As Billy Crystal used to say on Saturday Night Live, back in the day, “It’s better to look good than to feel good.”
How does the Modern Man find time to look good beyond a shower and a disposable razor shave? We have family. We have jobs. We have homes to care for and then all the little things that fill every moment between those things! So, how do we look good when we don’t have time to get to the barber?
Christian Iannucci found the answer. He brings the barber TO YOU with his highly successful Doorbell Barbers.
We recently spent some time with Christian to find out his Modern Man story.
ModernMan: Chrisitan, thank you for sharing your story with us. The idea seems like it would have existed forever, yet, here you are bringing the barber to the client. How did it start and how has Doorbell Barbers changed since then?
Christian Iannucci: Thank you, Keith! I launched Doorbell Barbers in the Summer of 2015 but the idea germinated during a mental sabbatical in the Winter of 2014. I spent 5 weeks isolated in a cabin in Sandgate, VT with no internet, no phone signal, no running water (the pipes froze the first week I was there lol), and limited heat. I went to the woods in the dead of winter with the intention of self discovery, meditation, healthy living and to essentially figure out my calling/ purpose.
I had spent the previous year working in a toxic corporate environment where I felt my time behind the desk was draining all of my energy and I was creatively stifled. During this winter sabbatical, I was particularly inspired by the works of the British philosopher Allan Watts and began to cultivate a service to others mindset. How could I be most helpful to those around me was my starting point.
At this point, I had no barbering/cosmetology experience except that my late Grandfather was a barber in Bridgeport, CT for over 50 years.
I began to research the market for in-home senior services and learned there was an opportunity with senior grooming & beauty – they were not being served. The mission in the beginning was simple. Bring haircuts to people in need. My mom is a nurse and I feel strongly I inherited her compassion and human touch which is very much of apart of our work. I would also attribute the inspiration to come from the emergence of on-demand services, the Nomad Barber, Tim Ferris, & a host of entrepreneurship podcasts.
I began to mediate on my vision and decided I was going all in. I wrote the original business plan in Vermont which was simply a timeline and a template for how the site would look.
I came back to Connecticut, enrolled in a local cosmetology school at the age of 29 and spent a year learning the trade, building the website, and preparing for launch.
MM: What was it like when you started out and where is it today?
CI: When I started, it was just me in my car going to peoples’ homes giving haircuts in their kitchens.
Now the business (3 years later) has evolved to an on-demand suite of in-home services via our sister company Doorbell Salon, corporate wellness/ corporate accounts, groomsmen & bridal division, assisted living & hospital partnerships, hospice care & brand collaborations with 45 staff members.
I still feel like the business is in its infancy and do struggle with things not moving as fast as I would want it too, but I’m enjoying the journey regardless.
MM: Every great idea hits at least 100 walls before it takes off. Was there ever a time when you thought it wasn’t going to work?
CI: Of course! I have experienced waves of emotions (immense highs and deep lows) while building the company. It’s an ongoing struggle to scale a business, but I find immense satisfaction in the work and the vast majority of clients are a pleasure to serve. But, the ones that are the most challenging/difficult – we either are extra accommodating or block them from booking.
MM: How did you keep yourself motivated to keep pushing?
CI: I just keep working because I still believe in the mission and the old adage is true – when you love your work you’ll never work a day in your life. I’m proud of the team we have assembled and now I feel a great responsibility to work for them.
Personally, I try to get as much sleep as I can, keep a pescatarian diet, abstain from alcohol & try to keep yoga a part of my weekly regimen. If I’m not taking care of myself, I can’t operate on the level I aspire too.
MM: Describe to us how a typical visit from Doorbell Barbers goes.
CI: After 10,000 services, I would consider myself a subject matter expert in giving haircuts/ shaves in non-traditional spaces. For me, it’s a dance. I have my movements on auto pilot. I don’t even think about the work anymore, it just happens. I’m more focused on the conversation and trying to read the clients temperament/personality and become a chameleon.
Each service is a number of systems that we have developed for home service ranging from the music catalog, tool setup (all wireless), floor mat placement, and products we use. Setup is roughly 60 seconds, service time 30-40 minutes and by the time the haircut is completed we are already packed up and making our way to the door.
Each service concludes with a straight razor shave around the exterior edges, a firm handshake, smile and thank you. Payment & gratuity is paid upfront and online. I prefer not to transact money in peoples’ homes as it takes away from the experience.
