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Meet Mark Franco of As Above Studios in Koreatown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mark Franco.

Mark, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Born in Montreal, Quebec. I am a Filipino-Canadian. Lived half my life in Vancouver. Because parents went through a divorce. I chose to live with my mom. Then my mom got sponsored as a nurse in LA. Age 14 I arrived in Los Angeles. It was shocking because I was surrounded by gang bangers, “the l.a. Life” where you had to always watch your back. I was used to living in the suburbs in Vancouver. So coming to LA was a complete drastic change. You can imagine how scary that was for a 14 years old. I got into fights. See people get shot at. Crazy life for sure. I stayed in Koreatown all my life of high school.

I started giving myself haircuts, giving myself tapers. Giving my self the “ice picks” where your sideburns are pointy. Then I started cutting some of my homies in the backyard. Started charging 5 dollars a line up. I graduated from Los Angeles senior high school of Olympic. Went straight to college in Sacramento to become a nurse. “This was my mom’s Filipino dream” cause I thought it would make me hella money. I hated Sacramento. Moved back to LA. Went to Northridge for college. Still hated nursing.

So I flipped my whole life 180. Started thinking what else I’m good at. I asked around how much barbers made. I was surprised how much they make. So I started calling all the barber schools. The only barber school that called me was. “John Wesley barber and beauty college.”I remember sitting there and a wave of emotion just came over me. Like something was telling me this was my path I was supposed to follow. This is my purpose. So I just kept going with it. So I attended in long beach. Driving back from la to long beach for two years.

I quickly became first chair in barber school. Observed all the older students and just practiced a lot. I also got recruited to work at Tony’s barbershop where they allowed me to work and make money without any license. That was a real big blessing for me. So I paid my dues after I graduated and continued to work and practice alongside with my mentor now. Who is the son of Tony’s barbershop named Steve Ocasio. I then started sharpening my skills and I got really good. One year going in with a license. Someone from debonair hits me up on IG. This guy name Justin offered me a chair on Melrose. The most poppin spot to go shopping. Where all the celebrities and hipster stuff is at.

I started working on Melrose. Then started cutting celebrities, famous people. Started meeting people in the industry. Eventually, I became the barber that everyone wanted. I was busy everyday ten cuts or more everyday charging 35 a head. This was me making that kind of money for three years. By then, I made a name for myself. I had a good following. I been on a couple commercials. Like the Lakers, I been on music videos for future. Started cutting frank ocean. Starting cutting football players. I ended up elevating so fast. That my network was my networth. I learned that I am connected. I had a plug for everything. I used my business side to help me get where I was at. Also with all of this is happening in my life. I still give back to the homeless. I give back to the needy and cut their hairs and change their lives.

I eventually opened my own studio. In the heart of Koreatown. This became full circle cause I left Koreatown many years ago and now I’m back with my passion starting my own barber studio. I called it “as above studios’ signed my lease and started building. At first, it was just going to be me. But I made four stations because one of my friends was having a baby and he just started barbering so I built him a station so he can practice and make money too. I realized my blessings wasn’t just for me. I was born so I can help others with my passion.

Since then I’ve been on tv three times for channel 2 and channel 9. For this is “LA”. Started cutting famous dex and other famous people. Been on intel commercial. And raised my haircuts to 50 dollars now. Since quarantine happened, I took a break for three months. I did some house cuts for 300 dollars. But my minimum for house calls now is 150-300. Also every year, I get flown out to New York for fashion week. So I cut models on the runway and that’s a big deal. I now have three girls, two boys who are cosmetologists and barbers. All rent my chair and help me maintain the studio. I help people make money and strengthen their talent and restore confidence. This is all me in five years. I still have bigger plans for the future where I can come back to Canada build another shop and continue to grow and help people.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Nothing in life is easy. The things you want are the hardest things to find. Those are the hardest obstacles of them all. I’ve had my scissors stolen from me which was Hanzos. They cost 1200 each and I had two of them.

I didn’t always have money. I was charging so little for haircuts when I first started. I went from 5 dollars, 8, to 12. To 20 dollars a line up. Then went from 35 – 50 dollars a cut.

Constant battles with yourself. Always thinking you’re not good enough. – you had to be really patient with yourself and just manifest the things you want.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the As Above Studios story. Tell us more about the business.
As Above Studio is really as above so below. Between heaven and hell. Me and you are not superior or inferior from each other. That’s my vibe in the shop. We are all connected and we do not discriminate. So whoever I hire we just all get along and have only good energy.

I specialize in designs and consistency. I never fail on my haircuts. I always try to give my 110% in everything I do.

People come me not just for the haircuts but for the vibes. People come because they don’t have to worry about the cut because it’s going to be on point. I create the vibe. I am the doctor, I restore your health and well-being. I am your psychologist and therapist. It’s not always money for me. That’s not important. That’s why people keep coming back.

The vibe in the shop is good energy.
– I have incense going.
– Himalayan salt lamps,
– Sage
– A diffuser puffing essential oils of eucalyptus and mira
– And plants
– And good music.

I think that’s what sets me apart. I don’t care what color or race. “I don’t get lost in the sauce” some barbers forget where they come from. And they forget to humble themselves.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
You know its what you put out in the universe is what you’re going to get. I started to wake up and humble myself. Learn that money will come. Learn to love yourself that way, life can love you back. To master life, I had to learn how to master my ego and my intuition.

I followed these quotes in life:
– “Never make the same mistake twice.”
– Apply your self to supply your wealth.
– Mind over matter
– Passion over profit.

Manifest your destiny.


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