These two are like a dovetail joint—the type of joint carpenters trust the most because of the way the wood’s pins and tails interlock making it virtually impossible to pull apart when they come together. The tensile strength of a dovetail joint mirrors the strength Natalie and Tyler have as partners in business and partners in life. They each have their own unique qualities and strengths, but when they come together, the Andersons are a force to be reckoned with.
For instance, their barbershop, Beardsgaard Barbers, hasn’t even hit its two-year anniversary mark and its average client and revenue growth have both increased by 100 percent. The barbers (including themselves) are, on average, booked out 2-3 months in advance. Surprisingly enough, the shops average client is 38 years old, earns around $90K annually and is most likely a suburban dad who’s really, REALLY into Game of Thrones.
The thing you should immediately know about Natalie and Tyler is that not only are they crazy great at what they do, but they are extraordinarily genuine and like more out of life than just sunsets and long walks on the beach. They go geek over just about anything in relation to barbering and fantasy/sci-fi. But what really stands out the most is how they have created a very niche brand for their business by just incorporating their true passions and what they love in life. We learned all this first hand after spending a full weekend with them and their staff in and out of the barbershop. After we learned everything there was to know about Beardsgaard Barbers the shop, we met up with Natalie and Tyler (and their daughter Morgan, a.k.a ShopKid) at their favorite place, the public library’s coffee shop, and got to know them on a more personal level. We learned a lot about their pasts along with some great advice for those of you contemplating on whether or not opening up your own space is the right path to take in life.
Where are you from and what’s your family like?
Natalie: I’m originally from the north side of Chicago, and moved out to Palatine when I was in grade school. I come from a delightful family of weirdoes. My dad is like Fred Willard, and my mother is a hospice nurse who went back to school at the age of 58 and is definitely a hippie at heart. They are HIGHLY inappropriate and I refuse to speak to either one of them on April Fools Day ever again because they can’t be trusted. I love them to pieces actually. They are a real sitcom. I have a younger sibling and she lives in the next town over from us (Geneva, Illinois).
Tyler: My backstory is…a lot (laughs). I’ve lived many lives. I was born in a very small town called Yankton, South Dakota that is about an hour south of Sioux Falls. Moved to Dubuque, Iowa when I was about three, and then to Mount Prospect, Illinois when I was seven. The reason for all the moving is was due to my father who was in education. He was a history teacher. My mother was a graphic designer and went to art school in Colorado.
Tyler, you mentioned that your mother was a graphic designer/artist. What about you Natalie, any art in your family?
Natalie: When I was in the army…
Wait, you were in the army?!
Natalie: Oh yeah, there are some parts I missed. When I was 19 I got hurt in basic training and ended up getting sent home. I was supposed to be a Crypto-Linguist Analyst in Chinese Mandarin. I don’t know Chinese, but I was supposed to learn it because I scored really well on the language test. I actually dropped out of art school to join the army, which was in 2002, which was a really weird decision, but yeah.
But why did you join the army?
Natalie: Because I was failing CAD Drafting class because I missed a week of class due to being sick and couldn’t make up the work and was like, “Eh, let’s do this now,” and joined the army. And then I got hurt, came back and then eventually ended up in Montreal in 2007/2008.
Okay, now tell us about that. Why Montreal?
Natalie: I was working for Bang & Olufsen, when my dad was there, and kind of made my own job. I was mostly working with all the internal systems and we ended up creating a pretty major proprietary system for the company, which got me a lot of the business experience I was able to use for our business now. I worked under a man named Zean Nielsen, he was on the cover of Fast Company for their Creatives Issue. But then I fell in love with the Bang & Olufsen Montreal Store Manager and ran away to another country and went to hair school!!!
Tyler, were you ever in the army or go to art school?
Tyler: No, I was never in the army. I just went to a normal college, not an art specific school, but I did take some art classes. After that, I got into bartending and serving because it was easy money and it was a flexible schedule.
How about your friends? How would you describe them?
Natalie: They are an eclectic group and a number of them center around the shop because that where we spend most of our lives these days. Some of them date all the way back to high school but most of them, most of the really best ones, are from me meeting and being with Tyler. He (Tyler) is Mr. SocialButterfly. If I was left to my own devices I would become a hermit, probably.
What about you Tyler, what’s your social scene like?
