One of the most popular things to do for young girls on tropical vacations is to have braids and beads strung through their hair. No one on Marco Island knows this better than Heidi Esala. Ms. Esala has transformed the braiding industry on Marco Island. The success of her braiding company, Knot Head Tropical Braiding, helped her to begin two other company ventures. Both new ventures have also thrived under Heidi’s ownership.
Originally from Minnesota, Heidi developed her braiding skills at a young age. As a teen she learned to braid horses at a horseback riding academy. Seventeen years ago she moved to Marco Island and worked in all different fields, none relating to hair braiding. However, once her daughter was born, she would practice these techniques on her hair. The children at her daughter’s school were so excited to see the new styles and would beg Heidi to braid their hair as she dropped her daughter off at school. The excitement in these young girls sparked the idea for Knot Head. That was eleven years ago.
Her first Knot Head location was at The Eagle’s Nest timeshare. Armed with a Barbie doll with a head full of braids, Heidi approached management with her idea. That day she had her first location. Once a week she braids hair at The Eagle’s Nest and now has many other locations. She and hermany employees braid hair at The Charter Club, The Surf Club, The Marriott, The Hilton and many other locations. At the majority of these locations she braids for the guests of the hotels and timeshares. Her kiosk at The Hilton, however, is open to the general public. Walk-ups are welcome and appointments can also be made ahead of time. Her braiding venture has been so successful that she was even able to franchise three Knot Head locations on the east coast of Florida.
Visiting with Heidi as she braided hair was a unique experience. Olivia Ortega, an eight year old visiting from Miami, waited excitedly to have her hair braided in “the tiara” style. As she waited her turn, she expressed her memories of three years ago at The Eagle’s Nest when Heidi braided her hair for the first time. Her grandmother commented on how excited her two granddaughters were to be back to have their hair done again.
Realizing the success of Knot Head Tropical Braiding, Esala started a second business called Knot Ink. Her kiosk for this business, which she started a year and a half ago, is located at the Marriott. Knot Ink offers temporary tattoos of the glittery variety. This new business has also proven to be a tremendous success.
So why not add one more company? Last Fourth of July, she introduced her newest creation, The Shelling Company. Spendingso much of her time on and around the beach, Heidi was constantly asked about the best way to store, clean and learn about the shells on the beach. Marco is certainly known for great shelling. Heidi realized that a “shelling kit” would benefit vacationers looking for beautiful shells to take back north with them. Her complete shelling kit includes a bucket with a lid to store shells, a mesh bag to gather the shells, cleaning solution, a shell scrub brush, a shelling brochure and most importantly, a packet of sunscreen. Smaller kits are available as well. These kits can be found at various locations on Marco Island, The Rose River Marina, Marco Craft and Shell, Riverside Marina, Walgreens and may also be purchased online.
One small idea on the part of Heidi Esala has blossomed into three booming businesses. After all the hard work, Heidi is still taken aback when she considers her success. “The other day I was walking the beach and saw a group of young girls with braids in their hair and glittery tattoos. Only a few steps later I saw a group using my shelling kits. To see all of this going on is so amazing to me. To see my dreams and hard work come full circle is truly a blessing.”