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Reading Barber Institute

Co-Owners: Gilberto Santana and Serge Vilaire
Location: Reading, PA
Business: Barber School
Purpose of Loan: Working Capital and Equipment
Impact:Economic Security / Educational Opportunities

Long-time barbers Gilberto Santana and Serge Vilaire are a cut above the rest in the City of Reading. As barbers, they are passionate about providing stellar customer service. As mentors, they are dedicated to giving others an opportunity to launch a promising career as licensed barbers.

Over the years, Gilberto and Serge became aware that a number of area barbershops employed unlicensed barbers. To address the lack of professional training and potential public health hazard due to unsanitary practices, they decided to tackle this issue head-on. They came to Community First Fund with the idea of opening Reading Barber Institute (RBI), a bilingual and bicultural barber school that would educate at-risk men and women living in Berks County, including ex-offenders.

Gilberto and Serge earned their barbering training certifications and found an ideal location for RBI. Community First Fund provided them with financing to complete property renovations and furnish the school with new fixtures, equipment and furniture.

Today, RBI offers students the opportunity to become licensed barbers and earn a GED Certificate. Their months of hands-on training and earned credentials improves graduates’ ability to obtain higher paying, long-term employment. Many even go on to open their own shops, creating more jobs for properly licensed barbers.