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Behind the Chair with Set Lopez: Building Virtus Barber in Dallas

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Esther is a business strategist with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, educator, and management advisor.

Behind the Chair with Set Lopez: Building Virtus Barber in Dallas

Set Lopez, the visionary founder of Virtus Barber and Co., has carved a unique niche in the bustling heart of Dallas, TX. His journey — from conceptualizing to actualizing a premier barbershop — is a tale of passion, perseverance, and ingenuity. Virtus Barber and Co. isn’t just a place for a quick trim; it’s a haven where style and sophistication blend seamlessly, offering a grooming experience that transcends the ordinary.

In our exclusive interview, Set shares a candid, behind-the-scenes look at the makings of a successful barbershop. From the initial spark of inspiration to the meticulous selection of location and business structure, he leaves no stone unturned. Join us as we explore Set Lopez’s entrepreneurial journey, full of valuable lessons, innovative strategies, and heartfelt advice for anyone dreaming of carving their own path in the dynamic world of business.

Set Lopez
Photoshoot by Jordan Fraker

Inspiration Behind Virtus Barber and Co.

SBS – What inspired you to start Virtus Barber and Co.?

Set – My dad started his own business when I was starting middle school and runs it to this day. It’s not a big business, but ever since then, I have looked up to him and had the entrepreneurial blood in me, so the moment I started barber school, I knew I wanted to open up a shop one day.

Selecting the Perfect Location

SBS – How did you identify the ideal location for your barbershop in Dallas, TX?

Set – I feel as if the location kinda found me. I have lived in East Dallas since 2007, so this area is my home. This building always stood out to me because of its character and isolation; it’s not connected to other businesses in a shopping strip. I would drive by this building multiple times a week, and when I had my studio, I would pass it every day. It had changed many hands in the past, and, eventually, it stood vacant for over two years, so I decided to contact the property manager, and it took off from there.

Choosing the Right Business Structure

SBS – What influenced your decision on the type of business entity (like an LLC) for Virtus Barber and Co.?

Set – We are an LLC/S Corp, and frankly, I didn’t know much about it. It’s one of the many things that you aren’t really taught growing up, so I asked barber shop owners, friends who had businesses, etc. From there, I narrowed it down to what would work best for me at the time and eventually in the future as we grew.

Overcoming Initial Hurdles

SBS – What were the biggest challenges you faced when starting your business?

Set – Sleep, haha. Jumping into business with not much knowledge but a lot of drive. I definitely made a lot of mistakes on the way, but I learned from them and about myself as well. Anything from building codes, city codes, licensing, and then building it out myself was a lot to handle, so I was spending 16-plus hours a day doing my best to fix any mistakes or build-out. Our son was a toddler at the time too, so not spending much time with my family definitely took its toll on me.

Setting Virtus Barber Apart

SBS – How do you differentiate your services and prices from competitors?

Set – Pricing is pretty even across barber shops for the most part. There are definitely some higher-end shops and barbers that charge way more and way less, but the gray area is pretty even. We offer tailored cuts and shaving services to all individuals, but I think what makes us stand out the most is our neighborhood feel. We consider our shop a safe space where everyone is welcome, a place where you can be vulnerable and comfortable and really make connections with people. A lot of our clients know each other and live down the street from each other as well, which adds to the ambiance and environment of our shop.

Giving haircut
Photoshoot by Jordan Fraker

The Journey of Training Virtus Barber’s Team

SBS – Can you describe your journey in selecting and training your barbers?

Set – That was another one of our biggest challenges — finding the right barber with just the right amount of skill and ambition. Sometimes, if you hire someone with too much skill, they can try and take over or redirect the business even if they don’t mean to. We look for anyone who is hungry, eager, and has good morals and values. We can help you hone your skills as a barber, but it’s more difficult to teach someone to be a good person or a person with values and integrity. Virtus means to have all of these things — it’s in our name.

Effective Marketing Techniques

SBS – What marketing strategies have been most effective in attracting customers?

Set – Frankly, just word of mouth. We did a little advertising through Google, IG, and Facebook the first year, but it was not as effective as word of mouth. Google reviews do help, though.

Ensuring Quality Services

SBS – How do you maintain a consistent service quality across different barbers?

Set – Setting the example by leading. I don’t like to call myself a “boss” or an “owner” typically, I feel more like a leader. A leader will show you and work with you. A boss will just tell you what to do. Maintaining that relationship and having continuing education classes helps a lot.

 Virtus Barber and Co team
Photoshoot by Jordan Fraker

Financial Insights

SBS – What are the key financial considerations for someone starting a barbershop?

Set – It is definitely possible to fund it yourself with minimal capital. You’ll probably have to apply for some credit cards and eventually pay high interest if you don’t pay them off in time, but at least you will be the sole owner/proprietor. Personally, I’d rather pay off a bank than have an investor, but ultimately that’s your decision. If having a partner or investor suits you, then go that route. That’s just my personal preference.

Building Customer Loyalty

SBS – How do you manage customer relationships and build loyalty?

Set – Getting your haircut is such a personal service that it becomes a natural evolving relationship. By actively engaging with our community and providing a sense of belonging, we develop a strong relationship with our clients. Some clients even become part of our family. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s cliche for a reason. This formula creates not only a loyal client base, it also evolves into word of mouth marketing and a cultural following.

Technology’s Role in Modern Barbershop Operations

SBS – What role does technology play in your business operations?

Set – We have a scheduling app as well as your basic Google page, a website, and social media accounts, but honestly, nothing beyond that. A lot of our clients like to call in person.

Navigating Licenses

SBS – Can you share your experience with any regulatory or licensing requirements for barbershops in Texas?

Set – It’s pretty seamless once you become a licensed barber and shop. You have to renew your license every 2/3 years, and that’s about it. Everything else becomes extra, i.e., continuing education classes, new technique classes, etc.

Advice for Aspiring Barbershop Owners

SBS – What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a barbershop but has limited resources?

Set – Reach out to local banks and credit unions, and build relationships with your community and neighbors. Go visit barbershops and salons alike and kindly ask to speak with the owners. They’re more willing to help more than you think. Smaller banks have better loan options, and even if they don’t, they can direct you on the right path, and people notice when you’re involved in the community. Finding a mentor is always another great way to get guidance.

Reflecting on the Past

SBS – Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently when starting your business?

Set – I’m very happy where we are at, considering the small amount of time we have been open. I think organic growth was perfect for me, but maybe if I had all the funds upfront, it could have helped. It’s daunting having to put that much capital at once into a project and have it not work out, so I’m on the fence on this question. Ultimately, organic growth has worked great, so I wouldn’t change much.


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Behind the Chair with Set Lopez: Building Virtus Barber in Dallas