Turning Passion into Profit | How 2 Penn State Alumni Successfully Started a Barber “Chest Truck” Business | University park campus news


Two Penn State alumni turned their barber passion into profit with their start-up company called SLCKR and are expected to reach $ 50,000 in their first year of earnings.

SLCKR – pronounced “slicker” – was one of five teams selected as part of Invent Penn State, which partnered with Happy Valley Launchbox for its Summer Founders 2021 program, a 13-week entrepreneurial bootcamp where each team receives a grant of $ 15,000 to fully work. time on their idea over the summer months.

Tyler Tracy, a recent Penn State graduate, and Ben Johnson, a 2019 Penn State graduate, left college with degrees in industrial engineering and economics, respectively, and decided to work as partners in the startup.

Tracy said he started cutting his hair in his senior year of high school and continued to do it at Penn State for his friends, including Johnson. He also completed an apprenticeship as a barber in the Philadelphia area, then cut his hair as part of an overseas program in Ireland.

“I actually loved cutting my hair and wanted to explore it as a potential career path,” Tracy said.

Tracy said he recognizes a problem in the barber industry as he struggles to stay organized and loses tools quite frequently.

In the fall of 2019, as part of Penn State’s MGMT 485 class – Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities – Tracy began forming the company. Students were asked to start a business and devote the entire two-semester course to developing their idea with $ 1,500 given to each team by the program.


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Jeanette Miller, director of the major in business innovation and entrepreneurship at Penn State, was the teacher of Tracy’s course.

“Tyler is super creative and he agonized over every detail of his design,” Miller said. “He’s super passionate.

Tracy said if the coronavirus pandemic hadn’t happened and he hadn’t returned from his study abroad trip sooner, he would have “taken a different career path,” according to Miller .

“It’s situational,” Miller said, “but it’s really grabbing an opportunity in a tough situation.”

She said Tracy found her first supplier in Spain after looking for better quality materials and doing everything possible to acquire her first inventory.

“The best education you can get is to have it,” Miller said. “I find it incredibly rewarding to work with students and see how things change for them. “

Tracy’s training in industrial engineering was based on “efficiency and optimization,” which he said allowed him to turn his problem into an entrepreneurial solution.


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This solution came in the form of “The Rig” – SLCKR’s signature product, a “trendy and functional” chest rig, Tracy said.

“The goal is to minimize travel to and from the [barber] station, ”Tracy said and added that the product saved her about 10 minutes per haircut.

According to Tracy, Johnson had previously expressed interest in doing business with him.

“The barber industry as a whole is very entrepreneurial,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the couple had strengths in “two different hemispheres of the brain” – one took care of the creation of the prototype and the other specializes in brand economics.

In the spring, SLCKR won the Happy Valley Venture Capital Pitch competition, which also provided them with more funding.

The Summer Founders Program, according to Johnson, allowed both partners to work full-time on the business.

Johnson said the program meets for an hour twice a week – where young entrepreneurs connected with advisors and were offered valuable resources.

“We took the opportunity and ran with it,” Johnson said. “If you’re ready to work and have a tangible idea, they’ll be ready to help you through the process. “

The company launched on Jan.15 and, according to Johnson, the two co-owners have already been able to start repaying each other.

“Find something that turns you on,” Tracy told prospective students. The reason he could have come to this is that he “really [cares] about it “rather than just the money the company makes.

“Get out there and start doing the little things you can,” Johnson said.


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