One of the biggest complaints that I hear most often from my peers is that they don’t “have enough time” to pursue their side hustles or go after their dreams. For 22 year old James Lazaro, in between working a 20 – 40 hour a week job as a waiter and going to school for his Barber’s License, he still managed to make time to grow his business that he started since the young age of 13. It simply begins by taking the first step and actually doing it. Once you start, you will find that you will make the time to work on it, especially if happiness is what motivates you.
“Anyone can make time for what ever they want, or have to do. Just be smart with your time, because that’s something you’ll never get back.”
– James Lazaro
Meet a 22 Year Old Who Made Time Waiting Tables to Pursue His Passion of Becoming a Professional Barber
Can you tell us a little bit about story and how you got started?
It started off in eighth grade. I was 13. I used to let my sister cut my hair, and one day she tried giving me a line up with scissors. Who does that? I was so embarrassed, because that was probably the worst haircut ever. All I could imagine was what people at my school were gonna think. I decided to take matters into my own hands and shave it off myself.
I had my eighth grade promotion the next day, so I experimented. I didn’t like having sideburns so I shaved them off. It looked worse so I tried blending it together.
The next day, the school security guard walked by me and said I had a nice fade. “What’s a fade?” I asked, and he explained. I’m pretty sure it was messed up, but his words gave me confidence that I was doing something right. At the time, I thought it was the cleanest thing ever.
I started noticing the styles that were in back then; buzz cuts with a line up, fauxhawks with a Jedi, or rat tail, them good old days, haha.
I wanted a fauxhawk so bad, so I got a pair of scissors and shaped it to how I thought it was supposed to be. I even found my mom’s razors and tried giving myself a line up.
I had a “fivehead”! My hair line was pushed hella back but I still thought that it was dope!
My sister used to cut my cousin’s hair but one day she felt too lazy, so I asked if I could do it instead. He didn’t want me to do it at first, because he thought I’d give him a “fivehead” too, but eventually he took my offer and said the cut “wasn’t bad”.
That was my first hair cut on someone besides myself and I fell in love.
I started hitting up other cousins, and close homies to cut their hair. They’d let me practice and I got better.
Choosing A Career Path
One day during my junior year, my cousin told me I should start charging people. I started off with $5 a cut, only owning a pair of $20 clippers from Walmart at the time.
During my senior year, my mom asked me what I wanted to do.
I thought I wanted to become either a music teacher or a counselor but I realized I loved cutting hair, and she accepted it.
I used to take three hours per hair cut. People would fall asleep in an uncomfortable position, since I didn’t have a barber chair at the time.
My clippers would get very hot since I would use them for too long and would always need to take a break. My clippers were so cheap! It would pull on to some of the hair strands and leave stray hairs all around. I used to leave hella cuts when trying to do line ups too.
At one point, I even thought about giving it up.
Then one day, I was on YouTube and I came across this video of two barbers talking about their story and how they made it, and that inspired me immensely.
I started doing my research on clippers, began learning new techniques, kept progressing, and then invested into my first REAL barber set up.
That was when my life changed.
Develop Your Craft And Know Your Self Worth
My price went from $5 to $10, to $15, and now to $20 per cut.
I began practicing every style that was popular; comb overs, slick backs, high tops, pomps, man buns, etc.
I improved on my fades, tapers, line ups, eye brows, beards, parts, designs, and anything else I could learn on at the time.
I never had a teacher or someone to guide me. I learned all of this from making mistakes, and taking risks.
At what point did you realize that your business was gaining traction?
Once I started getting appointments everyday. Social media helped me out a lot. People were hitting me up on IG, Snapchat, Facebook, and through word of mouth, even til this day.
How were you able to devote more time to it while juggling a full time job?
I actually have a part time job but, I double a lot when people need me to to take their shifts. I wake up early and squeeze some people in before work and some after; basically only do it when I have time, but luckily my clients are patient and wait for when I’m free. On my days off from my other job, all I do is cut.
What are your best tips for someone balancing a side business / passion and a day job?
Best tip I could give is that you have to want it bad enough. You gotta want it bad to the point where you’re doing whatever you can to make it work, even if you have to make some sacrifices. Think about what’s gonna benefit you in the long run. There’s really no excuses.
What does a typical day look like for you from morning til evening?
My schedule is dependent on what time I’m scheduled to work at my other job, but I drop off my mom to work every morning at 8.
If I’m scheduled to work morning shifts, I try and squeeze in one or two haircuts before work and then, depending if there’s enough light (I cut hair in my backyard), one more after. If I work evening shifts, I usually cut all day before I head off to work.
On my days off, I try and be productive. School, haircuts, schedule more appointments, do errands, clean, make a little time for music, and then when the day is done, if I’m free on a weekend, I get hella turnt.
Gotta make sometime to go out, and get wild too, you feel me? We won’t be young forever, so enjoy it while we can, ya dig?
What motivates you to do what you do every day?
Honestly, it’s mostly the people that motivate me. The love I get. The good feedback. The fact that I’m able to make an impact on someone’s life; it’s priceless.
I’m able to meet new people all the time and build relationships whether it be for business purposes, friendships, or both.
Imagine having a talent and being able to share it with someone? That’s a win, win to me.
What personal skills do you think helped propel you and differentiate you from others?
I’d probably say my personality and the vibes I give. I’m a little bit of everything. I’m always clowning on people making others laugh. I don’t even try. I’m legit, hands down, probably the funniest dude you’d ever get to meet. I’m genuine too. I’m the type of guy, where when I make it to the top, I’m gonna bring people up with me. I’m not selfish at all.
I honestly just want everyone to be happy, because that’s what we live for.
How do you get customers? Why will those customers stay or do repeat business with you?
I get customers from social media and word of mouth. Why do they stay? I’d say my service.
Not only do I pay close attention to detail with my cuts, but I make sure it’s either exactly what they wanted, or better.
Other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
Staying true to myself, and killing it in everything I do.
If you could travel back to day one and have a 15 minute with your former self to communicate any lessons you’ve acquired with the intention of saving yourself mistakes and heartache, what would you tell yourself?
This is gonna be a long ride. Enjoy it, and don’t look back. You got this. Always have; always will.
What would you say your take is on education today when it comes to the fashion/haircut industry?
When it comes to school in the haircut industry, most likely they’re not gonna teach you anything. How to pass the test? Yeah. Other than that, you gotta do the rest on your own.
Look up videos on YouTube or Instagram. Ask your barber anything you’re curious about, and for their input on things. Experiment on anyone you could get a hold of. Make mistakes and grow from it. Take those risks, and give it all you could give.
And finally, if someone wanted to pursue your industry, what tools or resources would you recommend?
First, I recommend you get an Amazon Prime account. That’s gonna be your new best friend. The majority of what you’re gonna need for barbering is on there.
James Lazaro’s Recommended Products
If you’re ever curious about something, Google it or YouTube it, but if you’re ever really wanting to improve, my advice is cut as much as you can; that’s the only true way you’ll get better.
Little progress is better than no progress.
“I get to showcase my talent on people that I got mad love for. The clients that invest in me, I invest in them back. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. It’s because of them, that got me to where I’m at right now, and I’m forever thankful for that.”
– James Lazaro
Got a question for James or myself about this interview? Leave your comments below!