On a hunt for lunch around Taman Tun during the RMCO, I came across a truck with big bold letters that said, “BARBER SHOP”. Now that’s not something I’d see every day.
Curious, I did some digging to find that this was not just one man’s hustle from his truck, but a whole social enterprise was behind this Mobile Saloon.
A Barbershop On Wheels
It was founded by Yogendra Selvarajah (or Joe, as he’s referred to by his peers) in 2018. As a self-made businessman, he understood what it took to acquire the skills that led to gaining the courage to own and run a business.
“After supplying materials for more than 300 food trucks and studying this industry, I found it most practical to set up a mobile barbershop,” he said.
“This is because we don’t have to constantly supply materials for this business compared to food trucks, where you need to constantly purchase and restock supplies.”
Each truck is equipped with everything a barber needs to service their clients comfortably. It seats a maximum of 2 at a time, with tablets to display ads from their sponsors.
Aside from providing youths with barbering skills, Joe also helps them learn how to eventually become self-employed with the same model.
The mobile salons are meant to provide a starting point for their graduate barbers in starting their own entrepreneurial journey with low capital.
Owning a fully equipped mobile salon is an RM170,000 investment which is inclusive of insurance, road tax, licensing, permits, etc., and every unit will also be reviewed quarterly to account for any design changes, cost-saving initiatives, and inflation.
Following A Paved Road
Training is provided to candidates of any gender from any background. They just need to have a strong desire to learn the craft of barbering or hairdressing. It’s a bonus if they also dream of becoming an entrepreneur.
These candidates will be enrolled as students in Mobile Saloon’s 12-month training programme. Subsequently, the barbers will attend business management courses to learn how to run their own mobile barbershop truck.
Full scholarships are provided to the students who must also sign a commitment bond to work with the company or their salon partners for a minimum of 24 months. If they leave earlier, they’ll have to pay an RM6,500 fee to the company.
Trainers come from a few salons around KL and Selangor, namely Jay Hair Design, Andy Salon & Academy, and Meylis Hair Salon. They’ll also provide internship placements or fulltime employment opportunities at their physical outlets.
So far, 9 barbers and hairdressers have graduated from their first batch, with another 30 in training.
I like to label Mobile Saloon as a “people opportunity” rather than a “business opportunity” type company. I’m passionate about creating new job opportunities for the recently unemployed and the youths who are entering the job market. Starting the mobile barbershop is just the means to this end.
Yogendra Selvarajah, founder of Mobile Saloon.
A Hair Parlour’s Extended Arm
More than providing job opportunities to young graduates, Joe said the mobile barbershops can also come as a worthwhile investment for existing hair salons.
“The mobile barbershop is a viable and sustainable business model whether as a social enterprise or in the traditional sense. Investing in a Mobile Saloon truck is a relatively small capital outlay,” said Joe.
He explained that the rate of return for an investor is about 22% for the first 5 years. This amount can double once the financial commitments of the truck are paid off.
As the hairdressing graduates are assigned to the mobile salons by the social enterprise, it takes the burden off hiring and finding replacement staff for investors. Hence, stakeholders will be pretty hands-off with the barbershop as Mobile Saloon will manage all operations centrally.
However, Joe did explain that the only effort expected from an investor is in driving client traffic to the mobile barbershops by word of mouth.
Though operations and training are now halted by the MCO, there are 2 existing Mobile Saloon trucks in the Klang Valley. Both units are owned by barbershop entrepreneurs looking to expand their existing businesses.
At the same, they share Joe’s passion for creating employment opportunities for local barbers and hairdressers in Malaysia.
- You can find out more about Mobile Saloon here.
- You can read more about other Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Mobile Saloon
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