With 22 years experience in the barbering game it’s easy to see why Vikki’s barbering academy in Sunderland has been so successful and even attracts barbers from all over the world to train with her. We asked Vikki to tell her story of how the academy was started… over to Vikki.
VIK SMITH TRAINING AT SB BARBERING ACADEMY, SUNDERLAND
I first worked in a shop as apprentice where it was split; ladies at the back, gents at the front. I was the apprentice and at the time you had to train in hairdressing and do a small chunk of men’s. I hated the ladies side – rinsing perms and colours?!! I wanted to leave and my boss said, “go on then, get some clippers and get up to the gents”. I was like “OK then” and I never looked back.
I watched, watched and watched!! I then got put on OAP cuts and loved it! That’s where my love of traditional techniques comes into the mix. I was cutting full time on the floor after six months, and I was lucky to be mentored by some brilliant barbers too.
I then worked at a local college and although I loved my colleagues I wasn’t so keen on other aspects of my job. I had a vision on where barber training needed to be. My husband, Ry encouraged me and I started training night classes above the Smith’s Barber Shop. To be honest I was huddling for people to train with me. Constantly messaging people I knew who were training in hairdressing. The trouble I had was I couldn’t give out a qualification so I went after that with VTCT and eventually after lots of hard work and stress I became accredited (unfortunately this did not mean I could draw funding down from the government as I was small fish, so all trainees had to self-fund).
I then started a small class of self-funded trainees one day a week to give out a VTCT level 2 qualification. These trainees included Grant George from Perth in Scotland who now owns Badlands Barbers. I even travelled up to Dundee to give my now good friend Colin Petrie of Hard Grind some training to help him gain his level 2 qualification.
By chance Sarah (who works at Smith’s Academy and Smith’s Barbers) got talking to an old friend of mine Ian Robinson from school who set up a meeting to give me some business advice on how to attract more wannabe barbers. During the meeting he actually said, “what do you need me for? You have a strong brand, SB” and I should go big or go home basically!! I was petrified but I knew it was the right thing to do to get to where I needed to be.
My vision was a realistic barbershop environment, with real clients, where trainees would get training as close to a barbershop as possible. With a lot of encouragement from Ry and also lots of coffee meetings with Ian, I decided to go for it. Ian sent me the property link for what is now the academy – and the rest is history!
The academy was a shell with no electricity or water, so there were a lot of late nights from my amazing husband. How he managed to work full time and help build the academy is beyond me! I was at home with the kids in between building the structure of the training and all of the prep (believe me there is sooooo much more to running an academy than teaching) I was also approached by a council with a government funding pot, who asked me to be their main barber trainer for apprentices. I opened the doors with my little key on my own and 10 students and never looked back.
We have grown so much over the first 15 months and now employ five people to help and develop and run different areas within the business. I have academy manager Adam who was a past student that never left !! Everything behind the scenes was getting too much so Adam started helping out with e mails, front of house. As time went on he he took on more roles and responsibilities and I couldn’t do without him !! He now has his own little office and runs everything behind the scenes and is playing a major role in the development and expansion of the business. My main priority is training standards and on the floor training is where I need to be! I work closely with Sarah of Smiths Barbers, she has been part time with me from the start and is now progressing to full time. I love working with her she brings so much to the table and we flow smoothly together on the floor, which is essential. We read each other’s minds, work calmly together and can laugh with the stress – believe me it can get stressful haha!! Ry now trains on the floor for two days a week to help free me and Sarah up to complete paperwork and assessments – as we have a lot of students!
The academy is more than I ever imagined, people travel from all over the country to train and we are now accepting people from Europe!!
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