Booking hair and beauty appointments has become much easier in recent years with the evolution of businesses such as Treatwell. However, whilst booking has become much easier there are still issues such as the quality of service. One business making strides to solve this issue for men seeking a haircut is tech-enabled mobile barbershop TRIM-IT, founded by Darren Tenkorang.
Darren and his founding team created the business during their studies at the University of Sussex. They entered a business competition winning £10,000 to launch the company.
TRIM-IT was one of many business ideas created by Darren after he found out he had dyslexia. “I was scared of working in the corporate world where I wouldn’t flourish and wanted to take my destiny by the horns. Creating a business was an opportunity for me to work in an environment where I could thrive”, he explained.
The initial idea was to create a booking app so that customers could book barber appointments online in a much more streamlined fashion. Whilst they had some success and managed to sign up over 300 barbers, it became very obvious to Darren that the level of service being provided to some customers was still poor and given the customers were booking these appointments through his platform more needed to be done.
Seeking to do something innovative he came up with the unorthodox idea of creating a mobile barbershop by renovating the back of a van. The premise was that through the TRIM-IT app customers would book a mobile barbershop to their home, office or even the gym. TRIM-IT barbers would make more than the average barber, as customers would pay more for the convenience.
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The months that followed entailed renovating and branding the mobile barbershop which all happened outside of Darren’s mother’s house. “The first build was a complete experiment no one knew what they were doing,” he recalls.
Whilst the first barbershop was being built, Peter Lloyd (co-founder & chief technology officer) was working on improving the booking platform, adding analytics and other features so barbers could manage their appointments effectively.
The first mobile barbershop proved to be a success and they leveraged this to raise money from a series of Angel investors which they used to scale up to 7 mobile barbershops and 11 barbers who before lockdown in the UK were giving 65 haircuts a day.
Shift To Franchise
After the first UK lockdown, TRIM-IT saw almost a 300% increase in sales and struggled to service their demand, with the limited capacity they had. At one point having a waiting list of over 7,000 men across London.
Once again, whilst the company was enjoying some success it started to become obvious that to scale under the current model would take time and be very expensive which would not allow Darren to achieve his objective of providing a seamless experience to customers and financial freedom for barbers.
Thinking through how to scale their platform and leverage the tech that they had built they studied the franchise model, made famous by McDonald’s. Barbers would invest and be provided their own mobile barbershop and the tools needed to run their own business.
The team has recently raised $1.1m to scale out this franchise model. They will charge barbers £335/month and 0-9% commission on sales. For this, a barber would get a brand new fully kitted out mobile barbershop and after 5 years this would be replaced with a brand new one.
The company has big ambitions and intends to scale up to 2,500 vans across Europe and the U.S. Whilst they have certainly not gone for the easy option, building a full-service platform that’s scalable allows them to control the quality of service they offer and ensure Darren can complete his mission of providing the best experience for customers.
This article is part of a series featuring underrepresented people making a difference. To submit ideas for features or keep up to date with new releases you can find me on Twitter – @TommyASC91.