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As a salon owner and licensed manicurist, my perspective on the nail industry could not be more practical. While some may be offended by the opinions expressed, please understand that I want to share information and stimulate discussion. Whether you want your nails done or do nails professionally, I hope you find this blog both useful and interesting.

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Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Unlicensed Activity: Cheaters Never Prosper?

In California, any business that provides hair, skin and/or nail services regulated by the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology (BBC) must obtain a valid establishment license from the BBC before it opens. This law applies to any kind of business, whether a salon, day spa, hotel, medical office or gym. Likewise, any individual providing regulated beauty services must have a valid license, specific to a course of training and scope of practice. The BBC issues licenses for five main categories: cosmetologist, manicurist, esthetician, barber and electrologist.

Although the BBC requires establishment and individual licenses, it appears that many business owners, service providers and consumers could care less. Whereas most consumers don't know any better, the large number of unlicensed businesses and service providers in our state shows their blatant disregard for the law and disrespect for the beauty industry.

Two years ago, I attempted to quantify this problem by determining how many beauty businesses in Monterey County have valid establishment licenses. According to AT&T's The Real Yellow Pages (Monterey and San Benito Counties, November 2007), 468 businesses were listed under the categories "Barbers," "Beauty Salons & Services," "Day Spas," "Electrologists," "Nail Salons" and/or "Skin Care." These businesses were cross-referenced with a complete list of establishment licenses for Monterey County printed from the BBC website on December 23, 2007.

This simple, though time-consuming, license verification process revealed:
· only 282 businesses, approximately 60%, had clear establishment licenses; and yet even of these, 75 (27%) had listed business names in the Yellow Pages that differed from their licensed establishment names;
· an additional 17 businesses were individual licensees with a clear cosmetology license, but no establishment license;
· 115 businesses, approximately 25%, had no license at all;
· the remaining businesses, approximately 14%, had other concerns: Cancelled (21), Delinquent (14) and Fines Due (14) and five businesses had "Clear" licenses that were questionable (e.g. one license was listed as expired in 1999).

We cannot afford to tolerate unlicensed activity and unfair competition, and yet the BBC does not have the resources to eliminate unlicensed activity without our help. Do your part by being licensed and reporting those who are not.

State Bored?

After being reinstated on January 1, 2003 by SB1482, our state's Board of Barbering and Cosmetology (BBC) struggled to meet its legislative mandates, due in large part to inept leadership. Facing yet another sunset review, the BBC apparently redeemed itself through new appointments, a renewed focus on its priorities and the performance of Executive Director Kristy Underwood and her diligent staff. Under her leadership, the BBC has accomplished legislative mandates like increasing fines, eliminating lengthy processing delays and establishing reciprocity. Even with limited resources, Underwood has been remarkably effective.

However, the Board itself has failed to demonstrate any true leadership, despite excessive, self-congratulatory and undeserved praise from its president. Perhaps that's why yesterday's board meeting proved so encouraging; the president was no longer even a board member and a new industry member had been appointed: Truc Tran, a licensed manicurist and salon owner. Only five of nine positions have been filled, so four new members (three public and one industry) will be appointed soon.

Officer elections, the first order of business, resulted in a new president, Richard Hedges (public member and past vice president), and new vice president, Ken Williams (industry member). Both were unchallenged. After announcing that he'd only serve a year-long term, Hedges promised to protect consumers, be fair to licensees, be collegial, avoid burdensome regulations, move the meetings along and work towards consensus with his fellow board members. Williams, meanwhile, emphasized the importance of education.

Here's hoping that new members will invigorate the board so we can move forward. Given the dynamic nature of the beauty industry and the challenges of this economy, the BBC must be more proactive. The prevalence of incompetent service providers, unlicensed activity and tax evasion indicate that our current system fails the interests of consumers, professionals and the state. Californians deserve better. Only after a comprehensive review of the entire BBC legislative/regulatory system will the necessary change begin. Progress depends on innovation and cooperation, enabling us to reconcile the BBC's responsibility to protect consumers with a professional's efforts to provide quality services and succeed in a competitive industry.

This reminds me of the wisdom of Socrates: "To gain a good reputation, endeavor to be what you desire to appear" and more recently, Henry Ford: "You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do." We need less cheer, and more leadership.