should probably caveat that there’s so much there’s, there’s, there’s so much I want to share with the barbering industry. But I don’t want to at the same time be that old guy standing on the hill shaking his cane at the youngsters. It’s not gonna be house. Yeah, get off my lawn, not who I want to be. You know, I think yeah, I think there’s so much promise and, and I am so grateful to have been even a small part of a lot of people’s journey in it. It’s the fact that I’ve been able to have any kind of voice or influence at all, or even to have achieved what I’ve done so far is a miracle to me. Judging from where I started, it’s a miracle that I’m here. So
Chris Baran 1:23:34
well, I know that it may feel like a miracle, Maddy, but your talent and your stick to itiveness is what got you there. And I you know, we talked about feeling your way to the top and but please don’t you know, the last thing that we need in our industry is not having people around like you who will be soft and vulnerable and help people to understand where you came from, but also to be from the pure fact of being a servant leader and helping people so well, you I’m here to get my hat off to you for my hometown. Make sure when you go back there, you know, have a beer for it. Walk down Yates and look at the old salon and toasted and go back Marmar make think of think about the good times we had there. So I just want to say but thank you for being there. I’ll be home for Christmas. If I’m there. I want to stop by and have a beer together and we can do this damn long locks and long locks. So
Matty Conrad 1:24:35
Don’t tempt me with a good time Chris Barron. I’ll be all over.
Chris Baran 1:24:39
Like my friends always say don’t start something that you can’t finish. So let’s start. From the bottom my heart. Thank you. Good. God bless I love you, pal. love you back.