BELOIT – Beloit barber Willie House, co-owner of Hip Hop Stylez, has an extreme passion for helping people look their best.

Through years of hard work, he’s learned the ups and downs of being a small business owner to the point where you might recognize him if you’ve ever stopped by the Wisconsin Avenue shop.

House has spent years cutting hair and through his work, the 34-year-old entrepreneur has built a strong client base that has motivated him to give back to the community by supporting aspiring young people in the barbering field.

He moved from the Chicago area to Beloit at the age of 7, growing up in Beloit and is a Beloit Memorial High School alum. He found barbering after dropping out of college.

“I didn’t want to be a barber at first,” House said. “I originally wanted to go to school for journalism. I wanted to find a skill or a trade to work. I didn’t want to work in a factory or anything. Art was my first passion. So with barbering, it came easy to me because you have that art element built into it. There’s this creativity that comes with it in a way.”

After an apprenticeship with a stylist who taught him how to cut hair at the age of 19, House worked under a barber on Prairie Avenue.

“By then I was 24 and I realized my clientele was crazy and I was making a lot of money for the people I was working for,” House said. “That’s when I realized it was about time for me to open my own business.”

House opened 608 Stylez and Cutz in November of 2012 with his mother and he was at the Huebbe Parkway location for about two years.

Then came an opportunity House couldn’t pass up: a prime location for a shop at 942 Wisconsin Ave.

“It was a better location and we moved in here in 2014,” House said.

In 2015, House rebranded to Hip Hop Stylez with a future goal of franchising multiple locations.

“I always wanted to do my own thing and have my own shop,” House said. He co-owns the shop with his wife, Michaele House.

Through barbering, House said the business has helped him come out of his shell as someone who identifies as “not really a social person.”

“I had to grow into that and I like being part of the community because it’s making me be more social and I get to interact with people and talk to people. It brings me out of my shell,” House said.

He’s been barbering long enough to see kids grow up into adults and give cuts to kids of clients. Now, people recognize him around Beloit, he says.

“I could be walking in the grocery store, on the street, everyone knows me,” House said. “I can’t go anywhere it seems like without someone recognizing me. I never expected it. It’s a good feeling to know people recognize me and know what I do.”

House and the other four barbers at the shop also have a passion to give back to the community, with the shop offering free cuts to Beloit area schoolkids ahead of the first day of class.

Sticking with the business has come with its challenges, something House said he’s better positioned to manage now because he entered the small business world with no prior management or financial experience.

“There were times I wanted to quit,” House said. “I almost said I would rather just work for someone, get my money and leave, but I am so glad I stuck through it because it’s paid off in the end.”

Through his many years of barbering, House has built strong relationships with young people in Beloit that’s driven him to be a mentor to those seeking guidance on how to pursue their dreams.

But sometimes, those dreams of young people in House’s orbit are tragically cut short.

On June 7, one of House’s closest friends, Drevian T. Allen Sr., 25, was shot and killed in the 1700 block of Porter Avenue. A week before his death, House said he and Allen were discussing future business opportunities.

Allen was a barber in the shop and a memorial around his chair has been set up with pictures, candles and sentimental belongings paying tribute to the lost friend.

“I felt honored he was asking me for advice,” House said. “I told him I would support him and help invest in him. He was someone everyone in the shop loved. He had a great personality and he will always be remembered.”

But Allen’s death hasn’t stopped House from reaching out to young people and being a source of support and encouragement. He’s in a role as mentor he never thought he would be in, he said.

“It makes me feel good to think about where I was then to where I am now,” House said. “It makes it easier to motivate these guys and I can tell them that it does get better if they are struggling with something. I tell them that if I can do it, you can do it.”

Due to the years of support, House said he feels a strong sense of responsibility to give back to the community.

“We’re one of the busiest shops in the city. I appreciate everyone supporting me,” House said. “My job isn’t done here in Beloit. I want to be more involved in the community and do more things for the kids. We want to make an impact on Beloit.”

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