Known as “JP” around Madison, Jeff Patterson has grown his business, JP Hair Design, into a Madison institution. Today, Patterson is not only a barber and business owner; he is a commercial property owner and landlord with the capacity to support other business owners to realize their dreams.

Patterson and the JP Hair Design team are known throughout Madison for their great work in the salon and in the community. Their back-to-school hair cut event has been offering free haircuts to hundreds of children in Madison in partnership with barbers across the city for 15 years. They have also hosted health clinics and other resources that reinforce JP Hair Design as a community hub.

Patterson started out as the new guy on the block. He sat at the feet of Taylor “Smitty” Smith, Madison’s first Black barber, and grew under his tutelage. Twenty-six years later, Patterson sees that he is now an elder statesman among barbers in Madison. He is proud of the proliferation of barbers of color in the city and marvels that the majority of these barbers have passed through JP Hair Design in some way during their careers. When asked about his success, his work ethic, his business sense, and his approach to business ethics, Patterson points to Smitty and the lessons he taught. He continues to honor Smitty’s legacy through the Taylor “Smitty” Smith Barber Apprenticeship Scholarship. The scholarship has been offered since 2018 to a Dane Country high school graduate who shows skill and promise as a barber but could use support in securing their license.

In 2021, Patterson’s landlord approached him to partner with “Bug” Richardson, owner of KnitCircus, to purchase the 3-building commercial complex where they both rented space. With investments from the landlord via seller financing and the City of Madison, the partnership became Patterson and Richardson Properties and acquired the $2.9 million Grand Canyon Drive property. The property has 36 units with 18 current tenants and 1 vacancy. The vacant office space is perfect for an office tenant, braider, or eyelash technician.

While commercial property is a new business for Patterson, it is not as much of a pivot as it might seem. Whether he is hosting free haircutting events, training apprentice barbers, teaching barbering at Madison College, or advising Black business owners, Patterson is always investing in others. The property is a continuation of this mission. As a property owner, he is better able to give other entrepreneurs the opportunity to take an ownership position. “I want to see everyone succeed,” he says, and this new venture helps him to do just that.

Alongside this new venture, Patterson is also making changes at JP Hair Design. He is downsizing from 10 chairs to 4 and expanding independent hair studios in unused space. This new business model will allow barbers and stylists to have their own independent salon space for full ownership. Patterson will continue barber training and apprenticeship in JP Hair Design. 

Patterson is excited about the number of Black-owned businesses operating in Madison now and embraces his position as an elder in entrepreneurship. While his trajectory is inspiring, he is not content with others simply knowing the timeline. Like Smitty before him, Patterson wants others to know the principles behind the story. “You have to know what made it possible,” he says.

Patterson’s first principle of success is relationships. He says that entrepreneurs have to intentionally pursue good relationships with landlords, colleagues, banks, customers, and the city. “You have to remember that you are always being watched and the details count.” As a tenant, Patterson cared for the property as if it were his own. He picked up trash and required that his clients respect the property in the volume of their music or the way that they parked. His landlord observed these small, extra things that Patterson would do for years, which made him confident enough in Patterson’s work ethic to both sell him the property and to make an investment through seller financing.

A second piece of advice that Patterson offers to Black business owners is to “run the business right.” He encourages them to operate by the book, even when it is hard to do. Keep appropriate records and report all income. The truth of the matter is that, when mistakes are made or when cheating the system, Black business owners will pay a higher penalty. Integrity in business operations will foster trust and open doors in the long term.

Third, Patterson advises entrepreneurs to invest in mastering their craft. Pursue education and proper licensure. Also, pursue opportunities for leadership within the industry to learn more about its inner workings. Patterson says that he learned the most about the cosmetology industry through serving on the State of Wisconsin Cosmetology Examining Board from 2004 to 2014.

Finally, Patterson encourages Black business owners to embrace diversity. “There is a difference between a Black business and a Black-owned business,” he states. “Remember that everyone’s money is green.” A Black business is focused on serving only Black people. In a city like Madison, the demographics limit the possibilities for success for businesses that cater exclusively to Black clientele. In contrast, a Black-owned business has a Black owner who caters to anyone. This requires versatility in the ways that entrepreneurs present themselves. “Remember that there is a time and place for everything,” Patterson advises. “Be versatile.”

Looking ahead, Patterson wants to dig further into his passion for teaching. He has been a part-time instructor in the cosmetology program at Madison College for the last 10 years. In the future, he would like to develop and run a barbering program at Madison College. Through this program, Patterson will continue to teach the values that Smitty taught him many years ago and the principles of business and the industry that he has learned to the next generation of barbers and business owners.  

NAMES OF SHOPS THAT STARTED AT JP Hair Design:
  • SPENCER’S HAIR DESIGN – Spencer Johnson
  • J & J HAIR DESIGN – Jerry Bradford
  • MARVELIZ CUTZ – Ron Baggett
  • RESILIENT HAIR DESIGN – Erin Hall
  • HAIR CREATIONS – Lawanda Goodwin
  • ARTIST HAIR DESIGN – Derrick Artist
  • ZO HAIR DESIGN – Lorenzo Brown
  • GINUWINE CUTS – Raheem Whitfield
  • XAVIER GUADALUPE Barbershop – Xaxier Guadalupe
  • LENCINA HAIR DESIGN – Mariano Lencina
  • DR’S HAIR DESIGN – Dylann Rauch
  • HEADS UP CUTZ – Colin Jones
  • JACOB CUTS – Alex Jacob
  • ZAY HAIR DESIGN – Isaiah Valdes
  • TENZIN BARBERSHOP – Tenzin Tamdin
  • BEAUTY FOR ASHES – Priscilla Smith