The Chop Shop : Senior Noah Soo-Hoo maintains his own barbershop business

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The Chop Shop : Senior Noah Soo-Hoo maintains his own barbershop business

Michelle Wong

For most high schoolers, part-time jobs conjure up images of after- school tutoring or serving as a waiter at restaurants. But rather than working at an already established business, senior Noah Soo-Hoo decided to create his own: a barber shop in his garage.

noah2Soo-Hoo had never thought about barbering until his friend noticed the buzz cut Soo-Hoo’s father had given him the summer before his sophomore year. Although he hadn’t given himself the haircut, his friend wanted Soo-Hoo to cut his hair anyway. In order to prepare, Soo- Hoo watched various Youtube tutorials the day before. He surprised his friend with a fade, even though his friend was only expecting a simple buzz cut.

Although his friend had complimented the cut and said he should continue barbering as a business, Soo-Hoo did not take the idea seriously until more people began to ask him for haircuts. Sophomore year, he decided to put more time into the newfound business by buying new materials and setting up a permanent space for Noah’s Chop Shop.

“My mom and dad [said], ‘[If] you can clean out half of [the garage], it’s yours to do whatever you want,’” Soo-Hoo said. “So I cleaned it out and turned it into a barber shop.”

Soo-Hoo did not initially charge for his haircuts, partly because he did not believe that his skills were good enough, but also because it allowed him to escape the responsibility of making a mistake while he was still learning. Yet with the encouragement of his friends and family, he decided to start charging $5 per cut. As his business got more serious, it became necessary for Soo-Hoo to bump up the price to $8 to buy new materials.

His main inspiration for his haircuts came from his friend Cupertino High School junior Skyler Santos, who had begun his own barber business Soo-Hoo’s freshman year. Soo-Hoo was inspired by his friend’s skill and the different designs that he was able to do.

“Initially when I saw [his haircuts], I was like, ‘Oh it’s cool,’ but I never really considered [barbering] until [sophomore year],” Soo-Hoo said. “I’m glad I did.”

Santos became interested in barbering after his experience at the barbershops where he got his own hair cuts. After watching other barbers cut, Santos found himself wanting to become a part of their culture and the community surrounding it.

“It might not seem like it to people, but it’s practically art,” Santos said. “It’s just like drawing, but on somebody’s head.”

“It might not seem like it to people, but it’s practically art. It’s just like drawing, but on somebody’s head.” – CHS senior Skyler Santos

Santos, like Soo-Hoo, taught himself by watching Youtube videos. Although he has not personally gone to Soo-Hoo’s barbershop, he thought it was cool that Soo-Hoo had started his own shop within the MVHS community.

However, this isn’t the first time Soo-Hoo has created his own start-up business. The earliest he began selling products to others was in sixth grade when he sold duct tape wallets to other students. Since then, he had joined his friends Gordan Iwagaki and Mich Inouye, both currently in college, in selling men’s clothing through their brand, Otoko Clothing. He also began selling paracord bracelets with senior Steven Ataee in 8th grade. While he no longer works in those businesses, he is currently paid by the MVHS football team to take pictures for them. Having experience in various businesses has helped motivate Soo-Hoo to keep up his barbershop business in the midst of balancing school and work.

“I had to keep up — keep my grades up like everyone else wants to do,” Soo-Hoo said. “So I really had to prioritize homework over barbering, but then I’d figure out a way to get both on the top of my priority list.”

DSC_1250What differentiates his barbering business from previous ones is the fact that he runs the shop on his own. With increased responsibility, Soo-Hoo has learned how to manage his time in order to continue. Although he initially found it hard to do tasks on his own, he realized the need to run errands by himself to keep his business running, and learned to be more independent as he fulfilled the demands his job created.

For the most part, Soo-Hoo has received a lot of positive feedback from his customers, who have complimented Soo- Hoo on his skills and recommended him to their friends. Senior Jason Shen is one of these satisfied customers.

“I trusted him so much, I got my haircut the day before senior portraits,” Shen said.

Over the years, Soo-Hoo’s barbershop has picked up regulars who come to his shop monthly. Senior Justin Chan supports Soo-Hoo’s business by going to him regularly, describing the atmosphere as fun and social.

“I think [his business is] a good idea because he’s becoming independent, making money,” Chan said.

Chan explained that the shop’s low price and easy accessibility keeps him coming back for haircuts every month.

According to Soo-Hoo, the majority of customers come to him looking to try something new, so they end up with a different look that is easily noticeable by their peers. Instead of heavily promoting his barber shop, Soo-Hoo promotes it through word of mouth.

“I never really promote it because I feel like that’s kind of like, in a way, cheating,” Soo-Hoo said. “I’d rather have it get around by word of mouth … I just like it that way.”

Although there are days when he doesn’t feel like cutting hair, he still finds a way to push through. Soo-Hoo reasoned that with a real job in the real world, a worker cannot decide when they can do their job or not. They have the responsibility to do their work when it is asked of them. Yet barbering for Soo-Hoo is not merely a job used to create a profit, but also something that he deeply enjoys.

“You know how it’s like you put in a lot of work and you see actual results and they’re super satisfied?” Soo-Hoo said. “It’s that.”