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  • Current regulatory barriers prevent people starting hair braiding businesses in Maine

    By Ramona du Houx

    The Maine Senate gave initial approval for a measure that would allow individuals who provide only hair braiding services to be exempt from barbering and cosmetology licensure requirements.

    “There are a lot of African ladies like me who want to start their own businesses and earn an honest living. These licensing restrictions are preventing us from showing our skills and joining the small business community in Portland,” said Mariama Jallow, a new Mainer, originally from the Gambia in West Africa. 

    Karen Mills, former SBA Administrator, reports that immigrants are two times more likely to start a business than native citizens. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston reported in 2013 that Hispanic and Asian businesses alone contribute nearly $400 million dollars to Maine’s economy and they employ over 3,000 people.

    “I see this bill as an opportunity for state government to get out of the way of entrepreneurs wishing to open small businesses that are culturally important and pose no threat to public health and safety,” said Senator Anne Haskell of Portland, the sponsor of the bill. “In a free and open market, natural hair care would have great potential for entrepreneurial and employment opportunities by providing popular services and products to consumers.”

    The bill, LD 847, "An Act To Permit Hair Braiding without a Barbering or Cosmetology License" was unanimously supported by the Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development Committee.

    Hair braiding is currently regulated within the department of cosmetology, and the required license is burdensome and not applicable to someone who wants only to braid hair. Traditional hair braiding does not use harmful chemicals and therefore avoids the serious damage that can occur when hair is treated with chemicals and other artificial products.

    Nationwide, natural hair care has grown into a multi-million dollar industry.

    The measure received support from the Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation, the Small Business Advocate’s office, CEI, a community development institution, among others.

    “This is economic development at its best,” added Senator Haskell. “The bill provides a means for new Americans to take the first steps up the economic ladder and to help others up the ladder as well.”

    The measure, LD 847, "An Act To Permit Hair Braiding without a Barbering or Cosmetology License” will now move to the House for additional votes.