We check in once more with Chris Todd, owner of Todd’s Chop Shop in South Shields a few years on for some more lessons behind the journey of building your own barbershop
Obviously you made the ballsy jump from employed barber to shop owner. At the time of writing you not too long ago celebrated the 2nd Birthday of Todd’s Chop Shop, congratulations! There are plans for a 5th barber to come aboard… clearly there has been steady growth!
What has been your approach to building up and growing the business? Leaps of faith? Or was it a strategy you had all along? Where do you see Todd’s Chop Shop heading in the coming years? Perhaps further plans for expansion?
For us word of mouth was the biggest thing. The location of our shop has high footfall which is great – if you get those good reviews from your clients, passing people are going to want to pop in. We actually didn’t really have a strategy, though we did have a really good following of clients from previous work places – so it was just making sure they stay.
We were very lucky with Dave when he started, he slotted in perfectly and is now fully booked day in, day out – he is smashing it. He helped us build a new clientele and was great for getting new faces in the shop. The dream team!
For now, our main business aim is always to have a fully staffed shop with fully booked columns. I think a lot of people want to be really big really fast. For us the main focus is always on the clients and staff. Having great staff in place to make sure appointments are available, and then making sure we give top notch customer service with a great haircut, every time. These things sound basic but making sure clients are happy and want to come back, and on the flip side having staff that enjoy their job and love being here are the two key fundamentals of ongoing success. We’re currently training one guy who started as a customer, which I think speaks volumes about the kind of shop we are. Hopefully soon he’ll be smashing it and we can focus on getting our 5th section built in the shop! Fingers crossed.
It has been a challenging few years for the industry – talk about timing! You got through it, and are out the other side stronger than ever.
What was that time like for Todd’s Chop Shop? Do you have any Inspirations that keep you going – both barbering and otherwise?
I don’t think I’ve been through stress like it and never want to ever again! I remember having £7.63 in my bank the day we got told we could open the shop. I don’t think I’ve ever felt relief like that. Inspiration wise, I couldn’t have got through it all without my partner, Sarah. She’s the brains behind it all, she keeps the ship sailing, and tried (very hard!) to stop me stressing. That eased it a good bit. We were also lucky enough that some really cool brands, like Dark Stag that kept us busy over the lockdown too, fun bits for the socials and stuff. It kept our minds ticking.
Tell us about some glory days!
What have been the highlights of shop ownership to date? And what has been the coolest thing you have done? Is there a particularly proud memory for Todd’s Chop Shop?
It still catches us off guard when people say that – “Shop ownership”. “Business owners.” Feels nuts saying it. I suppose that’s one of the highlights for general feel good factor. Having a busy shop is always going to give you that self-satisfaction. We’ve been lucky enough to do clothing colabs with local brands such as Redstar Clothing and had a few pop up events at our local Harley Davidson Garage, that’s always cool, a bit of a change of scenery and a little bit extra for the shop in the way of talking points.
For me, it sounds cliche but seriously – the proudest memory is still our customer feedback. One of the first reviews we received was from an older gent, totally new to the shop. He left us a review and mentioned that he felt part of the family. That for me is the absolute pinnacle of compliments. We want customers to feel part of the shop culture and vibe. Not solely just for a haircut, so for me, things like that couldn’t make me feel prouder.
There must have been some hurdles to a young business even without factoring COVID into the equation!
Looking back now since the first opening the doors: What lessons would you say you have learned? Have you had to make any changes to adapt the concept of Todd’s Chop Shop to respond to the market?
Biggest lesson for me… let your missus deal with the stressful stuff, haha! Nah, I think she did well to keep us both grounded when the whole COVID thing was about. A very stressful time but knowing the buzz about opening the shop was being built up daily was huge. As we hadn’t already managed to open the shop, we didn’t really have to adapt or change anything which was weird.
I think the biggest one for us was building revenue with other things like product, clothing and keeping engaged with customers. Building a bit of a hype and making sure that when we opened, people were dying to be part of it all.
I’ll bet you have some funny stories to share! Any amusing anecdotes spring to mind?
We once sent a little goodie bag of tees and gifts to a brand we were working with… After a few messages and jokes regarding a certain Christmas elf, we received endless videos of said elf, floating around the Dark Stag HQ with music to suit. Still howl at that. To be honest, the general atmosphere in the shop is always a laugh, depending on who we have in the chair it changes what direction it goes in, but it is always a good laugh!
Finally, any top tips on the direction barbering might be headed over the next 12 months?
Style/trend forecasting? Changes in the industry?
Anything else you might want to share with the barbering community!
Thanks to Chris Todd for his insights. Stay tuned for future pieces of barber wisdom…
Until then, tight fades
Dark Stag Team