‘Hot’ problem for barbers solved by Mississippi State University student start-up

Story by James Carskadon. Photo by Logan Kirkland / © Mississippi State University

When Mississippi State agricultural engineering alumnus Thomas White started cutting hair as a hobby, he came across a problem many barbers have dealt with for decades — his electric clippers kept getting uncomfortably hot. Like most barbers, White started buying multiple pairs of clippers so he could keep cutting while the others cooled down. But conversations with one of his MSU classmates, Tyler Anthony, has led to the creation of a start-up company that is trying to make clippers in a better way.

With the help of MSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach, White and Anthony have engineered clippers that do not overheat and have created DueT Technology, LLC.

The company has been working with the MSU center for more than two years and recently received over $130,000 in investment funding from the Bulldog Angel Network, an independent group of venture capitalists that focuses on start-ups founded by MSU students, faculty, staff and alumni.

“In an industry that touches nearly every human head, they’re still basically using 60-year-old technology,” said Anthony, a senior computer engineering major from Jonesboro, Georgia.“This has created a big gap for a new, innovative electric clipper. Our product solves the problem of clippers overheating within 25 minutes. Barbers have had to have five, maybe six devices to cope with that.”

The clippers have a patent-pending design that uses an autonomous system to cool the device. The company expects to formally launch the product next year. Because barbers who cut the hair of African American and Latino customers primarily use clippers, this determined the company’s target market.

However, before launching the product, the team has been spending the last year building a brand that connects with amateur and professional barbers, as well as anyone interested in hair. The company’s YouTube page, Barber Style Directory, contains in-house tutorial videos that have received millions of views.

“We try to put out content that’s up to date. We don’t want to be doing haircuts that nobody cares about anymore. Professional barbers and amateurs look at the videos. We’re getting the best of both worlds, so we’ll have two different markets that will buy our product,”said White, a DeKalb, MS native.

Vicki Jordan, a Meridian native who studied psychology at MSU, serves as DueT’s vice president of marketing and operations. She has managed the company’s social media, YouTube page and website.

“Studying psychology has prepared me to try and really understand who our customer is,” Jordan said. “What do they need and want? We’re building our brand by getting them to trust us.”

In their research, the entrepreneurs reached out to barbers across the country to get feedback for the design of the clippers, helping to ensure it would be a product with national appeal. In addition to targeting African American and Latino barbers, they plan to target millennial and new barbers.

“There’s been a lot of unrest growing in the barber industry from the poor quality of cutting that current brands are doing,” Anthony said. “There’s really a need for a new company, a new product. We want to capture that next generation of barbers who are used to having new devices coming out every year for phones and things like that — not having to just settle for what is out there. They’re used to having products that meet their needs.”

“It’ll improve time on haircuts. I told Thomas he could be a millionaire with that because I’ve never seen a pair of clippers like that,” said Stanley Higgins, Barber for A Touch of Luv Barber & Beauty Salon.

Before pitching to the Bulldog Angel Network, the company moved through the stages of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach’s VentureCatalyst program at MSU, which guides companies through the initial stages of launching a start-up.

“The Bulldog Angel Network is excited about DueTT’s product idea and business plan and happy to have helped enable their company launch,” said Wade Patterson, MSU alumnus and Bulldog Angel Network president. “With the help of Mississippi State’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach, we have invested in five student companies since we started and are in the process on three more investments.”

White said that while he may not use the specifics of agricultural engineering with the company, the critical thinking and perseverance capabilities he learned in his classes have helped him run a company. Now that the company is receiving funding, he said he is glad it is coming from fellow Bulldogs.

“Just knowing that they’re alumni or they have associations with Mississippi State makes you feel more comfortable about everything and have a little more trust in the process,” White said.

Original article online and additional photos online at http://opa.msstate.edu/events/05222019

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