Alakya and Yohanne offer style & sips at Bourbon Barbers

September 26, 2023

Husband and wife duo Yohanne and Alakya Mathankeri-Spears are the owners of Bourbon Barbers, Dayton’s first social barbershop, offering hair cuts alongside a full-service bar.

We recently caught up with Alakya to learn more about the duo’s entrepreneurial journey.

Introduce yourself — who are you and what is your company?

Hi! I am Alakya Mathankeri-Spears and my husband is Yohanne Spears. Together we own Bourbon Barbers, the first social barbershop in Dayton, Oh that offers grooming services with a full service bar.

We both have been in Ohio for the last 15 years making Dayton our home and raising our four children here. We love Dayton because Dayton is where we met, fell in love, and made this our home.

How did your company start?

The company started with many small ideas that eventually became one. My husband always wanted to open up a barbershop. And I always wanted to open up an social center, a restaurant, bar or event center. But as we traveled all over the US, we became exposed to new and upcoming social barbershops, barbershops that offer alcohol drinks and a full service bar. So over time, the barbershop became a social barbershop that offers drinks and a lounging patio area.

Why this idea?

When we would travel, my husband would try to find barbershops to get his hair cut, and in many instances, we just happened to stumble upon some great barbershops that offered a full service bar to clients. Many clients loved this concept! Dayton didn’t have this service offered so many Dayton professionals would drive to Columbus or Cincinnati. So we decided that we would try to get a local social barbershop in the area. And the rest is history!

Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

Yes, we both did! Although I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to venture into, my husband has always wanted to open up a barbershop. It worked out extremely well that we both were able to bring our experiences and expertise to fruition.

The Launch Dayton community values are: 1. Be Bold 2. All Are Welcome 3. People First 4. Give First 5. Remove Barriers. How do you embody one or more of these values?

I think we embody all of these! I think to be an entrepreneur, you have to be bold. It’s taking a chance on yourself and your communities. And I think we did just that. My husband left a lucrative corporate job to do this while raising four young kids. We did this because we saw a need and felt we can give back to our community in a time Dayton was really growing. Everywhere we look in Dayton, there are so many amazing opportunities and businesses growing and flourishing. Dayton is putting people first and giving first. With all that Dayton had to overcome in the past few years, Dayton has removed barriers to really strive to encourage growth. The city is flourishing like never before, and we wanted to be part of that. Dayton has welcomed us and helped us grow our family. And we wanted to be part of that growth.

What identities or life experiences do you bring to entrepreneurship that helped prepare you for this lifestyle?

My husband and I both bring unique experiences. Hemhas an extensive management background. He gained a lot of experience as an operating director where he learned about management, employee relations, resource management, operations, strategy development, etc. My experiences in HR and project management, as well as design, also helped with our business. We couldn’t have done it without the other! Truly we are the ying to each other’s yang!

What is the biggest barrier you’ve faced on your entrepreneur journey?

The biggest barrier we faced was financing options. But luckily my family was able to step in and help. I think a lot of entrepreneurs have this issue where getting funds are hard with bank and collateral. We were very fortunate to have family be able to step in and fund our venture.

Why do you love what you do?

It offers us the ability to operate with people in mind. We are small but we want to help build the business, the community and the people involved. Since we aren’t about the bottom line all the time, our focus can shift. We can embody our values in how we operate.

What advice would you offer fellow or aspiring entrepreneurs?

Just do it! It is hard, and it takes a lot of sacrifices, but it is worth it. It is amazing to see the happiness and pride that comes from ownership. When you have total control of how a business operates, you can make decisions that are empowering and true to yourself. You can write the narrative.

Connect with Alakya @bourbonbarbersdayton.

Curious what resources in the Launch Dayton community can help YOU grow your business? Check out our interactive resource guide here.