Tyler: (Laughs) I know a lot of people. I’m like the Kevin Bacon of the Chicagoland area. Like that time we went to Hawaii. A friend of mine from high school was on the island next to us, someone we never really get together with here. We always talked about getting together and doing something but never did. But, yeah, we’re both in Hawaii at the same time, let’s go and drive around and look at beaches for the day!
And a lot of my friends know each other and it’s not because of me, but I’m all connected to them in some way.
Natalie: It happens all the time, especially at the shop. People walk in and look at him and say, “How/Why are you here?”
Tyler: For instance, one of my really good friends who I have known for years and years is in the same art community as our front desk guy and they’ve known each other for years, but it’s not because of me.
Natalie: Our front desk guy Angel was in a play a long time ago and our next door neighbor, who is in his mid-twenties was in third grade at the time and saw this play and decided he wanted to take this character home with him. Years later, they were both actors in our Zombie movie and realized who each other were. It’s the friggin’ Twilight Zone in the shop.
So you two are definitely and introvert/extrovert duo, huh?
Natalie: (Laughs) Ohhhhh yeah.
Tyler: (Smiles and nods)
What qualities do you two share since one of you in an introvert and the other in an extrovert?
Tyler: (Laughs) Obsessive Compulsive Disorders.
Natalie: Nerdiness is what brought us together. He says the thing that made him fall in love with me is that he asked me a question about something and my text back to him was, “Remember when Grandpa lost his last tooth and we had to take him out back and shoot him because he could no longer fend for himself? Pepperidge Farm remembers.”
Tyler: I was like, you get my sick and twisted humor and can throw it right back to me.
I feel like some of the best relationships and partnerships are ones where there is an introvert and extrovert.
Natalie: That’s my parents to a T. My dad is the introvert. I am so my father’s daughter. He was the head tech for Bang & Olufsen for 30 years, so he just likes to be in his little cave at home fixing things. He has his own side business now called Armageddon Electronics and calls himself the Vintage Tech Wizard. He can actually be seen on our YouTube channel!
What makes you, you? What qualities came together and formed you?
Natalie: There is a high sense of whimsy that leads most of everything that we and I do, and a need to categorize life and make sense out of it. I’m also the person who can’t have hobbies because I turn them into a job. I didn’t think I’d ever become a workaholic, but here we are.
Tyler: Oh man, that’s a hard question to try and narrow that all down. Well, a lot of talking because that’s what I like to do. Talking about everything and nothing.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Natalie: Moderation. We never know when enough is enough.
Tyler: (Laughs) Restraint.
What are some of your side gigs and hobbies?
Natalie: I have a dresser that is full of nothing but yarn. It’s what I call my substance abuse problem. A lot of the art and creative stuff used to be a hobby in itself, and now that I’m able to funnel it into the shop, like photography, which is initially what took me to art school, now I can do that for the shop. I’m no professional at it, but I did get to do a photo shoot with a wizard and a horse…
Tyler: Cleaning [laughs]. I find it therapeutic. No really, I do.
Natalie: He likes to put on punk music and clean. There’s really no stopping him.
Tyler: Loud, fast, and angry gets the job done. I’ll put on some Coheed and Cambria. I also like to play guitar. I was in a band back in high school. We changed our band name probably 20 times. The last name we settled on was called Pickup Sam. One of the members of our band was Lee DeWyze, who won Season 9 of American Idol.
Since the community supported your efforts from the very get-go of it all, how do you support the community in return? How are actively giving back?
Natalie: We try to do as many things as possible. We do a lot of donations because we get a ton of requests. Since we are in the shop a lot, once we are able to delegate a lot of the day-to-day tasks, then we can do more.
Tyler: We have plans to do some charity events at the shop as well.
Natalie: Yes! There are a lot of female fans out there who are fans of our clients so we will definitely be doing a bachelor auction next February for charity, because frankly, we’ve got some pretty foxy dudes as clients and we can raise some serious funds.
Okay, let’s do a fun question. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
[Lots and lots of silence]
Morgan (a.k.a ShopKid): I know what you’re thinking [points to her father].
Natalie: What is he thinking? Help us out here.
Morgan: You should probably say me because…
Morgan: You know, because I’m hysterical
Natalie & Tyler [in unison]: HISTORICAL!!!
Tyler: From history, like in the past!
Natalie: Can we just put that answer in because none of us are going to top that.
Industrie: Sure, definitely. That’s the best answer
Natalie: Okay, historical figure that’s one thing, but can we say what fictional character?
Industrie: Absolutely. Let’s go fictional for you if you’d like.
