Brand Masters is a new series that explores what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur in the contemporary landscape of culture. Whether you’re building a name for yourself or your label/store, these individuals have gone through the process and drop dimes.
Eric Roa is a barber and entrepreneur better known these days simply as Pacinos. The New York native and Florida transplant took an OG road to get to the helm of one of the most successful grooming lines found nationwide — Pacinos Signature Line. We say OG not because we’re trying to date him, but because when Pacinos started out, barber school wasn’t even a thing yet; back then, you had to go to cosmetology school. So how did a kid from Queens with a stint in the Navy and school at night manage to end up in Target, Walgreens and CVS locations around the country? By dressing for the part, staying ready and by treating himself as the customer.
Queens born and raised just rolls right off the tongue. When he started out cutting hair for the homies in the early to mid-90s, there wasn’t form of social media and the word “barber” had a stereotype of an old dude cutting hair.
After moving to South Florida in his teenage years, Pacinos got his girlfriend pregnant and wanted to take care of his family properly, so he joined the Navy. He also felt like he needed that discipline, structure and attention to detail at that point in his life. That was a blessing in disguise because he had time to really let the thought of becoming a professional barber marinate in his mind. So he attended cosmetology school at night to get his license – there were no barber schools back then.
It suits me
Right time, right place. Pacinos broke through stereotypes of what a barber was right as the internet started coming out of its infancy and becoming a teenage menace, growing at a rapid pace. Just as MySpace took over and hair shows grew from the exposure, he knew that he had to present himself in the right way for whenever an opportunity could come along. Although barbershops heavily influenced fashion on the streets, Pacinos knew that unless you’re a somebody, that dress code wouldn’t fly in a business environment outside the shop.
So Pacinos always showed up in a suit to hair shows, looking dapper, getting side-eyed, until it paid off and people starting biting him, realizing that it’s more than being a barber, it’s being a brand and a business.
“People always think that the smartest people are the ones that achieve and are successful, I tend to think that the people who don’t really know the most are the ones that really achieve the most because we’re the ones that are constantly learning and aren’t scared to learn, and aren’t scared to ask those stupid questions.”
The suit is all a part of Pacinos branding and his mental state. Dressing the part is half the battle, being ready when called upon, is the other half. Like Angel Villegas said, invest in yourself.
When you are the founder, your brand should reflect your own lifestyle. In the case of Pacinos, he always made himself consumer number one and always thought of what products he needed.
And that line of thought directly translated into his brand strategy and continues to drive his innovations. He gives a couple of examples: their beard pencil and how he brought pomades to market on the East Coast. All of this while staying authentic like Hayden Cassidy said.
“For me, I understood that, alright, if I wake up and I go to a meeting, looked this way, or if I wake up and I go to a meeting this way, personally, Ima feel a lot better going in a suit – as my own aura, as my own energy. And then, on top of that, yes, the person sitting across from the table is going to also look at me in a different way. So, we have to understand that we’re still living in a world that, unfortunately, sometimes perception is reality, you know what I’m saying?”
By understanding what the consumer’s needs are, Pacinos products gain traction organically before a large marketing budget is thrown in. Spend smarter, not harder.
And like we said earlier, Pacinos figured it out and helped paved the way for today’s industry. He used guerilla marketing on his social channels early on to gain a following and reach customers that identified with him. But most importantly, Pacinos has always been ready in case an opportunity calls. That’s how he landed Target from a distributor introduction.
“They saw all of the guerilla marketing that we were doing as a brand, and all of the socials that we were doing. They said, ‘Hey, let’s try you out on Target.com and see if there’s any type of movement’, so, sure enough, within 3, 4 months they saw the movement on Target.com, they were like, ‘We’re gonna give you 52 stores as a test market’, we went into 52 stores only, out of 1,500, and, uh, within 6 months they saw the movement of 52 stores and they ranked us up to 200 more stores, so now we’re in 252, and like, every year they kept giving us more, and now we’re nationwide, 1,500, and, uh, since then, again, we’ve gotten into Walgreens, CVS, RiteAid and Harmon’s.”
Being ready and outworking yourself daily is what it means to be an entrepreneur. Genuinely wanting to help people, executing, and never thinking you’re too big like Jay Majors says, is the key to success. (That’s the entrepreneur mentality that has made Pacinos and Jay Majors such good friends and associates.) Your circle should lift you up, not bring you down. Pacinos finishes his Target story and how he beat out the competition (which was more qualified on paper) for the deal.
Also as a part of readiness, set realistic goals that are achievable.
And don’t be afraid to learn along the way!
Providing for his family is Pacinos’ key to happiness and success and he’s journeyed a long way to arrive at it. He leaves everyone with battle-tested advice on hiring.
Drake probably said it best, “started from the bottom now we here.” Pacinos’ journey was trailblazing and set the standard for what a barber could accomplish as an entrepreneur and business-minded individual that also treats themselves like their number 1 customer. There’s hope for everyone else to break into shelves across the nation too — now you know how.
This series was made possible by Squire, the premier barbershop POS software. To learn more, hit up getsquire.com.
Written by Matt Peng
Interview conducted by Curvel Baptiste
Transcription by Olivia Hawkins
Produced by Madeline Carpentiere
Photos via Eric “Pacinos” Roa