Since 2004, Yelp has worked to connect millions of people to the best in local business. In that time we’ve met thousands of passionate small business owners, a group as hardworking and diverse as any you’ll find. In this series, we share stories of just some of the people who, through their commitment to building great local businesses, are sustaining the vibrant local communities we call home.
Born and raised in Mexico, the thought of being a successful entrepreneur and business owner in the United States was only a dream to Ruben Rivera. As a young boy, Ruben was primarily raised by his grandparents in Oaxaca while his parents traveled to Tijuana for months at a time to earn a living to support their family. At the age of 9, his parents brought the entire family to Tijuana. At that time, Ruben’s brother had already come to Arizona to work and wanted Ruben to come, as well. His parents did not want him to go, but he was able to convince them to make the move as a family in 1996. He was 12 years old. They moved to the West Valley during the summertime, which required a bit of an adjustment all while being exciting at the same time.
When they arrived in Arizona, Ruben and his family spoke Mixteco, a native language with an Indian dialect spoken by a half a million people in Oaxaca, Puebla and Guerrero. Therefore, he had to learn both Spanish and English at the same. Excited about his financial potential in the United States and eager to make money, Ruben dropped out of High School and began a landscaping job but quickly learned that was not his calling.
Next, he explored trade school options and had his heart set on becoming a mechanic. That department was under construction at the time, so in the meantime the school offered him courses in their barber program. He had never been to a barber before and really didn’t know what to expect. To his surprise, he ended up loving it, and had quite a knack for it! He never missed a day of school and was extremely dedicated to the program. After 6 months of being in the program, his instructors told him that he was on his way to completing it, however, he would need $3500 in tuition to take the final licensing exam. Still very tenacious, but no idea how to come up with the money, – Ruben had been staying late to clean up after class. Miraculously, he was noticed by the head of the school and was overjoyed to be offered payment for the extra hours of help, which resulted in enough to cover his entire tuition and tools. This, my friends, was the start to Ruben’s journey as a successful barber and business owner in Phoenix, Arizona.
After working for various “greedy” barbers throughout the Valley, and unfortunately being taken advantage of multiple times, Ruben learned what not to do as a business owner. He soaked up everything that he could and learned how to cut all types of hair. After 5 years of working for other businesses, he and his wife decided to purchase their first barbershop in North Phoenix in 2006.
In 2013, they opened their current shop with 3 chairs and quickly added more chairs after experiencing rapid growth. He and his wife have a great partnership. “I am the barber and she handles the paperwork,” he said. “First, we take care of our barbers. When our barbers are happy, our customers are happy, and they come back and bring more people. That is the secret,” Ruben explained. Because of this mindset, business grew exponentially and they soon realized the need to expand their shop into the suite next door. Today, PV Barbers has 10 full time barbers and 3 part-time barbers.
In recent months, they won the 2018 Small Business Boost Award and saw a large increase in business as a result. When asked what advice he’d give to other business owners pursuing their dream, he said “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When I started, I made a lot of mistakes. I was so busy trying to do everything myself. Reach out to other businesses, like Yelp, and take advantage of the free resources that are available to you. Network, research on the internet, and ask your clients because you never know what they have to offer.”
Ruben’s current goal is to become the largest barbershop in North Phoenix and they’re well on their way to attaining that dream.
Want to know more? Check out and bookmark PV Barbers on Yelp!