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Birds Barbershop opened its first store in 2006. Birds attracts the diverse, hip, young residents of music-loving Austin, Texas.
Michael Portman and Jayson Rapaport had no previous experience in running hair salons. They chose barbershops to satisfy, what they saw, as an under-served Austin niche market.
Neither Portman nor Rapaport has been to barber school. As Rapaport puts it, "our job is to get butts in the seats."
The first store, which opened in 2006, is 1,300 sq. ft. and has a consciously hip, colorful, exuberant style.
The stylists are all employees of Birds Barbershop to encourage camaraderie and a commitment to Birds vision.
The employees seem to like the commission-based system; Birds has a retention rate nearly four times the industry average.
Unlike many higher-end shops Birds thrives on walk-ins.
Guests are treated to free beer and games as they wait.
To give the shops a scuffed-up aesthetic, much of the furniture and the old arcade consoles were found secondhand, on Craigslist.
The music in the stores is an eclectic Austin-blend: old-school rap, local legend Willie Nelson, and indie upstarts Crystal Castles all share speaker time.
Cross-promotions with local music venues, like frequent free-ticket giveaways, help get the Birds name out to future customers.
Birds hosts a number of events throughout the year, like the SXSW block party. In December, the fourth annual "ManFest" will take place.
Solid mid-level pricing is cited as the key to Birds success.
With more accessible pricing Birds' clientele varies more than a high-end salon.
Some procedures, like coloring, take longer and require a reservation. Hair coloring costs $50 and up.
Women's cuts are more expensive, and carry a higher profit margin.
Business has been great, driving expansion in Austin. Rapaport is even considering a move into nearby San Antonio, but admits he doesn't know the town as well and will need help finding the right location.
Birds' embrace of the Austin music scene has helped build it into a thriving local business.
Reservations are not required.
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