When you think of 6 figure jobs, you don’t normally think of a lot of flash or creativity. Anesthesiologists, Dentists, Financial Managers all have good reputations for bringing in money. They also employ people who tend to incite yawns at a dinner party. Out of the public eye, a class of creative businessman have been reaching big numbers while making men look fly: barbers. “If barbers are making 25 dollars a haircut, and they’re getting haircuts done within an hour, they’re still above the national average (for income). Well beyond it actually,” Marcus Harvey told me over the phone. Harvey is a kingpin of these barbers, earning the name of Barber Star to reflect his rockstar status and lifestyle.
Like any successful entrepreneur, Harvey has a variety of ways he makes bank. His megawatt celebrity client list includes stars like Nas, Grant Hill, and Chris Webber, but celebrities are only the tip of the iceberg. He also splits his time between owning a barbershop, being behind the chair, and doing consulting for brands like Bevel and television work. He pulls about 5,000 per video shoot, and a little less for a billboard shoot. His day rates are anywhere between $650 to $1,000 a day. Partnerships with companies like Bevel or Squire pull in additional thousands of dollars per month. His Instagram feed filled with shots of tight fades and photos of his kids. His stories detail a whirlwind of haircuts, plane rides, studio sets. The grind is relentless.
It’s this consistency coupled with a sense of flair and eye on the horizon that got Harvey his big break. The time was the early 2000s when Harvey’s knack for designs and mohawks (styles not yet ubiquitous) landed him the attention of salon owner Ramsey. Looking to retire from being behind the chair, Ramsey gave Harvey half of his regular clients. Once Ramsey saw that Harvey was able to hold on to his weekly clients by consistently providing good cuts and easy conversation, he started throwing him celebrity clients.
The first one was Nas. Harvey waited at the salon for two hours before Nas showed up at 1 am for his haircut. The pair built a rapport and Harvey started going to Nas’ house for his 1am cuts. “Oh, Nas is a homebody” Harvey told me, drawing out the word homebody’s three syllables to make his point. The scene was not as debaucherous as you might imagine a rapper’s house after midnight being. “It’s just literally he is in his phone. We may be listening to some good music, we may be just chill, just talk.” Harvey said.
Nas started referring Harvey to other big clients and flying him to Paris for tours. Nas also showed Harvey how to operate as an entrepreneur. “What I’ve always saw with him, is that if you keep your brand clean and consistent, as far as with excellence, people just start wanting to work with you,” he said. While at a party, Nas introduced Harvey to sports star Chris Webber and sang the barber’s praises.
Two weeks later Harvey was cutting Webber’s hair before his appearance on Inside the NBA. The following summer, after Webber felt a little more comfortable in Harvey’s chair, he was ready to try haircuts that went beyond simple lines and incorporated his burgeoning afro. “I called it the homeless intellectual: a cross between Cornell West and somebody who just had their first day on the streets,” Harvey sais to me, chuckling. The cut went viral on Twitter. “I think one of them (twitter users) said “the amount of technology that was exerted in this haircut deserves to get this man the Nobel peace prize as well as a degree in Physics from MIT” Harvey said.
Harvey has so many people wanting to work with him now that he’s looking to pass on his knowledge with Summit, a retreat in the Smoky Mountains for barbers to talk shop. “it just gives them financial help, trademark help and different troubleshooting and business needs, meeting their maximum potential” Harvey said. Since starting it two years ago It’s been such a success that Harvey is upping the ante and hosting it twice a year.
Sharing knowledge and expertise is how Harvey discovered he wanted to be a barber and how to make a killing doing it. Growing up, Harvey knew the value of making a dollar. His mother, a single mom working as a buyer for an electronics company, always stressed the importance of “getting money.” What was missing was the next step: money management. “The conversations that we had were about getting money, not necessarily out to manage the money that you got.” Harvey learned that from the barbershop, where he got a job sweeping up. “I was able to actually get understandings from eight different entrepreneurs at that time,” Harvey said.
At times, the barbers would offer Harvey services instead of his typical salary of 5 dollars per barber. “Some would give me options: Marcus would you rather have $5 or would you rather me give you a haircut? Would you rather me give you $5 or $10 or would you rather me give you, pick up this extra shirt that this Buble guy is about to sell?” he said. Harvey credits this system of negotiating an exchange of services for preparing him for bigger deals. “A lot of my successes have come because I am able to barter one skill for another person’s skill, know my value, know other people’s value” he said.
For Harvey, his value changes for whichever service he’s offering.“(behind the chair) All I really charge for is time.” He said. “When I work for companies and when I know they are using my skill for enticing people to use their product, even more, that’s when I realize that you still have to go up on pricing to make sure that it’s actually adequate.” Harvey stresses how his skills as a barber could be used to sell anything. If the model in the shot has a fade by The Barber Star, you won’t be able to look away. ”If their haircut is on point, typically you go to the next thing that is most beautiful in the picture, and that is whatever product they are trying to sell,” Harvey said.
The future looks bright. This year Harvey is planning on opening up two new barber shops, while continuing to increase his business deals.“I’m hitting the right moment in my life where capital is becoming available with my credit being as high as it’s getting,” he said. Despite all of his personal success, Harvey’s biggest goals remain focused on how the work he does can help other people grow their own empires. “My real goal, to be totally honest, is in the next five years, I want to make five millionaires. “
He’s emphatic that any barber who’s committed to the hustle can make as much bank as he does. “The opportunities barbers have now? Bruh I’m talking 125 thousand, 150 thousand a year if you really want to. If you’re a real hustler, you’re doing classes, you’re learning more, you’re providing products, you’re selling your own product line. I’ve heard barbers make half a million dollars easy.” Financial stardom has never been within closer reach. All you need is a sense of hustle and some clippers.
Get the latest updates.
Receive the latest in Men's Grooming, Culture and Creativity in our newsletters.