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Basketball player launches new business after landlord was convinced by fake Netflix doc to give him shop

Basketball player launches new business after landlord was convinced by fake Netflix doc to give him shop

A barber has opened up about why he left a professional career in basketball to cut hair for a living.

A barber has opened up about why he left a professional career in basketball to cut hair for a living - and how a fake Netflix documentary helped him get there.

Jerelle Okoro - who goes by Jefe - used to be a professional basketball player, playing for the likes of the Manchester Giants and London Lions. It's a job many of us could only dream of, but our dream wouldn't match Jefe's reality.

Jefe used to be a professional basketball player.

While the 31-year-old admits he 'loved it' and it was 'fun', Jefe didn't feel comfortable with the 'hierarchy systems' or feeling like he was 'just a number'.

So, taking the lessons he'd learnt about teamwork, resilience and having found a deeper understanding of himself, he decided to switch up his career.

Rather than backdoor cut on the court, he decided to do hair cuts in a barber's shop - and not just any old barber's shop, but his own.

From a basketball player to a barber may not seem like a natural progression, but the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns made Jefe see how important the role of a barber can be for men's mental wellbeing.

"Just having someone you can talk to," Jefe tells LADbible. "Now that I am a barber, I do get a lot of people who message me being like 'Jerome, this has happened, what do you think about this?'"

After Jefe's own barber 'p*ssed [him] off' and left him feeling like some barbers 'abuse the unique connection they have with their clients' by raising prices or being 'unreliable', he decided go about getting his own shop.

Jefe played for the Manchester Giants and London Lions.
Carol J Moir

"I wanted to create something where my clients felt valued and they're seen as more than just a number. And it's really amazing now, most of my clients are real friends. People I genuinely care for and reach out to."

There was just one small issue with his plan: Jefe didn't have any money to open the barber shop. It was quite a big hurdle, but he thinks something from his past helped him 'blag [his] way' to success.

"My landlord at the time thought I had a Netflix documentary," Jefe explained. "I created a fake one a while back and it went viral, to the point where Netflix sent me a cease and desist. They re-shared the post, it's hilarious.

"So my landlord at the time, when we were finalising the lease, was like, 'Just one question, I want to watch your documentary'. And I laughed and said, 'What documentary you trying to watch? I love documentaries and watch a lot on Netflix'.

"So I'm listing a bunch of Netflix documentaries and he's like, 'No, yours'. And so I have to say, 'I'm so sorry man, that was a marketing campaign.

"I saw the life drain out of his face, I was like he knows he's f**ked up here. That was the premise of him giving me the barber shop I think."

Jefe thinks he was able to secure a site for his shop partly because of a fake Netflix documentary he made years before.

Despite his landlord's confusion, Jefe was able to secure a location for his shop.

And with the help of clients, he fixed the basement, painted the walls and built his business from the ground up - but it's the people who help him run it who really make the barbers what it is.

"Me and my brothers have a really rare connection - they're all like brothers - all we do is laugh, the customers laugh at us, or with us, either or. We just try and make sure the people coming here, it's a bit of an escape from the world and what they're dealing with.

"We constantly push each other in terms of the standard that we set. Because we take it very seriously with how people feel when they leave the shop. We want people to feel great in every aspect; how they look, how they feel, what they've learned."

All the people who work with Jefe are like 'brothers' to him.
Dom Hadley

But supporting everyone who sits in his barbers chair does take a toll on Jefe

He said: "You need to care. And it's extremely draining.

"Recently I was dealing with a lot of anxiety, I was having problems with the rent, just everything felt upside down.

"I've currently started speaking to a therapist, which is a very scary thing to do.

"I try to do small things that help me escape, delve into what makes me happy. Working, being with these guys just makes me happy and knowing I'm building something for others."

"That's where the £5 cuts came along," Jefe said, referring to his offer of £5 haircuts at the beginning of the cost of living crisis.

"I thought to myself, 'Imagine how many other people are going through something similar and just need someone to talk to?'"

Jefe offered £5 cuts at the beginning of the cost of living crisis and continues to offer the deal to new customers.
Dom Hadley

One of the best moments so far in his career as a barber was when someone cried in Jefe's chair.

It may not sound like a happy moment, but it was a rewarding experience for the 31-year-old.

"He wanted to give up, and I played a video for him, a Steve Harvey video, a motivational one. And he just broke down in my chair and said, 'I needed that,'" Jefe recalls.

"It was such a valuable state. It let me know how important it was to do what I'm doing. I'm a big motivator, I push people's boundaries."

One customer broke down to Jefe while sat in the chair.
Dom Hadley

While at the moment Jefe just wants to 'get busy enough to make [his] landlord happy,' his long term goal is to grow the franchise, inviting not only men but young boys to get their hair cut too.

Demonstrating how he cares for his community, Jefe gave an example of how he's been known to offer more than just haircuts for his customers.

He explained: "I'm scared because I have to buy a kid a car soon because I made a bet with him saying, 'If you get two As and a B [in your exams] I'll give you a car'.

"And this kid is knocking his grades out the park and his mum came in - who I've never met before - and said, 'You promised him a car,' so I was like, 'Yes Ma'am'."

"The barber family and community, we care about each other."

The 'easiest part of becoming a barber is cutting hair,' Jefe says.
Dom Hadley

For Jefe, the 'easiest part of becoming a barber is cutting hair'. It's the more difficult to navigate - but rewarding - support he provides to customers which really counts.

He said: "The hardest part is having the patience and mental elasticity to listen to each and every one of the clients. But I think anyone that's trying to do good, can't do wrong."

Jefe's barber shop proves speaking about how you're feeling matters every day, of every week, of every year.

He said: "I would say to anyone out there - and I'm not trying to make them come to the barber shop, because that's not what it's about - it's more about having the courage to speak to someone.

"You can bury yourself in a lot of problems and sometimes people won't understand or a loved ones won't understand, but if you don't talk to someone, it just becomes a bigger monster to deal with.

"I implore everyone to please talk to at least one person about what they're going through."

And your next trip to the barbers might just be the best place to start.

If you're experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They're open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you're not comfortable talking on the phone

Featured Image Credit: Dom Hadley

Topics: Hair, Mental Health, UK News