Line-ups without lines: barbers open up shop in dorm rooms

In their senior year of high school, Randy Tovar and his friend Simon Orlovsky had the idea to set up a chair in a parking lot and cut random people’s hair.

“We didn’t do that, ’cause I thought that was dumb,” Tovar said. “No one’s ever gonna want a haircut from a stranger.”

Three years later, in the era of Uber, Lyft and Airbnb, Tovar turned that “dumb” idea into Dormcuts, a personal barber service that he plans to launch at SF State.

Dormcuts connects students to high-quality barbers and allows them to schedule appointments in their dorm rooms based on the barber’s availability, according to the business website.

Randy Tovar, Marketing Director of Dorm Cuts, poses for a portrait on the walkway of  the Village apartments at San Francisco State University September 19, 2015. ( Angelica Ekeke / Xpress)

Randy Tovar, Marketing Director of Dorm Cuts, poses for a portrait on the walkway of the Village apartments at San Francisco State University September 19, 2015. ( Angelica Ekeke / Xpress)

“With the whole sharing economy, we came up with the idea to allow students to schedule an appointment with a barber to get haircuts in their dorm,” Tovar said.

Tovar, a junior in business marketing, co-founded Dormcuts with Orlovsky, a computer science junior at Carleton College in Minnesota.

Orlovsky said he began the business in Carleton in February 2015, initially offering free haircuts to those who asked. Dormcuts is currently fully operational only at Carleton College, but the business is expanding its services to Westmont College in Santa Barbara and SF State, according to the Dormcuts website.

Tovar said that potential legal issues may block Dormcuts’ expansion to SF State.

SF State’s 2015 Housing License Agreement states that licensees are prohibited from conducting business on the premises, such as using the dorm as the business mailing address or hosting a website. Tovar said he lives in University Park South, which makes him a licensee, but said he hasn’t breached the agreement.

“I’m not using the dorm as a mailing address, I’m not giving out haircuts (in my home) and the barbers aren’t licensees or residents,” Tovar said. “We’re trying to find a way to establish this legally. I don’t want anyone to get kicked out or anything.”

Kevin J. Kinney, interim director of residential life at SF State, said Dormcuts is technically in the clear since the barbers would be considered guests of the residents.

“They become (the licensee’s) guests,” Kinney said. “Whatever they do is (the licensee’s) responsibility. If they’re just letting someone in to cut their hair, then that’s their business.”

Tovar said he needs to contact SF State administrators to see if the license agreement will be upheld. But he said Jason Porth, executive director of University Corporation SF State, gave him an encouraging push.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity there, and we want to be supportive in his effort,” Porth said. “It can ultimately be incorporated into the campus.”

Porth said it’s pretty rare to hear from students about business ideas, and when they do, it’s easier to launch if they’re backed by a faculty or staff member.

Dormcuts is currently supported by Financial Analysis and Management Education, an independent student organization that provides its members with professional experience and business education, according to Tovar.

Mohammed Naqvi, a senior in business administration and president of FAME, said that the organization launched FAME consulting this semester, a program that will assist SF State entrepreneurs with market research, competitive positioning and consumer awareness of their business.

“Randy Tovar has been an invaluable member of FAME for several years now,” Naqvi said. “His founding of Dormcuts coincided with our founding of FAME Consulting – it was a perfect match.”

Orlovsky said that, business aside, Dormcuts’ ultimate goal is to give students and barbers a good experience.

“We’re just having fun,” Orlovsky said. “Everybody involved in the organization is really passionate about cutting hair and giving haircuts and making sure everyone is comfortable.”

Dormcuts is currently interviewing for barbers and isn’t due for release at SF State until October or November, according to Tovar, but he said they’re working toward it.

“Our idea isn’t just an idea anymore,” he said. “It’s turning into reality.”

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