Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Antonio Camilleri, an old school barber from Malta (Europe), I have been working as a barber for over 18 years. Started as an apprentice for the first 2 years and moving to the UK to further my studies, opened Antonio’s Barber Shop in Leister, UK for 5 years, and during that period I have traveled to the Netherlands to further improve my barbering skills.
In 2015 I moved back to Malta to open the official Antonio’s Barber Shop with 8 chairs and slowly employing and training barbers to build a team of professionals. Since then, we grew to 14 barbers catering to more than 250 clients a day split in 2 locations in the Maltese Islands!
Our flagship product is our customer service when a customer needs our services, but apart from that, we sell grooming products both from our brick and mortar stores or from our e-commerce that cater to all men’s needs. From shampoo to beard wax and cologne! All products can be found here.
We have an annual turnover of 1.5 million euros from 3 different revenue streams. One revenue stream is coming directly from the servicing itself, the second is from sales of products, and thirdly from the barbering academy.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My career has been a long road before I found success. Firstly I was a bar manager, then a soldier, then a bus driver, then a restaurant owner and chef. Finally, I decided to follow my grandfather's steps and become a barber. My grandfather was a barber on navy ships during WWI and WWII. I also worked in the UK for 5 years as a barber before opening in Malta.
The idea came about identifying a business opportunity and taking full advantage before the eventual competition, our success was the fact that we re-introduced old school barbering modernized and hip to cater for today’s gentlemen. In barbering, competition, when we started in Malta was non-existent. There were the typical hairdressers and 2 old school barbers which were unchanged since the ‘60s.
The idea was validated by my clients, one day a multi-millionaire came to get a haircut and I was discussing my concerns of growing and investing all my life savings into the business, his reply was “I just bought a company for 5 million euros over breakfast,” he just told me, “now is the time to invest and try creating something revolutionary.”
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Apart from the grooming services, we created a product range selecting the ingredients based on local climate and customer feedback. The range has everything from shampoo, pomade to a straight razor. We wanted the products to look manly, we based them on black with our logo to continuously increase brand awareness.
When we produce the products, we trust a big firm that does such products but giving them our ingredients and consultation before every product is released.
The strategy was to use the product on each client, this enticed clients to buy products and take them home for daily use. All products can be found here. Our sales split in-shop 60% and 40% online. We sell products to Spain, Dubai, the USA, France, Israel, and the UK to mention a few.
These products have a 30% profit with good annual revenue.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The launch was gradual, with barbering you begin with a small shop having two chairs and only operating one by myself, then getting a second barber to join in and building a customer base. Once the word got out with a solid website ranking organically with optimal SEO and some marketing on social media and offline print we were getting full to the brim in no time. It ended having people starting to queue 2 hours before opening hours.
The website was created by my little brother, who at the time was an IT guy and a kind of gurry when it comes to technology. Now he is the marketing manager! He bought a domain, a Wix website, started listening to audiences and learning Google Analytics, started social media channels that are adequate for the business. Started with just Facebook, now we have Instagram, Linkedin, Google, and Twitter.
The business financials were self-injected, I took a small bank loan to get started and reinvesting profits to keep the business growing at a steady pace until we were able to open the big barbershop we have today having 10 barber chairs and eventually opening a second barbershop in a busy shopping mall having an additional 5 barber chairs.
We learned that reputation is the first thing a business needs to work on, once that is established everything else will fall in place.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
To retain customers and attract customers we adopted a loyalty scheme and continuous social media content, events, and charity.
The loyalty scheme is when we have the 11th haircut free when a customer is automated by the booking system engine.
Social media engaging content is ideal as it keeps clients interested and reminds them they need a haircut or replenish their grooming needs.
CSR is one of the most important things a company can do, if financials are good why not give back to the community? We cater for Movember of course but also charities close to heart such as autism, mental health, and support to the homeless.
With marketing, the blend of offline and digital marketing is crucial. Malta is an island and many elderly people don't use social media printed ads and sponsoring football/rugby/darts teams is needed.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Due to the current COVID-19 situation which is hitting the whole world, it is not that good but luckily after 2 months of a country lockdown we were able to reopen with a huge cost and investment in preventive measures equipment we consider ourselves lucky as we are running at a capacity of 75%
The strategy is now to get new clients, while we lost some clients because they feel a haircut is not a necessary thing or went to shave their hair for convenience we are now trying to do our best in acquiring new customers by showing them on how professional and clean and how serious we are taking the pandemic.
We have 40% of sales done online and 20% from partnered brick and mortar stores such as a gentlemen's store and pharmacies and the remaining 40% from our two barbershops.
Short term goal is to get through this unharmed and still alive, long term is to continue to grow and establish a franchise to be able to have our brand all over the island and beyond.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- FedEx and Local Shipping integration
- Bookly booking plugin
- Hotjar to identify browning behavior
- Loomly as social media centralized publisher
- Canva for creating social media material
- Google Business and Analytics
- Point of Sales system with stock control
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
People and Customers, they are my influences and motivators.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Make informed decisions, don’t just follow your guts. Do market research, ask around, investigate, observe, do mystery shopping, see what others do, and do it better. Ultimately never give up, be strong, and persist.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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