Name: Anthony Cano
Company: Uppercuts Barbershop
Location: Grand Prairie, TX
Favorite Quote: “Culture is either what you create or what you tolerate.”
Anthony Cano has been positioning himself his entire life to be the artist and entrepreneur that he is today. From cutting hair as a school kid to opening up his own barbershop, he has joined the entrepreneurial ranks of the previous generations of his family. Passionate about his art and his work, he has maneuvered through life’s and business’ challenges and achieved great success. Here’s why we #COSIGN him:
Who is Anthony Cano? What’s your story?
I’m a barber, barbershop owner, husband and father. I’ve been a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner since 2010. I occasionally train judo, boxing, kickboxing and I’m a Mixed Martial Arts Fanatic. I travel a lot with friends to go to events to see all the big names in boxing and MMA like Mayweather/McGregor and other big fight events. My love for martial arts shows in the decor and name of my other love, my barbershop Uppercuts.
Born and raised in Grand Prairie. I was a class clown with ADHD, but still did exceptional on grades. I got along with everyone even my teachers, I just didn’t do well with people telling me what to do. I was always drawn to the owner of businesses I would visit with family or my dad. My dad was always top salesman kind of guy and entrepreneurial so I found myself in places meeting those kind of guys, the owners. The guys with the best parking spots and the coolest cars who everyone one said hello as they walked into work. My grandfather owned a mechanic shop as well. When I was a kid I found a binder of big green blank business checks that read “Cano Construction Co.” at the top. It was a company my grandfather had had prior to his mechanic shop and most likely prior to my birth, but when I found those checks, I felt something. I imagined being in the position; ownership and being my own boss. I probably even scribbled “Anthony” over the printed “Cano.” I actually have those exact checks now with my name and Uppercuts Barbershop at the top.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a kid when this question would come up I would just say artist. The answer was vague because people would always follow with, “What kind of artist? Drawing, painting?” I really didn’t know because I had tried those things and thought I was good until I met kids my age that actually were GOOD. I just knew I wanted to create or put my personal touch on something because I had a unique view on the world. I think ultimately, that’s why I was drawn to cutting hair. With hair I’m sculpting, fading, blending, reverse shading, if you will. There’s symmetry and then there’s breaking those rules also to create different textures and patterns of hair. It’s art and I would consider myself an artist, I suppose.
When did you know you wanted to become a barber and what do you love about it?
My dad would cut mine and my brother’s hair growing up, and his own as well, so it was just kind of normal. I didn’t really see the task of cutting hair as a profession, I just saw it more as it was as personal grooming and appearance, such as a man shaving daily. I would help my dad fade his back with his direction sometimes. With my dad’s clippers available, I did my first cut on my friend Joe in 7th grade and did a few more experiments on friends, cousins and my little brother. I had a friend, Ricky, that I let cut me as a kid as well. Then in 9th grade, I met a friend named Edgar. He was cutting his own hair, setting trends, cutting everyone at school and I was like, “Man, If he can do it on an everyday level, I can too!” We became good friends/rivals. We had lots of the same friends, so we cut a lot of the same people and we liked to compete against one another for the freshest cut on those people. He still works with me today. And Ricky is a barber as well. The friendly competition was a kick-starter to me, [I] soon realized I loved cutting hair and I would do it as much as I could. I would skip a class or two and cut in the 600 hall of Grand Prairie High during all three lunch periods, doing $3 edge ups, as many as I could, even after the bell, as long as there was someone next in line. The grind has just elevated from there, year after year.
