Social Enterprise, Community Interest Company

Gender Neutral Open Barbers

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Image courtesy of Jake Lewis @Jake_Photo and Vice (23)

Image courtesy of Jake Lewis @Jake_Photo and Vice (23)

This month we’re thrilled to feature WardWilliams Creative client; Open Barbers.

Based in Hoxton, Open Barbers is a salon for any hair length and type welcoming people regardless of their gender or sexuality. I spoke to the passionate, dedicated and impressive Greygory about his very special Community Interest Company and Social Enterprise.

“Unfortunately in the UK we still live in a capitalist and patriarchal society where a certain idea of ‘normal’ is pretty entrenched. We aim to provide an alternative space where people can get a reprieve from harsh and judgemental social values, get a haircut without assumptions, browse our reading library and community notice board, and make use of our social area alongside other like-minded people. We hope that by creating this space we can lead by example of how these spaces can function and survive against the tide.”

Creativity and strength from adversity

Open Barbers was founded in 2011 as a result of Greygory’s personal experience.  Being transgender he found something that should be very simple, getting his haircut, was a frustrating problem. Salons wouldn’t cut it short enough or in a masculine style. Barbers turned Greygory away due to being a ‘men only’ space. Unable to get the masculine haircut he wanted, Greygory resorted to cutting his own hair, which led to learning hairdressing skills. Sometimes in the face of adversity we can find strength, resilience and perhaps, a chance for revolution.  These newly acquired hairdressing skills were perfected over time by practising on willing friends. Starting as a pop up Greygory realised he had something special.  Due to a growing network and supportive community, Open Barbers was able to go full time and recruit a team.

“Demand for our project is far greater than our capacity and demonstrates how much this service is needed.”

Artwork courtesy

Artwork courtesy

Nurturing a diverse client base

Open Barbers attract a diverse client base from all walks of life.  They have an affordable gender neutral pricing system which recognises that gender exists beyond binary opposites. They also have a sliding pricing system which encourages customers to pay what they can.  When we are asked to pay according to our means it can have a positive effect on society.

“It creates an inter-community self-subsidising economy which we have found really works.  People pay an average of about £20 and as people value the system we believe they give as generously as they can.”

The future will see team growth within the shop having, howeve  Greygory’s vision doesn’t stop at hairdressing.  They collaborate with additional services and have the ability to rent space within their shop for counselling, massage therapists and practitioners who share the Open Barbers’ ethos.

Greygory would also like to develop a training and education strand that shares Open Barbers’ knowledge and expertise with hair salons and colleges.  The aim is to support and educate them to be more welcoming and inclusive.  I asked Greygory, where he gets his drive and what is the source of his passion.

“Our clients! They are amazing, we learn so much from them! We welcome a huge cross section of society and have luxurious 1:1 time together during the haircut where I get to learn all sorts of things about how the world works for different people. It’s always a good day when we’re in the salon.”

All five of the Open Barbers team have arts backgrounds in visual and performing arts. They are all trained to think creatively about the world we live in, and to approach social change in practical and unconventional ways.  This shines through the work they do.

Greygory and Felix, Open Barbers

Greygory & Felix, OPen Barbers

How WardWilliams helped Open Barbers

Lastly I asked Greygory how WardWilliams Creative was able to  help and support Open Barbers and why they chose us as their accounting partner.

“Ward Williams Creative have supported us with ongoing advice as and when we need it regarding how to design user friendly systems that work both for our unusual business model, and with legal accountancy requirements. Erin has been a very reassuring adviser since we started out our journey as a Community Interest Company. Erin has always made us feel that we can approach her with any question, no matter how trivial, in order to feel confident in what we are doing.”

Get in touch to see how we can help with your current project or help set your ideas into motion.

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