Portland Couple to Offer “Masters in Self”

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

Cultivating Greatness Program at Be Great University

In 2008, five years into his career as a professional barber in his Northeast Portland, Oregon, community, Jamaal Lane decided he wanted to do more than excel in his craft: He set his sights on being a transformational entrepreneur and an example to his community through awakening people to their collective power and self-worth.

The Lanes are confident that their reputation for leadership, professionalism, and spiritual approach to life will serve as the calling card for their new Be Great University (BU).

His first step with his wife, Christina, was to start his own business, shifting to align more closely with the historical image of the professional barber as an engaged, activist leader in communities of color.

The couple, both Portland natives, opened their business in a building that was being renovated in an inner-city neighborhood. They designed it as an upscale, bright, and spacious place notches above the ordinary.

“We put hardwood floors in, painted, and installed new stations and chairs, and added a kids’ corner. Our shop looked different from anything on the street, ever,” Jamaal says, “with a signature sign that illuminated the block at night: Champions Barbershop.”

They had taken the leap of faith in the middle of an economic recession, opening their shop in a bustling area of Northeast Portland. It worked.

“We made the barbershop a luxury place with a family vibe. People respected it and appreciated it. We were operating under the belief that ‘community builds champions,’ and that influenced how we connected with the neighborhood as a business. Supporting those that supported us. Having the understanding that there would be no Champions without the community's support,” Jamaal says. “We stand up for them; the community stands up for us.”

Champions became a community magnet, “a place for congregation, like barber shops were and have always been historically,” Jamaal adds.

In the process of staffing the shop, Jamaal and Christina realized that despite aspiring barbers taking 1,350 hours of training, they were not gaining the skills necessary to become truly professional barbers ready to enter the workforce. The new barbers often lacked the skills necessary to build a customer base and operate as business owners. As a result, the Lanes noticed that respect for the craft was progressively decreasing. They realized that they needed to take matters into their own hands.

The Lanes began offering training to barbers in their Portland shop and the one they opened in Beaverton, Oregon, in 2012. Additionally, other shop owners frequently came to them for advice on how to find and keep quality professionals. Jamaal and Christina knew something had to be done to boost the profession on a larger scale.

After years of cultivation and preparation, the Lanes opened Champions Barbering Institute in 2017 in Portland, the second barber school in the area in over 25 years. To date, 40 students have graduated, and two of them have opened barbershops.

Among the testimonials is this, from a 2019 graduate: “This is the best barber school hands down. I personally commute an hour to and from school everyday and I have zero regret. Not only do they groom confident and quality barbers, but the ‘Strictly Business’ aspect teaches you how to take your barber career to the next level. I have my AA, and I have learned more in the past 5 months than I ever did from college. Not to mention it’s a family-owned business! The people are great, the environment is great, and the success rate is great. If you’re serious about becoming a barber, this is the school for you!”

Now, the barber school and three shops (a third opened on the Portland State University campus in downtown Portland at the start of 2020) are shut due to the pandemic. But Jamaal, 42, and Christina, 41, remain determined to share their knowledge of how to succeed – not just in business, but in life. They are taking another leap, launching a digital community of “The Greats” with higher education programming to assist others in honing the mental and emotional fortitude, as well as the tools, to go after their dreams, allowing them to live their best and most fulfilling lives.

The Lanes are confident that their reputation for leadership, professionalism, and spiritual approach to life will serve as the calling card for their new Be Great University (BU).

With the launch of BU, Jamaal and Christina are building on their success with the barber school and going beyond to share their techniques and experiences, with any and all who have the mindset to reach for greatness.

“We knew the opportunity to learn barbering from an established and successful professional barber and entrepreneur was the immediate draw, but we learned that our job was more than teaching the hands-on skills of barbering,” Christina says. “Students were trusting and looking to us to help guide them as they chose to take control of their lives and pursue the future they desired.”

Adds Jamaal, “They were rebuilding and restructuring who they are and where they could go with confidence. We have seen the gratitude and the impact, and we want to be able to share that same thing with the masses. Our barber students are not the only ones who need this.”

This summer, BU’s foundational course, “Cultivating Greatness,” will delve into tools and self-work aimed at propelling participants toward their instinctive greatness. Other subjects, including “The Exuberant Entrepreneur” and “The Exuberant Barber,” will be added as the offerings expand.

“The target members of BU are visionaries who seek to harness their personal power, to gain a master’s in self,” says Christina. “We use the term ‘Victorious Vision.’ This means people who have been holding on to a vision and working towards fulfilling it, knowingly or unknowingly. They understand that ‘NOW is the time to walk into that vision empowered to thrive as only YOU can do.’”

Jamaal adds that the typical BU member might be a professional who is looking to pivot to a different model in response to the pandemic – one who needs to get creative to make the necessary shift.

“This person would be seeking to break the cycle of negotiating with themselves. Someone who is ready to commit to following through with an unstoppable determination,” Jamaal says. “Or a person who hasn’t yet begun to pursue their Victorious Vision. Joining BU would be the first proactive step. BU is for the individual who has the mindset to invest in his or her personal and professional development and is feeling the nudge to go to a deeper level. The power is in the transition and belief in self, no matter where you are in life.”

These are lessons that Christina and Jamaal teach their children, Kiasia, 20, JaJuan, 18, and Aniya, 14.

“This moment in history is a pivotal one and gives us all an opportunity to reflect on what is essential to a passionate and thriving way of life,” Jamaal says. “Once that real and raw reflection is complete, one must then decide, ‘How do I rise?’ We want to be intentional about giving to our people. Securing the ideal community for the purpose of self-nourishment is a prerequisite for success.”

Early in his life, Jamaal set the intention of being a leader who uplifted his community. His wife shares his vision. Together, they now intend to expand that vision, breaking away from the physical into the essence of the universe. They intend to prove, once again, that community builds champions, that every human being is great, and that greatness can be manifested in our tangible lives.

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