We had the good fortune of connecting with Nicky Yanchun and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nicky, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
“Your best ability is availability.” I like this quote because it’s a great tool for the barber industry, as well as any other profession or business. It’s important to remember that being available can be as important, if not more, as any other asset you have to offer. If you’re good at what you do, but not consistent with people having access to what it is you possess, it creates quite an issue and can render what you offer virtually useless. For example, if you own a coffee shop and have the best coffee in town but are only open every other Thursday from 1pm-2pm, you might find it difficult to drum up business, even with a great product given that small window of availability. It’s either inconvenient for someone looking to grab a cup of coffee on a regular basis, or they won’t know how good your coffee is in the first place since it’s nearly impossible to try your product with the limited timeframe to do so. On the other hand, if you have a coffee shop with pretty decent coffee, but you’re open seven days a week, twelve hours a day, chances are you’ll do more business because people can depend on getting there daily cuppa joe. It eliminates the frustration of not being able to get in, and reassures someone that the option is always there. Of course you want what you’re offering to people to be good, if not great. The point I’m making with this example is how availability is so important for some, they may overlook other attributes you lack in comparison to your competitors . The same can be said for professional services and other products. That is why I like this quote, I find it to be extremely useful.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ve been a barber for going on thirteen years. I love what I do and am extremely proud of the brand and shops I’ve helped build. I was one of the three founders to start Svelte Barbershop & Essentials in Los Angeles. MY brother and childhood friend who we consider a brother, started out in a small, but big in character basement barbershop in Hollywood California. That shop is still rocking today, along with two other locations in Venice and Manhattan Beach, CA. We believe what separates us from other shops is in our belief that barbershop should still be an experience in this hectic world, rather than another errand to run without taking ourselves too seriously and doing that with a much ease as possible for our clients. There’s no better feeling than one of our clients telling us how much they enjoy coming in and look forward to it each time. It’s such a fulfilling feeling from feedback like I received just the other day-a client’s wife told me every time her husband gets a notification for an upcoming appointment, he has a little “haircut dance” he does! To bring someone’s day up is all we’ve ever wanted and I’m so humbled by it everytime I hear a story like this. Was it easy to get to this point? Far from it. When I first started cutting hair, I worked at my brother’s shop in Boston. All the other barbers were so talented I was down right frightened to be in there in the beginning. In fact, they gave me a nickname, “Shaky-Knees” because they saw the fear that ran through me when someone got in my chair. My skills were nowhere near these guys, but with a lot of practice and pointers from them, I sharpened my skills day by day, was able to build a clientele and knew I could take my trade and do the same anywhere. I try to constantly learn more from this industry, be it new techniques in cutting and shaving, learning about new products and tools, or understanding the business side of things. Growth and overcoming challenges go hand and hand, it’s rarely easy but I find it important to stay as far from complacency as possible. The biggest lesson I’ve learned along the way is how business and professionalism can help with personal life. The problems I’ve experienced in this industry take a cool, calm, collected approach to understand and overcome. The same can be said for many problems you come across in life. Taking a moment to reflect on the situation, and approach it as best you can without overreaction or unnecessary emotion will resolve the issue quicker with a better outcome. What I want the world to know about our brand: I want the world to know that it’s okay to not know much about personal grooming, that’s what we’re here for. The most aggravating thing to me is when I’m expected to know about something that I don’t know anything about. Let me explain. If I go to a business establishment, it could be anything from a bike shop to a brunch spot, and I’m expected to know what it is I want or need, it’s frustrating. If I’m greeted with eye rolls and annoyance from the people expecting me to know what it is I want or need, it’s that much more frustrating. From my point of view, it’s not a matter of indecisiveness, but more of a lack of knowledge. Svelte Barbershop & Essentials prides ourselves on helping you understand certain aspects of grooming-who is going to help achieve your grooming needs, what you need to achieve it, why it works for you, and how it does so. I like riding bikes but I don’t have a SINGLE CLUE how to fix a bike, that’s why I bring it to a bike shop. You don’t know what to do about your hair and beard, that’s why you come to us. We’re here to help you, we won’t make you feel stupid in the process, and our as pumped to help you understand something as you will be to understand it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
People will groan at this, bu the first stop on the list would be the Hollywood sign. I know, I know, touristy to the max, but if do it right it encapsulates all things Los Angeles. Start at Home (the restaurant, not your home) on Hillhurst, it’s my go-to breakfast/brunch spot. Beautiful, chill little patio area that feels like someone’s back yard. Now, time to burn off that avocado toast. Hike up the back entrance of the Griffith Observatory starting on Fern Dell. This trail is steep and to the point, but starts out with a nice stroll through a serene pond/brook. Now that you’ve made it to the observatory take a breather and take in the sites. The Hollywood sign is in full viewing pleasure from here, and the observatory has some gorgeous vistas along with interesting knowledge on our solar system. Finish the afternoon relaxing at Roosevelt hotel pool with a couple refreshing cocktails. End the night with some dinner at Mama’s Shelter and take in one of the best views of the city. Have to do a day in Santa Monica and Venice (make sure to hit our Venice shop for a cool cut and cold beer)! The boardwalk, the pier, 3rd street promenade, all will all have you walking and building up that appetite. One of my favorite spots is Cha Cha Chicken, End the day a the Bungalow for some drinks and chill vibes. Malibu is another must! Hit El Matador beach for a quieter pretty beach a lot of newlyweds use for engagements photos, or go to Zuma beach for a little but more of a fun in the sun kind of beach. Would do lunch at Neptune’s Net and watch all the crazy bikers fly by doing wheelies. End the night with a sunset cocktail at Moonshadows, if you’re feeling outdoorsy grab a campsite at Leo Carrillo State Park and enjoy some smores over a campfire. Universal Studios is always a fun time for a day, along with the city walk with dinner and movie after. I would spend a day downtown, if you can catch a Lakers game at Staples that energy will blow your mind. Or some shopping in any of the many districts, there’s everything from the fabric district to pick out a pattern to make something out of, to the pinata district! The possibilities are endless. And of course, my personal favorite spot DTLA, the Grand Central Market, a little snack from each of the food vendors and you’ll be full in no time. Take a ride Angels flight railway after, end the night at Clifton’s for dinner and drinks. Some spots around town I don’t want to leave out: Barney’s Beanery in WeHo House of Pies Frolic Room Rainbow Room Art’s District Formosa Cafe Cactus Taqueria Papa Cristo’s Greek Grill Oo Kook KBBQ Sugarfish Katana Hollywood Bowl The Comedy Store Dodger Stadium Minibar Blue Palms Brewhouse
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to shoutout the people that the Svelte barbershops and myself could absolutely not do it without, our clients!!! We have such an appreciation for everyone who walks in our door and love the eclectic group that it is, We provide a service along with a pleasant experience as best we can, but none of that would matter without the people we see everyday, many of which we consider friends, like one big happy family!! Here’s to good times and great haircuts!