Education Station: Meet James Helton
By Keune | September 29th, 2016
When you enter Choppers Hair Design in Bethany, Oklahoma, you immediately sense that you’re in for a unique experience. The eclectic, art-driven, brightly colored salon conjures up a garage-y feeling, so it’s no wonder that owner James Helton calls himself the “chief mechanic.” Thanks to his experience in art, design and business, coupled with more than 25 years in the beauty industry, he is an accomplished facilitator, salon owner and stylist. His team includes three color-savvy, fashion-forward cosmetologists and one traditional barber.
James’ personal clientele is made up of relatively conservative professionals ranging between 20 and 50 years old. He loves the challenges they offer.
“My clients don’t give me a wide range, but they don’t want to be boring, either,” he explains. “It’s a challenge to satisfy a client who wants a particular cut and color that’s not too far away from her natural shade and doesn’t take a lot of maintenance, while still making it dynamic. That’s far more fun and challenging than creating rainbow hair.” He brings that same approach to his teaching.
As an educator, James is a mechanic of sorts. “I take people on a simple path so they understand that color is a series of reactions, with the art of it lying in how it’s assembled,” he says. “For example, if you look at a color correction as a whole, it can be complicated. But when you break it down into its simplest form, you can see what to do first. When you start trying to overcomplicate the service, that’s when you get into trouble.” His programs for Keune include conversion classes, the Art of Retailing and men’s grooming classes.
James learned the ins and outs of the business world when he joined his local Chamber of Commerce with a friend. The ultra-conservative Chamber wasn’t exactly open to his new ideas.
“These people were mired in tradition, and it was hurting them,” he explains. “I’m all for tradition, but if it’s not working, then you need to look beyond it. They had operated in the red for years and yet convincing them to change was a bit difficult.”
As he worked his way up through the council leadership, James says that this experience helped him learn how to communicate solutions simply and practically. He eventually became chairman, and by the time his tenure ended, the books closed in the black for the first time in 10 years.