What Obi Omile Jr. describes as a personal need to connect with barbers became the motivation behind his business, which is working to modernize the barbershop experience.
To help people experiencing the same struggle to find a good barber, Omile teamed with his best friend, Kush Patel, to launch theCut, a minority-owned software company providing tech solutions for barbershops. The 4-year-old company primarily manages a mobile marketplace connecting barbers with clients nationwide. The biggest struggle, however, has been gaining access to venture capital and raising funds, in general.
“When some of our peers were able to raise with just an idea, it’s been harder for us because investors we’re speaking with don’t have context, which makes it harder for them to see the vision,” Omile told Lifewire over email. “Investors also will expect more traction from our company vs. others in our similar stage because they don’t have the trust that comes from `warm’ intros.”
Connecting Both Sides of the Equation
Omile was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, but his family relocated to Northern Virginia when he was in middle school. After living in Alexandria, Virginia, for a few years, his family moved again to the Woodbridge area, where he eventually graduated from C.D. Hylton High School.
“Woodbridge was a great place to grow up, a very diverse suburban area,” Omile said. “We had friends from all walks of life and from everywhere around the world. The diversity of backgrounds lead to great conversations and a broadened perspective of the word.”
“It’s been harder for us because investors we’re speaking with don’t have context, which makes it harder for them to see the vision.”
Omile was first introduced to the technology industry when he interned as a data analyst for a startup in Los Angeles after college. Following that summer, he learned how to code with the help of his future co-founder, and was able to get a job as a software engineer at Wells Fargo in North Carolina. Omile said the frustration of being unable to connect with great barbers is what drove him and Patel to solve their own problems. But the pair had no idea the company would expand to what it is now.
“Through the discovery phase, we learned more about the pain points that barbers have managing their business as professionals,” he said. “We then were able to see the opportunity to build a solution that could connect both sides of the equation and create value for the industry.”
Omile is ultimately working to make it easier for barbers to manage their businesses and for customers to get great haircuts easily.
“We’re on a mission to modernize the barbershop industry, building tools that empower Barbers to be better entrepreneurs and to create the lives they want to live,” he said.
Growth is Top of Mind
Omile has been organically growing theCut in every way possible. From launching the business with his high school best friend, to recruiting a couple of friends to work at the company, theCut is rooted in true dedication. Until the coronavirus pandemic, theCut consisted of a team of four, but the team has since grown to 10.
“The dynamic is great. As a collective, we have a variety of interests and are incredibly open and accepting of one another,” Omile shared. “We laugh and joke, while also being super productive. It’s like working with your friends who you know get their [work] done.”
Despite the company’s employee growth, Omile said raising capital has been the tallest hurdle he’s had to overcome. This struggle correlates with how Omile distinguishes being a founder from being a CEO. As a founder, he said your goal is to be as scrappy and productive as possible while figuring out ways to scale at all costs. This means wearing as many hats as needed to make sure that your company is able to deliver on its goals and objectives. As you set your company up for growth, your role as a founder shifts from management to operational.
“One piece of advice I’ve received is that as a CEO your only responsibility is to make sure that there’s money in the bank and people get paid,” he said.
Omile is still focused on transitioning his mindset from a founder to a CEO, something he’s deeply committed to as he plans to grow theCut. And despite being bootstrapped, he has no doubt that the company will stay in business for years to come.