UC Clermont alum inspires through barber business

Entrepreneur Nick Baynes shares his self-made story

UC Clermont College alumnus Nick Baynes’s path to success was anything but clear-cut. Before he was one of Cincinnati’s most sought-after barbers, counting professional athletes and performers among his clientele and giving motivational speeches to rooms full of local youth and cosmetology students — he was a struggling kid from Middletown, Ohio, searching for direction.

After spending three years in foster care, he was reunited with his biological mother at age 13. Then, in 8th grade, Baynes, who had shown talent and promise as a young athlete, learned about the UC Clermont College basketball program through a mentor.

“I really didn’t know much of anything about the school,” Baynes says. “But when I was brought in and showed the vision of the school and basketball program, I just wanted to be a part of it.” 

After graduating from Cincinnati’s Hughes High School in 2004, Baynes started his collegiate academic and basketball career at UC Clermont and says the life lessons began immediately. Being a first-generation college student meant that Baynes experienced a learning curve — but also a clean slate — when it came to campus life and coursework. He asked questions of older connections who had been to college to help him prepare, but he quickly found a self-forged path to success.

I’m grateful that God has chosen me to bring my gifts and message to whomever I can touch and help. I love having the ability to change people’s lives.

Nick Baynes UC Clermont alum; owner, Nick Da Barber

“I never bought textbooks because of my financial situation, so I found myself in the library checking out books and printing off one chapter at a time so I could be on the same page as other students in my classes,” Baynes says. “I set up meetings with my instructors if I needed help. I did things in a different fashion that worked for me.”

It was through these experiences that Baynes’s self-starter mentality first took hold.

“I learned how to become independent and self motivated all in the same week,” Baynes says. “Being away for school taught me how to budget and learn how to hold myself accountable. I also learned how to overcome adversity and take constructive criticism, which allowed me to press forward in life.”

Although Baynes had intended to become a teacher, while in college he witnessed substantial budget cuts in the Cincinnati Public School system that made him rethink his plans. In addition, Baynes became a father at age 22 and felt the weight of the responsibility to provide for his child, even as he briefly struggled with homelessness a few years later.

“I saw teachers who had worked for eight or nine years get fired after the budget cuts,” Baynes says. “That definitely contributed to my entrepreneurial mindset. I figured if I work for myself, I wouldn’t be fired.”

Determined to make his own way, in 2011 Baynes enrolled in barber school. Soon after he started cutting hair in his basement, he realized he had a gift for the craft. He started cutting hair at a local barbershop, and his clientele grew. Before long, professional and collegiate athletes and performers sought the specialized, personal service that Baynes provided. Baynes soon earned the nickname “Nick Da Barber.”

“I love being a barber for the freedom,” says Baynes. “I’m a people person, so this profession fits my personality perfectly.”

In 2013, Baynes decided to reach beyond the barber chair to further spread his positive message by founding the Nick Da Barber Against The Grain Foundation. The focus of the foundation is to meet the needs of those in the community who are struggling — like Baynes did as a child and teen. The foundation has provided meals, Christmas gifts and other needed items to the community since its inception. Baynes also holds symposiums, workshops and public speaking events, sharing his story of success and inspiring others. He even recently self-published his first book, “The Entrepreneur’s Blueprint: Strategies for Success,” available for order or download on his website, nickdabarber.com.

“I’m grateful that God has chosen me to bring my gifts and message to whomever I can touch and help,” Baynes says. “I love having the ability to change people’s lives.”