I had a job as a busser at Lone Star Park, then another as a pizza delivery boy, while i cut hair daily in my garage furnished as a barbershop. I was working for tips in both jobs and cutting hair and I realized I was making more than I ever did as a busser and as a current pizza boy, just cutting in my garage. I cut everyone from school and their brothers, dads, uncles; it was crazy. I realized this was a profession I wanted to pursue. I went to school full time, cut hair and still delivered pizzas, but I had a lot of things pulling me down. My mom and my stepdad split before I could start, so I had no stable household. I had already sworn off my dad and step mom’s assistance at 16. I tried staying with an uncle, but he had a family of six already to worry about, so some nights I slept in my car in a church parking lot and brushed my teeth with a bottle of water before barber school the next day. Eventually I spent the night at a friend’s house, and before I woke up, he had left and gotten himself in jail. Prior to that, I wrecked my Blazer on a pizza delivery and I made it to his house as the engine blew in his driveway. I was stuck. But his mom was nice enough to take me to barber school, pick me up, and ultimately took me in her household, through barber school and and a while after. I ended up mentoring her younger son Danny and he became a barber and is one of our most sought after and successful barbers today at Uppercuts. He helped me build this. So I would say at 18, I was stuck between a rock and what turned out to be a “good place”.
I love serving and connecting with people from all walks, from all phases in life. I love building those relationships and trust with these people I see from 30 minutes to an hour, ever so often. I love seeing a client fight back a smile, no matter how tough they might try to be, when you show them the mirror. I feel I’ve touched a lot of people’s lives over the years and if not at least turned their day around. There nothing like the feeling of a fresh cut!
When did you know it was time to have your own shop and what was the process like?
They say success is when opportunity meets preparation. I spent a lot of my time as a barber branding myself and helping to market or improve the shop I worked in at the time, Kaliburcuts. I would get these ideas, and while it wasn’t my shop and I couldn’t do things like change logos, repaint the walls or reconfigure the place, I focused on things I could do. Like helping keep it clean, answering phones, making shop merch to get the shop name on people’s backs and in others’ view, to bring new business. I did a lot of the scouting and hiring new barbers, mostly my friends in barber school. I took pride in that shop and treated it like my own. So when the opportunity presented itself, I had already prepared my mind for ownership. My wife gave me a call at work and said, “Hey, this lady is selling everything in her salon, you should come take a look to see if you can get anything for your future shop.” I told her, “No, I wouldn’t be needing any hand-me-down ‘salon’ equipment. My dream is to open a barbershop, not a salon!” Well, she called back and said her mom, a salon owner, insisted I at least look at the stations and mirrors. I reluctantly agreed and cut my cutting day just short enough to make it on time to meet with the salon owner. The walls were pink and the equipment was outdated, so I wasn’t very interested but to be polite, I kept conversation and asked, “So why are you selling everything, are you updating the salon?” To which she replied, “No, I’m retiring.” When she said that, the room began to take shape in my mind of MY barbershop. I said “I’ll take it, I‘ll take everything. Along with your landlord’s contact.” I’ll never forget, we had 87 cents left in the bank account after the transaction and lease was signed, but I knew this was what I had been preparing for.
Well you can only prepare yourself for so much, but experience is the only way to really know what you’re getting yourself into. I basically took that salon as a base and after immediately covering up that pink paint with a cool gray, I just added, changed and upgraded things, as I found myself in position to. As I evolved personally and professionally, so did my shop and I think that shows. The process has been trying at times and you’re constantly in processes of learning what works and what doesn’t.
Tell us about Uppercuts. What differentiates it from your competitors?
Established 2013, Uppercuts is a barbershop for the modern man. We’re easily accessible through bookuppercuts.com or our Uppercuts app in the Apple App or Google Play Store, where you can connect, see our work and book an appointment. We’re so much more than clean fades. We’re versatile. We can make a client’s waves pop and throw a razor edge on it, then on the next client we can do an all scissor cut with some added texture to set it off. What differentiates us from our competitors? Confidently, I can say the talent, collectively as a shop, is second to none. Ten barbers that are supremely skilled all around, who also of which, none are egotistical and treat each other and our clients like family. We have very busy schedule books but we still treat first time walk-ins with the same respect as one of our personal appointments. It’s important to us to build relationships with the people who sit in our chairs. I think a lot of barbers these days get big headed and have a false sense of demand or fame and forget that as barbers, we’re in the business to serve. We never forget that and serve our clients and community with humility, regardless of our hype.