Natalie: For me that would definitely be a Thranduil/non-evil Petyr Baelish combo.
Tyler: [deep in concentration]
Natalie: Your history-teaching Dad would be really disappointed in you right now [laughs].
Tyler: I know! I’m going through this whole list and it’s like, “Well, who do I want?!” Teddy Roosevelt is a big one. He’s got to be in my Top 5. He did a lot of things.
What’s your favorite quote of all time?
Tyler: “It’s not easy bein’ green.” ? Kermit The Frog
Natalie: “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” ? J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Where do you shop for clothing?
Tyler: I don’t. I actually get them sent to me. Bombfell – it’s an online subscription service.
Natalie: Bombfell for me as well, and StitchFix, which is a women’s online subscription service, and then exclusively Levi’s on the bottom because I’m an old man when it comes to shopping. If it’s presented to me in an easy package, cool. If not, then I don’t even think about it. I make bad decisions in stores because I just want to get the hell out of there.
What new music are you listening to?
Natalie: Shovels & Rope has been a big one for me lately. Also, The Last Bison I’ve been super obsessed with. These actually came off the Spotify “Discover Weekly” Playlist. Man, it’s like it knows me. I can really appreciate a good algorithm and that is friggin’ epic.
Tyler: Lot’s of Brown Bird and also a local guy named Greg Boerner who comes into the shop often.
Natalie: Yeah, you’ll be hearing a lot of his music soon in our videos. We’re going to be doing a little bit of collaborative stuff.
Now, we know you two are really, really into books and movies. What was the last thing you watched or read?
Tyler: The last movie that I went to go see in the theater was Star Wars: Force Awakens. I am a HUGE Star Wars fan. I brought Morgan with me because Star Wars is a family thing.
Natalie: They actually cried together.
Morgan: Yeah, we cried because…
Natalie & Tyler: SSSSSHHHHHH!!!!! NO SPOILERS!!!!
Tyler: And right now I’m reading Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, which is a follow-up to his book American Gods.
Natalie: The last thing I watched was Shameless, which became so addictive to watch. Svetlana [character on the show] is my girl.
What did you have for breakfast today?
Natalie: This [point to vanilla latte]. I really need to eat more regularly. I end up plowing through something and then just thinking about it for many hours.
Tyler: Fruit smoothie. It’s really quick, simple and doesn’t take a lot of effort. Pour, drink and go.
Natalie: Yeah, we are still working on getting into a regular schedule part of life and it’s not quite happening yet [laughs].
How do you keep your work life and personal life balanced?
[They both laugh in unison]
Tyler: It’s like trying to chase the snowball down the hill and keep it in a line. That’s how I feel right now and how it all goes.
Let’s shift gears and talk about your career paths. Natalie, let’s start with you because we know you have quite an interesting backstory to say the least.
Natalie: I did do a year and a half of art school, but everything else has been pretty much me picking up along the way. When I find something in life I don’t know, I get really annoyed by that, and I go out and find out everything I can about it. For instance, when I was nine years old, my dad answered a question I asked him with a smart ass answer and I got annoyed by it, so I ended up reading the entire series of encyclopedias over the course of two years. And after getting injured during basic training, I did a lot serving because its quick and easy money and you can balance a lot of literal and metaphorical plates all at once. Then I went onto Bang & Olufsen, moved to Montreal. Then came hair school, which is called ecole de coiffure there, and is not really differentiated there as it is here. I then ended up apprenticing under an 89-year-old Italian guy named Urkel who was the coolest who liked to sing to Carrie Underwood with his thick Italian accent. I imagine he’s back in Italy now and retired. I ended up not being able to get a visa so I came back to the states and got a job serving at Fox & Hound in Arlington Heights, and on my first day working there, there was this dude wearing Lederhosen [points to Tyler] who worked there who walked up to me and was like, “Hey, hey, hey there.”
Tyler: I make good first impressions.
Natalie: About a month later we had an Invader Zim marathon and we’ve been inseparable ever since. And I found out that I had to go back to school because all of my credentials were in French and not an hours-based curriculum so they couldn’t figure out the equivalence. I had to start completely over. 1500 hours of barber school all over again at The Barber Academy in Schaumburg which is also where Tyler went after me. After I finished barber school I worked downtown for a major barber chain. My book got so busy when I was working there. They had this same day call ahead where if you weren’t calling in the first two minutes of the phones opening up in the morning then you couldn’t get a spot in my book for the day. By the time we got married and Tyler started going to barber school, that’s when we started planning opening up our shop.
