Iconic Barber Co-Founder Wanza Poole emphasizes connections over everything.
For Wanza Poole, co-founder of Iconic Barber, the business of barbering is more than just hair. One key point in his teachings is that success is part skills and part relationships, with the connections you make sometimes being more important than the ability of your hands.
“Part of what they don’t tell you is that it’s a relationship business, not just a hair business.”
Wanza started barbering in high school by cutting his own hair. Eventually he expanded to his friends and by 1989 he was an apprentice on his way to his license. After working for the Philadelphia Hair Company, he asked himself “What’s next?”
Coming from a family of educators, he discovered a passion that was inherent to him. One of Wanza’s greatest accomplishments is to have people feel great about what you give them and recognize the benefits of continued education that Iconic Barber and its team provides.
“It’s great when people say they get it. When they say ‘I’ve done a lot of classes, but this is by far the best class I’ve done’… There’s very special educators that can touch their audience and their audience walk away feeling like they learned something” he said.
Creating connections, whether in the “classroom” or on the shop floor, are significant parts of being in the industry for Wanza. A major part of that is the history that the barbershop holds, especially for men of color.
Barbershops were one of the first enterprises a Black man in America could embark on after the end of slavery. Since then, the barbershop has become a place for Black men to connect.
“To me, as an African-American, understanding all that history, it’s very personal what we do”, he reflects.
The culture of the barbershop is different from that of a hair salon, Wanza feels. “You can just talk about sports, or money or just laugh and joke about silly stuff. It’s downtime.”
When asked what advice he would give to students and stylists starting out in the industry, Wanza emphasizes the importance of relationships.
“Get people to trust you enough to get their hair cut, that’s just the starting point. How do you keep these people? How do you build relationships? You have to put more into the other person than you have to put into yourself”, he said.