It is said that when one door closes, another opens. William Burt was searching for an open door. And, with the help of Americans For Prosperity, he found it.
Burt’s story starts when he was a teen. His first child, a daughter, was born when he was 14 years old. He had his second child, a son, at 16.
He was dealing drugs to financially support his family. He ended up in prison. And those darker days helped lead Mr. Burt to a brighter future.
“The passion for cutting hair really came about for me in prison,” Burt said. “You have to be more than a barber, as a barber. You are a mentor, you are a counselor. Meeting the needs of people is probably my greatest strength in the barbershop.”
For various reasons, some people are unable to get into a barbershop. So Burt decided he would take the barbershop to them. And that’s where Kut Kings LLC came in.
Burt grew up in Waterloo. He estimates he was in and out of the juvenile detention center 15-20 times. He went to prison four times.
“My son, on one of the visits in prison, he was just like, ‘Dad, I know you say your family is your No.1 priority, but if we was your No. 1 priority, you’d be here with us and not in prison,'” Burt said. “The turning point for changing my ways was my son. Knowing that he was looking for a better example.”
It was inside prison where Burt learned to like cutting hair. After his release in 2008, he graduated from barber college. Now he is hoping to give back to the community.
Burt put together a business plan for Kut Kings, but he received an email stating a mobile barbershop is illegal in Iowa.
“Another door being closed in my face,” Burt says in the video.
Tyler Raygor, Deputy State Director of Americans For Prosperity (Iowa), said he had a hard time believing it was illegal.
“I couldn’t believe that, this day in age, you could sell food out of a truck, you could groom dogs out of a truck, but you couldn’t cut a human’s hair even though the bus resembled a real barbershop,” Raygor said.
Raygor called Burt and told him he’d like to help. Burt had the passion, Raygor and AFP had the experience and resources to help.
It was a one-sentence bill that changed the definition of barbershop in Iowa to include a mobile barbershop.
Gov. Kim Reynolds noted his efforts and recognized him during her State of the State speech earlier in 2020. It was just a couple months later that Reynolds signed the law Burt fought for so he could follow his dream, legally.
“We hope that this story, that this bill inspires other people to step up and engage in the fight as well,” said Drew Klein, AFP-Iowa State Director.
“I just want to be the change creator,” Burt said. “That’s kind of my goal for this whole thing is to meet the needs of not only the facilities around town, but throughout the state, the communities, and then supply what they need.”
Near the end of the video, Reynolds calls Burt to let him know she is restoring his voting rights. Burt tears up and completes the call.
“A debt that he had already paid was still looming over him,” Klein said. “A man behaving like a super citizen, that was really involved now in changing a law in the state of Iowa, didn’t have the right to vote in his own elections. If anybody deserves the right to have a voice in his government, it’s William Burt.”
Throughout the process, Burt routinely said it would take some time for things to sink in. On Tuesday, a few weeks after the bill crossed the finish line, Burt said he hasn’t quite celebrated the bill signing because of the COVID-19 shutdown. But the path is much clearer.
His oldest child, the daughter he had just after turning 14, is his most outspoken kid, he said.
“She’s probably my biggest vocal supporter, but my son is in the background doing everything I’m not capable of doing,” he said. “He’s my biggest moral support. I’m getting the support from everyone that I need.”
Burt is hopeful he has three or four more mobile barbershops operating one day.
But for now, he’s thankful his story is out there to inspire others, and Iowa has allowed him to open up for business.
As for Burt’s review of the film, he said it’s better than he could’ve imagined.
“I think it’s too short if you want to keep it real,” he quipped. “(Those) guys did a hell of a job with the rollercoaster ride from beginning to end. I couldn’t have told it any better.”
Now, he said, he’s aiming for the big screen.
Burt is from Sallis, Mississippi. It has a population of 129.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” Burt said of this documentary highlighting his story.
That rollercoaster ride wasn’t just for Burt either. Raygor joined him for much of it.
“As I got to talk with William more and got to meet with him and then hang out with him and grab dinner with his family and go to church, that professional relationship turned into a real friendship,” Raygor said. “There were definitely times where Drew had to reign me in a little bit because I was probably too emotionally invested in this issue.
“For me, it became personal. In one way, it was my friend. But two, just taking all that time and money and effort that he has put into his dream and what that can do for other Iowans and the story as well, it might give them hope. Just because they are facing a barrier doesn’t mean they have to stop. It means they can keep going and help tear that down.”
Burt has experienced plenty of twists and turns on his path to Kut Kings being fully operational — and legal — in Iowa. His story is not just inspirational and informative, it’s Iowan and it’s American.
It’s a story of a man who refused to give up and back down when his dream seemed unattainable.
He refused to walk away from the closed doors and instead knocked and knocked and knocked until the right doors finally opened up.