Riding High: From BMX to BarberShop
From Sports to Franchise Ownership
It's fair to say Matt Cameron never intended to own a BarberShopCo Franchise store. Coming from a BMX racing and coaching background, Matt initially saw himself remaining in the sporting world. "My wife Dani and I both come from a sporting performance background and have been in the industry for a long time,” says Matt, “but we have always wanted to take the plunge and invest in a business so we can grow our assets. We also wanted to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and own a business where we could create our future. Working harder but smarter to get further reward.”
While Matt was committed to making a change, he was unsure where a step away from sport would lead. "I wasn't a tradie," says Matt, "and I'd been to uni, but that was for sport. So, I spent a few years thinking about how my strengths could work in business." In an off-roading of career expectations, Matt found himself talking with John Erkkila about owning a BarberShopCo store. "It all started in about 2019," says Matt, "Dani and I know John – he's on the BarberShopCo Board and is one of the founding members. He had been on at us for a while about owning a BarberShopCo store. Then he said one was coming to Cambridge, and we would be great for it. We knew that it would thrive in Cambridge, and we liked the idea of owning that business, so we started talking more about it. That's how our journey started."
So how was the transition from BMX to barbershop? "Well, we did it a bit differently," says Matt, "in that we bought the business after it had been set up and running for a few months. We liked the idea of coming into a store that was up and running because it was our first time operating a store. It was a hell of a lot easier than starting from scratch. Everything was already set up." Owning a barbershop in an area he knows and loves has been one of the highlights of Matt's journey so far. "If I look back at the past three years," says Matt, "the community loves it. Cambridge is quite a niche community. A tight-knit, sport-orientated, family-orientated community. The store ticked all those boxes for Cambridge, so it's been a really great fit."
Matt and Daniella are now the owners of two BarberShopCo stores – Cambridge and Hamilton East. Matt also continues to coach BMX racing. When asked what he enjoys most about being a store owner, Matt is quick off the mark. "I like that I'm in control of my own destiny,” says Matt, “I'm in control of my own future as far as performance and profit go. There are always pros and cons, but in sport, I was capped. There was no wriggle room as far as pay increases go. With owning the store, you are in control of your own destiny. If you want more, you work harder, and you get rewarded – depending on how you've strategised. I like that."
Matt is also passionate when it comes to people. "For me, it's all about people," says Matt, "coming from BMX and going to the Olympics, I love getting the best out of people. And at the end of the day, barbering is about people. I know the barbering industry well now, and I know everything about how you would cut hair, but I can't actually cut hair because I'm not a barber. So, I focus on getting the best out of people. And it's great. I love the challenge when a barber says, 'I can't' or 'I never'. I love helping them to develop. And over time, I watch them grow. That's what drives me. That's probably why I took a step out of sport and into this."
As with most things in life, there are challenges to owning your own business. And when it comes to barbershops, finding barbers is front and centre. "Finding barbers is probably the hardest part," says Matt, "it's not like there are millions of barbers out there waiting for work. If you own a café, you can recruit students, but students can't cut hair. Training barbers and moving them forward can also be a struggle. I had a training model that I used in Cambridge to develop new staff over a six-month period, and it was working really well. Then we bought Hamilton, and it was double the size. I tried to use the same training model in Hamilton, and it blew it to pieces because we had new staff members starting every six months, and then two staff members moved away. So, my model just wasn't enough."
In a clear case of making lemonade from lemons, Matt got to work. "At first, I tried to speed up the process," says Matt, "I'd push people to develop faster both technically and professionally, but it wasn't happening. It was a big problem. But the solution was simple. In the end, the staff we did hire started talking about how good we were as owners. Simple things, like getting paid on time and being treated with respect. Barbers stayed with us, things turned around, and we now have a waitlist for new staff wanting to work for us."
So, what advice does Matt have for potential BarberShopCo store owners? "I think it's about the culture," says Matt, "it's about how people get treated and how the store owner acts. You've got to stay in-store every day. Touch base with people every day. Gain their respect. When the staff see the store owner sweeping the floor and doing anything they can to gain trust, it works.”
Being a franchise business owner, Matt has also found that there is a misconception when it comes to the work involved. “I think people look at franchise businesses from the outside in and think it’s easy,” says Matt, “but sometimes it’s not. I've had friends say, 'you guys are smashing it, you’re doing it' and I've said, 'Mate, it's not easy'. You can't just come in for half an hour a day and then go home. It's still a job. It's still a business. I've never done that. I'm always here."
Matt also emphasizes the importance of staying connected to customers. “It is so important that you connect with clients,” says Matt, “so they feel like they are part of something. That they have a connection with you as the store owner. Connect with everyone who comes through those doors, whether staff or clients. People are everything in my book. If you treat them right, they will believe in you, and they will follow you.”
Interested in owning a BarberShopCo Franchise? See here!