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Inspiring Conversations with Christopher Maldonado of Two Blessed Barbershop

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christopher Maldonado.

Hi Christopher, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I was born in Austin and raised in Buda, Texas. My mother will tell my business streak started at the age of four years old when she found me negotiating prices for action figures at a flea market. In middle school, my mom would make me breakfast tacos. I’d ask her to make extras, so I’d eat one and sell the rest. During high school, I traded/sold high-end tennis shoes via eBay, then later became a shoe salesman, every month exceeding previous top sales. During my freshman year in college, I taught myself to cut hair with shears. I learned that if I charged less than the guy down the hall, my customer base would be greater, and so would my tips.

I had this natural ability to market and sell goods, so I pursued a Business Marketing degree from McMurry University. My career goals also included playing college baseball until I got injured. I found myself needing something to fill that gap in time and purpose. By fate, Neece’s Barber College opened, and I was offered a scholarship,

In 2014, I successfully graduated from McMurry University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing and from Neece’s as a Master Barber. This year I also began a family and developed my first business plan. In 2015, I implemented that business plan and, as a partner, opened Truly Blessed Barbershop, LLC in Abilene, Texas.

In 2016, and after two successful years in business, it was time to expand and move the family back home to Buda, Texas. I became the sole proprietor of Two Blessed Barbershop and after five years, it is fully staffed with six local barbers in downtown Buda, Texas. Simultaneously, my family has grown, and I’m happily married with two daughters. I’m living my best life doing what I Love in my “home” town amidst extended “family”.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
If it was easy, everyone would be doing it!!

A few of the obstacles I have faced and overcame include moving cities. As a college student and resident of Abilene, Texas for seven years, I had opportunity to assess the market for barbering, local economy, including cost of business operations and cost of living. I knew it would be most cost-effective for me to start a business in Abilene rather than Buda/Austin, Texas where everything was going to be more expensive, increasing the risk for failure.

Although business was developing at a very fast pace in Abilene, Texas being away from “home” was putting a strain on my immediate family. We had to re-evaluate our values, core beliefs, took a leap of faith and moved back home to Buda, Texas,

Moving meant being close to our family, friends, and home-cooked meals. Moving also meant starting over with the business. The cost of living was higher, the cost for business operations was higher. The efforts for building clientele and a team was going to be tougher because the market was more competitive. With faith in my God and support from family and friends, I struggled the first couple of years but never fell short.

Just when business seemed to be in steady state, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and negatively impacted business, causing the business to shut down for months. I had to rethink the business plan and develop an economic recovery plan for me as a small business owner, primary wage earner for my family, but I also worried about my team. As barbers, we are independent workers with specialized skills. The shutdown in contrast with licensing requirements put each barber at risk of falling into poverty pretty quickly. The Buda Chamber of Commerce, the federal government’s relief program, and the CDC guidelines enabled us to get back to work as quickly as possible, but it was not without challenge because so many people were seeking support from the government. The demand for haircuts and most importantly the established, trusting relationships we each held with our clients was at the core of our recovery from the pandemic.

I’m proud to say, 18 months after the onset of COVID-19, Two Blessed Barbershop is at its peak with six barbers operating successfully.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Two Blessed Barbershop is Located in Buda, Texas which opened its doors August 2017. When you sit down in one of our chairs, you’re not just sitting down for a hot shave, a beard cut, or a custom fade. You’re sitting down with a friend you’d have a beer and watch the game with. We just happen to have some good personalities with even better skills with a straight razor and a pair of clippers.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
I’ve always enjoyed networking and getting to know people. I believe that every person we meet has a purpose in our life, big or small.

When I think of what defines a good or the BEST mentor, the phrase “It takes one to know one” comes to mind. I believe a good mentor is open-minded, always willing to learn, and REMAINS HUMBLE. I have found good mentors to be those closest to you, those you trust and want to be like them.

My grandparents served as business mentors and role models for me. Their work ethic was, and remains, hard and fast. They were willing to take risks, and although they didn’t always agree, they always worked as a team for what was in the best interest for the business/family. My grandfather was a career truck driver and in his mid-50’s was laid off. My grandparents decided to risk money saved to invest into a small restaurant business, Hinojosa Express. They wanted to operate a Mexican food restaurant but quickly learned the business they purchased had a history (and existing clientele) of selling hamburgers. Therefore, they compromised their menu to sell what they were good at making, breakfast tacos, and what the existing clientele would buy, hamburgers. They networked and identified vendors and to minimize costs, the entire family (kids and grandkids) worked shifts at the restaurant. The restaurant stood the test of time for ten years, at which point the area’s development forced the business to shut down. During those years, my grandfather survived a stroke and continued to work (in a different capacity); my grandmother retired her full-time job to manage and operate the restaurant; my mother worked full-time at the restaurant while she attended grad school; my oldest brother was the restaurant manager at age 16 because he was the only one with restaurant experience; my aunts worked their full-time jobs while working at the restaurant part-time; and my cousins and I worked after school, weekends, and summers.

My grandparents/family are only one group of mentors for me. I learn from other small business owners when we engage in conversation and share experiences. Understanding the challenges as a small business owner, I support and patronize other’s businesses whenever possible.

As a barber, I’ve learned to never judge a book by its cover or by its profession. You never really know a person until they’ve sat in your barber chair, but I do know, nothing gives someone more confidence than a GREAT HAIRCUT.

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