When Nobility & Compassion Drive Success
Greg Young has called Fort Lauderdale, Florida, his home for decades - it’s where he resides as a proud family man, talented barber, successful business owner, and local philanthropist looking to spread the good. But things have not always been so perfect for Greg. His young life was unstable; his mother was caught up with the wrong crowd and was rarely there for him and his brother. By age 9, he was rebelling, doing drugs, and skipping school. Greg spent his young adult years on the streets abusing drugs and alcohol when he wasn't locked up in jail.
Greg decided that he needed to get a trade, so he worked two jobs and took the bus to barber school. After graduating, he was miserable inside, still caught up in his addiction, and working just to make ends meet.
“Addiction had full control of me and was very quickly ruining my life. On July 7th, 2013, I walked into an AA meeting and decided enough was enough. I was ready to do absolutely whatever it took to stay sober, and I made a choice to just keep doing the next right thing day after day. It was not an easy road by any means, but I knew I could never go back to the way I had been living,” Greg explained.
Going into Business
“As the years went by and my sobriety got stronger, so did I! I learned who I was and what I was truly passionate about. It was people. I just genuinely love people, and I believe everyone has a story worth sharing. I eventually was blessed enough to be able to open my own barbershop (Noblemen's Cut and Shave). This was an accomplishment I had dreamed about my entire life.”
“I really enjoy the freedom of working for myself and being in an environment with people from all walks of life. It has allowed me to meet individuals throughout the community who inspire me and who I can learn from. I missed out on education and real-life experiences. I knew I would be able to pick the brains of each individual who sat in my chair, and I could learn about stocks, life, and how to be a productive member of society.”
Noblemen's Cut and Shave, a moniker given by Greg’s wife, has been very successful, and Greg attributes that to the shop’s loyal clientele, who trust the team every day with their hair.
“Our clients are more than just customers, most have become good friends, and the relationships we've built with them have lasted for years. We always say the staff at Noblemens is family. It's our work family, and everyone is equal. Sometimes people will ask which barber is the best or say, ‘who should I go to?’ and I always say the same thing: ‘you can get in anyone's chair because every barber is very talented,’” Greg added.
Having his own shop gave Greg an amazing platform to get more involved in his local community. Noblemen's Cut and Shave is located downtown in the heart of Ft. Lauderdale, where the majority of the local homeless stay. “I see them passing by every day, but most importantly, I see their struggles because I have been there myself. Most importantly, I have never forgotten where I came from and the challenges I faced along the way.”
Giving Back to the Community
Seeing himself in the local homeless community, Greg set out to make a difference. It’s not uncommon to find him, clippers in hand, walking amongst the less fortunate where he offers free haircuts, friendly conversation, and above all, compassion for another human being. After each haircut and conversation, Greg hands out a hygiene bag - a backpack full of essentials to help brighten someone’s day and hopefully help them feel a bit more seen and respected. The backpacks typically include soap, shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and new socks - a much-needed stable and a top request from those living on the streets.
Greg’s quest to help others has led to the founding of The Backpack Barber Foundation - a non-profit dedicated to serving the homeless in the area. Donations help cover operating expenses and items for the backpacks. Greg hopes to open chapters across the country to help as many people as possible in need. The foundation strives to elevate homeless children, teens, and adults through support and conversation. The goal is to bring hope and dignity to their lives.
“There is so much life and beauty in my city and unfortunately a huge homeless population. I have one mission, and it's so simple yet so powerful. I want to be a difference-maker in every aspect of my life, especially in my community. I may just be one man, but I have a talent, a powerful story, and a passion to change the world one haircut at a time,” Greg added.
"Changing the life of a human being one haircut and one conversation at a time to instill inspiration, belief, and new purpose."
Noblemen's Cut and Shave is now moving to a larger space, which Greg hopes will provide a better experience for the client and offer more to the community. He’s also launching his own product line, Noble by Greg Young, starting with Matte Paste. Greg explains that it is a trending style, as guys like to be clean and groomed but with a natural look. The Matte Paste also helps give volume to almost any hairstyle. And, of course, a portion of the profits from the grooming line helps support The Backpack Barber Foundation.
When asked what he hopes others will learn and benefit from his story, Greg responded, “My entire goal with everything I do in life is to inspire others. Even if I help change one person’s life, I will know I did my job. I stay sober by giving back to others. It’s important to me that I live my life in daily gratitude. Addiction is so serious and so hard to overcome, but it’s imperative people see my story and know it is possible. I remember sitting in a jail cell for many years, thinking I would never be able to live life on my terms, and now I know it’s possible because I am living a life beyond my wildest dreams. I wake up every day and choose to do the next right thing and stay sober, just for today. One day at a time.”
Photos courtesy Noblemen's, Noble by Greg Young, The Backpack Barber Foundation, and Instagram.