A young aspiring barber provides quality haircuts for student in hopes to turn haircutting into something bigger.
By Carlo Holmberg
Leonel Chavez walks into Dr. Kevin Johnson’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation class to the “Shark Tank” theme song. He pitches his idea claiming his business will serve the masses that suffer from singleness and persecution. It will give confidence back to people in a space that emphasizes community. He wants 90k for 20 percent of the company. Turning the “Sharks” attention to the screen, he presents “Cutz and Coffee.”
“A great haircut has the ability to change the persona and demeanor of a person, by instilling confidence in them,” says Chavez.
Chavez is a Junior Entrepreneurship and Human Resources student at Bethel University. He grew up in Spanish speaking home in Hutchinson, MN and graduated from Hutchinson High School. It was in his sophomore year of high school when he first started to care about his appearance, more specifically his hair. Growing up in a predominantly white town, he found it difficult to find someone who knew how to cut Latino hair. He went from barber to barber and was never satisfied. Eventually, he took it upon himself to cut his own hair.
Chavez chose Bethel because they gave him the best option, financially, to attend college. In the fall of 2015, he moved into Nelson Hall as a freshman, and here he would call the squeaky floors and oven-like temperatures his home for the school year. As the year progressed he continued to cut his own hair. Soon enough his dorm mates asked him to cut their hair as well.
“I owe it to Nelson third floor for letting me practice,” said Chavez.
Word slowly started to spread and more students turned to him for a haircut. Chavez was part of the soccer team freshman year and they frequently turned to him for a game day cut. It wasn’t long before the Bethel University Men’s Soccer team coined the term “Chavez Cutz.”
Chavez understood the financial situation of a college kid. When the people of Nelson asked him for haircuts he said ‘why not?’ and he cut their hair for free in Nelson’s third floor bathroom.
A small part of the Bethel community began changing their the answer from “Sports Clips” to “Chavez Cutz” when asked where they got their haircut. Students were so satisfied with his cuts that they suggested that he start charging for them. He charged $5 at the most, figuring it was good Chipotle money. Little did he know his bathroom haircuts would turn him into Bethel’s iconic barber. He now averages 11 cuts weekly. Chavez has built – and is building – an empire of loyalty in the Bethel community.
He works with “day-ones:”
“I have been a loyal customer even since I grew up in Nelson Hall with Chavez,” said junior Dawson Brown, “I am loyal to him because he is loyal to me [by providing me] with a great cut every couple months.”
New students that are also willing to give him a shot:
“At first I was a little hesitant,” said freshman AJ Barrett, “[but] the cut went really well overall. He’s a hospitable guy. It doesn’t feel awkward. He was really responsive with my suggestions. I showed him some pictures and he walked me through the idea of what he wanted to do. It was before my girlfriend’s senior prom at her high school, so it was a big one. Parents want good pictures to show the fam, so it was an important cut and Chavez pulled through. I was really proud if it. I would definitely go back to him again. 10/10 would recommend.”
Many Bethel students hear about Chavez Cutz through word of mouth, but he also has an Instagram page under the handle @chavezcutz, where he features students he has worked with. Chavez takes a before and after photo and he edits them to provide a warm aesthetic vibe resulting in a professional look.
Chavez Cutz has given Chavez different opportunities in his years at Bethel thus far. Not only do students receive a fresh cut, but they also gain a friend in the process. Chavez has met a variety of different people just from cutting and styling their hair. But his interactions don’t stop after the cut is over. He maintains those friendships outside the dining room chair that acts as his barber chair.
Chavez Cutz has also allowed him be be creative. Junior Matt Smith recalls an experience:
“I think he was still learning a lot the first time I had a haircut from him. His methods were not orthodox, they were not what I was used to. I was a little worried about them. I can be a little stubborn with the way I want [my hair] and he wanted to and his creativity. Looking at it now I appreciate it that he [wanted] to explore down his paths of creative expression because I think that’s what made him so good now. He’s created his own cutting style and he’s learned what he likes to do,” said Smith.
Chavez considers himself as someone who aspires to reach new heights. It was during Human Resources Management class when he learned he didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk. It seemed unfulfilling for him. He wants real life interaction. It’s almost a necessity for him. During the day it’s near impossible for him to walk through the Brushaber Commons without stopping a few times for a short conversation.
In his Entrepreneurship and Innovation class they were asked to present a business idea in a Shark Tank style. Chavez presented “Cutz and Coffee” as his business idea. It would feature a barber shop and a coffee shop cohabiting the same space in a complimentary style. Maybe this was just a presentation for a class, but maybe it was more.
Chavez has four goals in life: take care of his parents, have family time, have financial freedom, and to give back to others.
Cutting hair is his passion: He considers it art. He has spent countless hours scouring the web, reading articles and watching videos to learning about the anatomy of the head. He has learned everything from the different bone structures to the hair follicles to help maximize his potential so he can give clients his best work. The combination of his passion of cutting hair and a coffee shop, is his long term path to achieving his goals. He sees “Chavez Cutz” turning into his very own shop: “Cutz and Coffee,” and in turn point him in the right direction of achieving his goals.
“I want to accomplish my four goals, and however way that happens, I’m happy,” said Chavez.