Back in 2008, before Instagram influencers were a thought, the world was quite different than today. The mortgage crisis was causing an economic depression, Brangelina introduced their twins—Vivienne and Knox—to the world, Hulu had just launched and YouTube was a three-year-old online video sharing platform.
Al Reid, then a NYC barber, decided to join YouTube on September 10, 2008. At the tim,e he had been a barber for 19 years and liked to dabble in videos. After his first post, the next morning he had over 6,000 views! As his posted videos increased, so did his viewership. For five years, he was the most viewed barber and quickly reached a million views, thus he became known as Alsmillions—currently at 17,592,569 views and counting. Reid was also the first barber to receive a partnership with YouTube, meaning he made money from his videos.
While Reid had a creative design background; he didn’t set out to be a barber. Born and raised in Harlem, he held different jobs including enrollment manager at a business school in Manhattan. During this time, he would visit the barbershop weekly to maintain his professional image. By then, regulations for student enrollment changed and his career wasn’t so lucrative. He recalled when he went for his weekly cuts, the barbers always seemed to have their pockets full of money. He was familiar with clippers by doing his own personal grooming. In 1989, he enrolled in Apex Barber School in NYC.
In conjunction with getting serious about his craft and making his YouTube debut, Reid attended his first trade show in 2008 at Bronner Brothers in Atlanta. He attended education classes and absorbed all the stage teaching techniques. He says, “I came back to the shop the next day with a new purpose, a new desire to teach. I knew I could teach because I had pastored for years, and worked as a motivational speaker and product closer in corporate America.”
Reid earned his instructor’s license in 2010 and continued to post videos to YouTube, grow his audience, and teach in-person classes. Ever the entrepreneur, he launched a bump care product and wrote the book, Anatomy of a Barber, to share his success insights.
In 2016, he moved to Greenville, South Carolina with the desire to open an upscale barbershop. An opportunity came with a 4,000-square-foot space that needed remodeling work. After reading his book, the building’s owners offered Reid the space as they believed in his vision for a new barber shop. Along with his three sons, Reid put in three and a half months of sweat equity and opened Boss Barber Studio.
The shop had four chairs, but Reid worked alone for a year as he wanted to find someone whom he could count on to stay. To build his clientele, he opened at 6:30 A.M. on Saturdays for the third-shift workers at the local BMW plant and he was the only barber open on Sundays and Mondays. His first hire was Ciara Harris who stayed with Boss Barber until the pandemic. The second Boss Barber Studio opened in 2017, four miles away and closer “to the hood”—but a cornerstone in the community, and the third location 30 miles away in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
This year Reid just commenced his first OG (Offering Game) Barber Conference in Greenville. Barbers from coast to coast attended business and education classes. Awards were presented to recognize barbers who Offered Game to other barbers and the industry. He hopes to have the conference annually to pay homage to barbers, connecting older and newer barbers for personal and business growth. He strongly believes in mentorship to grow in all areas.
A trailblazer for YouTube, Alsmillions has over 35,000 followers with 538 uploaded videos. He also has 6,600+ followers on the gram. At 61 years of age, he’s okay with those numbers. He knows content is key and cautions younger barbers to create good content that maintains the dignity of the profession. He says, “I know prank videos get views, but do you want to be respected or be seen as a joke? Together young and old, we are barbers, there’s no need for disrespect.”
Originally posted on Modern Salon