Learning from the community
For millions of American men, the barber shop is more than a fresh haircut and beard trim. It’s a refuge. It’s a place to let your guard down, swap stories, and ease life’s day-to-day struggles, no matter who you are. It’s an organic no-judgment zone where you can learn from people of all shapes, sizes, and colors.
For Antwaun Turner, the barber shop helped make him into the man he is today. “It’s all positive vibes in the barber shop,” he said. “It grew me up to be more responsible, first of all. You meet business men. You meet people who are religious. You learn from many different ways.” Even some of the “bad” characters in a barber shop have something to teach. Their stories are shared in a positive light, hard lessons for those who might otherwise walk a similar path.
Now, after years of working as a barber, Turner’s bringing what he’s learned to a new generation of entrepreneurs through Toledo’s very first Black-owned barber college, Topp of the Line Barber College.
From Entrepreneur to Teacher
We asked Mr. Turner about his experience as a barber and how that eventually led him to open a school. A big part of the decision was seeing people’s situations, realizing how many people aren’t happy with where they’re at in life. He wants to show how lucrative and fun owning your own business can be, and that’s really what barbers are: they’re small business owners. Entrepreneurs. With the violence in Toledo, he wants to show prospective barbers a different thought process, a different alternative to a life of crime. He wants to provide that “lightbulb moment in their head” that they can be something bigger than their environment.
At the school, he’ll be teaching the basics of barbering, but the curriculum also includes a heavy focus on taxes and other business-related topics like filing for an LLC, resources such as YouTube, and proper barber etiquette.
“We’ll teach you how to cut hair, pass the board, and get your certification,” Turner says, “but my school is going to focus on taxes. Not teach you how to do them, but teach you the importance of taxes, how to keep your books up.”
Turner emphasized the importance of customer service, a large piece of running an effective business that is often lacking in the industry. He wants his students to understand the significance of making people feel welcome, of letting them know that their patronage is wanted and appreciated.
“You know, how you conduct yourself inside the barber shop. When customers come in the barber shop, no one says anything. No one greets these people. It leaves them to ask questions. Being your own boss, being self-employed, you’re not taught properly how to have customer service.”
These are all aspects of the business he wishes he knew when he first got started, especially the taxes and operation side of things, along with tricks of the trades he’s picked up over the years.
16 students are currently enrolled at the Topp of the Line Barber College, and Turner will accept new students every Monday for his year-round course. The school will be open to the public for affordable, quality services such as $8 kids cuts and $10 adult cuts.
Interested in enrolling? Stop by the College’s location in south Toledo or by calling 419-766-8280. 1604 S Byrne Rd., Toledo. tolbarbercollege.com