Manufacturers & Distributors

Matt Says No!: Remembering the Lessons of Mohawk Matt Berman

Ivan Zoot | July 25, 2014 | 7:51 AM
Ivan Zoot

I made a trip to Las Vegas recently for the Cosmoprof International show. I paid a visit to the Bolt Barbers Monkey Train while in town. My visit was to pay my respects and honor the memory of my friend Matt Berman, founder of Bolt Barbers and leader of the troop of monkeys.

Matt Berman, AKA Mohawk Matt created the Bolt barbers concept launching his first shop in downtown Los Angeles a few years ago. Matt followed up the downtown location with his Monkey House shop on Melrose Avenue. His third Bolt was the Monkey Train in a repurposed caboose and rail car in the new Container Park downtown development in Las Vegas.

I got to know Matt as he was planning and building out the first shop. He had reached out to me and Andis Company for support and assistance with this first venture. Matt invited me to cut hair at his grand opening. I met his mom and sister and played a role in launching this unique and fun guy haircutting concept. When plans took shape to launch location number two on Melrose Avenue, once again I collaborated with Matt to stage some promotional stunts and serve as a guest hair cutter.

The Monkey Train in Las Vegas was Matt’s most monumental project. He put his heart and soul into making it come to life. I was scheduled to visit the train and do some guest cutting when I learned of his unexpected passing.

I enjoyed getting to know Matt. I learned a great deal from him. Matt was a master of marketing. Matt believed in his brand and his product. Matt had a clear vision of who his customers were and how to communicate with them in a way that resonated and resulted in creating a relationship and building business.

Matt was not afraid to get his hands dirty in support of his brand. A trip through his Facebook photo collection reveals that no haircut was too out there to be worn in the interest of promoting the brand. The Old Man, The Friar Tuck, The Monkey Tail and the Reverse Mohawk were just some of his styles that promoted his vision and his entertained his minions.

Matt’s “People hate us on Yelp!” Campaign earned him nationwide notoriety as he used his negative Yelp reviews to reinforce his branding and marketing. Matt would proudly post to social media his ranting replies to clients who went away dissatisfied when their wants did not line up with Matt’s vision. It is in this spirit that I take away my greatest lesson from my time working with and developing my friendship with Matt.

Matt’s greatest marketing belief was that you and your brand are more defined by what you do not do, what you will not do and who you aren’t, more than what you do, what you are and who you are. Matt took great pride in saying no. Matt loved to explain what his business is not and will not be. “We do not hire cosmetologists.” “We do not block necklines”, “We do not let your wife or girlfriend tell us how to cut your hair”. All are great examples of where and how Matt drew the line on what he and Bolt was not.

Defining yourself and your business by what you are not is a great way to communicate clearly. Those who see your path and understand your vision will embrace you passionately. People who disagree with you will do so enthusiastically. This is a double win. The net result is chatter, engagement and enthusiasm… whether for or against you.

Take a lesson from Matt. Know your brand. Know yourself. Clearly define who you are… but more importantly, clearly define who you aren’t.

So long, my friend. Thank you for your friendship, your lessons and for saying NO!



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