The two years during which the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak proved to be a very turbulent period for a number of industries, with entrepreneurs facing various challenges across different areas.

However, it also proved to be a time of opportunity for many, as many were able to revitalise their careers by delving into completely new jobs or industries, while youths saw it as a chance to look into what they truly want to do in their professional lives.

One such young entrepreneur is Gary Nelson, a 21-year-old Barber that opened his very own salon under the name Nelson Hair Salon back in January 2021. This came after around two years working in the profession, which even saw him named Malta’s Newcomer Barber during the 2020 edition of the Malta Barber Awards. However, just two months after its launch, he was forced to temporarily close due to Government guidelines, while continuing to pay rent and utility bills despite him not working. He was allowed to reopen late in April 2021 and has not looked back since.

Speaking to, Gary opened up about taking the step to branch out on his own, after he had completed a City and Guilds course in hairdressing at Beautimport Ltd.

Gary Nelson

Gary Nelson (right) cutting a client's hair

After working at other barbershops during the start of his career, he took the decision to open his own salon in Paola, the town which he describes as being at “the heart of the south”. Given its prime location and with it being a generally very busy area, Paola proved to be the ideal place for him to fulfil his dream of having his “own environment” with his very own setup, while also having a “better lifestyle and income”. Additionally, he also has the support of his own family, particularly his brother, Sam, who is also a Barber at the salon, along with their grandfather, who regularly seeks to make any of Gary’s design ideas for the shop come to reality.

Despite this, going solo at such a young age did come with its struggles, Gary said. “I was worried people might look at me as a kid when entering the salon for the first time,” he said, before adding that “people tend to look at our industry as easy since it is a manual job”.

However, this did not stop him, and through a combination of hard work and talent, he continued to improve, which led to him being awarded Malta’s Best Haircut at the Malta Barber Awards in 2021.

When asked what his typical workday consisted of, he said that it normally starts at 8.15am with a shot of espresso, before he then takes around 30 minutes to sort his station with all the necessary equipment and to make sure the salon is “clean and ready to go”. “My typical appointments are around 45 minutes each and I cut an average of 15 haircuts daily. I have a lunch break at 12pm and close the shop at about 7pm,” Gary explained.

Nelson Hair Salon

Nelson Hair Salon

Such a long workday tends to get even longer over the festive period, given that a significant amount of people opt to get their hair cut ahead of Christmas and New Year events. He remarked that while that period is “always hectic”, he finds ways to “meet the client’s requirements and help as much as possible”, often resulting in working almost nonstop over the course of December.

Given the large number of people that he has to tend to on a daily basis, it comes as no surprise that Gary has established a preference between one type of cut and another. “My favourite haircut is the French crop, and my least favourite is the new overly long and messy top with skin faded sides,” he said.

Commenting on his aims for 2023, he said that he wants to “keep on improving over previous years”, while also continuing to renovate his salon so that he can expand his team even more.

“My message to others starting their own business at a young age is to always take the risk rather than lose the chance. It is also important to always work hard and strive to become better every day,” he concluded.

Main Image:

Gary Nelson (right) cutting a client's hair

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Written By

Fabrizio Tabone

Fabrizio has a passion for the economy and technology, especially when it comes to innovation. Aside from this, he also has a passion for football and movies, and so you will often find him either with a ball to his feet or at the cinema checking out the latest releases.