Even if we have never visited a black barbershop, many of us are familiar with these institutions as an important social and business center for the black community and their small businesses.
On the Small Business Radio Show this week, I talked to Wil Shelton who is the CEO and founder of Wil Power Integrated Marketing (WPIM) for over 20 years. WPIM is an agency that serves global salon, stylists and barber marketing agency offering a full range of traditional and digital marketing services to the multi-cultural masses in the beauty and grooming industries. He started his career as a hairstylist and salon owner in Los Angeles.
Interview with Wil Shelton
Wil describes the influence barbershops have on their customers- “a barber can get more out of you in 15 minutes than your therapist can in 15 years!…because you let your hair down and can brush out the anxiety.” It makes the black community flourish. Wil adds that it was “the original black Twitter- to celebrate your triumphs, and your children…you may not agree on every conversation but no one is going to say that you don’t belong there.”
Black barbershops have always been a safe space. Wil mentions that in the civil rights era, they became town halls. Customers say “it’s the only place I go outside of home and work”.
Wil discusses how the network of 100,000 barbershops and salons shut down in March 2020 as a result of the pandemic. He had to start to figure our solutions for these small business owners to stay profitable. Wil instructed them to focus on diversifying their business by selling hair product kits online or doing things virtually. When customers were allowed back into their barbershop, he suggested to focus on their individual experience. Wil believes they have to practice “social listening as well as social distancing”. They raised their prices to keep people safe with more cleaning and less space for customers.
Wil believes that his book, “Black Paper” – is a “historical document that no one has released before”. It discusses how brands can capture the Black consumer that spends 1.4T year on goods and services. This starts by understanding the influence Black barbershops have on their consumers.