Lori Goins was an experienced cosmetologist who was helping to run a small thriving salon when the most devastating tornado to hit the United States since 1947 struck her town of Joplin, Missouri, in May of 2011. While the physical salon experienced some damage, everything from lost equipment to insulation embedded in everything, the real threat to the existence of the business was what happened outside of its walls.
During its 30-minute rampage, the tornado carved a path of destruction that reached a maximum width of one mile through the southern part of the city. Nearly 1,000 people were injured and 161 had perished. Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed in an instant, resulting in a staggering number of people suddenly displaced or jobless.
Goins herself jumped into the recovery process, helping the community search for missing people and clean up after the destruction. But as the town slowly started to rebuild, the future for Goins was unclear. “So many of our clients were displaced, it was impossible to continue making a living wage, so I supplemented my income by working in a deli and eventually in the General Mills flour factory,” Goins says.
Forging a New Path
Goins had always specialized in cutting men’s hair, and after the tornado struck she learned that in Missouri she could earn a crossover barber’s license by taking a three-week razor course, so she did.
Shortly before the tornado, V’s Barbershop had been scheduled to open their 15th location with Lucia Crawford at the helm as its franchisee owner. (The brand currently has 55 locations throughout the United States.) “The tornado ripped off the porch and blew out all the windows, and Crawford had to make repairs to actually get it open,” says Emily Hutcheson-Brown, chief operations officer for V’s Barbershop.
At the salon, Goins had specialized in men's hair, so she took notice of the barbershop. “I never thought I would work for a franchise, much less own one, but the V’s brand had the smell of history to it, the aesthetics were on point, and they operated around an authentic commitment to excellence and a drive to creating an experience for the customer—not just the first time, but every time.”
Looking back, Goins laughs, admitting she pestered Crawford to grant her an appointment for her to do a demo cut. Finally Crawford relented, which resulted in Goins being hired on. “I was so excited, but I also felt like I was starting all over.”
Goins learned that in Missouri, she could earn a crossover barber's license by taking a three-week razor course, so she did.
Working Her Way Back Up
For five years Goins put her head down and worked hard building and servicing her clientele. “I would work late into the night, sacrificing time with my boys and my wife,” she remembers. “In fact, there was a lady who lived across the street—she noticed I would work late and she often would call after dark to make sure I was okay.”
But the hard work came naturally to Goins, who inherited her work effort from her mother who worked multiple jobs raising Goins and her siblings and eventually became a successful real estate agent.
Eventually, Goins made lead barber, then she was the manager of the location for five years. Goins had been an instructor for more than 10 years, and she started instructing all the barbershop's apprentices.
Just before COVID struck, Hutcheson-Brown invited Goins to be one of the first members of a group of Elite Barbers who could represent the brand and teach the team members at opening franchises how different services are carried out the V’s way.
About three years ago, Crawford decided to sell the franchise as she prepared to relocate to Florida where she was opening a new V’s franchise, and she approached Goins about buying her out. Goins was all in, and after getting an appraisal done, bought out the franchise outright.
“It was an easy decision. Lucia had mentored me as a business leader through the years, and we have the best team I’ve ever worked with—they are awesome humans that happen to be bad-ass barbers.” Goins says. “Every one of us says ‘I love you’ before we leave for the day.”
As a manager, Goins knew she could expect support from V’s Headquarters. “They always answer your calls and are there if you have an issue, a technical problem or simply need to vent,” Goins says. “And I had been to many V’s Summits where we meet the faces behind the products we sell and communicate and celebrate with other franchises. I have so much respect for V’s Founder Jim Valenzuela because he creates an open table where everyone can speak freely. There are so many great leaders with different strengths, and everyone has a voice.”
As an owner, Goins loves that her family has become involved in the business, and she gets to spend more time with them. Goins’ wife became the manager, her oldest son and daughter-in-law help out, and both sons have shown an interest in getting their barber’s licenses. And, Goins appreciated that her mother got to see her become the barbershop’s owner before she passed away. “She was so proud,” Goins says.
Goins also loves supporting Joplin as a business owner. “A barbershop is supposed to be about community—it’s a meeting ground,” she says. “We recently lost two police officers in the community, and we offered every officer a fresh cut for the services—free of charge.”