This Barbershop Uses Robots to Fix Your Hairline

Barber Surgeons Guild has it all: Med-spa treatments, a hair care line and beer on tap

In Straight from the Founder’s Mouth, we ask entrepreneurs in emerging and fast-growing markets to share intel on what it took to launch their business, and how they’re continuing to thrive during growth. Today we’re talking to Justin E. Rome, M.D., and entrepreneur Ari S. Goldberg—who founded and sold media company StyleCaster in 2014—about their L.A.-based venture, Barber Surgeons Guild.

Part hipster barbershop, part medical spa for men, with a product line and content arm to support and enrich the brick-and-mortar business, Barber Surgeons Guild is a new breed of grooming startup. Some clients come in for a whiskey and a straight-razor shave, some partake in a robotic hair-regeneration treatment (sticker price: $8,000 and up), others do Botox and a beer. If it helps men look more handsome, it’s pretty much fair game at BSG. Learn the history behind the brand’s name and where Rome and Goldberg will take BSG next.

First, can you describe your business in a few sentences? What range of services do you offer?

Justin E. Rome, M.D.: Barber Surgeons Guild is a one-stop shop to keep men looking their best, from traditional quality grooming services such as precision haircuts and straight-razor shaves to advanced medical therapies such as robotic hair restoration and noninvasive laser treatments for removing unwanted hair, tattoos and stubborn body fat. We bridge the gap between style and medical aesthetics, and see both arms of the company as complementary to each other.

Why did you feel this was the right business to go into—at this time, in this place, in this way?

Ari S. Goldberg: With the success of Drybar and Harry’s, and the billion-dollar acquisition of Dollar Shave Club by Unilever, I started thinking about the white space in the men’s grooming market. I saw an opportunity on the cusp of consumer and medical, as well as a business that was digitally native with brick-and-mortar locations. I started meeting with the top doctors in NYC and L.A. and thought they were more like used car salesmen than doctors. I knew I wanted to partner with a doctor, and when I met Justin, I immediately knew we could create an industry leader. We share a big vision, have different skill sets that are complementary and share the same values, which feels like a recipe for a unicorn.

Who came up with the idea for BSG and why does your partnership make sense?

Rome: I’ll take credit for the namesake, but the BSG concept was a natural evolution of many discussions between Ari and myself. We had a similar vision of how to refresh this outdated space and make it more modern.

I’ve personally always been amazed to know that barbers and surgeons were really one trade for about 500 years, prior to their separation in the late 1700s. Many don’t realize this, but the barber-surgeons of the Middle Ages were the forefathers of modern-day surgery, and they also performed haircuts and shaves. Our name pays tribute to this piece of history by once again including both barbers and surgeons under one roof to provide the most comprehensive services to our clients.

If we were potential investors or brand partners, what would you tell us about your business?

Rome: There are two major things going on right now in the spaces we play in: One, hair restoration is growing faster than any other aesthetic procedure for men or women, and the average age now for these procedures is 34 years old. This is a dramatic change from 10 years ago, yet most hair restoration businesses have not updated their procedures to include modern robotics, nor have they piqued the interest of the new, younger clientele.

Two, the men’s grooming space has boomed in recent years. This prompted us to tap into our resources of barbers and surgeons to develop world-class haircare products. We are first-to-market with a variety of styling products that have these bioactive ingredients.

How have you marketed or otherwise grown your business since you started?

Goldberg: The last company I started and sold was a big digital media company in the fashion and beauty space. I quickly realized that we could create the same infrastructure—better, faster and more cost-effective—and make two changes. One, create content for men, not women. Two, sell our own products instead of selling advertising for major brands to help them sell their products. With that said, we have an industry-leading digital and social media platform. We create extensive features and social media content, original photography and video, and we activate through SEO, paid search, paid social, influencers, PR and a number of other marketing tactics.

Who are your target clients? Where were they going or what were they doing before they found you?

Rome: Our target clients are men in their 20s to early 50s. From the medical side, they were going to places that were never comfortable—female-oriented medi spas, plastic surgeons or hair-loss clinics, which feel so dated and not cool at all. Our concept has beer on draft and a whiskey bar on top of all the advanced treatments we offer. On the grooming side, we block off an hour for a haircut. There is no rushing our work at BSG.

Tell us about the product line. Why was this a priority for you?

Rome: We wanted to create a hair care line that doesn’t just perform well from a style perspective, smell great and be something people want to use daily. We also wanted to fortify each product in the line with bioactive ingredients to keep hair looking fuller and healthier. We compete in a product space called cosmeceuticals, which are cosmetic products backed by medical research and backed by a physician’s practice. Some examples of such products include Dr. Obagi’s and Dr. Murad’s lines, but those are mainly targeting women. We aim to be the men’s equivalent (but better).

What have you learned about men and grooming since you started the business?

Rome: Since starting BSG, we’ve had an unbelievably positive response to our concept of bringing together in-house surgeons and barbers. Some of our clients just come regularly to the grooming salon, while others just come to the medical component, while many others visit both. The best thing about our concept is that there is something for everyone. I’ve learned that men want comfortable access to many of the offerings women have but do not want to consume them in a female-oriented environment.

What’s something most men don’t realize about hair loss or aging that you’re combating against?

Rome: Most men do not realize the advanced therapies we have at our disposal these days,including AI-driven robotic hair replacement. There is just so little content out there that men are blindly trusting outdated practices. We aim to be the content provider that educates and empowers men. Same goes for aging: We have the most high-tech lasers to refresh the skin,for instance, but most men have no clue yet that such technology even exists unless they really search hard for it! We are changing this.

How do you hope to grow your business in the future? Additional locations or new services?

Rome: We are set to open our second flagship location this year, then continue to roll out additional locations in the future in major cities. We also aim to diversify our product line and expand to more products that help men look great.

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