Leaving a well-known barber shop to start a new business in Aranui was a big risk for Luke Koia.
But the 32-year-old wanted to feel challenged again and decided he would establish himself in the barber industry before it became “overcrowded”.
Since leaving My Fathers Barbers in Riccarton and starting up Mo Town Barbers, the Aranui resident has proved he is a cut above the rest by taking out a national barber title.
He won the open section of ‘the beard’ category in the Barber Craft competition in Auckland.
The competition is New Zealand’s premier barber and men’s grooming event where barbers go in front of a live audience to prove their creativity and skill.
“I entered Barber Craft in the hopes it would boost my business. And, if I won, anything that could really put me up there as far as getting myself known,” he said. Mr Koia said leaving an established barber business and then winning an award on his own was a “great achievement”.
He is also the first barber from the city to win the competition since it began three years ago.
It had been a stressful time leading up to the event, with Mr Koia having to pull out of ‘the creative’ section due to being unable to find a model in time.
He nearly had to pull out of ‘the beard’ section, too, when the model he had arranged withdrew after the competition changed its timetable five days before the event.
“Feeling stressed and at the point of throwing it all in. The task seemed too hard,” he said.
But Mr Koia said he and his wife decided to “hope for a miracle” and travelled up to Auckland, only to approach a “complete stranger” the day before the competition to ask if they would model.
He said his newly-found model Whare Watene was the “perfect candidate” and was relieved he was happy to have his beard groomed.
Next year Mr Koia plans to enter all of the categories in the competition and move into the master division.
He began cutting hair at My Fathers Barbers and worked there for four years before starting up his business.
Mr Koia said his role models were My Fathers Barbers owner Matt Brown and Somehz Touch Barbers owner Peleti Oli. He cited ”their humility, dedication and commitment to their craft” as the reasons why.