Austin Arreola is an entrepreneur/barber from Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. I first met him through my good friend Hunter who referred me for a haircut. I went in thinking it would be a typical haircut but I was so wrong. Austin was working out of the barber school in Bloomington and working on opening his Refined Barbershop. Since then, he's successfully built his shop into one of the town's best barbershops.
Ben: Before we get into questions, can you give readers a brief introduction of yourself?
Austin: My name is Austin Arreola and I am 23 years young. I am a barber from Bloomington-Normal, Illinois and my shop is called the Refined Barbershop.
Ben: When and how did you discover your passion for being a barber?
Austin: By accident, at the same time it was my nature. The first time I cut my own hair was when I was twelve. It was experimental. I am artistic and artists do not typically go down the normal path. At that time, I didn’t know it would be a lifelong passion. I learned a lot from my close friend Jake who has been a mentor to me throughout the process. When I was 16, I started cutting my friend's hair. From that point on it was always a hobby next to my full-time job in carpentry. It wasn’t until this past year that I started chasing this passion full time.
Ben: It's amazing how we can stumble across a passion by accident! What progression have you seen throughout the years of being a barber? Either personally and professionally
Austin: Nonstop progression. I’ve learned a lot of boundaries in terms of relationships and business. I learned about the separation of business and friendships. The two are intertwined. Progression as a barber is non stop, I’m always learning and growing in my craft. I’ve learned how to manage better and perform better as a business owner.
Ben: You recently opened your barber shop named the Refined Barbershop, what was it like starting your first business?
Austin: When I initially made the jump from carpentry to barbering. The transition was easy because I had suppressed it for so long. It’s so hard to do it on your own and luckily I had a lot of support backing me. It was a process to make it more than just cutting hair. There were countless hours of paperwork and hands-on work to be done as well. The grind doesn’t stop for someone that is chasing their passion. There’s a lot of freedom being your own boss but it also comes with a lot of responsibility.
Ben: Who have been the biggest influences in your journey?
Austin: My mom has been a big influence because of her unconditional support and her work ethic. She taught how to work and get things done. In terms of actual barbers, Cassius taught me how to learn. He is very patient and light-hearted and he let me learn by doing things wrong which I struggled with. I’ve gotten better at learning from mistakes and Cassius helped me get to that point.
Ben: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
Austin: In a book Kinfolk, the way they word that question is “I have no idea” I know I want to accomplish bigger and better things. It’s responsible to have a five-year plan but I have no idea. I won’t be on a decline but I’m not sure where I will be in five years.
Ben: If you could have one person walk into the shop for a cut, who would it be?
Austin: The simple haircuts day to day are my favorite. There’s temptation to be recognized by someone big and famous but true enjoyment comes from those everyday people who come in and support the business and my craft.
Ben: What advice would you give to someone following their passion?
Austin: Never forget what made you passionate about it in the first place. As you become more recognized in your passion, there’s always something pulling at the core of who you are. I recognize that if you let yourself get too far away, the more lonely you will become. The farther you will be away from who you truly are.
Austin's humbleness and drive will take him wherever he wants in life. The way he runs his business is unlike anyone I've ever seen. Give him a follow on Instagram @refinedbarber.