As I said, I've worked a lot of jobs throughout my life, but my passion is barbering. I love cutting hair and being able to help other people feel confidant in themselves. Last year, I had an amazing opportunity present itself. I was hired to work in a luxury shop in downtown Memphis doing what I love. I also found out that my wife was expecting our first child together. It was an amazing time. I was able to provide for my family and prepare for our future, and for the first time in my life I had a job I actually enjoyed. I had a great client base and was developing a great reputation for my work. My one mistake is I focused on honing my craft and was unfamiliar with the large amount of laws and regulations in Tennessee that govern the act of simply cutting hair.
One day, an inspector dropped in our shop and I was fined $1500 for cutting hair without a license. He told me I could no longer work in my job. I was terrified. My wife and I went to Nashville in an attempt to explain what happened and to find out what I needed to do to practice legally. When I got to my hearing in Nashville, I was met with a full courtroom proceeding. There was a judge and a prosecutor who was calling witnesses and introducing evidence against me. I had and was offered no defense. I attempted to explain the mistake and asked what I needed to do to make it right. They told me that I had to go to school to practice as a barber, but that before I was even eligible to go to barbering school I had to have a high school degree. They also fined me an additional $600 for the courtroom fees that day. I was devastated. I felt like everything I had struggled to build had been snatched from me in the blink of an eye.
All in all, I now owe over $2000 in fees and fines. I have a beautiful new baby girl, a family to support, no high school degree, and now my job has been taken from me. I want to pay off my fees and fines and enroll in barbering school. A local non-profit, the Beacon Center, has graciously taken interest in my situation, and they are working to change the law in Tennessee so that you no longer have to have a high school diploma to go to barbering school. I'm hopeful that I can get back on my feet, make this right, and pursue my dream of barbering and opening my own shop.
- Ajit Pai
- Lauren Thomas
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