My guy hadn’t cut his hair or shaved since the start of the pandemic—until just a couple of weeks ago. He luckily found Matthew Sam, aka “Matt the Master Barber,” and my guy came home looking like a well-groomed gentleman—as opposed to a hermit who had just come down out of the hills.
Sam, 43, was born and raised in Blythe, but is now an Indio resident. He says that as a kid, he wanted to be an entrepreneur when he grew up.
“I was always running my own little business,” he says, “starting with a lawn-mowing service when I was about 10.”
After high school, where he was an all-state defensive tackle (“I was rated No. 7 in the state,” he proudly says), Sam attended College of the Desert, and played football. He then went to work in the oil fields near Bakersfield as a depth-pressure tester.
“It was actually dangerous,” he says. “You could easily lose a finger.”
In Bakersfield, Matthew Sam attended barber college, influenced by his mother, his role model for getting into hair styling.
“My mom is not only a stylist, but she is also an instructor and specialist in making wigs,” he says. “She works with a lot of cancer patients. She’s always told me I had to be professional and keep my appearance together.
“My dad was a heavy-machine operator who worked on building malls and schools all over America, and he has always instilled in me that I had to work hard and handle my responsibilities. He said, ‘Don’t wait; never procrastinate.’”
Along with his younger sister and his 21-year-old daughter, and with inspiration and support from his parents, Matthew Sam has created his own MUUJIZA line of hair and skin products.
“MUUJIZA is Swahili for ‘miracle,’” Sam says. “My little sister came up with the essential oil organic products, which are now sold in 30 states and four countries.
“Working with family can be challenging. There was a time when we all sat down at the table for about four hours, and my dad said, ‘Matt started it, and we all have our own positions to play, but Matt’s the equivalent of the president.’ My parents helped us get started, and now we’ve actually built a factory in their home. I can’t wait for my daughter, who I basically raised by myself, to graduate college and come into the business. She’s already been trained by my sister to do the melting process that turns the essential oils and butters into the hair and skin products we’re so proud of.”
Matthew Sam, who now has 27 years of experience as a barber, has successfully competed in nationwide barbering contests—and has the cups and trophies to show for it.
“We bring our own models, so we know their hair, but there are rules and time limits,” Sam says. “People come from all over America to compete. I’ve been a 15-time national award-winning barber, the only one from California. I actually once won a new barber chair!”
How has Sam weathered the last year, when so many businesses had to close down? “There was hardship during the pandemic. I started making house calls, from Thermal all the way to Brawley. I cut hair at resorts, churches, garages, and even backyards. One day last summer, it was about 125 (degrees), and I did 15 cuts that day. It actually got to where I was so busy I had to have the public come to me, cutting hair on my back patio.
“I have to admit my worst habit is taking on too many responsibilities at one time. I only recently learned to stop doing that, because I was getting overwhelmed. I do have a 5-year plan, including time limits, so I live by a schedule now. Two years ago, I finally stopped working weekends, but I still travel and do shows to sell my products. I also make time to spend with my girlfriend and her son, and I leave time for family, including my very first granddaughter.
“It gives me hope to be able to get up every day and see my loved ones—to hug them, and teach them, and tell them I love them. People don’t know that it makes me cry to realize the beauty of being able to start from scratch and build something I can pass down to my children, to change everyone’s life around me. My parents are my heroes, but I also admire a lot of the urban hip-hop entrepreneurs who have turned their situations into legacies for their families, people like Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs. He said, ‘Can’t stop; won’t stop,’ and got what he wanted. I can’t stop and won’t stop.”
With unfailing positive energy, Sam says that he’s basically a happy guy. “I’m a jokester, and goofiness always makes me laugh. There’s a lot of comedy to be found in your family and the ‘inside’ jokes. The only thing that really bugs me is when a client is late.”
What’s the best advice Sam has ever gotten? “Maybe the most important was to be true to myself about what’s really important in this world, and to always take care of my family. My most prized possession is my self-respect.
“If I could talk to my younger self, I’d say, ‘Don’t ever stop. You have no idea what you can put together with persistence and hard work.’”
Matthew Sam has been an entrepreneur since he was 10—and he still has a lot of big plans, with the drive and the plan to succeed. Plus, he made my guy look great!