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Social Club Grooming Company

5272 3rd St
Detroit, Michigan 48202

Sebastian Jackson

By Amy Kuras
February 14, 2014

As you get your hair cut, have you ever gazed at those fluffy piles of hair that drift to the floor and wonder what happens to them? Usually they get swept up and thrown away. But Sebastian Jackson of the Social Club Grooming Co. in Detroit has another idea: reuse them in ways that promote sustainability and a cleaner Earth.
When he was working at the salon's previous incarnation before he took it over, he heard a news story about A Matter of Trust, an organization that takes hair clippings and remakes them into booms that catch and filter oil from oil spills before it contaminates surrounding water. This was right when the Deepwater Horizon was fouling the Gulf of Mexico with thousands of gallons of oil, so he got in touch with the organization and started shipping hair clippings there. Pretty soon, they had more hair than they could use.
Fast forward to this year, when Sebastian took over the salon himself. He wanted to do something that would benefit the community – beyond making everyone's hair more attractive – so he looked into some things that could be done to reuse all his hair clippings. As it turns out, hair can be composted into a great fertilizer for trees: six pounds of hair can produce enough nitrogen for five saplings to thrive.
Through the Green Garage, he connected with Dan Scarsella of People for Palmer Park, who also owns Motor City Brewing Works, and now spent grains from beer brewing and hair clippings from the salon are feeding young trees in Palmer Park. As they generate more clippings, Sebastian says, he'd like to allow customers to vote on where they'd like their hair planted to grow trees throughout the city.
It's all a part of his future-oriented ethos, he says. For sustainability, a city like Detroit should have 40 percent tree cover to provide cooling shade, water management, and oxygen production; we currently have about 25 percent coverage. Sebastian figured out how many trees need to be planted to reach 40 percent, and started researching how to contribute. "I wanted to make (the Social Club) like a club that you can come and belong to and be surrounded by socially responsible people – really cool young people who can help move Detroit forward," he says.
Sebastian began working at the salon he now owns while he was a student at Wayne State University – the Social Club Grooming Company is situated right in the heart of WSU's campus. He was finishing up his degree when the owner decided she wanted out of the business. After a deal for him to take it over fell through, he decided he still wanted to make the leap into owning a salon – that one, specifically. "I was really believing that space was mine," he says. "I couldn't imagine anybody else in that space."
It wasn't an easy road to get there. Three separate business plans were rejected by Wayne State, which owns the building that is home to the salon. He got help from the Blackstone Launchpad student entrepreneurship center at the university, which also wrote him a recommendation letter that eventually sealed the deal. The folks at the Green Garage were also crucial sources of support and mentoring, he says.
Finally, he submitted a plan that satisfied Wayne State and the salon opened in 2012.
"Since it was closed for a year, all the momentum I had planned on benefitting from, I couldn't," Sebastian says.  "I had to find a whole new team."
One of the interesting things he chose to do from the start was to hire white and African American stylists. That was partly to enlarge his clientele, so the diverse student and faculty population at Wayne State would all feel welcome. But there was a socially progressive idea there as well.
Salons and barbershops are a huge part of the culture in Detroit. It's where you hear the neighborhood gossip, get style advice, and solve the world's problems – all with wet hair.  Too often, though, they are as segregated as anything else in the city; white people get their hair done one place, African-Americans another. It all reinforces racial stereotypes, which thrive in isolation from diversity. At the Social Club Grooming Company, stylists of different races and from different cities have become friends. From there, their friends have become friends, which helps people see each other as they truly are instead of through the lens of racial mistrust. "Those false stereotypes are broken because people are becoming friends," Sebastian says.
Now that the salon has become a success, Sebastian says he'd like to expand into other locations and spread the cool urban vibe of the Social Club elsewhere in the city and the Metro area. "I think it's important for us to be a brand – kind of a hub for a certain lifestyle that wants to aspire to one Detroit, and to revitalize the city."

All photos by Doug Coombe. 

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  • Wayne State University
    Founded in 1868, Wayne State University is a nationally recognized metropolitan research institution offering more than 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 29,000 students.