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Helium Salon Owner Takes Passion for Hair and Community Service to New Heights

When you talk to Sierra Arends, owner of Helium Salon, she’ll tell you that she was born to cut hair. By the time she was five years old she was dying her Barbie dolls’ hair with Kool Aid and giving them buzz cuts. When she turned 18, Arends attended Capital School of Hairstyling and Esthetics in Omaha, Nebraska. One week after graduating she took a position with Creative Hair Design where she was inspired by owner and mentor John Mangiameli.  Arends flourished at Creative Hair Designs and she soon realized that owning her own salon was the next step in her life’s journey.

To start a business takes hard work and flexibility, so Arends left Creative Hair Design after 4 ½ years to rent a chair at another Omaha salon in May 2014. Being self-employed gave her the flexibility she needed to seek out property for her own salon in her home town of Grand Island, NE. Arends has very fond memories of the small-town life in Nebraska. She vividly remembers talking with her mother about her mother’s early years in Oberlin, KS. When they would go back to visit, her mother would take her down the main street and talk about the small businesses that used to line the streets that had since gone out of business. Even at a young age, Arends was worried about that happening in her beloved hometown. This fueled her desire to open her own salon in downtown Grand Island. 

Arends says that she “didn’t want to see main street fail or see one more thing go vacant.” She was excited to be part of “a thriving community with young professionals taking a risk, revamping main street to what it was in the 30s and 50s.”

But joining that community didn’t happen overnight. Starting in May 2014 when Arends rented a chair at an Omaha salon, she spent her days juggling her Omaha clients while property searching in Grand

Island and putting together her business plan with the help of Sara Bennett from the Nebraska Business Development Center, a resource partner of the US Small Business Administration. Arends says that she “couldn’t have opened her own business without Sara. She helped me compile all the numbers and helped me think outside of the box.  She asked if I was going to need towels, and stuff like that for my budget.” In one short month Arends found the perfect location for her salon –the old Masonic Temple in downtown Grand Island. She signed the lease and began remodeling the building in Oct 2014, and the business opened March 10, 2015 with two employees in addition to Arends. Arends says the whole thing happened faster than she anticipated.

She had agreed to rent the salon chair in Omaha until May 2015, so from March until May of that year she saw clients in both Omaha and in her new salon! Business has been booming for Arends. Their salon has even doubled in size and now has 12 employees. In June of 2018, Arends went back to Sara Bennett at NBDC for help expanding into the now vacant boutique next door. Their expanded salon opened January of 2019. Arends notes that she and Bennett enjoyed looking back at the first and second fiscal years for the business to see how far they have come!

Arends is dedicated to serving the community where she grew up, and she’s happy to be living near her family and childhood friends again. She says that many of those friends come to her salon with stories of how she accidentally burned them with her curling iron when she was doing their hair as children.

Family is the most important thing to her – including her salon family. Arends pays for 50% of her employees’ continuing education and is looking into providing a 401K program in the coming year.

Her love for her community shines through in her business.  Helium Salon is devoted to community service and has monthly awareness campaigns focusing on specific causes and raising free will donations to give to those causes. March’s cause is MS and Endometriosis Awareness.  Arends had custom MS Awareness T-shirts made and hands them out for a free will donation. She’s raised almost $1k that will go to MS charities. Other monthly awareness campaigns have been on topics like eating disorders and sex-trafficking. Helium Salon often has free will donation events like community classes on how to curl and style your hair. All proceeds from the events go directly to support the causes.  They also work closely with local homeless shelter Hope Harbor. Arends frequently gives free haircuts, especially in the late summer right before school starts. They also have a program where customers can bring in bottles of beauty products they’ve tried but don’t wish to keep, in exchange for 15% off their retail purchases. The products are then donated to the shelter. Arends is a fantastic example of today’s young entrepreneur. She’s 27 years old and has already increased her business by 52% in the past fiscal year alone.

She’s dedicated to serving her small-town community and to having a mission “to have an awesome Tribe and bring a higher end, urban atmosphere that you wouldn’t usually find a small town.”  Her message to other millennial business owners is that “it’s harder than it looks. Never give up. If it’s truly your dream and you’re truly passionate about it, it will happen. Your thoughts are very powerful so be careful what you think.”