They Might Be Giants. That’s what some people are saying about us. In our own way, I guess it’s true. We’re America’s Original Rock & Roll Barbershop. We opened our first shop just 10 years ago in Denver and now have more than 50 shops in 10 states.
While we’re a family-owned business, we started making room for other kindred spirits who wanted to become shop owners themselves. Our friends now own about a third of the shops that have opened in cities across the country.
Imagine our surprise when we saw a grand-opening story about another “original rock & roll barbershop.” As it turns out, the owner had graduated from a salon school right across the street from one of our Denver shops. His Utah shop was a near-perfect knockoff of our own, right down to the toolboxes that our barbers and stylists use to store their scissors and combs. He even described his shop with the same words my brother Bill coined to describe ours.
It didn’t seem fair that our family and friends could put so much effort and risk into developing an idea just to have someone else come along and take it wholesale.
“Uncool,” we said in a letter telling him to stand down.
“OK,” he said, and we thought everything was cool.
Since then, a reporter at City Weekly wrote a story [“Stop the Rock,” Nov. 10, City Weekly] about how we are a big, bad corporate giant picking on the little guy. The reporter never called for our side of the story.
It’s true, we might be giants—but not that kind. When my brothers and I first went into business, we started with just $5,000 and a dream. Now, we have the fastest-growing group of barbershops in the country. Still, we know almost everyone who works for us by name. And even more importantly, we see each of our shops as its own local business. We give each of them local authority, which they use to hire local people, and that all works to keep the money local. That’s much different from the faceless, uncaring, selfish businesses that people mean when they describe a company as “corporate giants.”
Floyd’s 99 is our baby. Sure, it’s bigger, older and more complicated than when we first started with one shop 10 years ago. But just like any parent, we love our baby more than ever. And in the world of business, brand infringement is like kidnapping. Any parent can imagine what it feels like to have their child taken without permission. We’re not corporate giants. We’re just three brothers who happen to be good parents, as well.
If somebody has a good idea, we champion their right to prove it in the marketplace, just like we did. If they use it to help people, they, too, have the potential to create something bigger than themselves. Then, someday, they might be giants, as well.
Paul O’Brien Co-founder and CEO
Floyd’s 99, America’s Original Rock n’ Roll Barbershop for Men and Women