Above: Travis Sanders and Marcel Mayberry are barbers, cousins and business partners. Owning a family business is not new for them and they wanted the opportunity to teach others. They purchased the place where they learned how to become barbers when they heard it was going out of business.
Below: Student barbers training at the Lansing Barber Styling College. Courtesy photos
By Deborah M. Walker
LANSING, MI — The Lansing Barber Styling College has offered great haircuts and many opportunities for over 30 years. Today, the college has new owners, but the legacy of providing great service and opportunities to gain extensive experience in the barbering industry remains the same.
Marcel Mayberry and Travis Sanders purchased Lansing Barber Styling College in September of 2020 because it was going out of business. Believing in the values and ideas the barber college represented and still represents is what motivated them to make the purchase.
“It was going out of business… We both attended the Lansing Barber Styling College and we both wanted to see the industry and the opportunity it had given us and the community to continue,” said Mayberry.
When Mayberry and Sanders were students at the Lansing Barber Styling College they enjoyed their learning experiences. Sanders graduated from the college in 1988 and Mayberry graduated 5 years later in 1993. Sanders and Mayberry went on to open T-Styles I and T-Styles II Barbershops in the Lansing and East Lansing areas. They were the only African American proprietors at the time to have a business on the campus of Michigan State University. T-Styles I closed in 2003 and T-styles II closed a few years later.
They now share their experiences as barbers at the college in hopes that their students will gain new job skills in an industry that is gratifying and rewarding. Sanders said he wanted to share the opportunity that he was given to help create his own destiny 30 years ago.
“We can share our personal experiences and perspectives with the young people coming up… Sharing our experiences can help them become not only better barbers, but better human beings… Allowing them to enter the community well prepared to represent their families, our school, and help other young people coming into adulthood,” said Sanders.
Sanders became a barber after his uncle, John Boles, who was also his mentor, encouraged him to do so. Sanders stated that barbering chose him and not the other way around.
“When I first came to Lansing, I attended Lansing Community College (LCC), and it didn’t work out for me. I didn’t have any real direction, and I received incomplete grades in many of my classes. My uncle pulled me to the side and said either you’re going to go back to school, which I didn’t want to do, or going into the military, which I didn’t want to do, or there was a third option,” Sanders explained.
Sanders was 22 at the time and his uncle had a vision for him that he didn’t realize. His uncle told him, ‘I think you would be a good barber.’
Sanders’ younger brother, Andre Harris, who also attended the Lansing Barber Styling College, followed in his brother’s footsteps and became a barber as well. He said that was the bigger picture he could not see when he was younger. Their uncle was a good mentor and role model. They needed a career to channel their energy into and it pushed them in the right direction.
Sanders said his future includes expanding his mentorship programs and teaching new technologies. He also wants to broaden educational opportunities and growth in other areas of trade outside of barbering. Sanders has enjoyed a successful career as a barber and now wishes to give back to the community.
The Lansing Barber Styling College serves as a focal point for individuals who want to become barbers and are looking to get their start in the grooming industry. To enroll in the college, students must have completed the 10th grade. The cost of the barber college is $9,500. Mayberry said he and Sanders are looking into offering financial aid, but that option is currently unavailable. However, they try to make it easier for students to afford the classes and a payment plan is available. A $1,700 deposit is required, with additional payments of $650 per month.
To graduate from the barber college, students must have completed 1,800 hours and passed the program with an 85% average or higher. After that, students are then registered to become state-certified. Currently, there are 28 students enrolled at the barber college. Enrollment starts the 2nd week of each month.
Students cannot begin to work as a licensed barber in a shop until they have passed their state board exam and received their license. It can take 1 or 2 weeks to get the license in the mail, however, once the state board is passed, the license can be printed off. The barber college does help with job placement. Sanders said calls are always coming in from former students who are now barbershop owners looking for graduates. Currently, there is no apprenticeship program for barbers in Michigan so those looking to become barbers must enroll in a traditional program.
