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New Hazard barbershop is first in community geared toward minorities Young entrepreneur opens NLINE to serve customers; provide jobs

When 31-year-old Gary Vinson was growing up in Hazard, there weren t any barbershops that specialized in African-American haircuts. His grandfather cut his hair.

That changed last fall when Vinson opened NLINE Barbershop on Main Street. The shop specializes in cutting for clients of all races and ethnicities. He spent three years in professional barber training in Paintsville and London, then apprenticed at Universal Kutz in Lexington all with the dream of opening his own shop back home. But the road wasn t that simple.

Be prepared to hear no a lot, Vinson said. I heard it a lot before someone listened. You have to have a lot of perseverance and fight through a lot of things. You have to sacrifice a lot of time and energy and have a lot of good people around you.

Vinson had the help of the Hazard Community and Technical College, the Southeast Kentucky Small Business Development Center, MACED and Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation.

From the moment I met him, I knew that he was a very determined, intelligent young man, said Dr. Jennifer Lindon, who is Hazard Community and Technical College s Dean Continuing Education, Workforce and Community Development and helped Vinson prepare his business plan and find financing. When others would have given up, Mr. Vinson pressed on. I am sure that with his diligence, he will be a success with his business venture.

In addition to Vinson, NLINE rents a chair to another barber and has plans to add a third. Vinson said there is a need in the community not only to serve minority clients but also to focus on a younger demographic of ages 3 through 36 because most existing shops serve a middle-age and older client. Services offered include fades, hot shaves, neck shaves, beard and facial design, and mohawks.

From my apprenticeship at Universal Kutz, I learned that being a barber is the most rewarding job to have if you put in the work it s a 24-hour day job, Vinson said. Knowing how to communicate to potential customers, and how to keep reinventing yourself for current clientele is key. From the barbers to the owners and all the customers who supported us -- they gave me my start, and I m forever grateful for the opportunity.

Sam Coleman, center director of the Southeast Kentucky Small Business Development Center, said Vinson s determination and enthusiasm is contagious.

You want to help those who are helping themselves, said Coleman, who still goes to see Vinson once a month and gets a call from Vinson weekly. He taught himself how to fill out financials. When given guidance, Gary executes it, then he does more.

KHIC and MACED each loaned Vinson $7,500 and help with technical assistance.

These are the types of entrepreneurs we want to develop, said Mark Bolinger, KHIC s vice president of business lending. Not only are they providing a job for themselves, they are investing in their community and creating job opportunities for others.