Syabil started to offer his services to friends during Phase 2, as his parents did not allow him to work in a barbershop.
As a kid, 20-year-old Mohammad Syabil Mustafa was scared to go to barbershops because he was afraid of barbers messing up his hair.
That changed when the Temasek Polytechnic student was introduced to a hair product, Shiner Gold Pomade, by his older brother. Syabil became drawn to self-grooming, particularly when it came to hair.
“Once I learnt how to groom myself, going to the different barbershops in Singapore really opened my eyes and got me interested in cutting hair for people,” said Syabil.
His brother-in-law, who’s also a barber, taught him the fundamentals of how to cut hair in 2015. Along the way, Syabil honed his skills while working at barbershops.
“It was really daunting at the start, to cut someone’s hair and handle a pair of scissors. It takes a lot of confidence, especially if it’s a stranger’s hair I’m cutting.”
It was also tricky for the left-handed Syabil as his mentors were all right-handed. He had to adjust in order to find what was most comfortable for him.
He also watched YouTube videos during his free time to learn in areas he wasn’t confident in.
After about a year of watching YouTube videos and learning from other barbers, Syabil was getting the hang of cutting hair, and it had become a daily routine for him. But when the circuit breaker started, things got complicated.
Syabil said: “When COVID-19 struck, I had to stop (going to the physical barbershops) because my parents did not allow me to go to shops to give haircuts to random strangers.”
While waiting for restrictions to be lifted, Syabil started an Instagram account to reach more people and build a client base. By mid-June, he took a leap of faith and started his own business.
“I started [my business] from home at the start of Phase 2 because I thought it was more convenient for my friends who live nearby.”
His clients are mostly his friends or friends of friends, but occasionally, a stranger will drop him a direct message via Instagram to arrange an appointment.
“I must say that I’ve been really fortunate that I have good clientele with regular customers who keep me going through every week.”
Interacting with his customers is what Syabil enjoys most out of his job, because of the importance of maintaining a good relationship with them.
“Before barbering, I was an introvert and I had to step out of my comfort zone to talk to people.
“But ever since I started cutting hair, talking to people gets easier as the days go by and it becomes second nature to me.”
While he is immensely grateful to his customers, he admitted that starting a home-based barber business takes a lot of stamina. He had to learn how to juggle his time between his commitments, as he was also on a school internship with advertising agency StarMedia Singapore while running his home-based barbershop.
“I don’t have fixed operating hours due to my internship. [Barbering] can be from 7pm to 12am on weekdays. On weekends I’ll work on either Saturday or Sunday and it can end as late as 3am sometimes,” he said.
Syabil plans his time very carefully so his business doesn’t get in the way of other plans, such as dates and time with his friends. If he needed to work overtime during his internship, he made it a point to let his clients know beforehand.
“I think it’s important not to cancel on them at the very last minute,” Syabil said.
Starting a home-based business has been a step towards reaching his dream of opening his own physical barbershop one day.
While his parents were initially unhappy with the idea of operating a barber business from home, establishing a good clientele and raking in an income of $1,600 to $2,000 without working full-time have helped him to convince them.
“Barbering can provide a stable income, especially if you put your heart and soul into it.”
While there may be some competition in the industry, there are many things Syabil wants to bring to the table, such as improving the services that barbershops provide customers.
Syabil said: “Giving people good haircuts is what I want to do. Besides the basic cut, there can be colouring of hair and other things that can be improved on. There are many areas that can be expanded on that haven’t been touched in Singapore.”
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