Whether it’s a massage, manicure/pedicure, wedding service or corporate event, we try to make it as personalized as possible and deliver good work. At the end of the day, if your not happy with the service, your not going to book again – so first impressions are huge. Making sure the team is solid is key.
MM: We know that word of mouth is the best marketing, but what tools do you use to get the word out about your company?
CI: This is a great question and there simply isn’t a best practice as we use different channels for different segments of the business. However, Facebook, Instagram, Google Ad Words, SEO, retail pop-ups, direct mail, trade shows, car wrap, business costume (I have been wearing the same outfit for nearly three years – 7 days a week), networking groups & online reviews are things we use to market the services. I’ve done a lot of experimenting with marketing that didn’t have the best ROI but you just learn, adapt and continue with what works.
Once you figure out who your specific audience is, the marketing gets much easier. It took nearly two years to determine that we were actually servicing two main buckets for the Doorbell Barber haircut services more than any other demographic — new dads with at least 2 kids under the age of 5 & aging seniors that are affected by dementia, stroke, Alzheimers & use oxygen.
MM: You’ve done some great events at shops and in stores to help promote the business, do you find those bring clients, or more top of mind awareness of your services?
CI: I think it’s good business in general to partner with brands you find synergy with.
In terms of getting new clients, yes it can work depending on the set up and location. You never really know because I have had clients that said we saw you in Lord & Taylor a year ago and kept your card. You always need to be on and selling your brand.
MM: From your social media pages, it’s clear that a lot of your clients aren’t just one-and-done folks, but they become ‘regulars’. You’ve shared some really great stories, especially with some of your older clients. Do you have any favorite client stories you can share?
CI: Yes, the reality is that if clients only booked once we wouldn’t be in business. The vast majority of clients are on 4/6/8 week rotations and are in our membership program (automated discounted monthly fee for service).
Personally, I love working with seniors. I love getting to know their quirks, their humor, hear their life stories and just having a good chat. The haircut or shave is always secondary in my in opinion. My goal is to give them my full attention, make a connection and get them talking while providing the service.
I have had over a dozen clients over the age of 100 (106 being the oldest), provided service to clients that have passed on the same day and one client that passed away during the service —-hospice was on-site and I was essentially doing a haircut & shave for the casket.
I get a lot of seniors who tell me barber jokes, give tomatoes or peppers from their garden, want to show me pictures of their grandkids, give me life advice, and invite me to stay for a meal. I’m honored they invite us into their home and I try to make each service memorable for them as it’s possible I may not see them again. I attend a lot of funerals but I’m humbled to have played a small role in their final months.
MM: If you could offer up 2 or 3 ‘tips’ for other Modern Men looking to get their own idea up and off the ground, what would they be?
CI: First, I think that you need to be solving a problem that people have and are willing to pay for. Secondly, I think you need to be open to failure and see every disappointment or failed attempt as an opportunity to learn from your mistake.
Most importantly is to just start. Stop thinking, stop talking about it and just start creating. I’m unabashedly consumed and devoted to Doorbell Barbers.
It doesn’t define me as a person but it’s a culmination of my life experience and how I interact with the world on a professional level, at this moment in my life. If you can find that spark within yourself and harness it in a productive manner, you will be on the right path toward achieving your goals.
MM: Where do you see Doorbell Barbers in the near future? How about 10 years from now?
CI: I have been working on building the legal framework to franchise the brand for the past year. It’s been slow going and frankly more expensive than I expected, so I’m working toward that goal.
I still see clients personally and work the road while managing the crew but I will be slowly easing out of service this year to focus more on big picture projects. It’s challenging when your always working in the business when striving to work on the business. In ten years, I believe Doorbell Barbers will be in multiple markets across the US.
MM: For our readers in Connecticut – how do they make an appointment with you?
CI: You can find us at www.doorbellbarbers.com. Feel free to use “ModernMen” for 10% OFF your first service. Shave Soon!
A HUGE thank you to Christian for taking time out of schedule to chat with us.
CLICK HERE TO BOOK A VISIT FROM DOORBELL BARBERS – Remember Christian’s amazing offer of 10% off your first visit for ModernMan readers by using code “ModernMan”!
Hopefully, you’re as inspired by Christian’s story as I am. We’ll be doing more of these spotlights – so keep checking back for more Modern Man Success Stories!