Inside the Cultured Barbershop in Garden Grove, owner and CSUF alumnus Tommy Tran offers a haircut experience different than any normal barbershop. Tran is a conversationalist with no topic off limits, and his goal is to have his clients leave feeling like a million bucks.
As a barber and business owner, Tran said his blueprint is to be more than just someone who cuts a client’s hair. He said he wants to be someone that his clients can relate and come to for help with whatever situations they face in life.
Tran said that it is because of his days at CSUF as a member of the Beta Upsilon Delta fraternity that helped him create his business today.
“(Beta Upsilon Delta) taught me something better. It taught me how to network, it taught me how to coach people and it taught me how to help people out, and it really brought out my empathetic side,” Tran said.
He would even cut his fraternity brothers’ hair, further refining his skills.
In addition to the shop, Tran also runs a podcast that he hopes will continue to evolve throughout the year. He said he created the podcast to give the shop a voice, create relationships and bring the barbershop talk with his clients to a broader audience.
One of those relationships was with Hunter Jensen, who graduated from CSUF in 2015. Jensen is co-owner of Knawledge, an art brand that has evolved from a graffiti crew. For the the last four years Tran has been giving him haircuts.
Jensen and Tran have known each other since 2011 through their involvement with Beta Upsilon Delta, and have also worked as business partners since graduating. The two collaborated to bring an art show called “The Barbershop” to in Tran’s parlor.
Jensen said his experience working with Tran has been nothing but positive.
“Tommy is absolutely a unique individual. I feel like when you’re talking to him, he’s so many steps ahead of you sometimes that he has to try to dial himself back,” Jensen said.
Graduated from CSUF in 2009, Tran has a Bachelor of Arts in business administration with a concentration in finance, but he said nothing ever came easy for his family. His parents are both refugees from the Vietnam War. They met in Toronto at a refugee camp and moved to Southern California, hoping to pursue the American dream.
“Being from immigrant parents and parents from a war-torn country, (my parents) know that education is very important. They drilled it from day one,” Tran said.
He began cutting hair while he was in eighth grade and also while attending Magnolia High School in Anaheim where he continued cutting hair for the basketball team, volleyball team and his close friends for free.
Despite cutting hair for a large portion of his life, Tran said he had a completely different career path in mind.
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“I imagined myself wearing a suit to work and closing deals, analyzing numbers and getting to people and making connections that way,” Tran said. “I wanted to be a banker. I wanted to do investment banking, money management, personal finance.”
Upon graduating in 2009, Tran knew the economy was not in a good state, hindering his early success after college.
Tran was able to land entry-level positions out of college at start-ups, but he wasn’t moved by them. Growing up with an entrepreneurial background, Tran said he realized that cubicles and office politics weren’t for him.
After five years of going from job to job, he decided to go to barber school.
“I was like ‘Hey, I’m cutting hair every night. I have a business,’” Tran said.
He started cutting hair professionally in 2011, bouncing around from shop to shop prior to opening his own. He credits his success to the relationships he built during his time at CSUF.
“I didn’t do this all by myself. This is just phase one of what I want to do. If I didn’t have the support of the alumni that I do cut, that I networked in my years at Cal State Fullerton, this barbershop wouldn’t be this barbershop,” Tran said.
He is constantly planning ways to expand his parolor, and he always has a one-year plan, a two-year plan and a five-year plan for his goals.
Tran wants to make the Cultured Barbershop more than just a place to get a haircut, he wants the shop to have a voice and an artistic presence.
“My goal is to expand men’s grooming, but also have the lifestyle, also be social.” Tran said.