As much as we love success stories, can you tell us some of your pain points as an entrepreneur and how you overcame them?
The other day someone asked me, “How many hours do you work a week?” My reply is, “Well, how many hours are in a week?” When you choose to be an entrepreneur and own a business, just because the lights are off and the door is locked, it’s never closed, in your mind at least. There always is and will always be more work to do. If you aren’t willing to live like this, you’re not likely to succeed. This holds true no matter what you’re going through. My wife went through two high risk pregnancies where she was put on bed rest and we lived in the hospital for a total of five months, three the first time and two the second. I had to be there even more than before for her and the second time, essentially operate as a single father with her bed stricken, all while there are nine other barbers and their families depending on me to keep the lights on and conduct business as usual, plus manage my own full-time clientele. That’s heavy. Remembering why I started and how all these people depend on me got me through and actually elevated my grind. There’s a certain grit you find deep within yourself when you’re that mentally and physically exhausted and carrying the type of load I was. You appreciate the brighter days that follow once you make it through things like that.
What’s the most difficult aspect of being a barber and entrepreneur?
I’d have to say managing people. It’s easy for me to get motivated and work hard or even manage a huge clientele. Early mornings and late nights, and some time management, and it works. But getting … nine barbers and two shop hands, motivated can be difficult. Keeping that many different personalities on the same page is a lot of work. Then you have to go home and manage the books and make sure all your accounts, orders, bills and still make time for marketing/social media; many, many different hats. Someone asked to talk to HR jokingly and I turned my clippers off and turned my cap backwards and said, “How can I help you?”
We believe the Power of a #COSIGN is real. Tell us how a #COSIGN has impacted your business.
I think even with all the technology and avenues to put yourself or business in front of people, a COSIGN is the best lead for any business. Good old word of mouth. If someone says, “Hey, that’s my guy, check him out,” it just feels more credible than any advertisement you see.
If a stranger asked another barber about you, what do you think they would say?
Interesting question. If it were an older barber, I’d like to think they’d say good things about my talent and business and give the respect I’ve always given the barbers that inspired and came before me. A younger barber, I’d like to believe would say I’m somewhat of an inspiration to them starting young, and opening a shop at 23. And having an open door policy to my shop text or DMs when they need anything at all, from a comb from my personal drawer or some advice from my personal experience.
Where do you see your company a year from now?
Honestly, I see my barbershop inevitably expanding. Whether it be a bigger shop or a second location. We are wall-to-wall and the demand is so high. Our merch does extremely well. For our six year anniversary, I gave away over 120 t-shirts and we’re tracking to sell even more than that this month. I hand make beard oil and balm and want to expand into all around hair care. With my wife, friends, family and the Uppercuts team behind me, people will be surprised by what we can pull of in a year.
Who do you #COSIGN and why?
Leo Campos y Familia: @elaguacateroofficial – Best micheladas
David Contraes: @davidedwardphotos – Dedicated photographer
Lizbeth: @UpperclassNails – Amazing skills
Danny Alvarez: @Alvarezbjj – Motivating factor, coach and all about progress
Juan Nava: @royalflush_la I started as his mentor then he taught me sometimes just jump!
Russell Corwin: Up Your Alley Pro Shop, My Dad, and of course. my hero! If you Bowl, hit him up!
Kenneth Smith: @DFWINK – This guy blew up and remained the same; quality guy. Screen print!
Rob Avalos: @robavalos This man is a client and my graphic designer. He has yet to let me down!
Hector Lopez: @pulpopromotions you name it!
Uppercutsgrandprairie crew: @dannyclipperhands1 @eg_fades @FonziFadez7 @Marcus_Uppercuts
@corwinthebarber @touleekgp @leofaded_ @mrs.flores23 @abel_de_leon1991 @dtx.anthonnyy