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“Tipping point” With Candice Georgiadis & Obi Omile Jr

My “tipping point” probably occurred before my professional career. Growing up, I was one of the smart kids who didn’t have to work too hard to get good grades. It wasn’t until I got rejected from my top college choice that I really understood it took more than just brains to make it. Immediately after, […]

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My “tipping point” probably occurred before my professional career. Growing up, I was one of the smart kids who didn’t have to work too hard to get good grades. It wasn’t until I got rejected from my top college choice that I really understood it took more than just brains to make it. Immediately after, I worked twice as hard — eventually getting into the school of my choice with a scholarship in hand. That helped me build the focus and work habits I now have today. This also taught me that regardless of what happens if you work hard enough, you’ll find a way. That’s carried over into my professional career whenever we’ve come across barriers in fundraising, growth, or other aspects of the business.


As a part of our series about how technology will be changing the beauty industry over the next five years I had the pleasure of interviewing Obi Omile Jr.

Obi is co-founder & CEO of theCut, the largest technology platformmodernizing the barbershop experience for barbers and the people who need them. theCut boasts more than 65K barbers, 1.7M users, and over 15M appointments booked nationwide, disrupting the $20B barbershop market.

Obi brings experience across tech and financial services industries prior to launching theCut with his co-founder Kush Patel. Previously, Obi was a Software Engineering Analyst at Accenture Federal Services and a software developer at Wells Fargo, where he worked with both business executives and fellow developers to build out products. He also interned as a Data Analyst for cognitive enhancement startup, truBrain and built and released Payday, an app making it easier to forecast paychecks and improve savings habits. Obi earned a B.B.A. in economics, with a concentration in finance, from James Madison University.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Absolutely! Thanks for taking the time to learn more about our story. Like many entrepreneurs, starting a business was a way to solve a problem we were confronted with. It just so happened that in 2016, my co-founder, Kush and I had both moved back to Virginia after working in New York and North Carolina respectively. While away from home, we both had such terrible haircut experiences, that we felt the problem quite acutely. At the same time, we had both been working at companies where we developed the technical skills that we could use to build a solution. So one night, after playing basketball, we spent time venting about why it was so hard to get a great haircut. Especially at a time when apps were popping up left and right solving everyday problems. We discussed amongst ourselves, then with local barbers, we had relationships with, to get a better understanding of their day-to-day issues. We realized that both sides had real concerns that software was well-suited to address. In February of 2016, we started working on the prototype and a few months later in May, we went live in the iOS App Store.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

We spent the summer of 2018 in Los Angeles while in the Techstars program. It was an incredible experience where we learned a ton and met some really impactful people. It was one day after work, we were leaving the office and heard music playing downstairs. We walked around the building, eventually finding the source. Next door, there was a pop-up gallery with a DJ. The DJ turned out to be Snoop Dogg and rapper Dave East was in attendance. We talked our way in and got to hang out for a few hours and ended the night by giving Snoop one of our company t-shirts.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

My “tipping point” probably occurred before my professional career. Growing up, I was one of the smart kids who didn’t have to work too hard to get good grades. It wasn’t until I got rejected from my top college choice that I really understood it took more than just brains to make it. Immediately after, I worked twice as hard — eventually getting into the school of my choice with a scholarship in hand. That helped me build the focus and work habits I now have today. This also taught me that regardless of what happens if you work hard enough, you’ll find a way. That’s carried over into my professional career whenever we’ve come across barriers in fundraising, growth, or other aspects of the business.

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

It definitely takes a village and we’ve had a number of people who’ve helped us along the way. Whether it be Melissa Bradley at 1863 Ventures or the Humble Ventures team. We wouldn’t be where we are today, without their help. Early on, they took a chance on us and filled our knowledge gaps. As well as introduce us to individuals who we built relationships with, that have continued to be fruitful to this day.

And even earlier in the company, people like Rashad Moore, an entrepreneur in the D.C. area, were incredibly valuable. He let us share his office space, which was a nice change of pace from our childhood bedrooms or the local Panera. That along with his experience and insights into building technology tools shaped the way we looked at the business in the onset.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The beauty industry today has access to technology that was inconceivable only a short time ago. Can you tell us about the “cutting edge” (pardon the pun) technologies that you are working with or introducing? How do you think that will help people?

