FORT MYERS, Fla — Sean Casey has to do a number of different things to keep his business running. But as far as he's concerned, nothing matches the thrill of working with his hands and creating.
“I love cutting hair," Case says. "I love somebody in my chair, building that relationship with them.”
What Casey has built, is a barbershop franchise called Twincutz. He created the business from scratch nine years ago, and today he has five locations and nearly 50 employees.
“I’m just a go-getter," he says. "I have a lot of determination. I believe in myself.”
He's reinvented himself no fewer than four different times.
His story starts in New York City in the late 1970s. His mom was a model and sadly, she shared her drug abuse with her newborn son.
“I was a product of that environment, as far as, I was born addicted to heroin and it was a big challenge for me to be born. They called me a miracle baby at the time.”
She died of an overdose nine months after he was born. Sean's grandparents raised him in a stable household, but by the time he was a teenager, he didn't have a lot of direction.
“In high school, my girlfriend at the time got pregnant and my son was born," Casey says. "So reality kicked in, I had to mature really fast.”
He reinvented himself as the only thing he really wanted to be, a barber. He moved to Fort Myers in 2006 to be closer to his son. He didn't have any clients, but he was bold enough to draw up a five-year plan. He wanted his own place, a hybrid between a neighborhood barbershop and a chain.
And by the time he was able to start his own business, the recession kicked into full gear.
"It was very difficult at that time,” he says. “It was scary when I opened up and you have overhead, and you’re like man, we need to get some business in the store. “At the same time, I didn’t sit in my chair and wait for people to come to me.”
In what turned out to be a brilliant move, he sought out FGCU students. Right around the time the rest of the world discovered "Dunk City," Casey's unique designs put him on the map. Soon, Major League baseball players here for spring training were coming into his shop. Demand for the Twincutz style was remarkable. In just a few years, Casey opened up new shops. And the kid who didn't like school was being asked to teach at hair design schools all over the world.
He started with nothing and built something significant. But he still had one more reinvention ahead of him.
“I used the same mentality I did as a business owner, as I did with my life. I wasn’t going to sit around and let something defeat me. I still got up and I worked. My mentality was I am going to beat this.”
He helped create Fade Cancer, a website where he sells shirts to help pay for his medical expenses, and raise money for St. Judes Cancer Research Hospital.
His cancer is in remission. But there are other complications. He will have to be away from the shop for a while. But he's already planning his next comeback.
“There’s nothing you can do about the past. It’s what can you do today?"
“So why dwell and complain about everything that I have no control over? Or do I wake up with the opportunity that everybody else has in life and say, ‘hey, this what I have the ability to do, this is how I can grow, and this is how I can push towards tomorrow.'"