Beauty and the Political Beast: How to Get Involved in Salon Legislation
Holly Vaught, corporate education director for K. Charles & Co. salons in the San Antonio, Texas area, decided to get involved in politics in 2006 when her company opened two Aveda Institutes (one in San Antonio and one in Corpus Christi).
“It was then that I realized there are a lot of regulations, especially if you’re going to be federally funded,” Vaught says. “By becoming more involved in the school and reading law books that pertain to us in Texas, I also found there were some things that were pretty antiquated.”
She also found the people who are writing and passing legislation are often not educated in the beauty industry.
“Sometimes their only education is listening to their wives or whoever is cutting their hair,” she says. “So when bills come up, they need someone they can reach out to and ask. I’m in a unique position to do that because I own schools and salons.”
Vaught says the first step to getting involved is joining an association. Texas doesn’t have a state cosmetology association for the beauty industry, so Vaught got on the board of another association—Career Colleges and Schools of Texas.
She was also nominated to be on the Professional Beauty Association’s advisory board, where she is able to relay what’s happening in state legislation that affects cosmetology schools and salon owners.
She recommends learning what agency is regulating the beauty industry in your state. In Texas, the Texas Department of License and Regulation (TDLR) regulates anything to do with cosmetology.
“It used to be we were under the Texas Cosmetology Commission,” Vaught says. “I freaked out when it went to TDLR because it was mostly well drillers, plumbers and electricians who were going to take over the world of beauty.”
But then Vaught realized it was an opportunity to educate, and made sure the executive director of TDLR knew beauty professionals were not going to let them dictate laws in the beauty industry without being informed.
After you’ve figured out which agencies are in charge and what associations to join, Vaught says it’s time to start going to legislative meetings.
“In Texas, sessions are every other year and last from mid-January to early May,” she says. “Laws can be changed during session, but things can also happen in the interim between sessions.”
Vaught took this interim time to visit the capital and get involved. She set up meetings with lobbyists and lawmakers to educate them on the beauty industry.
Fortunately, she lives close to Austin and is able to easily pop in and spend time there regularly. But she recognizes this isn’t possible for everyone.
“If you don’t live near your capital, make phone calls and write letters,” she advises. “They have to document every call that comes in, and they usually respond.”
If there’s a specific law you are trying to get passed, send an email to the legislator of that bill. But be warned, Vaught says, it’s much easier to play defense and get bills killed than to pass them.
Find Your Passion
Once you’ve established yourself and have gotten to know some of the legislators and lobbyists in your state, find a piece of legislation to get passionate about.
Vaught has fought both for bills to be passed and more recently against deregulation. For example, an apprentice program that was recently presented posed several problems for the beauty industry—both schools and salon owners.
“When you dissected it, the bill said that cosmetologists wouldn’t have to go to school—just be an apprentice,” Vaught says. “I didn’t want the administrative burden on all these salons, so I fought against the deregulation of beauty schools.”
But the issue that got Vaught involved when she first started was all about shaving.
In Texas, cosmetologists were not allowed to shave the neck or face with anything other than a trimmer—not even a safety razor. If they did, they would face a fine of $3,500.
“Even though cosmetology students had the same amount of hours as barber students, they still weren’t allowed,” Vaught explains. “I needed to get it changed as a means to get my students employed.”
The bill passed to allow cosmetologists to use safety razors (they are still not allowed to use straight razors) in 2013, two years after Vaught got involved.
“I was known as the Aveda lady in the halls of the capitol.”
Vaught built up her reputation as an expert in the beauty business and passed out razors to committee members to get attention.
“You don’t necessarily know who is working on cosmetology bills unless a lobbyist tells you,” she says. “What you do know, is who is on the committee to hear bills. It takes someone like me or a lobbyist to put the word out.”
When the bill was finally passed to allow cosmetologists to use safety razors in Texas, it was only six words that were changed and it cost about $25,000.
Tips and Advice
If marching up and down the halls of your state capitol feels a little intimidating, Vaught says to start by getting involved with the Professional Beauty Association (PBA).
“That’s our association and our voice,” she says. “PBA has links to find out what your legislature is and a state captain in every state.”
Find out who your captain is and reach out to them for more information on getting involved. Vaught is the captain in Texas, and last year, she took a group of salon owners to the capitol with her to meet committee members and chiefs of staff.
“We gave them information sheets and passed out samples,” she says. “The committees change and you have to re-introduce yourself every so often.”
She also says making the trip to meet with your legislators is worth it.
“Even if you’re just saying ‘Hi’ to their staff, it’s good to be known, and that you’re there to educate,” Vaught says. “I’m one of their constituents. They work for me, and I let them know what our industry needs in a way that’s respectful and educational.”
When you visit, Vaught offers these quick tips:
- Be able to articulate. Do your homework ahead of time, know what issue you want to discuss, and do so clearly.
- Be professional. Wear appropriate clothing and come prepared.
- Have a white paper. This piece of paper you hand out says who you are, who you represent, what topics you love and/or are not happy with. If it’s about a specific bill, it should say so.
Visit https://probeauty.org/advocacy/ to learn more and find contact information for your state captain.