Sometimes the hardest part of running a small business is getting started. Lately we’ve been chatting with successful small business owners across the country about how they made their first sale and how that early success took them to where they are today.

Below is our conversation with Tommie Gonzalez of Puro Handsome Barbershop, in San Antonio, TX. Tommie explains his career pivot later in life, the importance of being part of his community, and how nervous he was to give his first hair cut.*

Before I was a barber I was a broadcast engineer, marketing executive, a tv programming executive, a record label owner, music video producer and artist manager. After a bad meeting with a high level executive full of tiny cucumber sandwiches and weird sales pitches, I decided I was done with the entertainment industry. I wanted a career you couldn’t just download. And I decided the one thing in life you couldn’t download was a haircut.

Nothing was as scary as giving my first haircut. I stood there with my instructor and I was just frozen. She kept looking at me like: you’re going to have to actually touch them if you want their hair to be shorter. It was absolutely petrifying. I didn’t want to do a bad job. And I REALLY didn’t want the guy in the chair to look bad. I started hyperventilating, telling everyone: give me a minute. My instructor had to physically put her hand on my hand, then put my hand to his scalp.

I ended up doing an okay job. It wasn’t a very complicated haircut and that person kept on coming back to me when I was still in barber school. So that was good enough in my book.

I came into the industry a little longer in the tooth — I’m 45 years old — and I wasn’t too impressed about how some people treated the craft. Rather than complain and become bitter about it, I decided to open my own shop…being a part of the community [in San Antonio] was extremely important to me. You see that in the local artists we have on our walls, the connections we make with our customers, and the effort we’ve put into the details.

I think the cornerstone of being a good barber is empathy. You have to be able to know how a person feels and share that connection. And that connection is so much more than just a shave or a buzz cut…if you’re able to connect with people on that empathetic level, be a part of a community, and give people a place they feel really comfortable in, you’ll create lifetime clients. 

If you’re in the area, be sure to book Tommie for a cut, or if you’re from out of town, you can follow Puro Handsome on Instagram.  Have a great story to share about your first sale? Know a local business that we need to profile? You can get in touch on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.