Saturday, February 11, 2017

Before Daddy Daughter Hair Factory (How it Started)

     I remember the day I read a story about Greg Wickherst, the single dad who asked for help with his daughter's hair at a cosmetology school. I reached out to him and right away we became bros! It was great to have someone I could relate with. As a single father who gradually figured out how to do hair, I admired him for reaching out for help. I understood that struggle very well.



     At this point I decided that I would share some of my hairstyles on Reddit, hoping to inspire those who browse that site. It was the first time I made it to the front page of the site, and the feedback from this was so encouraging!



     Then in April, Greg announced a contest for dads that do their daughter's hair. I was excited to share some of the hairstyles we have created, so I entered in the contest. I never expected to win, but with 58% of the votes, I was in 1st place!!! What blew me away, was that the Huffington Post would share this. It was the first time I made national news, and I can remember how proud I was to share this will all of my friends and family. This moment gave me so much confidence as a single father, it was great! I didn't even care that they misspelled my name.


    At this point, I began share all of the hairstyles we created. I stopped worrying about people judging me for doing her hair, cause I no longer cared. I was having fun! I was being creative! I was SPENDING TIME WITH MY DAUGHTER!!! I loved it.


   We started to become locally known as "the dad who does hair", to the point where local shopping trips always involved people asking Emma "what does your hair look like today?". Emma was always so proud to share our newest hairstyle and I loved how supportive people were for it. There were moments where I was struggling to put food in the fridge and doubting myself as a father, but hearing a compliment from a perfect stranger would turn my day around. It was so refreshing.

   The summer of 2015 was upon us. I received a message from Greg, saying that he was invited to the Fablife show with Tyra Banks, but he couldn't make it because of his work schedule so he mentioned us. The producer for this show reached out to me with the offer of being on TV. I'll be honest here, I was more excited at the opportunity to travel with my daughter, which was something I could never afford. I asked Emma if she was cool with it, which was followed by a confident "Yessss" and shortly after we found ourselves with travel arrangements to head to LA!!!


      The day finally came to travel to LA. It was not our first time flying, but it was our first time to the west coast. The trip was so well coordinated, and it was such a blast! We arrived at LAX with car service waiting for us. I have never experienced that, so after asking permission we got a picture with our driver who was holding a sign with our name on it. It was the coolest thing! I've never experienced VIP treatment like this before. He gave us a ride to the historic Culver Hotel which would serve as our temporary home for the next few days. 


     The morning after, I can remember waking up so early. I was still on East Coast time, but this clearly had no effect on Emma, she slept like a baby. While she was snoozing, I was ironing our clothes, shaving and getting ready for time in front of the camera. I snapped this picture which had her sleeping in her princess style bed with the Culver Studios in the background.



   Our time in LA was short and sweet! We really enjoyed the opportunity to go on the show, as I mentioned we were also very excited about the travel. This was also the first time I was able to try an In & Out burger, which by itself is worth the trip. 

    When I arrived back home, I met up with my cousin for a few beers and we discussed the trip. At this point, I mentioned that I thought about doing a class. A small class to help fathers learn about how to handle hair. I figured I would cover the cost of the materials, and put it together as a community service project to do with my daughter. This is the night I put together a text message and forwarded it to all of the friends I had with daughters, just to see if there was any interest in learning more. The response was great! Everyone said they would show up. This got the ball rolling! The first name to pop in my head was Daddy Daughter Hair Factory, simple because the daddy and the his daughter would learn about hair and create memories like a factory creates products. 


    My first challenge would be to find a place, boy oh boy. I hadn't stop to think about what it must look like for a 6ft tall 260lb man to walk into a place and ask to use their room to teach a class on hair. I wasn't a hair stylist, nor did I have any credentials which gave me a leg to stand on. I just knew that I had an opportunity to help, and this was going to happen one way or another. After many messages which never received a response, I found myself physically going to a few locations to look for support. My local library wanted to charge me, my friend's who owned hair salons didn't seem interested in lending me the space and my house was too small to invite a bunch of people over. There were moments where I felt like giving up, and thought to myself 'maybe this is weird'. Then I was talking to my friend Ryan, who was in cosmetology school at the time, and he offered to bring it up to the owner of the school. 

    The same day I received a response from Ryan with some dates and times that were available to use a class room. I told him that I'd like to meet with Mez Varol, who owns the International Academy of Hair Design. I wanted to shake his hand and let him know how much I appreciated the opportunity to use his classroom. I remember at this point, Mez said "Here stands a man who wants to make an improvement in his community, I support that and I'll be glad to help you with anything you need". Mez stood a few inches taller than me and it was obvious in our short conversation that he was a loving father and ready to help. I was ready to announce my first class on social media, thanks to this guy!



     Then it was time to announce the class on social media. It filled up within the first hour! I made a few new friends that day which would be the ones who attended my very first class. 


     Now that I had a full class to look forward to, I began shopping for supplies. I put together a list of the things that I thought would be necessary to teach the class, and I decided to use all new supplies which I picked up at the dollar store. I had a friend help me with a logo, and we made up some stickers to put on the bags and spray bottles. 


     The class was approaching fast! I had a few cancellations, but I wasn't concerned about that. I was really looking forward to getting these guys together and teaching them how to do the basics. I wrote down a list of things that I felt were important for fathers to know about hair, this way I could teach them what they needed to know about taking care of hair. We went over the tips and tricks I learned along the way. We discussed proper hair detangling, ponytails, braids and buns, but the most important thing mentioned was the relationships we have with our daughters. I used the class as an opportunity to talk about how important it is to be the role model they need. The fathers all left with the ability to handle hair, and I was surprised at how quick they picked up on braiding and buns. Men tend to learn better in a hands on environment. I left the class this night with an incredible feeling that I made a difference, even if it was just a small one. 

    When I got home from the class, one of the instructors from the academy sent me the pictures that she took that night. I shared them on my Facebook and I decided to share the class on Reddit, since many of the users there seemed interested in the idea. I had no idea that this moment would not only change my life, but it would have a huge impact on fatherhood for the entire world. In 24 hours, the post received nearly 3 million views with thousands of messages pouring in to show their support. It created a wave which spawned hundreds of workshops around the world and encouraged fathers everywhere to grab the brush and spend time with their girls. 



If you enjoyed this, please let me know. It's been a crazy ride so far, but the growth of DDHF has been consistent thanks to the folks at So Cozy which help us facilitate our classes and the fathers who took this program into their communities. We now have 18 fathers who host classes with their daughters and 70+ community centers who have hosted this workshop. Feel free to join us on Our Main Facebook Page to keep up with our classes and our live lessons :)

Thanks for reading!
-Phil 
Daddy Daughter Hair Factory








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