Impact Stories

First-person stories from people impacted by Ford Fund

Cincinnati Barber Gives More Than Just Haircuts

Head shot of male with short cut afro wearing Men of Courage T-shirt, image has blue screen atop Tommy Mays

Co-owner, Precision Blendz and Men of Courage Barbershop Challenge Grand Prize Winner

Cincinnati, Ohio

I've been a barber for 22 years and owned this shop for 10. When I was a freshman at community college in Cincinnati, I was broke and went to see my friend and mentor who was a professional barber. I told him I wasn't happy and that I was about to drop out of school.

He suggested I spend a day with him at his shop. After that, I went to barber school and never looked back. Now, as the winner of the Men of Courage competition, I have the funds and support to expand my community presence.

My goal here at Precision Blendz is to cut the hair of four generations of one family. Right now, I'm at three. From day one, I cut a father's hair. Then his son's. And now his grandson's.

I'm going to be here for the rest of my life, and I want to let people know we welcome everyone. Our customers are black, white, Latino, old, young. What we give here at Precision Blendz is not just a haircut. We give a good feeling about yourself. When our customers leave, they are noticed, they are recognized, and they feel good. They are part of the shop.

Tommy Mays standing behind male in barber chair with another customer in a chair with a barber to Mays' right

A lot of guys just come in to say, "what's up?" They might have something to get off their chest. And while they're here, we're going to laugh and joke. They're going to walk out not only looking good but feeling good. And that's my purpose: to help others feel good, feel confident, keep everyone happy.

I had a regular customer who had to cancel his appointment because he was in the hospital. He wanted a haircut and was really down. So, I went to him. When I walked into his hospital room, he lit up. After I cut his hair, he felt really good about himself. That's my purpose.

When the community found out I was a finalist in Ford Fund's Men of Courage Cincinnati Barbershop Challenge, they came in and offered to help. They brought in food for our community events. They put up flyers.

With the support from Ford Fund, we are making improvements to make the place more appealing to customers and to the neighborhood in general. Our shop has more curb appeal now. We have new vinyl awnings, better lighting, upgraded bathroom and we painted the place.

I wanted the community to benefit from this competition, so I planned a series of outreach events that are fun, informative and made people feel welcome. We had speakers on suicide prevention, health care screening and community fellowship. At every event, people could come get a free haircut while learning something.

But really, what we did at the events is what we're doing here every day at the shop. There's always someone who comes in with knowledge or information about how to help, how to make someone's life better. Basically, how to be a good man.

Precision Blendz is the winner of the first Men of Courage Barbershop Challenge—a grassroots initiative that invites barbershops to develop community engagement programs. The challenge is an extension of Ford's Men of Courage program, which aims to build communities by advancing the narrative of African American men through storytelling, intergenerational forums and community events. First launched in 2019 in Cincinnati, the barbershop challenge moves to Tacoma, Washington and Los Angeles in 2020.