Entrepreneur left corporate world for niche haircut business: Express Cuts 10.18
A lot of trial and error is involved when first starting a business. The venture might begin as one idea, but then morph into something different once the viability and logistics are tested. For Marcelous Atmore and his startup, Express Cuts 10.18, a few adjustments to the original idea were necessary to make his on-demand barbershop business work.
Atmore is a self-taught barber, his haircutting skills born out of necessity while attending Lawrence Academy, a private boarding school in Groton, Massachusetts.
“I’m from Long Island, New York, so it was a huge transition for me to go from the city to rural Massachusetts,” says Atmore. Away from home and from a trusted barber who could do a decent lineup, Atmore picked up a pair of clippers himself.
At first, his inexperience resulted in a bad haircut or two, but eventually, Atmore began regularly giving himself haircuts in the bathroom at school. Soon, his friends came knocking for haircuts too.
“It started off with friends asking for haircuts at random times of the day, before a party, a job interview or in between classes,” says Atmore. “That’s how the name Express Cuts came about because I could cut anywhere, anytime.”
Giving friends haircuts free of charge, Atmore didn’t pursue Express Cuts 10.18 as a business until later on, as an adult, when he was laid off from a corporate accounting job.
“That’s when I decided I’m not going to force myself into a corporate position. I wasn’t motivated at that job,” he says.
The day he left his accounting job for good was on Oct. 18, 2016, forever memorialized in the name of Atmore’s business.
As with any new venture, Atmore worked from the ground up, first using cafes as his office space and investing in a website, domain name and advertising to get the word out. But he says he gained his first clients by word-of-mouth and began recruiting his freelance barbers by walking into barber shops.
At that time, Atmore’s business model consisted of clients booking barbers through the Express Cuts mobile app at a requested date, time and location. But that didn’t pan out.
“The pricing model didn’t work out for everyone involved,” says Atmore. “I had to charge more to pay the barber and give myself a cut — but the customer wasn’t getting the best price.”
Atmore has pivoted by targeting institutions, not individuals, as his clients. So far, Atmore has created partnerships with three colleges in Boston who pay for the haircut services upfront for the students at their schools: Northeastern University, Wheaton College and Wentworth Institute of Technology.
“The institution books us to provide our services to their community,” says Atmore, while also mentioning this model can work with corporate institutions as well.
“We recently did a haircutting event with WeWork. The people there have memberships for office space and other amenities. We can provide an additional amenity to their members,” says Atmore.
For schools, Express Cuts provides a component of safety for students who would otherwise be wandering around unfamiliar neighborhoods looking for a haircut, says Atmore. For corporate clients, it provides ease and less disruption to the workday.
“Instead of workers running out of the office during the day for a haircut, they can get it done onsite,” he says.
Express Cuts currently has 10 contract barbers, and Atmore handles the rest of the business himself, including the scheduling and accounting. He has contracted local graphic designers and marketing agencies for specific tasks, many of whom he connected with through the Fairmount Innovation Lab.
As a graduate of FIL’s Launchpad program, a business incubator, Atmore says he was able to gain structure for his business. Before that, he says, “I was just throwing things at the wall, hoping something would stick.”
Express Cuts 10.18 is still in the startup phase, something Atmore continues to build while he works full time as a finance reporter at State Street Corporation.
“Right now, I’m focused on increasing our client volume,” he says. “I’m working with schools once a semester but would like to make it into a twice a month thing.”
While he hopes to work full time on Express Cuts 10.18 by the end of the year, for now, Atmore continues to juggle everything with discipline.
“I read this book once that said waking up at 5 a.m. was a good thing. I’ve found people don’t bother you at that time,” he says. “Between 5 and 7 a.m. especially, I get a lot of work done. I take advantage of the weekends, too.”