Day-to-day Raul Barasa cuts hair at his shop, Chico’s Barbershop. He spends time with his customers, discussing life while clipping locks. “Hair-apy,” he calls it, a play on the therapeutic nature for his clients and himself.
Today, Barasa is a successful small business owner, a reflection of his hard work in the face of barriers and obstacles throughout his employment journey.
When he was just 19 years old, Barasa connected to WorkSource Vancouver. The programs he engaged with are provided at WorkSource and funded through Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW). At WorkSource, Barasa got support with crafting a resume and was placed into training for Forklift Certification. After earning his certification, WorkSource connected Barasa to a job aligned with his newly acquired skills.
In his twenties, Barasa found himself struggling, in and out of incarceration. During incarceration, Barasa found solace in the atmosphere of the prison’s barbershop.
“When I was in prison, the only time that I felt like I was not in prison is when they allowed us to get our hair cut,” said Barasa. “They had a little, mini makeshift barbershop, where the officers weren’t even inside there, it was just all the inmates. We were allowed to listen to music and the vibe was just very much like an old, traditional barbershop.”
Barasa was released from incarceration in 2015 and was ready for a new beginning. Supporting his newfound passion, his mom bought him barbering tools to start. He got involved with 4D Recovery, a peer-based organization for young adults in recovery. Raul put his skills to work and started giving free haircuts to people who were in recovery and people experiencing homelessness.
Raul worked at a local company in asphalt by day and pursued barbering school at Phagens School of Hair Design part-time. There, he met a classmate who received assistance for his education through WorkSource. Barasa reached out to reconnect to WorkSource and access much-needed support while in school.
Funding for employment programs is often tied to in-demand occupations to fill the needs of the regional economy. Another roadblock for Barasa, the training for barbering did not fall into one of the in-demand occupations for Southwest Washington. To receive funding, Barasa would have to submit an essay to receive approval for funding by the scholarship committee. The board was moved by his story and wanted to help.
WorkSource assisted Barasa with a variety of support services to alleviate the burden. WorkSource supplied gas assistance, which helped with his commute from his home in Vancouver to school in the Lloyd District in Portland. WorkSource also assisted with clothing, tools and financial support for tuition.
Unfortunately, Barasa got laid off from his job while attending school. He had a family to support and went on unemployment. He made the switch from part-time to full-time schooling to complete his coursework faster.
“It would have made things so much harder for me to go through school and then pay off the tuition. I believe it was integral for the success of where I am at now,” said Barasa.
Upon completing his schooling, Barasa got a job working at a local barbershop. When the COVID pandemic hit, the shop was shut down. Since he worked as an independent contractor, Barasa had an existing client base, and he began to give haircuts out of his apartment. He found that people were more comfortable because there was just one client in his home at a time, limiting contact and disease spread.
As COVID restrictions eased, Barasa discovered a space for rent in East Vancouver. He did not have experience with opening a storefront, but his resolve was strong. He asked questions and made discoveries through the process of opening Chico’s Barbershop on Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard.
“Then COVID hit and then that pushed me to do my own thing, which ultimately led to me leasing a space right across the street from WorkSource.”
After three years, Chico’s Barbershop is going strong. The shop is busy, with three barbers working full-time and an apprentice in-training. The partnership with WorkSource has evolved, with Barasa working with them as a business partner as opposed to a job seeker.
Barasa’s dedication to helping others has led him down the route of apprenticeship. Apprenticeship offers an alternative route for those who want to get into barbering, but do not desire to pursue schooling. Barasa works one-on-one with the apprentice, who also pursues services at WorkSource.
Chico’s Barbershop is in the process of becoming a registered apprenticeship, which would allow WorkSource to formally help the program, creating a new talent pipeline for job seekers in Southwest Washington.
