Ryan Laurente and Michael Salazar (left) opened their barbershop Split the Guard in Everett’s Executive Beauty Suites during the pandemic, and have seen continued growth in their business since then.

Ryan Laurente and Michael Salazar (left) opened their barbershop Split the Guard in Everett’s Executive Beauty Suites during the pandemic, and have seen continued growth in their business since then.

‘The perfect stepping stone’

Everett barbers found the ideal space to open up shop and grow their business

In the modern history of hair, no moment had more influence than the spring of 2020. Long, shaggy locks were a symbol of the early pandemic — with most of the world locked down, all of us earned a newfound appreciation for our barbers and hairstylists.

For barbers Ryan Laurente and Michael Salazar, the pandemic was more than just a pause — it was a chance for a fresh start.

“Michael and I were working at the same barbershop before the pandemic, and had already started talking about getting our own retail space,” Laurente says.

As soon as the lockdown hit, they knew they weren’t going to go back to the same routine. But they weren’t sure what their first move would be.

“The idea of Executive Beauty Suites kind of fell into our laps. It was a great way to get started and see what might happen, and a great stepping stone for Michael and I.”

Executive Beauty Suites is a business incubator where new and established entrepreneurs who offer hair, beauty and spa services can operate a business and receive mentorship. Laurente and Salazar had an established list of loyal clients, but the uncertainty of the pandemic made it a risky time to start a business. At Executive Beauty Suites they’ve been able to launch Split the Guard comfortably, and turn their attention towards expansion.

Growth in hair and growth in business

Barbering has grown a lot in Washington since Laurente and Salazar first met a decade ago.

“It’s so cold here, everyone just wore hats. The only guys who were interested in stylish haircuts were people from out of town,” Laurente laughs.

But awareness and appreciation for tight edges, smooth fades and beard grooming has grown, and Split the Guard has established a reputation for delivering stylish cuts in a great atmosphere. When they started at Executive Beauty Suites they occupied a Single suite, but within a few months had moved into a Double with room for two barber chairs.

Laycee Gwyther, founder of Executive Beauty Suites, also offers business mentorship, networking and classes to the business owners in the space. While Laurente says he hasn’t taken advantage of many of those perks, he has noted the supportive atmosphere.

“Laycee encourages everyone to be their own boss, and she wants us to keep growing. She shares clients and helps out any way she can.”

Executive Beauty Suites empowers new and established entrepreneurs by providing an environment where independent businesses can thrive at 111 SE Everett Mall Way, Building F, Everett. Learn more at exbsuites.com.

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