Amid a national lockdown, Lee created an Instagram page and quickly gained a large following. “It all changed for me in lockdown last year around June, July time. I went back into the barbers after lockdown and realised this wasn’t for me. So, I started my Instagram page and then from there it just grew naturally, now I’m on 2,750 and it’s all organic followers.”
Lee, who resides in Birmingham with his partner and son, wanted to open a barbershop so he could build a solid foundation for his son’s future. ‘’I have an autistic son, he’s six years old now and I want to have something in place for his future to make sure he’s happy when I’m not around anymore,’’ Lee said. ‘’With my own business, I can do that.’’
Previously, Lee was given little respect by others – something that barbering has changed drastically. The newfound respect Lee receives is one of the things he loves most about being a Barber. “You can be a misfit in this trade and still never get looked down on. I realised people had respect for me when I was cutting their hair which is something I never had when I was on drugs,” Lee said. “You get in very close proximity to people (when barbering), you get very close. You don’t let many people touch your face, moving and handling you but when you do, people start to relax and really open up to you.”
Despite the challenges he faced over the years, Lee admits he wouldn’t change anything. ‘’I try not to dwell on the past, but you’ve got to think about it because I want to know where I’ve come from. If I didn’t do my life the way it was with drugs and crime, I wouldn’t be me now. I wouldn’t be this strong-minded or motivated person,’’ Lee said.
In just over 10 years, Lee has turned his life around 180 degrees. The opportunity he was given all those years ago gave Lee a second chance in life – a chance to build and make something of himself.
Looking to the future, Lee expressed an interest in teaching barbering in prisons so that he can help others in the same way he was helped. “I want to go into the prison and show them, not what I’m doing now but to watch them progress and watch them go from a life of drugs and crime – maybe they’ve had a bad upbringing, and this is the only way they know life – and show them a way out and see how they progress,’’ Lee said.
When asked if he had any advice for someone who is in a similar position to where he was, Lee said; “My advice to someone who is in a similar position to where I was, would be to believe in yourself. Things are hard in life, but you can change if you want to win, you’ve just got to get it into your head that it’s doable. It’s so hard to do it on your own so if you’ve got people around you then let them help you through it.”
Today, Lee’s esteemed barbershop Con Hair Barbers is nearly always fully booked. His reputation and loyal customer base mean Lee doesn’t have to spend any time or money on advertising. Con Hair Barbers can be found on Instagram here.
Lee’s story serves as a reminder that despite a person’s circumstances, education has the power to change their lives. Changing lives through the power of education of primary objective of Complete Skills Solutions (CSS), formally known as Innovative Alliance. In 2019, CSS began providing educational programmes and courses within prisons to give people a second chance in life. These programmes seek to raise aspirations and tackle unemployment. Across the North-West, CSS’ prison education team have developed several partnerships with prisons and probation services.