Through his work, Barasa’s heart for service shines through. At least once a week, Barasa’s team gives free haircuts to young adults, clients he met through Next, the YWCA and local detention centers. He hopes that haircuts will transform the youth’s lives, not just through their appearance, but also in opportunity and confidence.
In the face of adversity, Barasa found his path alongside his family, community and local employment supports. He remains steadfast in his gratitude to WorkSource and their key role in his employment journey.
“The advice that I give to people now … go check out WorkSource!”
Discover and pursue your passion with WorkSource and Next!
WorkSource serves adults seeking employment, job training, education and support services in Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties.
Contact WorkSource Vancouver at 360.735.5000 or visit 204 SE Stonemill Drive, Suite 215, Vancouver, WA 98684, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday-Friday
Contact WorkSource Kelso at 360.577.2250 or visit 305 S Pacific Avenue, Suite 101, Kelso, WA 98626, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday-Friday
Next provides young adults ages 16-24 with career guidance, support, education and work opportunities and support services.
In Clark County, contact Next at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360.207.2628 or in person at 120 NE 136th Avenue, Suite 130, Vancouver, WA 98684. Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
In Cowlitz or Wahkiakum counties, contact Next at email@example.com or 360.890.7769 or in person at Goodwill, 1030 15th Ave., Suite 300, Longview, WA 98632. Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wahkiakum County youth can visit Next staff every other Monday at Wahkiakum County Health and Human Services, 42 Elochoman Valley Rd., Cathlamet, WA 98612. Email Next to obtain the current service schedule at Wahkiakum Health and Services.
Explore reentry resources:
- Goodwill offers an array of services to formerly incarcerated individuals, including pre-release services, basic skill development, employment readiness and skill training and job placement assistance. Contact the Goodwill Work Opportunity Center in Longview, WA at 360.501.8350 or 1030 15th Ave. Ste. 300, Longview, WA 98632.
- The Longview Reentry Center offers employment assistance, money management assistance, recovery services and more. Contact the center at 360.577.2211.
- The National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens helps and assists the formerly incarcerated and imprisoned to become productive members of society and their communities. Contact 1.844.916.2577 to get connected to services, including mentorship with peer navigators, reentry hotline, support circles and more.
- The Washington State Department of Corrections offers a reentry housing assistance program that provides housing options to incarcerated individuals. The level of service provided by the program is determined by the individual’s situation and specific need.
Explore resources for small businesses:
- Business POD Program – The Greater Vancouver Chamber assists business owners and entrepreneurs who live in the Southwest Washington region and want to start a business. The Business POD Program is designed to empower and educate small business owners through workshops and individual and peer cohort coaching sessions.
- Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) – CREDC has resources available for existing businesses and start-ups. Available services include market data, connections to industry and education partners, help determining relevant incentives and more.
- Cowlitz Economic Development Council (CEDC) – The CEDC works closely with businesses of all sizes, including small businesses, microenterprises, and up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Their staff of experts provides consulting, education, networking opportunities, financial resources and more!
- Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Council of Governments (CWCOG) – CWCOG has several programs that support small businesses. Including a revolving loan fund and the Lower Columbia Investment Network.
- SCORE – SCORE provides a wide range of services to established and budding business owners alike, including free mentoring, webinars, courses on demand, local workshops and online resources.
- The local SCORE chapter hosts webinars and in-person events at the Longview Public Library and the Vancouver Community Library.
- Small Business Bootcamp – The Kelso Longview Chamber of Commerce hosts a series of Business Bootcamps every year to equip your business with the tools needed for success.
- Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW) – WSW brings together businesses, training and education providers, government agencies and economic development partners to address the workforce needs of local companies and industries. Available resources include recruitment and retention, internship programs, employee training and more!
- WorkSource Vancouver and Kelso – WorkSource can help your business with hiring, crafting job descriptions, identifying tax credits and more!
- Small Business Administration (SBA) – the SBA is a federal agency dedicated to small businesses and provides counseling, capital, and contracting expertise, resources and a voice for small businesses.