Last month, the Business Spotlight introduced Iris Leverett and Seven Strands. In the process, it was discovered she is also general manager/partner at Larry’s Barber College in Peoria owned by Larry E. Roberts, Jr., Founder & CEO of LSE Enterprises, Inc.
Larry shared that the Peoria Barber College, located at 1315 W. Garden Street, was founded in 1897 and is the oldest barber school in America. On the window, there is a red, white, and blue barber pole. The red represents blood, the blue represents veins, the white represents bandages, and the ball is a basin. He also points out the barber chair and dentist chair are similar because, historically, barbers did minor surgeries. Barbers could give you a shave, cut your hair, pull your teeth, and do bloodletting. In the 1800s, the professions were separated. “In the hair care industry, we have to learn the anatomy of the head, physiology, electricity, and microbiology. It’s important and I love teaching the history. Barbering (aka tonsure) is one of the oldest professions in the world. Historically, the beard identified people who had power and strength and hair color represented prestige.”
When Larry was 13 years old, he learned to cut his own hair. At 19, he opened his first barbershop and his first barber college in 2004. He is a master barber licensed in 22 states with nine colleges, including one in the Cook County Jail and two juvenile detention centers. “I’m the first person in history to open a college in a juvenile detention center. I have a day reporting center for juveniles who are mandated to report to me. We mentor, teach life skills, and provide bridge housing for people in our program.” These services are provided by DATA Foundation, Inc., Larry’s nonprofit organization, which is also under the LSE Enterprises, Inc. umbrella.
Building a successful business requires building relationships. Larry has traveled the world playing the drums and building relationships. He is a celebrity barber, cutting hair for people in the NFL, Judge Mathis, and celebrities when they come in town. “A lot of people see the shop traffic and assume it’s easy, but there’s a lot of work that comes along with that. A lot of sacrifice is required. People don’t have to choose my school. If they do, they can’t necessarily pay tuition. So you worry, where will the money come from to sustain the business? I did a lot of other things to provide my income, including selling real estate. My CPA finally made me take a paycheck because I sacrificed to make sure employees and students were taken care of. One of the challenges is finding enough like-minded people to work with. It reflects on you when others don’t follow through. But, the most exciting part of what I do, I get to help people.”