Catherine Wilson turned a talent for barbering into a business when she opened 61 Cutz Barber Shop in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Read on to find out why her clients are so loyal, who she counts as her favorite businesswomen and her overarching goal as a business owner.
Why did you decide to pursue barbering as a profession?
I realized as a young girl that I had a talent and it was cutting men’s hair. I tried other types of work but I was not fulfilled. I went back to barbering because I knew I could make a difference by using my God-given talent.
What obstacles have you encountered as a woman in a field dominated by men? How did you address those challenges?
The biggest obstacle I have encountered is convincing men to trust me to groom them. Most men will say or have said that they would never let a woman cut their hair or shave them. I address this by encouraging them to speak with my other clients or looking at some of my work I have posted on social media.
What methods do you use to develop your team?
To develop my team, first I pray. I try to set clear goals for the employees and the business. I would coach my employees and help them identify their strengths and weakness in order to develop and plan to nurture both.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I would describe my leadership style as decisive. I pride myself on being able to think through a problem, looking at it from all aspects. I am not afraid to make the tough decisions and be ok with the outcome.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your business?
Feeling the love from my clients and pride of my family are the two most rewarding aspect of my business. My clients bring me souvenirs from their family vacations, call me when their children are being born, or just stop by to check on me and bring me a snack on days when it’s not even their day to get a cut. That makes me feel very special.
What three factors have impacted your success as a businesswoman?
The three factors that have led to me being successful in this business are that I am dependable. When I say I am going to be there, I am there. I very rarely miss a day at the shop. I also invest in myself and my community. I do this by continuing education seminars online and in person and organizing activities where the barbershop provides goods and services to the children of Vicksburg. Lastly, I don’t just give my clients what they want, I give them what they need. Most men just need a little boost of confidence and a warm smile. A good haircut, hot shave, warm smile, and great conversation helps my clients make it through the week.
Name your three favorite businesswomen and explain what you admire about them.
The businesswoman I admire the most is Oprah Winfrey. She is originally from Mississippi, where I am from, and she made something out of nothing. I learned about life, finances, and relationships from watching her show when I was growing up. Twenty years ago, there were not many positive black images of women on television. Oprah was what women needed to see. I gravitated towards her grit and open-mindedness. I tried to fashion my life after what I learned from watching her. She knew she was too big for someone else’s network, so she went out and got her OWN, I like to feel like I did the same. I also admire former first lady Michelle Obama. She is the epitome of class. I went to hear her speak in person and she said, “When they go low, you go high,” and I will never forget that. Taking the high road in the business world is extremely important. You must maintain your standards and do not compromise them because of the low road that your competition may choose to take. Madame C.J. Walker is the greatest inspiration for me in this male dominated profession. She was the greatest female businesswoman in a time where women, especially black women, were treated less than. Madam C.J. Walker taught herself business and then taught other women in her community about finance and entrepreneurship. She was a great philanthropist and I strive to make an impact on my community and encourage other women to venture out on their own as she did.
Your two favorite books?
My two favorite books are The Audacity of Hope, by former President Barack Obama and Writing My Wrongs, by Shaka Senghor.
Finish the sentences:
As a businesswoman, I strive to … make a difference in my community and the lives of the next generation of my family.
Women should … never compete, they should collaborate.
Never … let your God-given talents go to waste.