Darrl Robert Jr., a Westwego born, has emerged a hometown hero. He was awarded the Proclamation award by Jefferson Parish for his humanitarian service towards his local community in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The award for Robert’s team and patrons alike is a testament to the impact that he’s evoked via his business Team Hairbenders. For Robert, the praises serve as a daily full-circle reminder of the pains he had to endure to be in his current position; a position in his business, community, and industry that he doesn’t take lightly.
His innovative barbering skills have helped him to rise above in his industry. He’s had the likes of NFL players Brandin Cooks, Russell Wilson , actor Bryshere Grey and songstress Keyshia Cole has clients. Some of the youths in the community see him as an example of success in the face of dire circumstances.
Robert found his passion for barbering while spending long days in his grandmother’s hair salon as a teenager. His grandmother thought he was using her business as his playground, unknown to her he was shadowing and paying attention to the work she does daily. At age 10, Robert, who had a passion for drawing performed a transition of career from paper to hair. His parents, supporting him, gifted him a set of clippers which he used in perfecting his craft on himself and friends from the neighborhood.
At age 16, he began to make a name for himself in his neighborhood. Although, he got drifted away from his career after he got unsatisfied with his two hustles.
After returning from his exile, Robert, who had joined a barbershop apprentice program and began building his clientele, decided to go all-out in entrepreneurship and began laying the bricks for opening his own barbershop. “I put all my strength into barbering and never looked back,” he said. “That today, became the best decision that I’ve ever made. Barbering has launch me to places that I never believe any of the jobs I had in the past could launch me.”
Since commissioning in 2016, his saloon has evolved into far more than a barber’s shop where you can get a cut, it’s grown to become a staple in his community. He has used his business as a tool to drive his hometown impact which varies from hosting events to spread awareness about issues impacting the local community. As well as offering free barber services to those in need and has organized several back-to-school events for local youth.
Robert and his Hairbenders team also focus on mentorship at all levels, they mentored aspiring entrepreneurs who are interested in opening their own shops. “I can’t even begin to illustrate how pivotal barbershops can be,” he said. “The barbershop has so many types of people from all walks of life that come through. It has become a pulse for the people. They’re not often recognized on a grand scale, but locally they are very influential.”
Robert, inspired by his mentor Rabbi Marvin Willis and the triumphant journey of real estate mogul Zhang Xin, says one of his desired life goals is to rebuild his community and his barbershop.
All in all, Robert hopes his journey becomes an inspiration for those who come from similar situations and want to empower themselves at a grassroots level. “One of the things that I want to do is rebuild my neighborhood because I helped tear it down for years when I was with the wrong company,” he said.
“I want to be an integral part of its restoration,” he concluded.