Determined Entrepreneur: Diamond Lewis

Carrie Stambaugh, Managing Editor

    The words, “Show your love today,” are hard to miss on Diamond Lewis’s left arm. He had them inked there after undergoing a transformational personal change. “Looking inward - that’s the hardest thing a human can do. I had to do that. I am grateful for that,” he said, adding. “Without the support and love from my wife Lisa, my family and my friends there’s no way I’d make it.”
    That gratitude manifests itself through an outpouring of love to the community, much of which Lewis does through his business, Sideburns Stadium Haircuts. Sideburns, which opened in November 2011, is a business collaboration with an old friend Travis Hignite.
The pair attended business classes together at Ashland Community and Technical College after high school but then lost touch. After reconnecting years later, they discovered each had plans to start a new business. Lewis's idea was the salon and after hearing about it Hignite jumped on board.
    Since then Lewis has become a serial entrepreneur - opening four more businesses with a fifth pending. They include a second Sideburns in Teays Valley, West Virginia; Ashland Liquidation Center, Chef’s Heart Cookware and Treasure Hunt in Columbus, Ohio.
    “It’s been a roller-coaster… it has been wild,” Lewis said, of the last eight years. His drive, he said, comes from his desire to plan for the unknown hardships life sometimes brings. “I’m searching for peace. I’m looking for if something happens, I want to have enough legs to stand on,” he explained, with a laugh “I’m not going to get rich off any of these.” The businesses, he added, are really just a “means to an end.” That “end” is to support his family and do as much as he can to help others.
    This desire is evidenced in his favorite week of the year: back to school week. The shop, which typically does around 600 haircuts a week, will do 1,000 that week, many of which are given for free to local students.
    In addition to offering free haircut days, Sideburns also sponsors many youth sports teams, including the Challenger League for special needs students, and holds a variety of fundraising events throughout the year.
    However, Lewis relishes being able to help individual children he meets achieve their dreams. His favorite example is of meeting a young boy on a free haircut day for Fairview schools. (Fairview is his alma mater.)
    “An upbeat, fun kid,” the young man was very excited about football season. Lewis recalled, “He said, ‘I’m a wide receiver because I’m so fast.’ Then he got sad for a moment. I asked him, ‘What’s wrong buddy,’ and he said, ‘I could be faster but I don’t have any cleats. I keep slipping.’”
    Lewis quickly asked his grandmother what size he wore, and while the boy got his hair cut he headed down to Payless Shoes for a brand new pair of Under Armour® cleats.
    The boy was ecstatic when Lewis presented them to him. He immediately ran outside, put them on and began to run up and down the parking lot to demonstrate how fast he could run. “That was the best moments I’ve ever had in here. It was great,” said Lewis.
    “Outside of that, the biggest joy is hearing how Sideburns has helped these girls (his employees) change their lives. Some of these girls come to me with no place of their own, no car, never taken their kids on a vacation, and I watch them progress through it. Getting a car, going on vacation, buying their home. Watching that progression is amazing,” said Lewis.  He added, his employees make well above minimum wage and Sideburns is always hiring.
    Despite all Lewis has been able to do, he isn’t satisfied. He wants to make an even bigger difference. “I’m making a dent and dents are good but there is so much more we could do – I see these other companies, bigger companies, and I know they are making bank but I never see them involved in anything. It makes me so mad! They could do so much!”