Owner of Saving Face Barbershop named ‘Young Entrepreneur of Year’ — has been cutting hair since age 12. Got advice from SUNY Oswego business expert
By Matthew Liptak
Anthony Nappa, 27, likes to joke that he is an overnight success — it just took two decades.
Although he is a young 20-something, the barber and business owner has years of cutting hair and business savvy under his belt. He started cutting hair when he was a 12-year-old boy.
It was this year though that the U.S. Small Business Administration named him the Syracuse district’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year. He was recommended by the Small Business Development Center at SUNY Oswego.
Nappa said the award is one of the highlights of his career.
“It was a great honor,” he said. “I never could really imagine that I ever would be a recipient of such a prestigious award. I just have to defer the credit to the people I have surrounding me, my mentors, friends, everybody here. It’s just not a singular effort. It feels great to accept it, but this wasn’t a single-man effort.”
Nappa’s business — Saving Face Barbershop —has two locations — the original at 4300 W. Genesee St., Syracuse, and one he runs in Manlius with business partner Taylor Horsman.
Nappa expects to continue to grow and even has hopes to develop a franchise eventually.
“I’ve always been an ambitious person,” he said. “I want to grow big. I want to make this business scalable. I have great people here” that have resulted in a second location.
“Growing with people is huge. People are your biggest asset in business, that’s for sure. I have a great foundation here — great guys that show up every day and go above and beyond. That’s why we’re able to grow.”
He invested about $8,000 to start his original shop when he opened in 2009. He moved that to another location on West Genesee and invested $20,000 in 2011.
Between the shop on West Genesee Street and the newer one in Manlius, there are 12 barbers that are all private contractors.
“We essentially rent the chairs,” he said. “We have different models, different pay structures, but everyone’s essentially 1099 [contractors]. It works well. There are a couple of different models.”
Nappa thinks of Saving Face’s model as somewhat revolutionary, providing a man cave away from home where younger and middle-aged men can come and share in some “guy time” and be entertained too. There is a pool table and flat screen TVs. The shop is exclusive to men and charges $19 for a standard cut.
But there are a lot of variables to that.
“We do hair designs,” said Nappa, noting it is a form of artwork to “create something crazy” with a client’s hair.
“We can put in any sort of logo. With the Super Bowl we did a bunch of Patriots’ and Falcons’ logos. If somebody wants some freehand design in his hair, we can do that as well. Prices on those vary.”
Saving Face offers shaving too.
Nappa has come a long way since he was a kid cutting his own hair as well as his friends’ hair at home. He became an apprentice barber with a shop in Cicero at 17, and that’s when he realized there could be a future for him in the business.
“After I was working for a while at the barbershop, making money and really seeing the fruits of the effort I made, I got to a point where I saw people make a living doing this,” he said.
But it’s not all about the bottom line for Saving Face. Nappa gives back to the community, too.
He puts on the “Barber-Q”, where food, prizes and haircuts raise money for local charities each summer.
“We do free haircuts,” he said. “We give out free food, drinks, live entertainment, music, and raffles. All tips that we raise go to charity. That serves as a great form of advertising. We get a lot of press on that.”
Nappa wants his to be a scalable model that can catch on and spread. He wants to be franchising in five years.
“We’re putting systems and controls in place where I don’t have to be here,” he said. “It’s designed oftentimes to depend on people. You have to be here to cut hair. I’m trying to design a system, like plug and play, almost like a franchise model. I’m trying to put together a model where I can pick and train the right people and just put them into place and tell them to do this for me until it’s proven effective. That’s something I’m continuing to work on.”
Until then, he is happy with his two shops and is continuing to cut hair.
“You give the person confidence,” he said. “Someone walks in and they’re down on their luck or just not feeling good about themselves. You give them a great haircut and you see that they’re noticeably thrilled. It’s just a great feeling — very rewarding because you’ve just instilled some confidence in that person that they didn’t have before seeing you.
“We have that ability. We’re almost in the business of selling confidence and it’s a great feeling.”