“Everything happens for a reason,” Patrick Lomantini, founder of BarkAID, repeats several times during our conversation, as if the rhythmic sound of these syllables helps to keep him traipsing across the country. I am immediately struck by his engaging personality. Part 6 of The Angels Amongst Us, another installment of the series Powerful Sheroes and Heroes in the Beauty Industry, shares the journey of one hair artist willing to let go of everything for his cause.
Inspired by his Aunt Cindy, a retired hairstylist, Patrick wanted to do hair as far back as he can remember. She represented Sebastian in the early days as an educator. Her hair was always on point, and she always looked fabulous. When Patrick visited the bar with his friends, they would talk about sports, and he would comment on a woman’s hair color. He studied fashion magazines out of pure interest and passion.
Patrick transitioned from selling things out of the trunk of his car for a company in Lenexa Kansas, much to his dad’s horror, to selling cars for 15 years on his dad’s suggestion (leaving Patrick mystified at the difference between the two jobs), to moving from Kansas to St. Louis. He married and had four children. He slowly became disenchanted with his life. As time passed, he became disenchanted with his life and at a deep level knew he could not, would not become one of the old men at the bar, letting life pass him by.
Patrick divorced, moved back to Kansas, and became a personal trainer. Through the process he got himself in shape, going from a skinny 165 lbs to 195 lb. of muscle. He eventually realized that all he ever wanted to do was hair, and that one small-town notion held him back, only gay guys do hair. He thinks of himself as someone who will do what no one else will do, so at 40 years old, he enrolled himself in a cosmetology school night program.
At Vernon’s Kansas School of Cosmetology in Wichita, he discovered that his desire to be really good at whatever he did was vital. Mediocrity would not do. He wanted to become a high-priced stylist and knew he was destined for great things – he just didn’t know how to get there. About this time he met Eric Fischer and attended his Tuesday night workshops for hairstylists. He learned a lot from Eric, and they became good friends. He always thought he would get a job at Eric’s salon when he graduated.
[tweetthis]”Everything happens for a reason.” @Patrick Lomantini[/tweetthis]
Patrick just assumed he would work at Eric’s salon when he completed beauty school, but when he graduated, he realized he couldn’t afford at 40 years old to assist and then work up the ranks of becoming a senior stylist. So, he chose to work for Regis, located in the mall for six months where there was high traffic, and he built a clientele. He learned about loyalty and business. About this time he became very inspired by Willie Nelson and his project called Farm Aid, and the wheels of creativity began to spin. After six months he moved to a little salon in South Wichita that serviced the working class.
Drawn to do what no-one does, as a promotion one day Patrick cut hair continuously for 72 hours. He posted about it on Facebook, and raised a little money. But he felt it lacked impact. His girlfriend at this time said he needed to make this about something bigger than himself. They had dogs of their own, so he hooked up with the Kansas Humane Society and made them the beneficiary. He started out with 70 appointments and ended up with over 300, with a waiting list after KHS put out their press release. He finished with 227 haircuts and raising $2,000. He only took 15-minute breaks to eat, drink and use the bathroom and continued on. This was how BarkAID was born.
As life would have it, the relationship ended with his girlfriend. While enjoying several beers with his roommate Brian Gallagher, Patrick said, “I gotta out-do myself.” He came up with the idea for 50 states, 50 days, 50 haircuts. With $200 in his pocket, he borrowed his friend’s Ford Fusion and set out east of Illinois. During this tour, he worked 12 hour days, becoming very proficient at the 15-minute, stellar dry cut, then he moved on to the next state. People said he couldn’t do it, but everything happens for a reason.
Patrick didn’t intend to organize more than one event, but the next year came and he found himself organizing another trip. 2,500 haircuts later, he had raised $50,000. A PR firm gave their time to help him, and they literally said, “You are creatively destructive.” Patrick laughs as he tells the story. In other words, he had great ideas but no idea how to run it. This is when BarkAID became an official 501c3 nonprofit with a board, and donations in-kind started to take place. Another PR person told him it took him six years to become an overnight success.
Consistency is Patrick’s biggest teacher. Fundraising takes consistency. He’s lost a lot of money while learning this lesson. He asked Paul Mitchell for help, like many others probably do. At first they gave him the corporate high five for his work, but contributed nothing. Now they are working on a National BarkAID Day coming June 11th in every Paul Mitchell School across the country. ISO invited him to have a booth at their Orlando, Florida education event called Caper where 2,500 of their artists and students come together.
BarkAID Northern American Tour
Even though Patrick may still not have the support of his dad and so many, because he doesn’t make money at this project, he has clients all around the country now. He has licenses in seven cities. He charges a minimum of $25 a haircut, and gives 2,000-3,000 haircuts a trip, most recently raising $512,000. It’s been an exciting journey. But more than once he has been out of money, literally calling his closest friends for $20 to pay for gas and food. He even slept in his car at times. He finally put out a tip jar.
During the second year, his volunteer work became like a job. During the third year, other stylists came on board. During the fourth year he canceled the event for personal reasons. He asked himself, why BarkAID, why go through all this? He decided to do this for one reason, the animal shelters and rescues needed the support, the demand was there, so he expanded by adding more cities. He drove to 74 cities last year, with over 80 set for this year. Now his work is called the Bark Aid Northern American Tour.
Wow, Patrick is up to some awesome work, and such an inspiration! The hard work is not over though, Patrick needs to find a way to pay himself, proving this path is not for the faint of heart.He invites you to come out and cut hair, or sponsor an event in your city. Check out his schedule or make a donation, to help him continue his valuable work in the community for our furry four-legged friends. Although, Patrick loves animals, he loves how these events bring people together even more. His passion for life and creating something with great impact is very infectious.
Begin conversations in your community, through dialogue you may discover one cause that lights you up.