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September 2014

21

Pewaukee entrepreneur reinvents the haircut

A Pewaukee-based businessman has updated the classic Flowbee haircutting system, allowing users to get a mistake-proof cut even while on the go.

Norman Yerke has been thinking about reinventing the Flowbee for the past 17 years, a system he's personally used for the past 18 years, but it wasn't until 2008 that he started to design a new haircutter.

Yerke hired an engineer and worked on the design and prototypes for over a year before launching the Aircut vacuum haircutter a little over a year ago with the intent to save users time and money while offering a convenient, no-mess way to trim hair. Unlike its predecessor, the Flowbee, the Aircut does not require a vacuum attachment, and can be used anywhere there's an electrical outlet.

"There's nothing like it on the market," Yerke said.

Serial entrepreneur

Yerke, 68, started managing companies when he was 26 years old, shortly after he served in the United States Army. With an investment banker, he purchased a small division from a multibillion dollar company in 1985, which he and his managers grew from $8 million in sales to $100 million in sales in less than eight years, Yerke said. Since then, he has started, purchased or sold 15 companies, including two construction companies, four Internet companies in the merger and acquisition field, business brokerage, a music site for videos and a chair company. He's also invented a golf tee, developed two office buildings, started two retail businesses and an investment firm, he said. Yerke sold his last four businesses in late 2007 just before the recession began, he said.

In the 1980s, Yerke was chairman of a $2 billion trade association, and in the last 10 years he has been chairman of three nonprofit associations, two of which worked with inner city at risk children, he said.

"I'm never going to retire," said Yerke. "I'm having a ball."

Aircut

The vacuum was the biggest problem in creating the Aircut, said Yerke, who lives in Elm Grove but has an office in Pewaukee. They worked out the kinks, though, and designed a vacuum that works at 41 mph. They're now working on a model that runs at 51 mph, he said.

The Aircut, available exclusively on the Internet for $99.95, includes a tapered styler and eight straight stylers ranging from 4 inches to ½ inch, and according to Yerke is error-proof.

"You can't make a mistake with the Aircut," he said.

The stylers pull the hair straight out and cut only to the desired length, he said. The device is perfect for men, women with short hair and children, said Yerke.

"You never have to go to a barber again," said Yerke. "Most importantly, you can save thousands of dollars."

Yerke's Aircut is family-approved. One of Yerke's daughters has 13 children, seven of who are boys, and she uses the Aircut for quick, no-mess cuts. He said his other daughter's 2-year-old son does not like going to get his hair cut, but with the Aircut, the process is over in three minutes.

The Aircut has been selling well, Yerke said. He's had a number of orders overseas and is in talks with a distributor in Spain.

Yerke said he has not received any complaints about the Aircut, a feat for a new product.

"People are buying them not only for themselves but also as gifts," Yerke said.

A Maryland woman loved the product so much, she's ordered four from him, he said.

The Aircut is available exclusively on the Internet at www.aircut.com.

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