As you mentioned, the technology we’re using exists today in other industries. But yet, haven’t been fully utilized across the beauty industry, especially in barbershops. Mobile computing, cloud storage, and digital payments can all transform business for many of these entrepreneurs. The ability to manage appointments 24/7 anywhere in the world, on your phone is incredibly powerful. For barbers who have upwards of 1,000 clients, it would have been nearly impossible for them to build meaningful relationships with their clients. With theCut, that entire process can now be managed from your phone. By implementing digital payments, barbers are no longer tied to physical registers and can run their business and be paid on the go. By making many of these technologies accessible to the masses, we’re empowering entrepreneurs in the beauty industry to run their businesses more efficiently and effectively.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

As more and more data is collected and stored in the cloud. The tools needed to protect them become more salient. Everyone deserves the right to privacy and to feel that their information is guarded from bad actors. At theCut, we’re constantly thinking about how we can better protect our users. When we plan new features, one of the first times that we consider is how vulnerable this makes those in our community. Payment security is even more important. When you hear how often banking institutions are targeted by hackers, it’s painfully clear that secure payment systems will continue to be top of mind in the coming years.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the “beauty-tech” industry?

Barbers and barbershops have been staples in communities of color. They provide a safe space for people to be themselves and provide a confidence boost with every haircut. I’m excited to be able to return the favor, and empower barbers with the tools they need to run their business and help make them more confident entrepreneurs. At the same time, everyone at some point has had a terrible haircut or struggled to find the right Barber/Stylist for them. The ability to give consumers more choices and convenience when it comes to something as personal as one’s hair, is a great feeling. Technology is eating the world, and the beauty space won’t be immune to its impact. The opportunity to reimagine what commerce looks like in barbershops really excites us at theCut.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?

  • Lack of institutionalized retirement planning
  • Uniformed and accessible education & training

At theCut, we’re always thinking of ways to improve the experience of barbers on our platform and to add value in all parts of their lives. We have plans to address both of these issues in the future.

You are an expert about beauty. Can you share 5 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  • Great haircuts: A great haircut works wonders for confidence. When you look your best, you feel your best. Finding the right haircut or hairstyle that makes you feel comfortable and confident is key to feeling beautiful.
  • Avoid negative thoughts: Telling yourself that you’re beautiful or that you love the way you look is another way of tricking your brain into believing it. The mind is a powerful thing and too often we can be our own worst critic.
  • Unfollow social media accounts: Social media is a great tool for connecting with people. But at the same time can be incredibly overwhelming. When you continuously see people who don’t look like you getting tons of likes and comments, that can affect the way you see yourself. Unfollowing those accounts and realizing that beauty comes in a variety of ways, can help restore your sense of self-worth.
  • Standing tall: Fixing your posture is another great way to boost your confidence. Standing erect and sitting straight up, signals to your brain that you feel good about yourself. Keeping your shoulders back, and chest open also makes your look taller, slimmer, and more self-assured.
  • Gratitude: A simple “thank you” can go a long way. When people compliment you, accepting it without pointing out your flaws will do wonders for your confidence. Once you’ve internalized what people think your best traits are, it’ll be easier for you to identify and take pride in them. In turn, making you more confident in yourself.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂

Reallocation of government spending. Our country’s budget has skewed more and more towards defense at the expense of other public goods and services. If we were able to spread that wealth around, we could replenish the budgets of health and education services that have been depleted in the past decades. Both would have great impacts on the general well being of society. As well as make life across the country more equitable giving everyone an opportunity at a better life.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails”- William Arthur Ward

Most of my life I’ve viewed myself as an optimist. But at times, you can’t just believe things will happen. You have to take the reins and control your own destiny. Willing myself towards the college of my choice, learning how to code after graduation, and starting a company with a friend were all examples of me not waiting for things to happen. But instead, creating the future I wanted to see.

How can our readers follow you online?

Company

IG: @thecutapp

Twitter: @thehaircutapp

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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