Soon after high school in 2003, Lilly Benitez started trade school and earned her massage therapy license along with her barbering license. On her own she started incorporating aromatherapy and pressure point massage into her barbering services. She wanted to elevate the straight razor shaving experience for men.
More than just 14 strokes on the face, she wanted it to be a ritual complete with hot towels, skin care, aromatherapy and a whole relaxing experience; but she couldn’t find the education for it. She did her own research and found the circle of upscale service providers to be very small. She concluded that there was a void in teaching straight razor shaves. After all, the straight razor is what differentiates the barber from the stylist.
In 2012, Benitez began her business plans for providing barber education. She networked with other professionals in the community who had the business acumen who would be interested in investing in the beauty industry and provided her support. In 2015, Blade Craft Barber Academy opened in Deep Ellum, an eclectic neighborhood in Dallas, TX.
The Academy Would Like to Thank
Benitez purposefully created an upscale learning environment that was inclusive, positive and encouraging. She says, “Our students learn to specialize in straight razor shaving, hair cutting, beard shaping, customer service, entrepreneurship, branding and self promotion. Forty percent of our graduates own their own business.”
She credits the Academy’s and graduates’ success to the diversity of her teaching staff: “Everyone on our team is passionate about their designated role, sharing their knowledge in person or in the shop.”
Blade Craft Barber Academy accepts all forms of the GI Bill for veterans who are transitioning out of military life to civilian life. Many veterans can find it difficult integrating back to life Stateside and some suffer from PTSD. Benitez had experience with this first hand with loved ones and was determined to offer assistance.
She says, “Our academy provides a safe, positive environment with a set schedule. It helps veterans cope while they learn a new trade out of the military. They get a new sense of community and camaraderie.”
Veterans, first responders and teachers are offered discounted rates for services as appreciation of their work. “Every day, these people sacrifice a lot of themselves for other people. We wanted them to know their efforts do not go unnoticed,” says Benitez.
The school also offers an Opportunity Solutions program, a tuition assistance program to high school graduates or single parents. Benitez offers this because she knows how difficult it can be.
She says, “My parents were immigrants from El Salvador. Some first generation kids need help going to trade schools because of a language or cultural barrier; or just flat out can’t afford college. Education is something no one can take away from you.” If she has an empty chair, she’d rather have it filled by someone who wants to learn, regardless of funds.