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Timmy Yanchun of LTHR Shaving: “Build trust with your customers”

Build trust with your customers. Early on, we made it a point to explain to our customer why they were buying from us and what about our products were different and beneficial to their needs. I think once you build that relationship with your customers, they will choose to come back and purchase time and again. […]

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Build trust with your customers. Early on, we made it a point to explain to our customer why they were buying from us and what about our products were different and beneficial to their needs. I think once you build that relationship with your customers, they will choose to come back and purchase time and again.


As part of my series about the “How To Create A Fantastic Retail Experience That Keeps Bringing Customers Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Timmy Yanchun.

Timmy started cutting hair in his early teens, opening his first of many barbershops at eighteen. His collection of shops has spanned the country from Boston to Beverly Hills. Finding a lack in quality men’s grooming products he decided to start his own line of hair, beard and skin products under his Los Angeles-based barbershop chain, Svelte Barbershop + Essentials. It was at his flagship store in Venice, CA, where the idea for a wireless, barbershop-quality, hot lather machine came about. You can now find this device in the bathroom of anyone who is trying to add some mindfulness and me-time to the morning shave — all from LTHR Shaving.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I started out as the “bargain barber” in my neighborhood outside of Boston — giving out haircuts for whatever money I could get in my garage to anyone who was willing. That garage business eventually grew to what is now a Los Angeles chain of barbershops with a product line and our newest venture, which is the first wireless hot lather machine (a modern take on the old barbershop shave machines). It’s been quite a ride for LTHR Shaving!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Well, as a self-taught barber, I’m sure you can imagine some of the mistakes! There was a shaved eyebrow or two in my early days and, looking back now, I can laugh, but I definitely wasn’t laughing back then. I think the lessons in my early days were that you have to get over yourself, enjoy the good days and move on from the bad. When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to basically be your own cheerleader and keep the energy going in the right direction.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There’s been a lot of them, but my Mother has to be the one I give all the credit to. Without her pushing me to believe in myself when I was barely graduating high school and telling me I can do it regardless of what teachers and others say, I wouldn’t have thought enough of myself to give it a shot. She made me realize I had the potential. Thank,s Mama!

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I try to read but I find myself absorbing more from podcasts these days. One of my favorite podcasts is How I Built This w/ Guy Raz. He always has these really interesting entrepreneurs on, and they tend to have a similar story to me; if you want it, build it yourself.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think the thing that stands out about our company is that it was such an organic growth. It literally started in a garage barbershop and just kept evolving in response to what our customers wanted. We heard we needed to make it easier for the working guys to get a haircut on lunch, so we implemented online appointments (in a time when it was frowned upon in the industry). We heard our customers couldn’t find a product for their specific needs, so we created our own line of products. And the most recent breakthrough has been the creation of our new hot shave lather device. Almost every guy who ever sat in our barber chair has said how much they like the hot shave cream finish, and that is why it’s a staple in our barbershops.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Meditate daily, and take a vacation annually.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. The Pandemic only made things much worse for retailers in general. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

Build trust with your customers. Early on, we made it a point to explain to our customer why they were buying from us and what about our products were different and beneficial to their needs. I think once you build that relationship with your customers, they will choose to come back and purchase time and again.

Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

Building a strong brand is the first step. Again, it’s about the relationship and trust that your customer has in you and your brand. It’s how Amazon got where they are today. They promised near-perfect customer service. With brands today, they tend to copy the big guys instead of developing their own unique character and standing out to customers, then following up with quality and value to those who found them, and then building brand trust and loyalty.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a retail business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

A common mistake is not going with their gut because they read somewhere there is a foolproof way to do retail. There are certainly some best practices to follow in retail, but if it is your location and you have built it with your customers in mind, there is no one better than you to convey to those customers why they want what you’re selling.

This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business in general and for retail in particular?

I’ve always looked at good retail as hosting — the same way you would invite friends and family over for a party at your home. You do your best to guess what the people you are inviting like, and you present it to them. Everyone wants the guests they are inviting over to leave having enjoyed their time in your place and happy they attended. The same goes for a quality customer experience.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

I think one of the biggest breakdowns in a good customer experience is when your staff isn’t into their position in your company, and they’re just there for a paycheck. You must hire people who are into your brand, understand what you are selling and committed to giving everyone who walks in a quality experience. You have to lead by example in most cases, and many companies don’t seem to do this. Working retail can be fun! You’re there to show off what you have and help people feel comfortable and energized by what you’re presenting.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

When we opened our first location in Hollywood, we had little budget for extravagance and user experience, and I knew the WOW had to come from myself and my team. We welcomed everyone as if we knew them our whole lives, we offered them a free (cheap) beer and tried to listen to what they would like to see from us, whether that was via body language or their own words, and give it to them. One guy who came in had just broken up with his girlfriend, and by the end of his visit, he finally piped up and said “You guys just turned my week around! Thank you!” and left smiling ear to ear.

Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

It’s experiences like that that made us all look at each other with kind of an elation that we didn’t see coming, so we steered our ship in a direction that tried to replicate that as often as we could. Over the years, we’ve had countless experiences like that, and it always feels amazing! Getting your team hooked on giving those kinds of experiences creates that “hosting” philosophy in your stores.

A fantastic retail experience isn’t just one specific thing. It can be a composite of many different subtle elements fused together. Can you help us break down and identify the different ingredients that come together to create a “fantastic retail experience”?

They don’t call it a retail “experience” for nothing! It’s just that, it’s an experience, and I think you need to always remember that. You have to create something that lasts in your customers’ memory, you have to want them to yearn to come back for another go of it, and you need them to tell everyone they know to go and experience it for themselves. If you are creating retail space within a community, you have to know that community better than anyone, and you need to present them with all the things you know make them want to come back again and again.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

In short it’s Atmosphere. I can’t stress enough how important that is. And the simplest way to give you five important things to create the perfect retail experience is the five senses. Remember every sense. I want the right music playing, I want the smell to be energizing and delicious, the lighting right, the products clean and organized, textures and testers clean and feeling nice, and if you’re selling food, well…

If you nail down the five senses and showcase them to your market alongside a quality team, you will be moving the product faster than you can keep it on the shelves.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

“Great influence” is strong but thank you, I needed that today! In my opinion, people much smarter than me have already started that movement, I am a proud supporter and volunteer of Heifer International, and I have worked with them since the beginning stages of my entrepreneurial career. They help people around the world overcome hunger and poverty and learn to create wealth and sustainability on their own. For any information or to donate to those in need you can visit www.heifer.org.

How can our readers further follow your work?

You can keep up with me by reading some of my blogs on my company websites — gosvelte.com or lthrshaving.com.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!


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