Let’s make it legal for barbers to come to you

The Mississippi legislature has been focusing on removing needless laws to help encourage entrepreneurship and provide Mississippians with meaningful work. They have a chance to continue this with pending legislation that would allow barbers to operate mobile barbershops.

Like every other state, Mississippi strictly regulates barbers and barbershops. In fact, state laws typically regulate small details like the number of cabinets, what can be stored in each, the number of mirrors, the number of sinks, where to store dirty hair cloths, and much more. Barbershops cannot be located in one’s home, soft drink parlor, or restaurants. These regulations are designed to ensure the quality and legitimacy of services to protect consumers. But they also make operating a barbershop more costly.

Barber regulations in Mississippi also prevent barbers from operating a mobile barbershop. Mobile barbershops are not a new idea. Over the past decade, entrepreneurial barbers have come up with an idea to bring haircuts to consumers. Unfortunately, they have often been thwarted by state barber regulations. In many states, they were willing to fight and able to get these laws changed.

Today, 34 states allow mobile barbershops. Mississippi is not among them.

In response to COVID-19, states like Mississippi temporarily closed barbershops. As barbershops reopened, in some states they were allowed to offer new mobile services. Demand for mobile barbershops has grown as the services that consumers need and feel comfortable with have changed. Mississippi should join these 34 states and allow barbers to keep up with changing consumer needs.

This would open up new types of barbering services for entrepreneurs. For instance, they can open a mobile barbershop and go straight to consumers in convenient locations. It could be office parks, near high schools, or town centers. They can go straight to the home for healthy older residents who appreciate the convenience of haircuts in their own homes or don’t have access to reliable transportation. Right now, barbers would be breaking the law if they offered this service to consumers.

Although well-intended, this is an example of over-regulation that prevents entrepreneurs from evolving as consumer needs evolve. We should aim for regulation designed with a light touch. Protecting consumers should not require us to prevent all innovation and require a one-size-fits-all approach.

Regulations that are too detailed are a burden for entrepreneurs, raising the cost of complying with regulations and removing opportunities for innovation. We can often imagine things that can go wrong, even if they are unlikely to happen, but it’s more difficult for us to imagine the good brought about by new ideas. Entrepreneurs use their vision to make consumers better off by finding new ways to meet their needs, like mobile barbershops.

Overly strict and detailed regulations also force standardization within an industry. Regulatory requirements shift a professional’s focus from meeting consumer needs to making sure they’re in line with regulatory requirements. These regulations may encourage best practices, but they also stifle entrepreneurs and their new ideas. Some select groups like single parents, busy professionals, or the elderly could benefit from nonstandard services, like mobile barbershops, designed specifically to meet their needs.

Allowing barbers to provide services outside of permanent shops in mobile barbershops makes sense. It gives barbers the ability to practice in new ways to better meet consumers’ changing needs.

Allowing more freedom for entrepreneurs to meet evolving consumer needs in new ways will spur economic activity and help entrepreneurs start new businesses. Although this is just one small avenue for entrepreneurship, it represents an opportunity to remove one more barrier. Mississippi continues to be a national leader in removing unnecessary regulations, and HB 1355 would continue this trend.