James, you’re best known about these parts as Jimbo; the Barber Shop Artist behind Jimbo the Barber Shop in Clarence Street.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you ended up in Port Macquarie?
I grew up in Melbourne and left school to do a trade as a hairdresser. I finished my trade and then decided I didn’t really want to do hairdressing anymore – styling and colouring women’s hair just wasn’t my thing.
I moved to Newcastle, where I met my wife. We stayed in Newcastle for a few years after we got married. I worked as a youth worker for kids that had basically been kicked out of all the foster homes and hostels and were placed in single housing care. It was pretty hard-core, but I loved it. I then had the opportunity to open another branch of that same youth service down on the South Coast of NSW, which I managed for around four years. Then an opportunity came up in Port Macquarie doing the same thing, so we moved here in 2004. It ended up falling through, so I decided to go back to hairdressing to earn some money, as I now had a young family to take care of. It was while I was working at a franchise hair salon that I had the idea to start a barber shop. Using my trade and skills in a different way I managed to create a community like the old school barbers did. So 10 years ago, Jimbo the Barber opened its doors. It was a rough road the first few years while I was trying to build it up, but I just kept going – and these days I can hardly keep up with the demand!
You seem to exude a great passion for what you do. What is it that you love most about creating your art?
I love barbering – that’s a given. But if it was just about cutting hair, I wouldn’t still be doing this. It’s not an easy job, standing for eight and a half hours a day – sometimes finding it hard to fit in a lunch, or even a toilet break, can be hard. It’s the camaraderie that I love. I love just hanging out with guys in the shop all day, hearing their stories, their jokes, their good news and their bad news. It’s a buzzing little hub, and I have fun going to work every day. I’ve got a great bunch of barbers working with me, and we all do our best to make sure people feel welcome and accepted. And we have heaps of laughs. And coffee.
When it comes to your competitors, what do you think keeps Jimbo the Barber ahead of the pack?
I don’t really think about my competitors or how to keep ahead of them, honestly. I just do what I do, and people seem to respond to that. I always give people the time of day and try to create a great atmosphere. As well as a great haircut!
You often refer to your “trusty sidekick”, Joshua Cutthroat Corkhil. What do you think are some of the important factors that employers need to consider when they are hiring and training staff?
Josh is a great kid – the first barber I had working alongside me. He’s moved on to Sydney to show off his fine skills down there. He was only pretty young, I think 18, when he started working with me. It wasn’t just refining his skills that I wanted to teach him. The most important things I wanted to instil in him were a good work ethic and to treat customers with respect and value. If you’ve had a bad morning at home or whatever, sometimes you’ve just got to suck it up and get on with it. I think that whatever business you’re in, it’s an important skill.
You’ve recently launched into publishing with a trade journal specifically aimed at barbers – The Cutthroat Journal. Can you tell us a bit about this magazine and what inspired you to create it?
The Cutthroat Journal is aimed specifically at barbers, but we also wanted it to be a magazine that guys sitting in a barbers shop waiting for a haircut could read and enjoy. So we’ve got lots of men’s culture and issues facing men featured as well. I was inspired by the fact that there wasn’t a voice for the barbers in this country. And there’s a lot out there these days; it’s become a massive industry. I wanted to create a place where they could have their say.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face with juggling your publishing deadlines and running a business?
I have a great team around me, so even though it can be challenging, we all work together and carry the load. That means it’s not just myself trying to get it all done; that wouldn’t be possible. The teams I have put together in both the shop and the magazine mean I can juggle both commitments.
This month Port Macquarie will play host to the first Australian Beard and Moustache Championships. Can you tell us a little about this event?
We are running the competition as part of the Blues and BBQ Festival in Port Macquarie in March. There are so many luscious beards and moustaches around these days. We want to celebrate them.
And finally, if you could invite any three business people to lunch, who would they be and why would you invite them?
Tony Hawk, so I could have a go of his hover board. Donald Trump, so I could give him a decent haircut. Bill Gates, because he’s an example of a hugely successful businessman who has done incredible things with what he’s been given.
Thanks for your time, Jimbo!
Interview by Jane Hillsdon, Principal Consultant of www.dragonflymarketing.com.au