When Mohamed Knatheer walks into the school, he keeps a blade in his backpack.
But it’s not the kind you think.
Knatheer, who goes by Majic to friends and clients, is a 22-year-old barber enrolled in the ACE program at Algonquin who makes use of his entrepreneurial spirit by giving haircuts to students on campus when he’s not in class.
“I cut in the classroom and in the bathroom; we obviously cleaned when we finish,” Knatheer said. “I throw my tools in my suitcase, put a chair in the washroom and my homies get lined up. It’s an awkward place but if they’re up to it I’m up to it.”
It all started when he was getting haircuts that he never liked when he was younger.
“That was the main key,” he said. “Every time I got a haircut I tried to wear a hat in elementary school.”
When Knatheer moved to the United Arab Emirates in 2007, he encountered a similar problem. So he took matters into his own hands.
“What I’d do is get mushroom cuts, I’d gel my hair and give myself an outline,” Knatheer said. “Obviously I messed myself up a hundred times but the blade they had there was cheap. So I kept trying and I started getting good at it, and when I came back everybody would ask me where I got my outlines from. They didn’t know I was doing it myself.”
So after returning from the Middle East, Majic decided it was time to put his informal training to the test. He took his clippers to Phresh Men’s Hair Salon and after proving himself, became a barber at the age of 19. Flash forward a few years and all the training started to make sense.
So whether he is cutting in the bathroom, in the classroom or at work in Phresh men’s hair salon, Knatheer always had his eyes on the goal.
“You gotta start something now,” he said. “Lots of people come to this school and they want to take a diploma and leave. This is probably one of Ottawa’s biggest gatherings. When people leave here and go back home, they leave every network that they missed.
“There’s a bigger picture than that.” Knatheer continued. “If you’re only book smart you’re going to get lost in the street, if you’re only street smart you’re going to get lost in the books.”
For Majic, it’s never been about the money.
“Seeing me in the washroom and doing haircuts is not because I want to make a little bit of money,” he said. “There’s an investment of time with what I’m doing- I want to plant a seed when I’m listening to people; I want to grow something.”
Initiative’s like Majic’s are something the college gets behind, as they have been known to support entrepreneurs on campus.
“One could say that he is just being entrepreneurial,” Leanna Verrucci, the entrepreneurship manager at Algonquin, said upon hearing Majic’s story. “My suggestion to him would be that he should promote his services through the AC market which was set up for entrepreneurs to promote their businesses on campus, or he could come by the Entrepreneurship Office where we would be happy to help him and others like him.”
Through it all, Knatheer never forgot about what got him started and what keeps him going.
“My family are my biggest supporters,” he said. “It’s nice when you can have a nephew that you can put designs on because I remember when I was his age and had to deal with all the crappy haircuts that I got. I’m hooking him up.”