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Robert Freeman is dispelling the notion that barbershops are just for haircuts and good conversation. Since opening in 1993, Freeman’s Barber Shop in Capitol Heights, Maryland, has served as a place for free blood pressure screenings, prostate cancer lectures and voter registration drives. In addition, 11 college students have received barbershop-sponsored scholarships.
“I think the involvement is important because we’re getting back in touch with our community,” says Freeman. “They support us, so this is our way of reaching out and showing that we’re just as concerned as they are.”
As a second-generation barber, Freeman has cut hair for 16 years. He worked at his father’s Milledgeville, Georgia, barbershop while attending Georgia Southern University. After graduation, a job at the Government Printing Office led him to the Washington, D.C., area. Again, he made extra money by cutting hair part time.
During his three years there, at the Prices Barbershop in Seat Pleasant, Maryland, he had the idea of owning his own shop, but financing was an obstacle.
Freeman decided to bypass the banks and instead combined $20,000 in loans from family and friends with $20,000 in personal savings. At the same time, he was developing a business plan and marketing strategy and searching for a location.
Once open, Freeman took to the streets to recruit clientele. “I was practically giving hair cuts away,” the 30-something Freeman says. “I knew it was just a matter of getting them into the shop.” Two years after opening, the shop began turning a profit.
In July, he opened his second shop in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Between the two barbershops, Freeman has 18 chairs and 16 barbers who work on commission. Every week, 500-1,000 clients walk through the doors, each paying $10-$15 for a haircut. Revenues from both shops last year were $250,000.
Despite all of his success and plans for expansion (he’d like to have Freeman’s Barber Shop franchises all over the country), Freeman still keeps his day job as director of minority procurement for the Government Printing Office in addition to cutting hair.
“I earned a degree in this and I haven’t found a reason to give it up,” says Freeman. “And I enjoy what I’m doing.”
Freeman’s Barber Shop, 7923 Central Ave., Capitol Heights, MD 20743; 301-350-5399 and 10430 Campus Way South, Upper Marlboro, MD 20774; 301-350-3166