Nail technicians and salon owners in some states believe nail specialty schools may be the solution to the problems in nail education. There are many who are convinced that nail specialty schools will better prepare nail technicians for both the technical and business aspects of the industry. New Hampshire salon owner Diane Laird lobbied her state board to get nail specialty school licensing and in January celebrated its passage. The specialty school debate was also raging in Texas, but a bill that would have allowed specialty schools failed to garner the support of the state board and subsequently was amended by the slate legislature to the point of being unrecognizable.

Laird says that the key to success in New Hampshire was winning the support of state board members. In this month’s One on One, Sue Abbott, a proponent of the Texas movement, talks to Laird about how New Hampshire organized its campaign.

Abbott: How did you prove to the state board the need to change the present legislation?

Laird: This all got started because I had put an ad in the paper for a manicurist and I didn’t get one call. I saw 10 or 12 help-wanted ads a week for manicurists. It was frustrating to me and I knew it was frustrating to other salon owners. I blamed the lack of qualified nail technicians on the lack of good schools available to them. Unfortunately, most cosmetology schools focus on hair, not on nails, so there hasn’t been much interest in the nail segment. I felt that a nail specialty school would attract people to our industry.

I asked salon owners and prospective students to sign a petition stating their desire for a nail specialty school. I presented the petition to the state board with a five-page letter explaining win- we felt the rule needed to be changed.

When I appeared before the state board I talked about the lack of education and about the bad services being done in salons. I told the board members that salons were looking for good nail technicians but couldn’t find them. I explained that the nail industry has changed in recent years — getting your nails done is no longer just a basic manicure — but schools aren’t teaching the advanced techniques.

To back up our arguments, we showed them the results of the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts & Sciences’ 1991 survey, which had statistics on the number of unfilled manicurist positions. The survey also showed that there were only 10 states with 150 hours or loss of required education, and New Hampshire was one of them.

The state board was ready to address the issue because they had gotten so many phone calls from students who wanted to know when they could take a manicuring class and from salon owners wanting to know where they could find new graduates to work in their salon.

Abbott: Did you use documentation of injury to salon clients to prove the need for more education in the nail specialty field?

Laird: No, I didn’t have to.

Abbott: What were the primary objections of the school sector in your state, and how did you over come their objections?

Laird: The school owners were the only ones opposed to nail specialty schools. They argued that students who wanted advanced education could get it from distributors. They said that the art of cosmetology encompassed hair, skin, and nails and that allowing nail school would fragment the cosmetology industry.

One salon owner who showed up in support of the bill responded to their arguments by saying that we should put our greed and differences aside and concentrate on improving our trade. Another salon owner expressed her frustration at having to hire unqualified technicians because she didn’t have the time to train them.

As for their argument that nail specialty schools would fragment the trade, we responded that separate licenses for nails and esthetics already exist in New Hampshire and that the regulations on esthetics allow skin-care-only schools. Why shouldn’t there be nails-only schools?

Abbott: What types of schools objected most to the bill?

Laird: Hairdressing schools.

Abbott: Did you use mass mailings to nail technicians and cosmetologists to gain support for the measure?

Laird: No. I had a petition in my salon that local salon owners and prospective students signed. Local distributors and salon owners spread the word to other salons, and I had about 60 signatures when I presented the petition to the state board.

Abbott: What type of publicity did you get for your campaign, and how important was it to your success?

Laird: The local newspaper’s “Women in Business” section featured me as a successful businesswoman. The article mentioned my efforts to get licensing for nail specialty schools. I got a lot of supportive phone calls from people in the industry; some of them came into my salon to sign our petition.

Abbott: What support did you get from your peers in the nail industry?

Laird: Besides the signature’s on the; petition, we had a large group of supporters attend the state board hearing.

Abbott: How did you prove the benefits of the bill of the; state representative?

Laird: The technical language of the slate hoard’s rule’s was confusing to me so I met with my local state; representative, who has an office; in my town, so that she could explain the rules to me. She agreed with me that there was a need for nail specialty schools. She attended the state board hearing and spoke in favor of changing the rule.

Abbott: How did you prove the benefits of the hill to the legislature?

Laird: Once the state board approved the proposal, they took it to the legislature. We didn’t even have to go, but we did. Nobody showed up to oppose it before the legislature.

Our local representative told the legislature that the current regulations were outdated. As an example, she pointed out that while salons could perform pedicures on clients, schools were not allowed to tech students how to do them.

Abbott: What do you feel is the main reason the bill passed in your state?

Laird: Having someone on the state board who is open-minded and sharp makes all the difference. The legislature appoints members of the industry to the state board to help the industry. At first we had problems because they had all been on the board for a long time and just weren’t open to the idea. Then a new person was appointed to the state board and became chairperson. She agreed with our arguments and supported our bill Without her, I’m not sure we would have gotten the board to back the bill.

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