Editor’s Note: Images used in this article were archival photos taken before COVID-19 and safe distancing measures.
Running her hand through her hair, Siti Rafidah, affectionately known as Fidd, chuckled when we asked the million-dollar question – which individual’s hair is she most afraid to cut?
“I’m not afraid to cut the hair of new customers,” says the female barber. “I feel the most pressure when I’m cutting the hair of someone I’m familiar with, like a friend or relative as I’m particularly mindful of what they think. But the individual’s hair that I’m most afraid to cut is my mentor’s – I’ve yet to do so and I don’t think I ever will,” Fidd laughs. “The pressure is real.”
Not only is a female barber a rarity in the industry, but 28-year-old Fidd is also the owner of Limpeh Barbershop. The graphic design graduate picked up the craft during her final year in polytechnic and started out with giving free haircuts at her mentor’s barbershop.
As part of her final year project, Fidd was exploring the art of barbering when she was offered the chance to try her hand at the craft. “I was interviewing a barber on the art of men’s grooming and was intrigued by how detailed the processes are,” Fidd recalls. “I saw barbering as an interest and a challenge, and my interviewee eventually became my mentor.”
Today, we sit down with Fid to find out how she rose up to become a cut above the rest and the entrepreneurial lessons from her journey.
#1 Don’t Be Afraid To Break Stereotypes
Translating to “your father” in Hokkien, the intent of the shop’s colloquial name, Fidd explains, was in line with her belief in never judging a book by its cover.
“It’s a lesson I’ve always carried with me and something I hope to impart. From the shop’s name, one may assume a Chinese man to be helming the shop. Instead, they find a Malay lady,” Fidd laughs. “I guess it’s my way of breaking the stereotype.”
On being a female barber, Fidd has also refused to let the stereotype define her. “It doesn’t matter what others think or say. I let my haircuts do the talking.”
#2 Take The Plunge
What started out as a hobby became a serious business when word about Fidd’s barbering service began to spread. “I was working as a graphic designer while offering haircut services from home. I was cutting the hair of my customers along the common corridor and never really gave it much thought. It was only when the requests from both new and returning customers increased did I consider pursuing barbering full-time.”
Fidd took the next step by renting a small space within a shophouse that doubled as a warehouse, and was later offered the chance to take over the space. “There were a lot of considerations and uncertainties. I was only 23 and I wasn’t confident about becoming a business owner. But my parents were really supportive and I love what I do, so I decided to take the plunge. I never looked back since,” Fidd beams.
#3 Have Grit
“I didn’t have much and I made the best of what was given,” Fidd smiles wistfully when thinking of the early days of her business. “For instance, we didn’t have the current shampooing area and we barely renovated the shop. We even used the shop’s existing mirrors up until the renovation.”
For two years, Fidd was the boss and sole worker at Limpeh Barbershop after the shop was founded in 2015. “It was difficult, having to do all the work alone – I was the barber, business developer and marketer. I was working every day of the week!”
In 2017, Limpeh Barbershop welcomed its second barber. Today, the shop is helmed by four barbers. “I’m really thankful to have my barbers,” Fidd admits. “Now that they’re helping out with the barbering, I have the time to grow the business.”
However, even with the weekends off, Fidd barely uses her break for rest. “Weekends aren’t really off days,” Fidd laughs. “I may not be at the shop, but I’m constantly thinking of growing the business. As a business owner, this is my responsibility. I have to think of the business, the team, and the customers.”
#4 Groom Your Employees
Fidd is also mindful to balance between her barbering commitments and allowing her barbers to shine.
“In addition to growing the business, the reason behind taking weekdays off is so that the rest of the barbers can build on their skills without me interfering. I want them to build their own base of regular customers and have the opportunity to grow.”
#5 Understand Your Audience
With customers ranging from as young as a month-old boy to an elderly man in his ‘80s, Fidd stresses on the importance of understanding one’s target audience. “Know who your target audience is and what they’re looking for. In addition to keeping up with barbering trends, I’ve to be able to connect with my customers. From the latest Netflix cartoons to political news, I try to keep myself updated,” she laughs.
#6 Mastering Trends
With the ever-evolving digital marketing trends, Fidd explains how she’s been keeping up. “In addition to photos, we also post videos of our haircuts, featuring the barber behind the haircut. Nowadays, videos seem to be the preferred mode of visual. Plus, customers will also get a better idea of the cut and when they come in, they can simply refer the video to us instead of having to describe their desired haircut, which can be challenging for the customers and the barbers,” Fidd laughs.
#7 Plan For The Next Step
So what’s next for Limpeh Barbershop?
In addition to providing men’s grooming services, the shop is in the midst of preparing its own merchandise for sale. “We want to be more than just a barbershop that people visit only when they require grooming services,” Fidd explains. “With merchandise such as shirts and gift cards, we’re hoping to add a different experience that caters to a larger audience.
While being an entrepreneur is challenging, the journey has its moments. “My barbers and customers keep me going,” says Fidd.
“Whenever I feel like giving up, all it takes is for my customers to ask, ‘but if you’re not here, who’s going to cut my hair?’ and I’ll get back up on my feet. “
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