Barber Shop on Wheels Gets KC Entrepreneur on the Road, out of Corporate AmericaKyle Smith
Bess Lamoreux worked in corporate America for more than decade before leaving her job to pursue her entrepreneurial vision: a barber shop on wheels. Her journey into business ownership proved worthwhile, but it wasn’t without obstacles. It turned out to be quite the learning experience:
Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and thought, “I need a new hairdo”? You shake off the thought and go about your day. But every time you catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror, it comes back to you. There’s nothing wrong with your current do, per se, but wouldn’t it be fun to try something new?
Bess Lamoreux can relate to that. She first thought about starting a business while eating lunch in the cafeteria at Hallmark where she had worked for 12 years. She was enjoying a sandwich with her husband, also a Hallmark employee, as he lamented about the headache of having to take time from his busy work week to get his haircut.
She nodded and looked out of the window to the circle drive below, sharing her next thought aloud: “Wouldn’t it be a cool if a truck with a barber shop on the inside drove up and you could walk out there to get your haircut?” He agreed immediately, and they chatted excitedly about how the business could grow over time.
That is, until they had to return to their desks and get back to work. Back to assignments, meetings, memos, conference calls. Whenever Bess caught a free second, she’d imagine the box truck with the barber shop pulling up. Her dream. Her business.
Making Entrepreneurship Work in Kansas City
Bess loved working at Hallmark. Her coworkers were brilliant and talented, and during her 12 years with the company, she worked in many facets of the business, from recruitment to creative. Each of these was an incredible learning experience, and entrepreneurship seemed like an exciting growth opportunity.
“Entrepreneurship seemed to me like learning out in the wild,” says Bess. “Doing something crazy, but not that crazy.”
In the spirit of being “not that crazy,” Bess immediately reached out to the KCSourceLink Resource Network for connections, education and support.
“I’ve always had my eye on Kansas City’s entrepreneurs and the community, but I hadn’t yet reached out,” she says
Still unsure if she wanted to pursue her dream, Bess applied for an Urban Business Growth Initiative (UBGI) scholarship.
UBGI doles out scholarships for high-impact business training at the UMKC Small Business Technology and Development Center (SBTDC) to entrepreneurs interested in creating business in Kansas City’s urban core.
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She put the dream of her business back on the shelf in her brain and got back to work. But every time she looked out of a window (or caught sight of her husband’s unruly hair,) she couldn’t help but go back to dreaming about her business.
When she received an email that she had landed a UBGI scholarship, she took it as a sign. It was now or never. She was going to take the class FKA FastTrac® NewVenture™ (now called ELEVATIONLAB™ New Venture) and find out once and for all if her business idea had real legs wheels, and if entrepreneurship was for her.
From Corporate America to America’s Most Entrepreneurial City
During the FastTrac NewVenture course, Bess was encouraged to go out and interview her potential customers, to go through the steps of writing out her startup and growth plans and to work out the numbers.
“Having to figure out the financials was huge for me,” she says.
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Bess took the time to look at the size of her potential market, to calculate what her costs and potential revenue could be and to see if she could find a sweet spot where her customers were able to pay a premium for the added convenience of getting their hair cut at work.
“Going through these steps was at times tedious and difficult, but it was so worth it,” shares Bess. “I had a dream for what the business could be; FastTrac NewVenture and the UMKC SBTDC allowed me to think through what it would take.”
Now it was time to put in the last piece, to go forth and begin to build the dream. Box Truck Barber was officially born.
Bess left her job at Hallmark and took the leap into entrepreneurship full time with KC’s entrepreneurial community at her back.
Building the Business of Your Dreams
With their personal savings, Bess and her husband bought a truck and spent the summer and fall of 2017 building their first roving barber shop (with the help of skilled contractor.) The truck includes everything you’d expect from a good haircut experience: two chairs, well-lit with great mirrors, plenty of shelves for barber’s equipment and potions. . . and even a bathroom.
“It never crossed my mind that we would put a bathroom in the truck,” she says. “But you got to have one to get the right permit. There are some things about running a business that you just don’t think about until you’re actually doing it.”
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In the spring of 2018, Bess began to take Box Truck Barber to local businesses. At her website, you can see where the truck is parked around KC each day.
Part of the overall marketing strategy right now includes educating potential customers that getting a haircut at work is even an option.
“A year ago when staring out your window at work there wasn’t a barber shop on wheels sitting there,” she says.
But now, thanks to Bess and the help she received in KC’s entrepreneurial community, there is.
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People are very quickly buying into the idea. Bess is currently working with multiple businesses and has a different location each day of the week around Kansas City where you can get your haircut.
During her 1 Million Cups KC presentation, Bess shared that she’s even exploring other partnerships for down the road, including street fairs and daycares.
“There may be an opportunity to have a real social impact with Box Truck Barber,” she says. “We’re in the very early stages of exploring a ‘get a haircut, give a haircut’ model where we can provide haircuts to children and families in need around KC.”
Taking the leap into entrepreneurship and driving her business around Kansas City (literally) has unearthed so many opportunities for Bess to grow Box Truck Barber. But, being the ever diligent entrepreneur, Bess is focused first on making the business she currently has as rock solid as possible.
“Kansas City has already been hugely helpful in allowing us to figure out this business.”
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Bess’ current goal is to make a comfortable living for herself, give her stylists an extra revenue stream and possibly add another truck before too long.
But right now, Bess is still getting comfortable in her new entrepreneurial (hair)do.
“This business is on wheels and entrepreneurship is a long road,” she says. “My focus is on enjoying the breeze, all of my new friends and the journey.”
Get Your Entrepreneurial Journey on the Road Today
What business do you dream of building while you’re staring out the window (or getting your hair cut)? Keep dreaming AND start doing with a Personal Action Plan from KCSourceLink. Kansas City’s entrepreneurial community is waiting for you to take the wheel.
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