HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. -- Vi Vo Nguyen wants to give West Virginia's cosmetology rules a makeover.
Nguyen, owner of VIVO Hair Salon and Day Spa at 1315 W. Washington St. in Harpers Ferry, says the Mountain State's outdated regulations are making it difficult for her and other business owners to find and keep employees.
By adopting the same licensing structure already in place in Virginia, Maryland and many other states, West Virginia could retain qualified workers instead of seeing them seek jobs outside its borders and also help her and other hard-working entrepreneurs grow their businesses, Nguyen said.
To make the needed changes happen, Nguyen is going to straight to the top: Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
"Here I am, begging you for your help, your support and your attention," Nguyen said in a letter to the governor mailed last month.
She has been down this path before.
In 2011, Tomblin came to her business to sign Shampoo Apprenticeship Bill No. 2368, which allowed salons and similar businesses to hire workers who complete a short course in health and sanitary practices as salon shampooers rather than being required to hire graduates of beauty or barber schools.
By hiring shampooers to handle that task, higher-paid stylists are freed up to concentrate on work that requires greater expertise, the cutting and styling of hair, said Nguyen, who grew up in Vietnam.
Nguyen said she's grateful to Tomblin, Delegate Tiffany Lawrence, D-Jefferson, since-retired lawmaker John Doyle and others for getting the shampoo bill passed.
But while that change has helped, Nguyen says the state ought to further update the way it handles rules for would-be salon workers.
Nguyen, for instance, wants to hire her 60-year-old mother to work alongside her as a nail technician. Her mom grew up in Vietnam and knows English well enough and has a plethora of practical experience under her belt, but because of the language barrier has been unable to pass the state's required written cosmetology test.
Other states offer the test in Vietnamese, Spanish and other languages, Nguyen said, but not West Virginia. In her latest testing try, Duoc Thi