Making a positive impact one haircut at a time is what motivates Cassii Calaway, owner of Kutz by KZ, a barber shop in Mason City. Cassii opened his own shop with the help of the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS) Self-Employment program.

Cassii began barbering in 2014 right in Mason City. After discovering he wanted to learn more about men’s and ethnic hair textures, Cassii enrolled at the American College of Hairstyling in Des Moines. IVRS provided assistance throughout Cassi’s time in Des Moines and when he moved back to Mason City after graduating in 2015.

“When I moved down to Des Moines, their team of staff helped me out a lot,” said Cassii. “But IVRS helped me the most when I moved back up to Mason City. Sue’s great.”

IVRS Rehabilitation Counselor, Susan Faber, helped Cassii with his goal to complete cosmetology school once he returned to the Mason City area. Faber provided clerical support in paperwork, computer operations, and some tuition assistance to Cassii. Once Cassii completed his certifications, it was time to decide what was next.

Taking Cassii’s entrepreneurial spirit into consideration, Faber introduced Cassii to the Iowa Self-Employment program.

“We were both thinking, ‘Now what?’, and the self-employment program interested Cassii,” said Faber.

Faber and Cassii began working on paperwork, getting proper licenses, and making sure Cassii met the requirements to open up Kuts by KZ. Faber commended Cassii for his willingness to ask for help when needed and follow through with suggestions she gave.

“He had his own accountant and attorney. It was a really smooth process.”

Kuts by KZ specializes in men’s and children’s haircuts. Referring to himself as a traditional barber, Cassii likes beard work and “nice clean lines.” Each year, Cassii offers free haircuts for back-to-school and visits older individuals for in-home services. He will attend Mason City’s annual back-to-school block party and provide haircuts as well.

Since attending barber school, Cassii has loved teaching his peers different hair-cutting techniques. One of his goals has always been to operate a barber school. Luckily, Cassii found just the right person to teach: his brother.

“I was really excited about my brother wanting to learn from me. I like the idea of having a family business,” Cassii said. “I always put family first. You have to respect where you come from; it makes you who you are.”

Cassi’s core values guide his business plan. Along with a family-friendly approach, Cassii believes in the act of perseverance through all of life’s battles.

“There are always people who will doubt you in the process of starting a business. Don’t listen to them,” Cassii said. “Failure is part of success. With determination, you can achieve almost anything.”

Cassii is passionate about his business and always strives to make his customers smile. The IVRS self-employment program helped him achieve his goal of finding a job he loves. He can now make people smile while making a living.

“Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation is a great organization, they’re willing to help people. Everyone needs help, whether you want to ask for it or not,” Cassii said.

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