Black History Month — An Interview with Songe LaRon

Endeavor Entrepreneur Songe LaRon is CEO and co-founder of Squire, the only all-in-one barbershop business management system. Endeavor interviewed Songe to learn more about the inspiration behind Squire, the cultural significance of barbershops, his experience as an Endeavor Entrepreneur and more!

Endeavor: First, please tell us where you are from and your favorite memory from growing up.

Songe: I grew up mainly in New York City, moved to Los Angeles, and went to high school and college, so I had experience on both coasts as a kid. My parents moved around a lot; they’re both artists, and my mom was an entrepreneur herself, a small business entrepreneur. One memory relevant to Squire is the experience of going to barbershops as a kid with my dad. We would always find that shop in all the different neighborhoods we lived in. That really left an impression on me because it was so important to see that environment and the impact that these shops had on the different communities we lived in. 

What inspired you and your co-founder to start Squire and the services that it provides to the niche community that is Black barber shops? 

My experience growing up and experiencing those spaces definitely impacted it. The drive when we started Squire was solving my problem of having to wait to find a shop, cash-based business, kind of all the inefficiencies that we’re so familiar with. That was the initial impetus. It just didn’t make sense that in 2015, or whatever year it was, technology really hadn’t improved this one area of life. And why is it like that? Then, the more I learned about it, the more research I did talking to barbers and people who go to barbershops; I realized this was a huge opportunity. It’s universal; it’s not even just Black barber shops. This is just across all kinds of walks and many different ethnicities, people experiencing the same problems nobody’s addressing or thinking about. 

That was the initial cause of the idea, but to your point about the special place barbershops have for Black men and Black communities, I mean I always kind of anecdotally knew it. Once I started getting into it, I started seeing and learning more and even learning about the history. There was a time in the United States after slavery during Reconstruction where being a barber was one of the few professions Black men were even allowed to have, in the South particularly. Barbering as a means of economic mobility and entrepreneurship has been in our history in this country almost since its inception. It gives even more significance to Squire and what we’re trying to build.


Let’s talk about access to capital and how you were able to raise and grow. In March 2021, Squire went from an $85 million valuation to $750 million by August. What was the most significant catalyst for that? What happened between March and August?

That was a wild time for so many reasons, for the world and Squire. We were coming off the heels of the reopening after the pandemic shutdown. Unexpectedly, that actually ended up causing a real surge of growth in demand for us because, one, we helped our customers and helped the community during that time while they were shut down, but as they started to reopen, more barbers who weren’t using software, started seeing the need for it. We had all these tools that would help them through the process. So we just started rapidly growing. 

There’s just the economic environment at the time of zero interest rates. There was a lot of money swirling around in the markets, so we were able to capitalize off the timing and the moment, and we’re very opportunistic. We weren’t trying to go out and raise; investors were coming inbound to us, interested. We always knew the best time when you don’t need the money is when the money is typically there. So we knew what it was like to be on the other side of the spectrum and not have that kind of opportunity, and I also knew that this moment in time wouldn’t last forever. So we tried to seize it, and 2021 was wild from the B and then the C, back to back. It was a great time for entrepreneurs, for tech companies, at least, because there was so much capital available, and the founders had a lot of leverage. But nothing lasts forever. It’s reverted to the other extreme, and hopefully, it’ll even out. When the money is there, get it, and if you can, get it on good terms. Get it so you can get back to building your company.


So, after surviving a pandemic, Squire continues to hit the marks for successful entrepreneurs. How do you believe the work you have accomplished thus far as a founder has created new pathways or even broken down barriers for other underrepresented founders? 

I think there’s not a lot, unfortunately, that have reached certain levels of scale, money raised, or revenue milestones. When companies are able to break through, I think naturally, it shows that this is possible, that we can operate companies at the highest levels successfully, and a lot of people pattern match. For so many years, they’ve seen only founders who look like Mark Zuckerberg succeed, get funding, and build big companies. So even if it’s subconscious, I think that a lot of people have that bias, that if you don’t fit that mold, if you don’t look like that, you don’t have that background, it must mean that you’re less likely to be able to succeed at that level. And look, we haven’t succeeded; we’re not there yet.

