If you intend to break into the hair business, then you will need to bring something unique. After all, it will be the business that stands out from the crowd that will bring in the business it needs to stay alive. That has not been a problem for Bishops Barbershop.

Leo Rivera, as the founder of Bishops, has thrown out the traditional style found within hair salons and barbershops. Those traditional images have been replaced with a new, hip style which can be appreciated by the younger generations. For those with the right business mind, Bishops has recently started franchising.

We’ve recently had the opportunity to ask Leo a few questions about his business and learn some more about what he’s looking for in a franchisee.

What is Bishops Barbershop? How long has it been in business?

Bishops Barbershop, cuts and colors for men and women, is a new kind of barbershop for Generations X, Y and Z that delivers high-end salon quality at affordable prices in a casual, fun environment that includes edgy artwork and music, and trend-setting stylists. Clients are taken on a walk-in only basis, and choose from an a la carte menu of services that includes style, shampoo, blow dry, a variety of cut and color options or even a hot towel shave. A complementary bottle of cold Miller High Life beer is offered to clients 21 and older. I opened the first Bishops Barbershop in Portland in 2001, and now have six locations open across the city.

Why did you decide to franchise your business?

We want to build on our success, and franchising is the next logical stop in the growth of the company. Organic growth has worked very well in Portland, and now it’s time to extend the brand. Hair care is a recession-proof industry, so many people want to be part of the Bishop’s concept right now, and franchising is the most effective way to offer them the opportunity to do that.

What separates Bishops from other barbershops on the market?

I started Bishop’s to fill the niche between national haircut chains, traditional barbershops and full-service salons, to bring a new kind of neighborhood barbershop to the younger generation. Bishops is more than just a place to get a haircut; it’s a lifestyle. People come in to Bishops to hang out, talk, have a good time and get high-end salon quality service without the pretentiousness or expensive prices.

What inspired you to launch your business?

I got tired of paying $45 every time I wanted a haircut. And, I loved the social aspects of the old school barbershops like you see in the movies, and Bishops is a 21st century version of those, targeted to a young generation. We’re a poor man’s social club, and we like to be a part of the community. Another goal I wanted to accomplish was to support local artists, musicians and designers. Hair stylists are creative types, and they are plugged in to the creative community. Bishops is actively involved in making the community better through participating in local charities and non-profit organizations, and playing the music, using the artwork and participating in fashion events that showcase local talent.

How does someone go about franchising one of your barbershops? What are your requirements and fees?

The franchise fee is $30,000 and the total investment ranges from $203,150 to $121,150. To find out more about our franchise opportunities, they just need to visit our website at www.bishopsbs.com or call 866.639.1388. Our team has had many years of barbershop, retail and franchising experience, and we bring a hands-on approach to our training and field support of franchisees. We work with our franchisees every step of the way in how to create the Bishops mystique in their particular markets so that they are building their own business while building our mutual brand.

While you were starting your business or after the launch, were there any problems you might have encountered? What were they? How did you manage to work around it and what did you learn from the experience?

Actually, the only problem we had was when we strayed from our core brand. We had established five successful locations in Portland, and were well-known and loved for the fun and energy we brought to a fairly staid, established industry. We opened one shop that was a “salon” concept and as Bishops, it just did not work. We knew right away that we had made a mistake, and quickly closed down the Salon and converted it back to the successful Bishops Barbershop format. That location is now doing very well in a very short period of time. I learned that the Bishops brand is well-established, well-liked and that it should not be altered.

Did you have any previous experience that you were able to bring with you into the launch of Bishops? What was it and how has it helped?

My experience is not in hair care. But, I do have a creative background. My parents are immigrants from the Philippines, who settled in Seattle. I’m a child of the ‘80s and loved the street scene around me. I got my degree in industrial design/product design from the University of Washington, and have spent time as an intern for a furniture maker, a sales manager for Sysco, and organizing and marketing events for Concept Entertainment Group up and down the West Coast.

I wanted to be my own boss by the time I was 30, but I didn’t want to be just another entrepreneur. I wanted to create a brand that was edgy, hip and fun, but in a dependable industry. I decided on hair care. Everyone gets their hair done, no matter what the economy, and I wanted to do it different. So I created Bishops, where hairstyle meets lifestyle, for customers and the stylists. Creative people work best in a creative environment, and that’s the reason we feature edgy artwork and music, and there are no restrictions on fashion for the stylists. They deliver fantastic results and build strong customer relationships because their creativity is enhanced and their interaction with customers is relaxed.

What kind of customer base does your business bring in? What feedback have you received?

Bishops Barbershop offers cuts and colors for men and women, so our primary target market is men and women, aged 18-40, but we have many customers of both sexes and all ages. Our a la carte services include shampoo, blow-dry, style, retouch, a variety of cut and color options and even a hot towel shave.

Our customers love Bishops. Everybody is always talking about how cool we are. Clients can come in and get their hair done whenever it fits their schedule, rather than the salon’s or the stylist’s schedule and being forced to make an appointment. Our walk-in only policy is enhanced by the fact that we have enough stylists to meet demand, rather than just the one or two barbers found in a traditional shop. And it’s a fun, culturally progressive environment. If customers have to wait, we offer those 21 and over a cold Miller High Life, and there’s always conversations going on about what’s happening around town, interesting artwork on the walls to look at, and cool music to listen to.

Do you have any specific goals for Bishops over the next few years? What would you like to see happen?

We are targeting major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Canada. We look at markets rather than number of shops. We are looking for franchisees who are interested in multi-units rather than single units, and by that, I mean 5-10 shops in each market. We’d like to open five to 10 new markets in 2009, and have 10 to 15 new markets open by 2013.

What advice do you have for anyone considering your franchise opportunity?

Hair care is a $55 billion dollar industry, and Bishops brings something new to that traditional, long-standing service. We are very appealing to entrepreneurs who are looking for something a bit out of the ordinary, but still accessible. Bishops thrives on and enhances the freedom, creativity and sense of community found in every city.

In addition to making money, Bishops Barbershop symbolizes the modern neighborhood. We care about being part of the community and making it better. If you believe, like I do, that you can have fun and make money, Bishops is the franchise opportunity for you.