Trinidad born and Far Rockaway, Queens-raised, this Brooklyn-based master barber, public speaker and entrepreneur, Khane Kutzwell, is living out one of her goals by creating an inviting and safe space for people of all gender expressions and sexual orientations to get grooming services comfortably.
While she worked as a store manager for a well-known coffee company for five years, Khane started Camera Ready Kutz, Inc. as a way to address the needs of people who felt uncomfortable or unwelcome in barbershops because of their gender expression or sexual orientation. “I heard stories from my LGBTQ+ friends who were being refused services at barber shops. Even straight women would feel uncomfortable because of being talked about or receiving unwelcome sexual advances,” she told the AmNews.
Kutzwell continued, “If you go to a coffee shop and ask for an espresso the barista doesn’t give you a coffee with milk and tell you, ‘Well, that’s what I feel you should get.’ So why should that be any different in a barbershop. I’m not here to judge your sexuality or expression.”
Consequently she turned one of her bedrooms into a room where she could cut people’s hair until she could open her own barbershop—which she did, on her 10th year anniversary with the help of her client and his family. After 12 years, she could not be prouder of her decision.
When Kutzwell started her business she served the LGBTQ+ exclusively as she had received stories of ill treatment, denial of service, hateful and derogatory comments, and overall poor service from people in the community. However that has changed over the years as she is inclusive of all genders and sexual orientations with similar experiences. “I also started hearing from teenage boys and straight men who feel like they have to perform a hyper-masculine personality just to fit into the barbershop,” she says. “People feel thankful coming here. They sit and cry, telling their stories. By the time they leave they feel better about themselves. We make sure how people feel on the inside is represented on the outside, especially my transgender and gender nonconforming clients.”
Kutzwell expressed that people in the Crown Heights community feel a sense of pride with her shop. “Even if people don’t come in the shop they tell me they’re happy to see a Black-owned business and that it is not yet another sign of gentrification.”
“I’m not doing this for me. I’m doing it for my community,” she says. Camera Ready Kutz Inc. is fully immersed in serving the community. Last year Kutzwell and her team raised $1,000 and bought 100 book bags, filled them with school supplies and gave them to children in shelters. They also raised $400 to help a client who lost his hearing aids which were not covered by insurance. Camera Ready Kutz Inc. also goes to different organizations to give free haircuts. They also collect food to leave out for individuals who need it.
When asked if she had any words of advice for young Black people trying to start a business, Kutzwell encouraged young entrepreneurs to have good credit. “It’s challenging finding funding and clients at first, but keep pushing and advertising,” she advises. “Don’t wait for this to be perfect, just jump into it and do it. Most importantly, make sure your work speaks for itself.”
Camera Ready Kutz Inc. (located at 73 Utica Ave.,
Brooklyn, NY 11213;
https://www.camerareadykutz.com/) provides a loyalty program for its clients. For example customers get $5 off after their fifth cut and $5 off if they refer another customer. They also host Game Nights Thursday evenings and will host the Brooklyn Fashion, Arts and Music July 15.