How to Start and Manage a Storefront

Starting a business feels like you’re running a marathon blindfolded. Am I going the right way? Has it even started? What if I fall?! Please be encouraged in that it is possible! Ensuing are some personal life experiences that I hope help you pursue your Entrepreneurial Endeavors! 

I am Lilly Benitez founder of Blade Craft Barber Academy, and I still barber because I love it so much. Located in the heart of Deep Ellum across from the delicious Pecan Lodge, we offer the public therapeutic and relaxing barbering services. Top shelf liquor and refreshments are offered with the Straight Razor Shave, Tailored Haircut, and Beard Shaping. For the barbering industry, we offer a boutique learning environment in which to hone and acquire tonsorial techniques. 


I’m going to start where I started. I am a barber by trade. Not a Business Plan creator… Or so I thought. An industry colleague I respected that had his own business explained that no bank, partner, or potential Investor would ever take me seriously without a written plan. I had no idea where to begin. Which brings me to my next point.


I will break this category into two- human, and not human. 


Coaching has come in various ways for me.  Mentors come in all shapes and sizes, and I just do not recommend going at it alone. I have a mentor, and we communicate on a daily basis.  I respect his opinion and usually if I don’t quite understand the why, I usually do after applying it. 

Honor their efforts by being prepared!!! Have a list of preliminary questions to address once you have their attention. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes, and I just do not recommend going at it alone.  


After getting ripped off by a business consultant, I had a more interesting conversation with the next one. Thank goodness we connected and he agreed to tutor me in writing my plan. He’d give me a topic, I would research, and find the coinciding data. The best part was that at the end, I knew my stuff. This gave me the confidence to speak to potential investors and banks to fund my dream. As far as where to find one, the SBA and People Fund are great for referrals. 

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My attorney is one of my greatest resources!!! He literally coached me through various potentially detrimental partnerships, but then literally explained what my ideal partner would sound like, look like, and care about.  He broke things down in what I call “Lilly Terms.”  He has always helped me understand the situation at hand. 


Accounting isn’t usually a topic people are excited to address. However, like with my attorney, I was lucky to find someone that has the patience to sit with me and answer all my questions.  I have taken basic accounting courses, but she and I are constantly learning.  I am fully in touch with my finances and know where things are going and where they went. I arm myself with as much preliminary knowledge, but I do also request a sit-down every now and then. I LITERALLY go through my profit and loss statement line by line with her to understand even more.  She has always complimented me on my desire to learn, and welcomed it! 


Gary Buckner from Stash Design has also been an ongoing relationship. You may think, “Well,  you are already open, why do you need him?” Things grow and change, and having a relationship with someone that has influenced our culture and feel has been exponential.  We share contacts, refer business, and he helps keep us looking our best.  He also stands behind his work and the furniture he makes us.  He is connected to the community and it’s like catching up with an old friend.  


Hire a professional! My graphic designer is a guru.  He knows the why, what, and how people process a brand.  His help in creating my identity was crucial when the shop didn’t exist yet.  Our Videographer has been extremely helpful in then creating the images that portray who we are.  It is to the point our Apprentices know them by name and look forward to working with them!

I’m certain by now you have realized that these are all ongoing relationships, just as the following are ongoing exercises.  


Asking other entrepreneurs what books they enjoy have found beneficial is one way to start.  I must admit I usually have two or three reads going at a time. 

-Strength Finder 2.0 

-Design is a Job 

-Courage to Create 


Starting a Business Course at SMU is an 8-week course that happens on Tuesday evenings. It helps break things down which is especially helpful when you’ve never had a business before.

Khan Academy: Entrepreneur Chats, Accounting, Finance

Ted Talks: Entrepreneur 


Keep up with your progress.  I am old school and keep a journal. It really helps keep me on track, and it gives me perspective when overwhelmed.  I can look back and see the tasks I have accomplished.  This simple task helps me psychologically in realizing that I have made progress. Contemplate where you want to go, and ensure that your company is headed in that direction. 

Exercise, and maintain optimal physical health.  Crossfit, yoga, and running are all physical activities that I indulge in on a daily basis.  Nothing clears my mind better than running a 5k after a day at the shop.  Nutrition is huge to maintaining steady energy.  

Find an excellent Barber or Hairdresser.  They keep you looking your best, but they are great at providing references and vacation suggestions!


Once you’ve identified who your client is, ensure you know what they want. 

To quote one of my favorite clients, “When you ask for feedback and it all comes back great, you’re in trouble.” He proceeded to explain to me how we tend to pose surveys questions that will yield the answers we want to hear. Except that you don’t get better at doing push-ups by doing girl push-ups. You have to practice real push-ups. Even if it’s just one. Eventually, you’ll do 3. (I can now do 100- totally not unbroken)

I say this to mean that actually listening to raw feedback may sting a little bit, but once addressed it results in legitimate value. Your clients are your biggest cheerleaders, and they would like to see you succeed.  


Your coffee shop and closest restaurants are great for obtaining a feel of what is at the top of mind for the neighborhood. Invest and connect with other business owners! You will be refreshed by speaking with like-minded people, and it is a win-win!


The only reason your business is able to grow is because of your team, and their hard work and dedication.  They are the true heroes and MVPs.  I only hire passionate, intelligent, and high-energy individuals that enjoy having fun.  

While starting a business can seem a bit daunting it is definitely a dream worth striving for. Growing and managing the business has been the most rewarding part!  As my mentor reminds me, “If you reach for the stars and miss, you’ll still land on the tallest building!” Let me tell you it is an exceptional view from here!!! 

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