It’s said that friends make bad business partners. Impersonal decisions become difficult and a souring friendship can cause the downfall of a business, but Eric Begg and Greg Forrest have defied the odds to create the hugely successful Slicks brand. Today, I’m in Glasgow to delve deeper into barbering’s greatest bromance.
The couple met seven years ago at Victoria Barbers in Glasgow. Both were just starting out in the industry but already had big ambitions for the coming years.
“I was a fresh faced little girl and Eric was a bit older than me but had the personality of a fifteen-year-old,” smiles Greg. “We had similar views for our life plans – owning our own business and making a footprint on the barbering scene in Scotland.”
“I was told by my boss I would be working with Greg one day, a fifteen-year-old boy full of nonsense. Not a lot has changed. We worked for about three years in there and then starting planning our own business,” adds Eric.
Like all young people, they both set an age by which they wanted to be making real money – the year is typically pushed back a year or two each time it’s met until deciding money isn’t for you anyway. But before tackling the hardships of real life, however, Eric and Greg completed the rite of passage of all twenty-somethings: travelling around Australia.
Rejuvenated and presumably sunburnt, the young barbers returned to Dear Green Place to begin the eighteen-months of planning their maiden venture. Greg – who may well have been a commercial agent in a previous life – found the location: a unit in Burnside easily accessible from the motorway, by train or bus. They intended to call the shop Slick Rick’s, but knew Glaswegian curiosity would lead to questions about this Rick fella. Slicks was born.
“We’d taken the biggest risks of our lives,” says Greg. “We were petrified we hadn’t made the right choice but also at the same time told ourselves to think positive thoughts. Our motto was to listen to the customers, take our time on cuts, give great customer service and charge a reasonable price. Our clientele started to build and after a few months we started recruiting staff.”
Like it’s owners, the shop itself certainly has tons of character. A monotone exterior – designed by friend Craig Black – is offset by funky stag wallpaper and five chairs. The middle section of shop is all white and festooned with unique artwork. Finally, you come to a zen den, complete with a scent diffuser to add to the relaxed atmosphere.
“I would say our shop is definitely one of the more modern barbershops in Glasgow,” says Eric. “At the moment, the wide variation in cuts means that we have to be up to speed on every modern and classic style. I believe some of our success comes from catering for everybody.”
Eric and Greg have built something they’re rightly proud of in just four short years. I assume picking a highlight will be tricky, but I’m going to ask them nonetheless.
“We’ve had many highlights in our career from the get go,” Eric says.
Fine, a selection will do.
“Being featured in magazines such as BarberEvo of course, being part of a brand like OSMO, having Menspire come to our shop and Josh [Lamonaca] helping us grow in and out of the salon. The biggest one for me is when Garry Spencer gave us the opportunity to showcase in our hometown at the Glasgow Barber Bash. I’ll remember that for the rest of my days.”
“It’s hard to pinpoint what our biggest achievement for the shop would be,” Greg agrees. “But when we started the business me and Eric named a few things we wanted to accomplish. To cut on stage in front of a crowd representing our brand, to teach and educate a workshop or class and to have our own academy one day. We’ve hit two out of three so far!”
As Eric briefly mentioned, Slicks are ambassadors for OSMO.
“To be asked to work with OSMO was something I wasn’t expecting or even thinking about – working with a global product brand.
As ambassadors, Eric and Greg demonstrate how OSMO’s eclectic range of products can be used to create the latest styles, both in store, online and at industry shows across the country. They have products to cover all styles and are always evolving the range to suit the latest trends. Eric says that the Blowdry Potion and Matte Clay are key for current longer, looser looks.
“Working with OSMO this last year has been excellent and opened my eyes to how a massive company operates. Our job is to stay updated on fashions and styles and provide images to match. Working with OSMO has improved the way we go about our images and social media in a more professional manner.”
Back when they met – and Greg was still female – they said they wanted to leave a mark on Scottish barbering. You could argue they already have, but 2018 is already shaping up to be another impressive year.
“Growth is something that is always on our minds and we discuss it regularly. Our future is looking very promising and we feel we’re just getting started.
We’re always looking at ways to drive the brand forward and push our brand. Shop number two is on the horizon and loads of other opportunities, so 2018 is going to be Slick!” says Eric.
Now for the million-dollar question. Psychologists have long theorised the essence of a happy relationship but failed. W.C Fields postulated never work with children, animals or mates. Ok, I may have added the last part but mine could fall into either of the previous two categories. But what do Greg and Eric believe the key is to their partnership?
“The secret to a good partnership in business is trust and honesty. We agreed at the start of the venture to be honest and that loyalty makes the partnership bulletproof. If Eric decides to go to Nando’s with his chums and uses the business card to pay for it he’ll drop me a text: ‘Greg, I bought some chicken off the card, just so you know’. Something as simple as being honest about your chicken purchases keeps us right,” smiles Greg.
“We’ve only ever fallen out once… in Australia. He ate the last ham sandwich,” admits Eric. “Our budget was tighter back then but we came out stronger after the incident.”