Indigenous·Video

Pair of First Nations barbers looking forward to good hair days ahead in their own shops

With clients ranging from professional athletes to kids back home on the rez, two barbers in Winnipeg are cutting the latest trends and are ready to create their own path as business owners.

Mitch McLeod and Tyrone McCorrister-Choken plan to open barber shops outside Winnipeg

Tyrone McCorrister-Choken has gone from learning how to shave his own head in a mirror to working with players from the Winnipeg Jets, and soon he will have his own shop in Selkirk, Man. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)

With clients ranging from professional athletes to kids back home on the rez, two barbers in Winnipeg are cutting the latest trends and are ready to create their own path as business owners.

"My favourite thing about barbering is that it's not work, it's art," said Tyrone McCorrister-Choken, who is Anishinaabe from Peguis First Nation.

"It's something that I look forward to doing and is something that I don't get up Monday morning or Tuesday morning and be like, 'Damn, I have to go do this again.' It's something that I can get up and be like, 'I want to go have fun and, you know, have a good day with my clients.'" 

In a few weeks, he will be opening his barber shop First & Originals in Selkirk, Man., 30 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. 

"That's going to be my first shop, 100 per cent Indigenous owned, which I'm truly proud to say," said McCorrister-Choken.

He grew up in public housing in Winnipeg's south end. He said the neighbourhood where he lived had a mix of housing and income levels and he mingled with everyone.

"I had to find a fine balance between both of those kind of crowds, which makes me a personable person today," he said.

"That's why I feel like I connect so good with my clients today, so I can connect with anybody."

He started cutting his own hair when he was 15 and then started practising on his friends and family. 

He graduated from a local barber school in 2014 but didn't think he would have his own business. Now he gets to choose his own schedule and is looking forward to becoming his own boss.

"Becoming a barber, I never thought I would be coming into a position where I am today. Not once did I ever think that I would be cutting Winnipeg Jets, UFC fighters . . . it's just amazing to see where I've been."

While his barber shop will have competition in Selkirk with at least two others on the same street, McCorrister-Choken said he believes he will be able to build business by offering the newest styles for people in the city.

First Nations barbers plan to open own shops

9 months ago
Duration 3:06
Two barbers in Winnipeg are cutting the latest trends and are ready to create their own path as business owners. 3:06

Starting out in the basement

While his Selkirk shop undergoes renovations, McCorrister-Choken has rented a chair at his longtime friend and colleague Mitch McLeod's shop.

In February, McLeod became co-owner of Main Street Barbershop in Winnipeg.

McLeod recently travelled with his business partner to Misipawistik Cree Nation, where he's from, about 400 kilometres north of Winnipeg, to give haircuts to youth.

Mitch McLeod learned how to cut hair by practising on his brother in a basement. Now the co-owner of Main Street Barbershop plans on expanding to the nearby town of Niverville, Man. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)

"It's an amazing feeling, just going back, giving back to your community and just seeing how happy the kids are leaving your chairs. It's quite a feeling, man," said McLeod. 

He started his professional career in 2016, but first started cutting his brother Marcus McGregor's hair seven years ago in Norway House Cree Nation.

"If it wasn't for him letting me cut his hair and practising, I wouldn't be where I am today without him," said McLeod.

"I started out in our basement . . . cutting his hair on a cooler and some textbooks because we didn't have a chair that was high enough."

McLeod now counts people like Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Andrew Harris as regular clients.

"It's cool to see how far he's come with his career. It makes me proud and it just shows the amount of work he has put into his career," McGregor said about his brother.

McLeod said business has been steady at Main Street Barbershop but he plans on opening his own shop Cru Barber & Co. in Niverville, Man., 32 kilometres south of Winnipeg, in June.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1

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