A new barber shop with a mission has come to Madison. Inspire Barber and Beauty Salon, located at 4668 Cottage Grove, has a vision to uplift the city’s most vulnerable populations.
Shop owner Brian Britt had a long road to opening the doors on his own shop on November 4.
A Chicago native, Britt has spent the last 25 years in Madison and experienced the city’s best and worst.
“I didn’t go to college and everything from fresh out of the projects of Chicago to prison from drug selling, to carrying guns, I did that, but because I changed my life I wanted to give back,” says Britt, who is also the official barber for the Badger football team.
“My main thing is that young Black men need to see true entrepreneurship coming from where they’re from,” he says. “That’s where the ‘Inspire’ name comes from. It’s about being an inspiration to the youth.”
Britt had been cutting hair since he was child, getting his first pair of clippers in sixth grade. Both his mother and sister are also cosmetologists.
“You can say it’s hereditary,” he says.
From childhood he used the skill on and off, but it wasn’t until after he was released from prison that he began to look at it as a serious profession.
“I’ve realized it was not me who got myself this far, I truly believe God knew what he was doing with me,” Britt says.
He went on to work for several salons in the city and teach at a local school. Britt also attempted to open his own shop twice before with partnerships that didn’t work out.
This go around has been nothing but a blessing though, Britt says.
He did have trouble securing a location at first, with landlords citing unwanted perm smells and foot traffic as reason to deny him.
“The process was hard for me because everywhere I went I got denied,” Britt says.
Despite the challenges, Britt, also a minister at Mt Zion Baptist Church, leaned on his faith and his prayers were answered.
“One day we prayed at church and pastor asked for me to be blessed with a space and I went home that day and found this place online,” Britt recalls.
The location was formerly a salon but in need of repairs — repairs that Britt did himself in a month and a half.
The blessings kept coming and he was able get many of his shop’s needs met at little to no cost.
“People saw what I was doing and believed in the work,” Britt said.
The shop currently employs two barbers including Britt and one stylist, but he plans to expand. Britt says that there are many “kitchen stylists,” or unlicensed Black beauticians who are resigned to doing hair in their homes, who he’d like to assist with getting licensed and securing employment.
“When people come to Madison they don’t realize how many Black people are here so there’s not a lot of transportation to get to places that service Black hair,” he says.
Beyond the salon walls Britt plans to use the Inspire mission to reach those less fortunate. He aims to continue to provide free haircuts to YWCA residents and expand the service to other organizations such as the Salvation Army.
“When I was in the streets I took from the community and now it’s my time to give back to the community,” he said.
Britt’s future plans include expanding Inspire into a barber school and an overall ministry movement.
“If I’m not helping the community then it’s no use for Inspire Barber Shop,” Britt said. “We’re not just a salon or barber shop, we’re a family that is about building community.”