"After my mother passed on, I happened to read a book titled 'Who Will Cry When You Die?' by Robin Sharma. It blew my mind and it was my turning point." said Muhammad Tirmidzi, co-founder of The Black Tie Barber.
He never had a great life as a teenager, he begins, with his father leaving when he was 19.
"My mom suffered kidney failure and had to undergo a leg amputation. We were barely surviving with my NS pay with 2 younger siblings in school. Whatever work we could find, you name it, I would have done it."
Unfortunately Muhammad Tirmidzi's mother succumbed soon after, and nothing seemed to be going right for him until that one book changed his entire perspective.
"I [realised] that I wanted to make an impact on someone's life," he said.
"One of the things I love is men's grooming, so I combined the two ideas into The Black Tie Barber Shop."
"A haircut may seem minor, but a proper one will instantaneously lift a guy's self-esteem and make him feel good about himself."
THE BLACK TIE EXPERIENCE
Our dream is to be the SIA of barbershops here. Singapore Airlines may be from a small country but their reputation exceeds other airlines from big countries.
As an ex-employee of SIA where he gleaned "valuable experience in customer service", Tirmidzi understood well the importance of a great experience.
He calls it The Black Tie Experience, and the barbershop is a place where gentlemen can escape.
The barbershop is a realm where they can "wind down, relax and be pampered. The lightings and music are specially selected [and] many customers fall asleep and even snore."
Quality café au lait and water is free flow, to encourage gentlemen "to pour their heart out over any unhappiness".
Whatever was said in the barbershop, stays in the barbershop.
"We hope to be a listening ear, and give them some pampering and jokes when they visit. We want them to relax so that they leave with boosted self-esteem, energy and are ready to take over the world."
Today, their clientele is balanced with people from 25 to 45 years to senior citizens.
"We do classic cuts popular in the 1950s-1970s. Senior citizens want to relive their memories [and] who doesn't enjoy a trip down memory lane?"
"It has been one big adventure. Exploring the unknown is fun and exciting and it's essential to keep an open mind."
LAUNCHING THE BLACK TIE
In April 2016, Tirmidzi and an unnamed partner pumped in $50,000 to launch a 200 sqft space in Jurong West.
"Initially, not many knew of my dream, it was sort of a personal mission. Most people only found out 1-2 weeks before the official opening."
Tirmidzi threw himself into the venture, spending hours at other barbershops to observe them.
"There are more barbershops unwilling to help you than those who are willing. It is not easy," he says.
Doing street surveys across Jurong is also something he "wouldn't forget". Collecting them was one thing, but translating them into meaningful stats was "another monster altogether".
I kept telling myself that I am not a talented barber and I'm a newbie in business. I had to work hard, throw my ego out and focus on my determination, sincerity and passion for men's grooming.
Despite his workload, Tirmidzi managed to find a silver lining.
The best part was going to different places for hair cuts, he laughs.
"Aside from getting ideas for customer experience, I got to know my competitors better. It would be stupid to fight against the big boys by doing what they do best, so I focused on differentiation."
"There were individuals who downplayed the idea [but] I am not here to prove anybody wrong."
Tirmidzi also sought advice from business coaches and seasoned entrepreneurs and almost all the problems he pre-empted for did arise.
Whenever the challengers become too great, I bring my thoughts back to the 'Why' of starting this journey in the first place.
However, one challenge he failed to plan for was time management.
"I forget to set aside time for myself and my family, even my own coach and staffs told me to take time. However, I can't stop doing a job until it is done. Otherwise, I will not be able to sleep well."
"So long as this business is not reaching its potential, I cannot rest on my laurels."
WE ONLY LIVE ONCE
Today, The Black Tie Barber has 600 monthly customers and 6 other barbers. Since the fourth month, the company has also been making a steady profit.
Tirmidzi reveals the future is looking good with 2 more outlets in the making.
"I would like to make an impact on both aspiring entrepreneurs and the community," he says. While business necessitates making money, they have to "think bigger than that".
"If we have an efficient company, we are not only feeding ourselves and our families, but also those of our employees. But [we] can also create smiles that go a long way."
"We only live once. Always give your best because you never know who is going to be inspired by you."
"Be awesome to someone every day."
The Black Tie Barber Shop
Block 456 Jurong West Street 41
#01-748 Singapore (640456)