Dundalk barber Barry Kieran to tell his success story at Bellingham Castle
Local man Barry Kieran, owner and creative director of Signature Hair on Clanbrassil Street Dundalk, is set to give a speech to over 100 people in Bellingham Castle next month.
Representatives from the Louth Enterprise Board, the Department of Social Protection, Dundalk Chamber of Commerce and the Cross-Border Initiative will be in attendance.
Barry managed to build up a successful barbering business from scratch and is a real success story.
“From being on the dole and starting off in my kitchen, then being placed on the Start Your Own Business Scheme in the middle of a recession… I can show people there is hope once you have ambition,” Barry says.
Barry reveals he always had a knack for cutting hair but never thought he would make any money out of it. “I always had an interest in hair and fashion. I was cutting hair casually from about the age of 17. At the time it was more of a past time than a career opportunity but it was something I really was passionate about,” he explains.
Barry reveals that setting up a business was very challenging. “It was very hard. After a fashion company I worked for closed down, I decided to do something for myself where I didn’t have to rely on others to make ends meet,” he says. “I sold my car and majority of my possessions and moved back home, as I had decided barbering was something I wanted to pursue, and I kept every penny I had to invest.”
“I did my initial training in Knights School of Barbering and travelled to Dublin every day to gain my introduction into the barbering world, and I started cutting hair from my kitchen,” Barry reveals. “I also went to Dublin on my days off to get my hair cut in the established and well-recommended barbers in Dublin, to see if I liked anything they were doing so I could put them together to create my own unique modern barbers,” he explains.
“I spent months gathering information and doing market research into what I wanted the business to be. During my research, I also found out there was such thing as a Start Your Own Business Scheme. This is where I met two people who were influential in guiding me along, they were Bernie Judge and Seamus Quigley from the Department of Social Protection,” Barry says.
“I wanted to bring modern barbering to Dundalk as I saw a gap and went for it. The shop was built as best I could with limited money to start with, and with the help of family and friends. A lot of family members helped out, particularly my uncle Jim Kieran, and my good friend Thomas Woods came in and helped me hugely,” Barry adds. “As far as the business side was concerned I was in there alone, as I was the only one who knew which direction I wanted to go. The doors opened in February 2015.”
The accomplished barber says he is very proud of what he has achieved. “It feels great. My journey was such a progression from cutting hair from my kitchen four years ago, to having my own barbers, barbering academy, clothing range, product range, website and online presence,” Barry says. “I did it the hard way which I feel will benefit me, and it makes me appreciate all the hard work. I always set targets to keep ahead of the competition, and I feel I have a lot more to offer in the near future with a lot of new plans and ideas in the pipeline,” he reveals.
Signature Hair is one of the few barbers in the country which has an appointment system, and the first barbers in Dundalk to offer online booking. “I chose this because numerous times when you go into a barbers there's always a barber you prefer to cut your hair but end up getting the guy you didn't want, you could be on a tight schedule and need to be somewhere at a particular time, and maybe you don't want your hair rushed because the bench is full of waiting customers,” Barry says. “Our booking system lets you decide who cuts your hair, what date, what time and what service you wish to have. We take the booking then email a confirmation, and if you booked in advance we will send you a text to remind you of your appointment. It was a success and I notice a lot more in the industry are following suit.”
The Dundalk man also points to a wider trend of men taking more of an interest in their appearance. “Look at the gyms, sunbeds and clothing now for men, it's a huge market… men want guidance for maintaining healthy hair, using the correct products to suit their type of hair to get their desired end goal, but sometimes are afraid to ask,” Barry thinks.
“Therefore, we have a consultation process which all our staff follow with new clients to understand exactly what the client’s end goal is. I wanted to build a relationship with clients, instead of a conveyor belt type system in which people rarely get what they ask for,” Barry explains. “For years there was a stigma attached to men being into themselves and were afraid to ask for something new... I feel men are entitled to keep themselves groomed as best they can. A good haircut creates inner self confidence.”