For the constant stream of men flocking to her door and waiting patiently in comfortable surroundings for their turn, there is one thing in common.
They all really like their barber. Not only for the obvious attributes that an attractive woman brings to her job, and not only because she is very good at what she does. No, there’s a lot more than that. In terms of energy, vision and focus, Lisa Newton, owner of Mission Barbers, is a very positive and dynamic lady. And her spirit is infectious.
Her little shop is always a beehive of activity, a lively place full of conversation and good cheer. How did all this come about?
“It was just taking advantage of a good opportunity”, she says. Lisa remembers cutting Dave Adams’ hair on his day off while she was working in an Abbotsford barbershop. Dave, of course, was a Mission City councillor and then owner of Mission Barbers. “He wanted to retire, and was always teasing me about buying his business. I thought he was kidding – never figured it would go anywhere”.
And then Dave Adams passed away very suddenly. His widow had heard about Lisa, and presented her with an offer she couldn’t pass up. So how does a young single mother working as a barber come up with that kind of cash?
“I did have to get a bank loan”, she says. “But I also had a sizeable down payment. Old time barbers are a thrifty bunch, and my first boss really ingrained in me the value of saving money. ‘It’s not what you make that’s important’, he would tell me. ‘It’s what you spend. If you can’t make it on what I’m paying you, it’s your fault, not mine’”.
Born in Nanaimo, Lisa actually got into the hair business when she was only 15. “I’m not sure I should tell you this”, she laughs, “But I’m dyslexic. School was a big problem for me, so I quit and went to work as a hairdresser. I loved the cutting and styling part, but the complexities of hair colouring brought out my disability”. She gives a rueful smile. “I got fired from a lot of jobs”, she confides. “But that experience taught me a huge lesson. Go with what you’re good at, forget about your weaknesses, and don’t listen to what other people tell you. They’re not walking in your shoes”.
So Lisa worked five years for the Abbotsford barber, learning her trade and, as a bright and sociable young woman, attracting more than her share of satisfied clients. Life was good, and then one day her boss announced that he was going to retire and close the shop. “My first thought was – what am I going to do”? she says. “And then my second thought was: I’m going to make this work”.
Lisa remembered cutting the hair of a man who had just arrived from Ontario and was in the process of opening his own barber shop. “He was brand new and had no thoughts about hiring an assistant”, she recalls, “So my job was to change his mind. I was relentless”!
She sat in his shop nearly every day, promising him her huge clientele of customers, promising him success – “the moon, the stars, whatever it took. Whenever he’d look at me funny and say ‘Well, I don’t know’, I’d tell him that I knew what I was doing, and that I’d make it work. I just wore him down. That’s the secret you know – if you really want to get a job, just keep bugging and bugging. Never ever give up”.
Eventually Lisa was hired. Working for Jerry for just over two years, she saved her money and waited for an opportunity to present itself. She took over Mission Barbers in early 2009. “When I first opened the door, I thought to myself ‘Oh my God, what have I done’”? she remembers. “The shop was not exactly customer friendly, and that’s putting it mildly”.
She ended up gutting the place – new floors, new paint, new decor, and new furniture. And just how does a single woman accomplish all that? “I have great friends”, she says simply. “The power of good friends is awesome”.
Today her cozy and inviting business is testimony not only to the power and expertise of Lisa’s friends, but also to her vision and tenacity. Business success does not come easily to a single mother, and there was much sacrifice along the way. Lisa’s face turns serious as she remembers. “You know what”? she asks. “When you’re trying to accomplish something really important, you do what you have to do”.
This long time Mission resident has very nice things to say about the city. “I had a business issue a few months ago”, she remembers, “So I called directly to Mayor Ted (Adlem). “You know that he took time out of his busy day to come down personally and help out my small business? I really appreciated that”.
Her interest in Mission goes beyond her business, and she shares her vision for the downtown and particularly the little mall where she is located. “It’s the little things that bring out the character of this area” she says, and gestures towards the blank wall adjacent to her shop. “Wouldn’t this be a great spot for a mural”? she asks. “And a nice little garden over there? Our downtown has so much good potential. It just needs a bit of lushing up”.
With her spark, tenacity, talent and a self proclaimed relentless business woman, Lisa Newton is a real contributor to this community. Mission is fortunate to have her.