Darius Swilley has always loved hair, from getting designs done as a kid to working in a barbershop at age 13. That passion recently turned into a business that brings the barbershop straight to the consumer.
That business began one night when Swilley had a dream he was driving in what seemed like an ice cream truck but actually was a barbershop on wheels. “When I had that dream and I woke up, I literally had to write it down at 3 in the morning because I said, ‘This is it. Nobody is doing it,’” Swilley said.
Thus, Swillz-On-Wheelz was born. With mentorship from barbers in the Tacoma Urban League, Swilley branded himself a mobile barber in March. Business was slow at first. But as COVID-19 restrictions began lifting, more people started finding themselves landing on Swilley’s website looking for a post-quarantine cut.
Swilley comes from an entrepreneurial family, and always has wanted to follow that path. His mother owns a hair salon in North Carolina.
From Los Angeles via North Carolina, Swilley served in the Army, which brought him to Washington state, where he cut the hair of fellow services members as a hobby. After his military commitment ended in 2016, he decided to stay in Washington and cut hair professionally.
“As soon as I joined barber school and actually started … seeing clients smile and stuff like that, that’s when I knew for sure, like, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” Swilley said.
Currently, Swilley uses his car to travel to his clients, but that inciting dream still is omnipresent in his mind. The ultimate goal is to have the mobile barber truck by next year, so he can “serve fresh cutz daily.”
Ultimately, his goals include expanding his business nationwide, always with an emphasis on the community he serves, because he readily recognizes that his success relies on them.
Keep reading to see a day in the life of this entrepreneur on wheels.
Photos courtesy Darius Swilley, except 1:30pm and 3pm, both by Ingrid Barrentine
10 a.m. Cleaning myself up before I get my day started.
11 a.m. Having a cup of coffee while I check the day’s bookings and catch up on emails.
11:30 a.m. Messaging my client to confirm the time we will be conducting his appointment.
1 p.m. Off to my appointment at a business establishment in Tacoma called The Handlebar.
1:30 p.m. Made it to my client’s establishment safely. Before the service, I lay out all my tools and sanitize them. After that, the experience begins.
3 p.m. I finish the service with my client, and he loves his haircut.
5 p.m. At the end of the day, I go home and make myself dinner.
5:30 p.m. I finish the day by enjoying a good read with a glass of wine.