Editor’s note: Startland News selected 10 Kansas City firms to spotlight for its annual Startups to Watch list. The following is one of 2021’s companies. Click here to view the full, ranked list of Startups to Watch — presented by sponsors Husch Blackwell and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
The slow and steady hum of clippers isn’t the only sound echoing throughout Scissors & Scotch locations as a path toward significant nationwide growth becomes louder.
Elevator pitch: Welcome to the best part of your day. (Unless you won the lottery or something. Then we’re probably a close second.) Scissors & Scotch is the grooming experience every man deserves — where traditional barbering and modern spa services meet your favorite watering hole. Sit back, relax, get groomed — then enjoy a cocktail, coffee, or cold one in our private lounge.
• Founders: Sean Finley, Erik Anderson, and Tanner Wiles
• Founding year: 2015
• Amount raised to date: Bootstrapped
• Noteworthy investors: N/A
• Current employee count: 6
“Over 2020, the model got a lot stronger. Bottom line for franchisees bumped up; we shortened the time it’ll take to build out new shops; we tightened the footprint,” said Sean Finley, co-founder of the grooming startup — which offers customers a one-of-a-kind barbering experience through coffee, cocktails, and comradery.
Click here to learn more about Scissors & Scotch or to book an appointment.
Founded in 2015 in Omaha, Nebraska, Scissors & Scotch has headquartered in the Kansas City metro — boasting locations in Olathe and Overland Park — where Finley and co-founders, Erik Anderson, and Tanner Wiles, were born and raised.
“[Anderson] moved to Omaha [for work] and it was time for him to get his haircut,” Finley recalled.
“The only options were his girlfriend’s salon down the street or kind of a grungy, corner barber shop and clips joint. We all quickly realized that we share the same frustration as a lot of our friends, dads, and everybody that gets their haircut. To guys it feels like a chore a lot of the time.”
Such relatable qualities have continued to resonate with customers as the rapidly scaling business prepares to unveil its 12th location in its ninth U.S. market, Washington, D.C. — all the while brewing plans for an even heavier focus on franchising the bootstrapped grooming service throughout 2021, with pending agreements and discussions already under way in other cities.
The company first began franchising operations in 2017. Its decision to pursue expansion opportunities on a wider scale was fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic and ways it impacted the beauty and grooming industry as a whole, Finley explained.
“New franchisee demand has actually increased during and after the pandemic, as operators from harder-hit brands are looking for strong models with high growth potential in more resistant industries,” he said.
“2020 sucked. But we didn’t lose any of our franchise shops. We always like to look at actions over words, and literally every one of our franchisees is currently working on at least one new shop.”
A key piece of the company’s 2021 growth plan is also expected to involve an increased focus on bringing Scissors & Scotch into the heart of downtown Kansas City, Finley revealed.
“I’ve always had a strong interest in entrepreneurship and I’ve always loved how much emphasis Kansas City put on trying to gather those resources, whether it be incubators or funding,” he said of the city’s entrepreneurial climate and why its a community that can both challenge and foster the needs of the rapidly scaling company.
“There are a lot of opportunities in Kansas City. It’s been an untapped market with a lot of potential for a long time and it’s really cool to see things — hopefully — trending in the right direction.”
Eager to see Kansas City succeed and to play a role in its entrepreneurial rise, Finley said his own success and the company’s achievements aren’t his or his co-founders’ alone — fueled in large part by Brandi Busboom, director of grooming operations.
“She’s the barbering guru and one of the best we’ve ever seen — out of anyone we’ve met nationwide,” he said of Busboom’s impact on the startup and ways she’s shaped everything from its processes to experiential elements of its amenities.
“We got extremely lucky and are fortunate to have her; she has been the brains. She’s the reason we are where we are now.”
Firm believers in actions holding more weight than words, the Scissors & Scotch team hopes to remain focused on the task at hand in 2021, proving the company could be the next, great American success story.
“Your success measurement should be how many shops are open and making money, hitting that top line milestone … not just how many you can add to your portfolio.”
The Kansas City Startups Watch in 2021 list is made possible by presenting sponsors Husch Blackwell, a value-driven law firm with offices in Kansas City, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, though independently produced by Startland News.
Startups to Watch is now in its sixth year, thanks to ongoing support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.