Beyond the Boardroom: Beard Culture Barbershop & Gallery’s Aush Knox

By Chicago 7 Min Read

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Aush Knox’s one unbreakable rule of the workplace? “Always maintain a family-friendly and professional work environment.”

Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette

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AUSH KNOX knew he wanted to cut hair for a living all the way back in 1999, when he enrolled in barber school.

“Unfortunately,” he says, “I was scared because I had a family by that time and a barber doesn’t have paid insurance, 401(k), pensions, etc. It took me until 2018 to take the leap of faith and cut hair full-time.”

Aush and wife Tanaka co-own Beard Culture Barbershop & Gallery, which opened inside Urbana’s Lincoln Square Mall in 2021 and was named best barbershop in The News-Gazette’s People’s Choice contest a year later.

Raised on both sides of Wright Street, Knox spent time in both C-U school districts, graduating from Urbana High in 1994. After attending Arkansas-Pine Bluff, then Parkland, he took a break from college before deciding to go back in 2010.

He graduated with a criminal justice degree from Parkland in 2012, then earned his bachelor’s from Eastern Illinois a year later.

The Champaign resident and host of the popular podcast “I Cut My Way Out” took time out to answer questions from Editor Jeff D’Alessio in the 195th installment of our weekly speed read spotlighting leaders of organizations big and small.

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Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette

I can’t live without my … wife. She is the rock of our family.

The hardest thing about being a leader is … that I shoulder all of the responsibility, good or bad.

The last luxury in which I indulged was … when my wife and I attended the Beyoncé concert in St. Louis, and stayed downtown and dined at Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

My one unbreakable rule of the workplace is … always maintain a family-friendly and professional work environment.

My philosophy on meetings is … they’re useful to make sure there is consistent communication and the team is on the same page. Honestly, I’m not consistent in this area and I need to work on following through.

The three adjectives I hope my staff would use to describe me are … dedicated, consistent and fair.

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“I draw inspiration from so many different individuals — some I know personally and some whose work I follow,” Aush Knox says.

Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette

On my home office wall, you’ll find … my associate degree, my bachelor’s degree, my “I Cut My Way Out” podcast banner and a caricature drawing of my wife and I.

As far as a professional role model goes … I don’t have one individual professional role model. I draw inspiration from so many different individuals — some I know personally and some whose work I follow.

Many of the people I follow have different attributes that I believe can be helpful in my continued growth.

My single favorite moment since starting this job this job has been … being baptized last year with my wife.

I’m frugal in that … I like to hold on to money. Oftentimes, I spend it and it hurts my soul.

If I could trade places for a week with any other business person in town, I wouldn’t mind switching with someone at … The Atkins Group. I have really become intrigued with real estate development and how it works.

I also have a dream/goal of owning some land.

The single-most important question I ask job candidates during interviews is … if they are licensed by the state.

The first thing I do when I get to work most days is … turn on all the overhead light, prep towels and put them in the hot towel warmer and get all of my clippers organized.

For lunch, I … usually go out to eat. No place in particular, just depends on what I have a taste for.

I wind down after work by … going home, taking a shower, eating dinner and watching television with my wife.

The most beneficial college class I took was … a sociology course at Eastern Illinois University. It was a class dealing with historical events that shaped and molded our country.

I don’t remember the professor right off, but it was an amazing class to take on such important information at a later age.

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Aush and Tanaka Knox co-own Beard Culture Barbershop & Gallery in Urbana’s Lincoln Square Mall.

Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette

The last book I read was … the autobiography of fashion icon Dapper Dan.

I’m up and at ’em every day … no later than 6:30 a.m.

When it comes to my exercise routine … unfortunately, I don’t have an exercise routine, but I need to get back in the gym ASAP.

The first job I ever had was … delivering door hangers from door to door for a Domino’s that was about to open in Urbana on Cunningham and University.

The worst job I ever had was … maintenance at an apartment complex. On my first day, I was in a building and a guy had a huge Rottweiler loose.

That was my first and last day.

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