By Cassandra Grosse
Walking into the bright, clean barber shop for an interview, I was greeted with a warm hello by the owner of Prominence Hair Studio, Justin Williams. Expecting a conversation between the two of us, I was pleasantly surprised to learn Justin preferred for me to see him cut a client’s hair while doing the interview.
He credits his mom as his first barber, right up until age 13. “She would always cut my hair. But then she lost her touch and one day I had to go to school with a wave cap on,” Williams said. “After that I would not let her touch it (his hair) anymore. She had to take me to the barber shop, and it got too expensive. I wanted to go every week. It turned into me going every 2 to 3 weeks.
“So, I asked for a pair of clippers for my 13th birthday. I got them and started cutting my own hair. People didn’t believe that I cut my own hair. And then I started cutting my friends hair and charging them $5.00 dollars.”
As Justin’s good reputation grew, so did his opportunities. His first real experience as a barber was working at the Ebony Hair Salon on Main Street in Dartmouth, but he was too young: “I had to be let go when the owner found out I was only 17 years old and at the time I did not have a license”
Throughout his business journey, Justin has had help along the way. Another community barber, Tyson Tolliver, gave him his first real set of clippers. And he got a big boost from community barber Robert Brown who owned King Barber Shop, in the same location as Justin’s shop today—the East Preston Business Centre known to the locals as the W5 Mall. Justin flourished and built his own client base, working on weekends up to grade 12.
Robert Brown was Justin’s biggest influencer in the industry. “He took me in and gave me a lot of freedom and independence. I was given the responsibility of opening and closing his shop, I had my own key. I was given responsibility and it made me feel good to be trusted.” After years of working as a licensed barber for others, he decided to open his own shop. Justin told himself, “If I can do this for somebody else why can’t I do this for myself.” Prominence Hair Studio is entering its 4th year located in the W5 mall
In the community, many of the locals know him as “Too-key. He has a three-year-old client who only recognizes him as “Took-key the Baba”. Too-key’s committed cliental base will travel from outside the community for his services. “I have kids, I cut their hair and their parents tell me they (the kids) will not go anywhere else. They are more comfortable in my chair. I think it’s because I’m patient with the kids. And if you come in with a design, looking at it, I can do it.”
Williams likes helping people feel better about themselves with a simple haircut. “A haircut can change your whole day.” And for young entrepreneurs coming up, Justin has some basic advice: “Be flexible when it comes to listening and taking advice. You can’t know everything, and you can’t do everything by yourself.”