When Diamond Lewis and Travis Hignite decided they wanted to open a local business, the two friends knew nothing about cutting hair. Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of Sideburns Stadium Haircuts at the Russell Centre on Diederich Boulevard.
Even after a decade, neither has picked up a pair of scissors, clippers or trimmers. Lewis said neither he or Hignite had ever intended to become a barber, but they knew that it was something that was needed in the area, and that there were a lot of talented stylists in the area who needed a home.
The idea, which Lewis said began nearly 20 years ago, was to open a business where the employees would have not just a job, but a career with benefits, and a business that the community could depend upon to take care of their needs with flexible hours built around their busy schedules. The concept was extremely important to him from the beginning, because when you bring employees and the community together, it is less of a business and more a family.
Getting started wasn’t easy, Lewis said. He and Hignite did their research and planning, and applied to be a franchise.
“We were approved,” Lewis said. “But then the company didn’t want to open it here (in Russell) because they wanted a different demographic.” That and other corporate issues became a dealbreaker for Lewis, who really wanted to open the business locally.
“Eventually, though, Travis and I got together on this, and with some help of some other key individuals like team members and family members we were able to open. It didn’t happen overnight, and it has had its ups and downs,” Lewis said.
“Now it’s 10 years in,” he said with a mixture of gratitude and satisfaction. The decade and the fact that his team has managed to raise and donate nearly a quarter of a million dollars back into the community are proof that Lewis and Hignite have hit upon solid sustainability in business, even opening a second branch in Teays Valley. He said three things have stood out to him after being in business for a decade.
The first, Lewis said, is what it has done to and for him on a personal basis.
“Yes, we have made money, and that has been a blessing,” Lewis said. “But to me personally, it has made me really look inward and consider who I am and how I treat others. And it has made me a better person.”
Also, his team has stood out. Some have stayed and some have come and gone, he said, but the benefit of watching their growth has been invaluable to him. Seeing them being able to do things such as buying a new car or their first home has given him great satisfaction, Lewis said. Being a part of that due to the incentives he can provide by giving back to his team and the community is wonderful, he said. “That’s how it should work,” he said. “We make a little bit, then pass it on.”
The third thing: Community.
“We love to be able to see local kids get things they wouldn’t normally get, especially during back-to-school time,” Lewis said. “And then there is helping school organizations like band, football, archery and even Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. And A Night to Shine for Special Needs is wonderful. Being able to support those things are a central part of what this business means to me. The community is everything. And it is a blessing to be able to help.”
Hignite said he agrees with Lewis about the nature of blessings that a business can receive from and be for the community. It is what has, in a very real way, made their business dreams come true.
“I think Sideburns’ success is due to my business partner, the team, and the community,” Hignite said. “But it wasn’t always easy. At first, I just wanted to keep the lights on. And make something really cool, like where we would want to go.”
Hignite said his initial concern was put to rest after the first week, however.
“We knew what number we needed to hit, and we more than reached that the first week,” he said. “Now, we want to keep serving the community for another 10 years and more, and hopefully spread to other communities and serve them as well.”
The current Sideburns team: Tiffany Shepherd (eight years), Rachel Evans (seven), Bonnie Jo Stewart (six), Kevin Steele (six), Cara Conley (five), Alex Walker (four), Cathy Larson (three), Karissa Willet (two years, five months), Kelley Wheeler (two years), and Jonathan Cox (eight months). Lewis and Hignite are grateful for each and every one, as well as Lewis’ wife, Lisa, and their family and friends. They want to thank everyone and look forward to another 10 years (at least) with them.
Sideburns is always looking for an opportunity to give back, both Hignite and Lewis said. They took advantage of their 10-year celebration to do just that by raising and donating money to the Julie Ditty Qualls Foundation. Dr. Jack Ditty and Juanita Ditty, Julie’s parents, and Josh Qualls, Julie’s husband, were on hand to accept the donation of $1,000 for the Battle Against Breast Cancer. Funds were raised from a raffle of an Xbox games system, and $1 of every haircut was also donated.