Skorheim: Ex-Tesla engineer becomes barber who cuts foster kids’ hair for free

Sep 25, 2023, 6:33 PM | Updated: Sep 26, 2023, 11:21 am

Image: A photo from Seattle's Southpaw Barbershop (Photo courtesy of Tommy Andrade via KIRO Newsrad...

A photo from Seattle's Southpaw Barbershop (Photo courtesy of Tommy Andrade via KIRO Newsradio's Jake Skorheim)

(Photo courtesy of Tommy Andrade via KIRO Newsradio's Jake Skorheim)

Chuck Norris has a quote that I really like, “bloom where you’re planted.” Now, to be honest, I don’t actually know if Chuck Norris ever actually said this, but somewhere in my brain, I can see him saying it. It certainly doesn’t diminish the message. No matter where you are, you can find a way to make a difference. This definitely fits with the folks at Southpaw Barber Shop in Seattle.

I recently had Tommy Andrade, one of the shop’s owners, on KIRO Nights to chat about something very unique he and his co-owner, Jeff Chou, have started doing at the shop. I’ll get to that in a minute, but just know that Tommy would have been a great guest if all we did was talk about his life story and how he ended up holding barber clippers in his hand.

A few years back, Tommy was living in Austin, Texas, and working as an engineer for Tesla. Then a job opportunity at SpaceX brought him up to Redmond.  He said that he was trying to find that work-life balance between, “unemployment and having no time at all. And working over there, you pretty much have no time for your family.”

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Family is something very important to Tommy. He has a young son and says after losing his own dad when he was just 10 years old, he knew he always wanted to be a present father. So, as he considered looking for another career that would allow him the time he wanted with his wife and son, he looked to his own family for cues.

Tommy talks about a major career pivot

“My grandpa was a barber for 50 years, my uncle was and one of the things that always stood out was that they always had time for their family,” Tommy told me.

So, with a pretty decent resume of working for Elon Musk at both Tesla and SpaceX in his back pocket, Tommy enrolled at a barber college. It was, as Tommy put it, “definitely… not the traditional path a lot of people would make.”

While at the barber college, Tommy met Jeff Chou, his future business partner. The two bonded not only over their passion for hair, but over the opportunity presented to do some good in the community.

That brings us to why Tommy was on the show recently. At his barber shop, they offer free haircuts for foster kids. For Tommy, the passion for helping kids in foster care goes back to his own youth. “When I was a teenager, I experienced homelessness for a while, and a lot of my best friends that I grew up with were in the foster system,” Tommy explained.

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He knows how hard the kids who are in foster care have it. One day, he and Jeff were talking about how they could give back and the idea of helping kids in the foster system with free haircuts was born. They both wanted to help give the kids confidence as they were getting back to school.

When I asked Tommy if the free haircuts were just a back to school initiative, he told me, “No.”

“We do it all the time and will continue to do so as long as we are in business,” Tommy said.

I couldn’t be happier to highlight the work Tommy and Jeff are doing and I know they are making a real difference in the lives of these kids. If you’re interested in finding out more about them, check them out on Facebook here.

Tommy Andrade, Jeff Chou and their families.

KIRO Nights on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
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Skorheim: Ex-Tesla engineer becomes barber who cuts foster kids’ hair for free