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Meet Michael Gerolaga of Cutsmiths Mobile Barbershop in Walnut

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Gerolaga.

Michael, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My mom was shot dead when I was 3 years old and my father spent the following 3 years in prison because of it. I know, this probably wasn’t the most inspiring way to open up my story. However, if you’re going to ask me how I got to where I’m at today, my voyage if you will, I think it’s only fair that we go back to the beginning from where it all started.

I was a single child at the age of 3. My father served his prison sentence and had custody of me by the age of 7. My mom was a nurse and my father served in the U.S. Navy, but after having this incident land on his record, he couldn’t find anything more than an entry-level job. We were poor. I remember the days when we lived in a small studio sharing an air mattress and eating top ramen and hot dogs regularly. I grew up envying all of my schoolmates. They were able to afford treats from the ice cream man, mechanical pencils, five star binders, and all the cool things a kid could ever want during that time. I was jealous that they were eating school lunches and Lunchables everyday while I had to ask friends if they were going to finish their food. Needless to say, I was hungry. Both physically and mentally.

I truly believe that during those times is when I started to inherit my entrepreneurial traits. Nothing was ever given to me growing up with my father. I had to go get it myself. I would steal from students and shoplift stupid things just so I could be like the other kids and I wouldn’t let anything stop me from getting what I wanted. There’s a quote by an unknown author that says, “We must risk going too far to discover just how far we can go”. That mentality has stuck with me till this day and I feel that the delinquents and troubled youth, like I was, make the best entrepreneurs. It’s because we don’t stop until we get what we want and we’re the ones who aren’t scared to take risks. Most people are comfortable in that safe zone, the 9 to 5 so to speak. As for myself, I’d hate to play it safe and have a limit on what I’m really capable of.

Fast forward to high school, I channeled that hustle mentality into profitable side businesses. I would sell things from custom t-shirts to burned CD’s. I learned about business firsthand at a very young age and always knew that I wanted to be a business owner. I was tired of being underprivileged. The only thing that took a while for me to figure out was what type of business I was going to get into. Jobs came and went from age 17 to my mid 20’s. It was then when I came to ask myself, “am I going to be happy 5 years from now working this job?” The money was great but the answer was no. I was working in the medical field doing the same routine every single day with the same people and a douchebag of a supervisor. I needed to get back to my Plan A and own my own a business.

My only requirement was to find something that I could see myself doing every day. I didn’t care if the money wasn’t great. I was just in my pursuit for happiness in life. I mean, I had everything I could ask for; I have a great paying job, a beautiful wife, living independently, not stressing about money or bills, and had accomplished more things in life than most married couples our age. But I still had to answer to someone, I had to keep my mouth shut when I was being treated unfairly at work, and I had to live in fear of possibly losing my job if I messed up. I didn’t see the point of being happy 3 days a week when I was going to be stressed the other 4.

The moment I sat in a real barbershop for the first time was the moment that I decided that this was the business I wanted to open. It was a dream job in my eyes. What other job do you know where you can come into work and wear whatever you want, talk to your friends all day, watch movies and sports, make your own schedule, take days off whenever, and have new and interesting people sit in your chair everyday with endless stories to be told? That’s when I picked up some hair clippers, found my passion for the craft and culture, and decided that I wanted to become a barber/barbershop owner.

Today’s mobile barbershop is the product of my love for barbering. I’m nowhere near where I want to be today, but I’ve come far from where I was and now I’m much happier.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Building a mobile barbershop was definitely not a smooth road. The trailer build had its challenges. My uncle and I built this barbershop from the ground up so whatever problems came up, we had to figure it out on our own. Neither of us had prior knowledge about travel trailers, so we basically laid out the floor plan a certain way so that we can utilize the existing electrical and plumbing and not waste too much space. In the end, I feel we came up with the best design for what we had to work with.

Another challenge is finding locations to set up at. That is where I’m at right now at this point of time. The way I run my business is where I set up shop in front of corporate headquarters and business parks and spend the whole day there taking care of employees’ grooming needs during their lunch breaks. I know I may only have one shot to land these accounts so I’m currently working on the best strategy and sales pitch to be able to ‘wow’ them with the services I provide. (If having a mobile barbershop in an Airstream trailer wasn’t enough)

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Cutsmiths Mobile Barbershop – what should we know?
At Cutsmiths, we create a way for you to skip the traffic, long waits and taking the time out of your already busy schedule to provide you with haircut services you never thought possible out of a mobile trailer. In our custom Airstream trailer, we bring everything from the barbershop to you. Along with our highly skilled and hand-picked Cutsmiths, our mobile barbershop is equipped with heavy duty barber chairs, shampoo bowls at each station, hair products for purchase and hot towels readily available to provide you with a luxurious experience right outside your workplace.

We emphasize on quality and just bringing the culture and traditions of a classic barbershop right outside your workplace. The thing I’m most proud of about this business are my barbers. They’re called Cutsmiths for a reason. I hand pick my barbers and make sure they are highly skilled in all style haircuts, from the classics cuts to your modern, and hot towel shaves. They are very good at what they do and they’re ready to steal you from your barber/stylist that you’ve been going to for years. Myself and my barbers are very up to date in the barber industry and we all share the same passion.

These reasons and more is what sets us apart from other shops. We are by no means a ‘Supercuts’ on wheels and that’s why we don’t charge ‘Supercut’ prices. We are hair artists and craftsmen. And our attention to detail and knowledge we have of the craft really shows when you come out of our shop.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
All the credit for the trailer build goes to my Uncle Luigi, hands down. He did everything in that trailer from the cabinetry to the plumbing and electrical. He built everything from the ground up. All I basically did was hand him the tools.

Also, my existing clientele deserves a ton of credit. They’re the ones who allow me to do what I love for a living. They’ve been with me from when I started cutting hair in my garage, to when I was working at a barbershop. Then still stuck with me when I left the barbershop 6 months ago and went back to cutting in the garage. This allowed me to have more time to focus on my business and turn this dream into a reality.

Pricing:

  • Regular Haircut $36
  • Full Service Haircut $42
  • Traditional Hot Towel Shave $40
  • Buzzcut $20
  • Beard Detail $15

Contact Info:

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Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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