Chris Donnelly made a brave decision to change career and start from scratch. His frustration with his current job as a project manager and not feeling fulfilled every day was starting to take its toll. He knew he had to change, and after making a list of what he wanted from his job, barbering stood out the most. He signed up for our NVQ 2 Diploma beginner course after tonnes of research and knew that London School of Barbering had the right resources and structure to get him where he wanted to be!
Over two and half years later, Chris has been working solidly in the barbering industry and, well, his work portfolio speaks for itself. Chris has worked on campaigns for Marks and Spencer, helping to style the England football team’s hair, which is not a bad opportunity for a new barber in the industry; don’t you think?
Read more about his success story in his interview below…
LSB: What is your name and Instagram tag if you have one?
CD: My name is Chris Donnelly & my Instagram tag is @christopherjohn_the_barber
LSB: What did you do before barbering?
CD: After university, I worked as a project manager in both the public and the private sector.
LSB: When did you realise barbering was the profession for you?
CD: Before I found barbering, I never felt fulfilled going to work and found it difficult to find the ambition and passion that I saw others had in their work. As a result of this, I knew that I needed to look at my career and see what I could do to change this.
I sat down and started to list what I did and did not want from my work. The main points I came away with were 1. I don’t want to work from an office 2. I love working with people 3. I want to be more creative 4. I would like to have my own business one day 5. I want to learn new skills and keep challenging myself.
I remember that I was always transfixed when I took a visit to the barbershop and really loved being in that environment. From the people, the sounds, the pace and comradery. I knew instantly this was the path that I was going to follow. All I needed to do was figure it out!!!
LSB: How did you feel about making the transition into barbering, and why did you choose LSB to learn the trade?
CD: The first step after deciding on barbering was how am I going to make this transition? I did a lot of ‘googling’ and staying up late reading material on local colleges, where I lived in Manchester, but nothing seemed to focus on barbering. I knew barbering was what I wanted to do and then I stumbled on ‘The London School of Barbering!’
I read the whole website from top to bottom, spoke to students who had been to LSB and came to London to talk to the educators and ask loads of questions.
I was very nervous choosing to make the transition into barbering, as I was in a career that I could have easily progressed. Choosing LSB to learn the trade was on the basis of doing a lot of research and making sure this school was going to help me in getting me where I wanted to be.
LSB: What course did you take at London School of Barbering, and what were the highlights of for you?
CD: The course that I took was the NVQ 2 Diploma in barbering which was a full-time 9-week beginner course. The classes were small (no more than 10) and we had the same educators throughout the course, which helped me feel comfortable in asking questions and not feeling stupid getting things wrong.
Highlights for me were:
- Doing my first hair cut felt like climbing Everest. It was so daunting but unbelievably rewarding.
- Nailing a fade. Your skills really do click in to place.
- Meeting the people and all the interesting characters.
- Coming second in my class on competition day. It really showed I had learned so much.
LSB: Tell us about your journey since you have finished with LSB?
CD: The first job I got was working alongside as a brand ambassador for the amazing Mr Natty brand. I couldn’t have asked for a better first job straight out of barbering school. This was doing pop up barber shops in places like John Lewis and Fenwicks promoting the brand’s hair and beard products and tidying the Natty boys in store. I am proud to still work with the Natty brand two and a half years on.
I have worked on campaigns for Marks and Spencers helping to style the England football teams hair, worked in-house for J Crew at their new East London store on Red Church Street, Urban Outfitters and attended barber conventions. I hope to be going to New York in the next 12 months to continue working with the team, whilst increasing the awareness of the brand back here in the UK.
Getting my first job in a barber shop was a little bit harder. It helped I was passionate and willing to learn. LSB gives you the tools to be able to cut hair, the barber shop gives you the needed pressure to hone your skills.
I started working for a barber shop in South East London called Chaplins of London. Chaplins was a great fit for me and it pushed me further out of my comfort zone than I ever thought possible and I have grown as a barber in so many ways. I now have my own clientele and cut up to 100 haircuts in a week. We won best barber shop at the London Hair and Beauty awards 2016.
LSB: What has been your proudest moment so far as a barber?
CD: Everyday I am proud of how much I have achieved, It is difficult to pinpoint one moment, but making the leap from the office to the barber shop is definitely up there. Without taking that initial risk, I would not be fulfilled in my work, which was the main reason I made the career switch in the first place.
LSB: If you could have anyone in your barber’s chair, who would it be and why?
CD: I would love to have the famous stylist Sam Mcknight (@hairbysammcknight) in my barber chair. Earlier this year I went to see his exhibition at Somerset House. It was truly inspirational and he has worked with so many interesting people. He would have some amazing stories to tell and is a wealth of knowledge in the industry.
LSB: Have you had anyone in your barber’s chair already that has had an interesting story to tell you?
CD: I have had so many interesting people. Writers, artists and models but I were lucky enough to cut an Oscar winners hair this year. It was great to talk to someone who has achieved so much, whilst staying really grounded.
LSB: Do you take inspiration from anything when cutting hair, such as music, fashion, film or art?
CD: I take inspiration from magazines to online videos, but especially Instagram. It is an amazing tool to connect with other barbers and learn from each other. It is important to keep up to date with trends. A lot of the time, the most interesting cuts I get to do are on the students who go to Goldsmiths uni. It helps to push me and increase my skill set.
LSB: What would you say to anyone considering a career in barbering and studying at LSB?
CD: Go for it. There is a reason you are looking to change your career or start something new and exciting. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to fail. It will only make you a better barber.
LSB: Anything further to add?
CD: One day, I would like to look into helping other students become barbers themselves and also I would like to own my own barbershop.
Thank you for helping me realise my true potential and help me kickstart my career. It was an amazing experience and one I will never forget.
If you would like to see more of my work, please find me on Instagram @christopherjohn_the_barber and come and get your haircut at Chaplins of London in Brockley. We won best barber shop of the year at the 2016 London Hair and Beauty Awards so you will not be disappointed.