One of the most powerful rags-to-riches stories is that of Charlie McCoy. He’s a master barber, a serial entrepreneur, a successful New York-based investor, a dedicated father, and an author, as well as a men’s grooming expert with over 20 years of barber and beauty industry experience.
Charlie spent ten years with the global non-profit JW.org Watchtower, Bethel, and five years working at the L’Oréal USA parent company’s global brand, Kiehl’s. He has a Babson education and is the founder and CEO of Artisan Luxury Brands, a CPG parent company and creative agency based in New York City. He’s also the founder of The Grooming Alchemist, a non-profit on a mission to improve the mental health, wellness, and grooming of At-Risk Youth and Former High-Control group members, aka cult survivors.
Charlie’s journey of personal struggle, PTSD, and leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses is central to his passion for mental health advocacy. Through TGA, he works to support cult survivors, underrepresented youth, and men’s mental wellness by offering programming and mentorship to these overlooked communities.
Charlie works as an industry leader to build brick-and-mortar and e-commerce businesses. He has founded six successful companies in the past five years and leads a diverse team of creatives. He owns and operates a global portfolio of growth brands. Charlie is a member of the Black Economic Alliance and the Black Government contracting club, both organizations supporting the economic empowerment of the African American Community.
Because of his credentials, Charlie has been featured in several high profile publications such as Forbes, Business Insider, CBS, Fox, NBC, Medium, NY Times, Miami Wire, LA Wire, CEO Weekly, Thrive Global, Future Sharks, Disrupt Magazine, The Knockturnal, Yahoo Finance and even Us Insider List of Top 10 Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2021.
StarCentral Magazine recently sat down with Charlie to find out more about his journey to entrepreneurship, and here’s what went down.
What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?
I’ve had my business since May of 2017. I’ve grown the brand’s revenue 35%-65% year over year over the last five years. One of the tools I’ve used is YouTube videos with clients praising our business. The other tool that has helped boost our traffic is our secret recipe of Search Engine Optimization for keeping us at the top of the google search for my category of businesses in New York City.
What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?
We leverage Instagram and YouTube to increase our brand’s awareness. We have organically grown our email list to over 12,000 and our total Social Following to over 11,000.
What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?
We have had a collaborative journey the last few years, working with various brand deals and sponsored content. We recently worked with Harry’s global shaving brand to produce a video campaign focused on Men’s Health and Grooming. These campaigns are always productive in various ways that might not be noticeable immediately in terms of revenue. The goodwill and brand awareness that these partnerships create goes a long way when it comes to building a brand.
What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?
Our main tactic for engaging new customers is word of mouth and our second tactic is ad funnels. We found that taking really good care of clients goes a long way in making them your best promoters. We also found that our ads across the various social media funnels help keep us top of mind for new prospects online.
What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?
We found digital marketing to be one of the most effective ways to build traffic for a brick-and-mortar. This method has helped us connect with thousands of new customers each year for the past few years.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
In 2021 I had to decide on the future of two of my store locations in Manhattan. The pandemic had depressed overall commerce in the city, and the growth we had experienced leveled out at our most recent location downtown. The uptown location was doing four times the sales of the downtown location. I had to decide what location to focus all our attention on making a success. I chose to open a new location, consolidating both stores into one new flagship space in the area where our biggest concentration of customers drove the most sales.
What mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?
I had made mistakes in hiring over the years since I began the business. I have had over two dozen employees in the last few years. Many of them were solid, but several of them were not a good fit for the business and made things worse before they were unhired. Now I do things differently by having my management team interview candidates for a few rounds before I vet them at the last interview round.
What new business would you love to start?
I’m working on starting a new SAAS business that helps entrepreneurs build the world’s best barbershops. It’s a technology-driven subscription business education, and digital marketing agency focused on the 5 Billion Dollar Global Barbershop Owners Market.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?
I would do more customer research on where I plan to open a location and establish a shorter-term lease option because market conditions and business cycles often change. You need to keep lease terms flexible.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Some of the best advice I have ever been given was to keep growing as a person and travel as often as possible. To the extent that I grow, my business grows and gets better, more efficient, and organized; it all starts with me. Then the second-best advice is to find people you trust who have been through challenges with you, keep them close, and position them well in the business.
What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
I would tell a newbie entrepreneur to invest in coaching and business advisory at the start-up phase so that you can shorten the learning curve to success and maybe avoid some of the pitfalls that early founders get dinged on.