We still have a lot of room to grow and things to prove, but I think the fact that we are where we are and we’re going where we’re going will help combat that narrative, and it will show the example of a Black company. Not only are we two Black founders, we’re a diverse executive team, a diverse company in general. Particularly now, where there’s been a backlash to DEI and diversity and caring about representation, and frankly, I think a lot of it is rooted in racism. There are a lot of people who see anything that is diverse or not the “norm,” which is many times being a white man or just white in general, and the assumption is if you’re diverse, you must be less qualified. I think that it’s actually the opposite because the numbers are still not representative in any realm. 

Then it’s assumed that the few who breakthrough don’t deserve to be there? Now I’m here, and you’re telling me, “You just made it because you’re Black.” No, I made it despite the fact that I’m Black. That’s very frustrating to me, but the best thing to do, the best way to fight that is to just succeed at it. Keep grinding, keep your head down, and build a successful business. The results will speak for themselves. 


I recently read an article in TechCrunch about the decrease in funding for Black founders and businesses. What would you say to the idea that there is now an abundance of caution in the ecosystem preventing investors from taking chances on first-time founders, who are more than likely considered diverse?

That’s just so frustrating and disheartening. It’s one of those things where, unfortunately, the wealth disparity is what it is, and there’s just not enough Black controlled capital to make a difference in the numbers currently. As a result, we’re at the whims of the capital controllers. So when they decide they don’t care about George Floyd, 2020, Black Lives Matter, and all that stuff anymore, they want to go back the other way, the pendulum swings.

There’s no mechanism really, except for just crying and complaining about it, which we should do because it’s not right. But outside of that, there’s not a lot of means to change that. So it is very frustrating, and I think we could keep applying pressure, showing the data that it’s not the case that Black companies underperform at all. Then, just as founders keep building, we keep running until we succeed.


You’re part of the Endeavor network, you’re an Endeavor Entrepreneur, and you recently received a Linda Award in 2022. In your acceptance speech, you mentioned that you found your community within Endeavor. Initially, how did you find that community in a space where there were founders who didn’t look like you?  

I think that one of the skills we have to develop, and most of us do when we reach certain levels of professional advancement, is getting used to being the only one or one of the few in the room. It gets to the point where it doesn’t phase you at all. 

Some people claim to be colorblind. Obviously, that’s not true, but as a Black professional you get to a point where you almost don’t see race because you’re used to being the only one. I combat it by reaching out to founders who have experience in areas where I want to learn or have built companies that I think are interesting, getting connected to them, and leaning on them.

Endeavor is so obviously global, though, so it doesn’t feel like there’s any majority of anything. It’s very diverse in general. There are a lot of people from the Middle East that I’ve met that I would have never had and from different countries in Asia. So it does feel very representative of the larger global community, which is pretty dope. I think anybody who has an opportunity should take full advantage, get connected, and try to build relationships with whoever will be helpful. The resources from Endeavor have definitely influenced our international strategy because Endeavor has resources for every country we want to expand into.


One last question before we go. What insight would you offer other Black founders and CEOs looking to scale faster and have a sustainable and successful business? 

If they’re building a new company right now, I encourage them to get smart about AI. Even if it’s not a new company, a tech company, or not a tech company. We’re in the early stages of a civilizational transformation. In my opinion, like electricity or even fire, it’s on that level. Like the internet, this is the next one, and it’s happening right now, and everything is going to be influenced by it. So, if you’re starting a company now, you should be thinking, “How do I integrate it, and if not, how do I use these tools to help me grow faster and do more?” That would be the main thing. Also, find entrepreneurs you can get advice from who are ahead of you like two to three years. Not ten years ahead of you, but two to three, so they’re still close enough to remember what it was like at your stage and try to get advice from them.