A small business owner’s experience navigating red tape in Minnesota

Last November, I wrote about Adrienne Lepage who shared her story on MinnPost about how regulations have prevented her from expanding her microbakery business. As I explained in the article, it can be difficult sometimes to illustrate the real-life harms of regulation using the economy. The fact remains, however, that the economy is not an abstract concept. It is made up of real people whose everyday lives are made harder or more costly by burdensome regulations. In this case, Adrienne, her customers, potential employees, and other business owners who are prevented from partnering with her are some of the people being hurt by the state’s burdensome regulations.

Last week, the Star Tribune published another article that perfectly illustrates the real-life harms of regulations. The story was shared by Debbie Carlson who recounted the hoops that she had to jump through to register her cosmetology school.

According to Debbie, everything was fine when she launched a training center for beauty professionals. The problems started when she decided to turn it into a post-secondary career school.

As she explained,

The state then wanted a course catalog, financial records, inspection reports, proof of insurance, policy statements and audit letters. Universities have finance, accounting, human resources and legal offices to gather this data. I had me.

When I asked the state for guidance, regulators told me to read the statutes and figure things out. It took hundreds of hours. When I was not in the classroom teaching, I was working on the packet.

The Minnesota Board of Cosmetology also got involved — not to help, but to oppose me. I was plugging a hole in the state-mandated beauty school curriculum, which skips makeup artistry almost entirely. So industry insiders felt threatened, and used their influence with the board to challenge me.

The Office of Higher Education and Board of Cosmetology were just two of the many government entities I had to deal with as a small-business owner in Minneapolis. County and city agencies also have zoning, fire safety, health, sanitation and business licensing requirements, with dozens of steps to win approval.

With conditions like these, it’s perfectly safe to wonder just how many other hundreds or thousands of job-creating businesses failed to even get past the starting point.