Q&A with Kellan Briones of Premier Barbershop Hawaii

University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa alumnus Kellan Briones is the owner of Premier Barbershop Hawaii—a top of the line barbershop that aims to give clients the clean, fresh look and style they’re after. Voted Hawai‘i’s Best Barbershop in 2018 and 2019, Premier boasts two locations on O‘ahu—one in Downtown Honolulu and a second location in Ala Moana Center.

Prior to starting Premier Barbershop, Kellan spent 10 years in business banking where he learned the ins and outs of what makes a business successful. Read on to learn more about Kellan’s experiences starting Premier, UH prepared him for his career and what advice he’d give to students wanting to follow a similar career path.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I think it comes down to being in control of my own destiny, having the ability to be flexible and being a part of the community. We’re locally-owned and operated, we’re Hawaiian-owned, and we participate in a lot of non-profit events where we get to be out in the community.  I also enjoy being able to promote these young barbers through events and through our day-to-day operations.

Looking back at the history of Premier, do any moments or experiences stand out to you in particular?

One moment that stands out was the moment we realized we were successful. We had opened in downtown, we were booked up with clients, and then we were asked to open in Ala Moana. It was amazing for the first year and a half and it felt like we were on the right track. But then COVID-19 hit, and it felt incredibly frustrating. I think everyone who owns a business has gone through similar challenges during the pandemic. But we’re stronger for it and it’s helped us to realize what’s important and what success really means. And it’s really the people that are most important. It’s important to be strong through those difficult times and to just keep persevering.

Meet Kellan at the UH Alumni Makers’ Market on August 10!

Don’t miss our inaugural UH Alumni Makers’ Market event featuring UH alumni chefs, purveyors, and entrepreneurs. You can even get a fresh cut by Premier Barbershop!

To learn more, visit https://uhalumni.org/events/makers-market-2022

What advice would you give to a student who was considering a similar career path?

It all comes down to believing in yourself. I was a business banker for 10 years so I understood the risks associated with starting a business. Long-time business owners know that in order to survive, you have to know how to treat people right and you have to know how to cut costs. So in terms of advice, I’d say treat people right, be wise with your money, and you’ll succeed. Besides that, it’s really about finding the right niche and making sure that it’s something you enjoy doing all day, every day.

How has your UH education helped you?

I got my master of accounting degree from UH’s Shidler College of Business, and that really helped to solidify my interest in entrepreneurship. Just having that accounting background and having gone to school in Hawai‘i made me realize how much I wanted to stay home and build my business. And it also gave me the confidence to try pretty much anything—and luckily it’s worked out.

We’re excited to have Premier as one of our featured alumni vendors at our August 10 UH Alumni Makers’ Market event! In terms of the event, what are you most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to just being a part of the community again, being in front of people, and showcasing our brand.

University of Hawai‘i Alumni