The Lansing Barber Styling College is open to all students regardless of gender, but Mayberry said that currently barbering is a male-dominated field. He declared that women could make just as much money, if not more, than men in this field. Mayberry encourages women to go into the field of barbering because of the opportunities it provides. This is a streamlined path for a woman to become an entrepreneur, said Mayberry.
“This is one industry where a woman doesn’t have to take a back seat to a man, she can have her own barbershop. She can be a business owner. She can be large and in charge just as easily as a man can,” argued Mayberry.
According to Mayberry, the biggest difference between going to the barber college and visiting a regular barber for a haircut is that the patron is being serviced by a student instead of a licensed barber. Haircuts at the barber college cost $7 for children under the age of eighteen and seniors. For everyone else, the cost of a haircut is $10.
“The students want to become barbers… Students can learn from customers to become better at the craft of cutting hair. Although a student is performing the haircut, they are trained with the same expertise and skill level as a professional barber,” said Mayberry.
Mayberry said providing a high-quality look is important to the patron. People want to come to the barber college because it promotes the philosophy of looking and feeling better. The barber college is also a safe, sanitary, community environment that promotes a positive mental outlook. Looking good boosts confidence and self-esteem and barbers who can make their clients look and feel their best can go far. Clients can be hard to please when it comes to their looks. Making sure clients are satisfied with their cut is essential to becoming a successful barber and building a good reputation as a barber in the community, informed Mayberry.
“When I owned my barbershop, the tagline was, ‘Looking good is understood,’ which is self-explanatory,” said Mayberry. “We understood if you looked good you felt better. If you felt better, you had a better outlook towards obtaining your goals.”
Before COVID-19, Mayberry said the barber college did offer some cosmetology services such as facials and deep conditioning. But because of the pandemic, the college has temporarily discontinued those services because of the increased risk of COVID-19 transmission and infection.
The barber college offers a diverse atmosphere and students are taught how to cut all types of hair. Mayberry explains his focus is on tearing down the stereotype that barbers can only cut the hair of people that look like them. Mayberry contends that he wants to draw both customers and students in under the umbrella of service and regardless of who you identify with, they are here to serve everyone.
“What I want to focus on is making sure that each individual, Black, Hispanic or white, can cut each and everyone else’s hair. I feel as if it’s our duty as barbers and community representatives to try to put an end to this idea that you have to go to someone that looks like you to get a good haircut. Or that someone who doesn’t look like you can’t do the job that you want. The Greater Lansing Area is very diverse and our barbers are taught to reflect that mindset when it comes to servicing customers,” said Mayberry.
Barbering is a noteworthy trade. According to cyclopsbrand.com, barbering dates back to 4,000 B.C. Using oyster shells and sharpened flintstones to cut hair, barbers earned a position in high society that allowed them to perform services on the elite, priests and pharaohs. Today, barbering is still considered a highly skilled profession, and everyone from average joes to political figures, enjoy the services they provide. The ease and enjoyment barbers can experience while providing a good living for themselves is unlike any other field.
According to Mayberry, barbering is an opportunity to make friends, develop relationships, and make people feel better. Patience is the name of the business, Mayberry argued.
To be a successful barber, patience must be learned because waiting for clients to walk in requesting a haircut is how it works. If a barber can’t be patient, they will miss out on the next opportunity that may walk through the door. Barbers must also possess professionalism when being told confidential information, explained Sanders.
Barbers are often employed with the task of being trusted with secretive information that should be protected by the barber. Gossipping is never encouraged.
Mayberry’s advice to future barbers is to be patient and look forward to helping others.
“Always learn to be a good servant,” declared Mayberry. “Because it’s a hard industry if you don’t enjoy serving other people.”
If you would like more information about the Lansing Barber Styling College, you can give them a call at 517-482-8083, or stop in at 2101 N. East Street, Lansing, Michigan 48906. The barber college is open Monday – Friday from 9:15 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.