So, Tyler, you didn’t go to barber school until after you got married?
Tyler: Yeah, before that I was doing a bunch of things. I was working in a bakery, did some warehouse work, lots of serving and bartending. I bounced around a lot.
Natalie: He had so much potential and social skills that I kept pushing him and saying there was more he could be doing and kept saying, “Barber school, barber school.” When I first met him he was cutting his own hair and trimming his own beard, and even with me being the professional, I couldn’t tell that it was a home job. Usually people are like, “Yeah, I cut my own hair and beard” and I’m like, “Yeah…I know.” But with him, it looked really good. He was also really good at drawing and had those fine motor skills and all his social skills.
Tyler: Yeah, so I went to barber school, and by the end of the first couple of days there I was completely hooked. I loved it and soaked up as much knowledge and information as I could. I plowed through all of the written tests from the book in the first couple hundred hours. I didn’t beat the record, but I was close by 5 hours. I got through as much as I could so I could spend my time cutting and learning all that. [Laughs] and then I would come home and talk nonstop about cuts and technique with her. It was all day, every day. Then I finished and also worked for a major barber chain before we opened up the shop.
What do you love most about being a barber?
Natalie: Changing how people see themselves. There are so many times people come in and they just want something really basic because they don’t know they have other options. I tell them what I see in their hair and in them and when I start taking them in that direction, they are getting compliments when they never have before. Before long, they have this whole new vibe to them.
Tyler: I’m actually going to go with the same thing here and say the same as her.
You both worked for a major corporation before and you made that jump to owning your own space and taking on that responsibility of not just building your clientele, but also balancing the books, hiring the people, handling the utilities, etcetera, etcetera. Obviously didn’t have any prior experience doing that, so how did you learn it? Did you talk to people?
Natalie: [Laughs] a lot of trial and error. Honestly. I did my best. We have a very distinct division of labor between us. Tyler, he takes care of the physical things you can see, while I take care of the books and the nuances. He makes sure the place doesn’t fall/burn down. For instance, I would never remember to chance the AC filter.
It really has been just figuring it all out as we go. Thankfully we do have Scott now who has 10 years of experience in banking and finance and another 10 years in HR and business management.
How do you define success?
Natalie: Not going bankrupt and keeping everything from spinning off its axis.
Tyler: Keep the family comfortably surviving and enjoying everything in the process.
Natalie: [Laughs] modest goals.
What makes you two qualified and well suited to be business owners?
Tyler: [Shrugs his shoulders and laughs] Ummm, I don’t know.
Natalie: [Laughs] admittedly I kinda dragged him along on this a little bit! When I was born my mother was an OR Tech, which she couldn’t really be doing anymore because she was constantly passing out due to standing in one place, so she started her own medical transcription company so she could stay home with me. She later took that business out of the home and it became quite successful. She is my entrepreneurial spirit animal. The idea of having to work for someone else was never, ever the plan for me; I didn’t know what I was going to do, but when he started to go to barber school it all clicked into place. We do best when we are headed in a similar direction. When we work in completely different areas, that’s when it all goes to hell.
What makes you a good leader?
Natalie: Oh God, no, not me, that’s him. I’m like the troll under the bridge.
Tyler: I know how to read people and handle conflict resolution. If there’s every anything that needs to get done, all I have to do is just ask someone to do and it gets done. I don’t know what it is.
Natalie: He is very fair and upfront and for some reason, everybody likes him.
What is the best advice you can give to someone who wants to start their own business?
Natalie: Build a place that you want to be all the time and where you feel the most at home. This was the same advice that was giving to us by the Schorem Barbershop in the Netherlands. I got to meet them when I was working at downtown and so I contacted them a few times with some questions and this is one of the things they said. Build a place where you feel at home and where everybody else feels it too.
And then you just try not to fuck everything else up!
How about someone who is looking to make a big life change or find a new direction?
Natalie: Make sure you’re not leaving any of the important people in your life in a lurch and go for it. Jump in with both feet.
Tyler: Research, research, research and commit.
Natalie: And do your best and be flexible.
Which one of you is the workhorse and which one of you is a racehorse?
Tyler: Oh, I’m the workhorse. I’m a total workhorse.
Natalie: I am too, but I’m also doing it in a different way. I’m kind of leading the way and he’s making sure the things get done.
Tyler: You can say she’s the pilot and I’m the engine.