Nineteen-year-old Diallo Gainey is an entrepreneur laser-focused on giving back to his community.

Gainey is behind a new barbershop geared toward providing Black youth in Next One Up’s (NOU) mentorship program with free haircuts. By taking this step, he hopes to help reinforce the program’s mission to mitigate poverty, addiction, and violence within Baltimore, MD.

“My goal at Next One Up is to give the next generation of Baltimore kids the confidence to show up as their best selves for our city,” Gainey explained to AFROTECH in an email interview. “I hope that a fresh cut helps NOU students take pride in themselves and, in turn, take pride in their community.”

Photo Credit: Matt RYB

Gainey joined Next One Up in sixth grade and became an alumni of the program in 2022 after graduating high school. 

The opportunity to run the barbershop was presented by Next One Up Founder Matt Hanna, who created the nonprofit to provide youth services such as academic enrichment, mentorship, exposure to college and career pathways, and wellness education.

As part of the academic offerings, students have access to STEM education, including classrooms, a creative space with 3D printers, and a computer area where they can work with robotics and learn engineering.

“We want to help position them to have as many experiences as possible while in the building and have it all attached to one vision, which is for them to be great,” Hanna told The Baltimore Banner.This is not just to keep them occupied. We want them walking out every night saying ‘I got better today.’”

Gainey shared with AFROTECH, “Once I graduated from barber school, Coach Hanna reached out to me for a meeting. And we talked about the new Next One Up building, and he asked what I thought about putting a barbershop in the building and having me run it, and without hesitation I said ‘let’s make it happen.'”

While Gainey has currently opted to forgo the college route, he tells AFROTECH he intends on obtaining a master barber’s license to teach the youth how to cut hair. He currently has his own license and is getting ready to open his shop at Next One Up’s Base Camp, although he is not cutting hair at the moment.

“So far, I have not started working at the shop, we are focusing on making sure programming is running smoothly. I should be starting by the end of November [2023],” he explained.

In the future, Gainey also shares he does intend on opening his own shop.

“Right now I’m just focusing on building my clientele and learning the business. But I plan on owning my own shop in the 3-4 years,” he explained.