CLEARWATER — Cheri Johns was mortified when the phone rang and a state official said she had to shut down her new mobile barber business, Executive Edge.
Johns has been going to local executives' workplaces and cutting their hair in their offices. But it turns out that's a no-no in Florida.
The Clearwater & North Pinellas Times ran a story about her business on Friday. That prompted a number of complaining phone calls to Johns, the state and the Times.
Johns has the credentials — more than 20 years of professional barbering. She has a license. But she didn't know she would need a mobile barber's unit if she wanted to cut executives' hair away from a salon.
The state requires barbers to have a physical place in which to do their haircutting. The requirements for mobile barbers include sterilizing equipment, which Johns did, but also having fire extinguishers and removal of garbage, to name a few rules.
"I had called the state and spoke to someone on the phone with my idea," said Johns, 52. "I didn't ask who I was speaking to that day. And I wouldn't go up against the state. I didn't realize I had to bring a place to cut people's hair. I thought if I followed the regulations, sterilizing equipment and putting all the safeguards in place, I'd have a go."
Florida does make some exceptions to the rules. Anyone who has a barbering license can cut hair on-site for movie, television, photography or fashion productions, as well as trade shows and educational seminars, according to the state's Department of Business and Professional Regulations.
Licensed barbers can also cut hair at nursing homes, hospitals, or the homes of people who are housebound due to ill health. Johns has gotten several calls from people who are shut-ins, so she's thinking about doing that.
Johns says she never meant any disrespect to her fellow barbers.
"I started the business with the idea I could have more time to be with my father, who was diagnosed with lung cancer," she said. "Still, I understand why people in my profession were upset. We're constantly up against people who cut hair without a license. I thought I had done all I needed to do to start a business, and now I know."