When pitching a business plan, it helps to have a captive audience. And a sharp instrument aimed at the head.
That's what happened for No Grease, a well-known local barbershop that is expanding to Time Warner Cable Arena today, thanks to some guidance from a powerful client – Charlotte Bobcats majority owner Bob Johnson.
He has been a frequent customer of the barbershop, one of the community's better-known African American-owned businesses. Damian Johnson, who owns the store with his twin brother Jermaine Johnson, said Bob Johnson (no relation) has served as a mentor to them over the past few years.
Bob Johnson said he remains impressed with the brothers' service, business plans and ability to build a brand.
“I think they are two of the most dynamic business guys in Charlotte,” he said.
The Johnson brothers received city approval for street-front space at the arena on 333 Trade St., Charlotte, near Dunkin' Donuts. Bob Johnson said he suggested they seek local financing for the expansion, but Damian Johnson said they had trouble obtaining funding.
Bob Johnson then suggested they try Urban Trust Bank in Florida, which he had founded and where he is chairman. Their conversations took place with the billionaire in the barber chair.
“That's when I have him to myself,” Damian Johnson said. “He told me straight up that if we had everything in place, then it should go through” at Urban Trust.
He said they received approval of their loan, which was for more than $200,000, on the twins' 36th birthday in December.
With that approval, Bob Johnson said, “I hope to send a message to some Charlotte banks to be a little more aggressive in lending to local minority businesses in Charlotte.”
This will be the fourth area store for No Grease, which the brothers launched in 1997. They also run a barber school, and hope to continue to expand, although Bob Johnson has cautioned them to remain focused on the local market for now.
Because of the economy, there hasn't been a lot of growth in the business lately. But their regular clientele continue to hold steady, according to Damian Johnson. People will always need haircuts, he said.
He hopes the arena location, called No Grease Exclusive Men's Grooming Lounge, will continue to broaden the shop's appeal, saying, “Hair is hair to us. It's not black or white.”
And he plans to launch the new shop by giving Bob Johnson the first haircut.