Michael Thurman had a 1-year-old child at home and another baby on the way when COVID-19’s outset left him without work for eight weeks, he shared. Contemplating how he could have more freedom and stability as a barber, the wheels began turning beneath Thurman’s scalp.
His idea: create a traveling barber platform — now known as Cutter Fleet — that would allow barbers to connect with clients and conveniently perform their services at a client’s preferred location — whether that be at the office, home or wherever possible.
“It was the day I was going back to work when this idea of ‘Uber for barbers’ popped into my head,” Thurman said, describing the inspiration for Cutter Fleet. “My wife really supported me to go for it; so it was crazy — being a barber and getting into the tech industry. Cutter Fleet has morphed a lot over the past year.”
Click here to check out Cutter Fleet’s website.
As Thurman first tried to get Cutter Fleet buzzing, he naively tried to get investment funding, he recalled, and was immediately shut down.
“But I got some really good advice,” Thurman continued. “I took that advice and began to build the company up by becoming more familiar with the tech side, building relationships with software developers, learning what it meant to have a back-end platform, and now learning how to code.”
Thurman went from barely using his social media in April 2020, to launching the first website he had ever built four months later in August, he said.
Cutter Fleet is currently a web-based platform, but an IOS and Android application are expected in the coming months, Thurman teased. The application will differ from the website in that clients and barbers will have the option to rank one another and build rapport.
“Like Uber, every barber and client will have a profile,” Thurman said. “The ranking system is to wash out those [barbers] who aren’t doing good work or who are not professional, as well as ensure that barbers are not being mistreated by a particular client. … If [a client] ranks someone at five stars, the system will then alert them first of that barber’s availability.”
Shift in the rules
Along with providing barbers with an outlet to work, Thurman wants to give barbers financial freedom to set their own schedule and rates, he said. Cutter Fleet is able to give barbers 90 percent of their service earnings because there’s no brick-and-mortar overhead, he noted.
“What I am doing in the hair industry right now is providing that convenience to barbers. There are experienced barbers all across the country who are out of work due to their shops closing in the pandemic. And then for young barbers, this is an opportunity for them to grow their business,” Thurman explained.
“[Physical shops] give barbers a set number on your value that you may not agree with, and there’s nothing wrong with believing you’re worth more.”
Although the pandemic has brought its obvious struggles, Thurman believes it created opportunities to think differently about day-to-day life, he shared.
“We’re seeing a huge shift with what it means to be in a work environment — it now doesn’t mean that you’re in the confines of a brick-and-mortar space,” he said. “I’ve cut hair downtown; I’ve got people in the suburbs. These guys are not having to sit in crowded barber shops on Saturday morning — they can cut the grass while their sons are getting haircuts and then go about their business. So it’s really convenient for everyone.”
Thurman also has a handful of clients who need to get haircuts from their homes because of medical concerns, he added.
Anticipating Cutter Fleet’s growth and success, Thurman already has plans to launch a sister-startup that specializes in beauty services for women called Babe Squad KC, he said.
“I’ve had a lot of women ask me about women’s services,” Thurman said. “… We are currently looking for stylists to be on the Babe Squad KC platform. I think it will do really well — we’re talking about on-site blowouts, makeup artists, nail techs and whatever we can travel with.”
Giving back to the community
Through his loyal clients and those who have helped him along the journey with Cutter Fleet, Thurman has felt embraced by the Kansas City community, he said.
In return, an important part of Cutter Fleet is supporting the communities in which the small business serves, he noted. Two areas where Cutter Fleet intentionally looks to give back include helping veterans and those with Autism.
“I have a close relative with a mental disability that makes it important to me to always find ways to give to research groups and the programs that provide assistance [to] individuals and families that need support,” Thurman shared. “I give back to veteran programs because I am a combat veteran.
“It is important that we support each other,” he continued, “because for so many veterans, the war is still not over.”
Click here to get the latest updates on Cutter Fleet.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that seeks to build inclusive prosperity through a prepared workforce and entrepreneur-focused economic development. The Foundation works to change conditions, address root causes, and break down systemic barriers so that all people – regardless of race, gender, or geography – have the opportunity to achieve economic stability, mobility, and prosperity.