At-home beauty and wellness apps, which allow people to get everything from blowouts to massages right in their living room, are all the rage in cities across the nation. But one, Belle, based in Nashville, Tenn., has apparently so threatened some local salons and spas that the state cosmetology board is aiming to crush it.
“Instead of welcoming innovation, the Tennessee State Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners has threatened to fine and shut down the nascent startup,” writes Nick Sibilla, a contributor to Forbes and a spokesperson for the Institute for Justice. The organization, based in Arlington, Va., fights cases on behalf of individuals, regarding employment, education, and property rights. “Only one single complaint triggered the threat. In February, the owner of a brick-and-mortar nail salon wrote to state regulators about Belle: She found ‘this type of competition highly disturbing.’ That tip was ultimately forwarded to the Board, which included that solitary complaint in its demand letter against Belle.”
Belle, founded by Armand Lauzon, offers at-home services, including hair, nails, makeup, spray tans, massage, personal training, tailoring, and chiropractic sessions. It follows in the footsteps of other on-demand apps, such as Glamsquad, Blownaway, StyleBee, and Uber Beauty, all a part of the fast-growing trend that appeals to a range of clients, including stressed-out professionals, mobility-challenged seniors, and stay-at-home moms.
“Having somebody come to you is the way celebrities do it,” Glamsquad cofounder Victoria Eisner told the Wall Street Journal. “Why can’t the average woman have that as well?”
They won’t be able to in Nashville, if the state board has its way.
“At this point, a consent order (which is an informal settlement agreement) has been presented to Project Belle, and their attorney has responded with a letter,” a spokesperson for the Tennessee State Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners tells Yahoo Beauty. “No action has been initiated regarding this matter. Project Belle is slated to be discussed with the Board on Oct. 3, when they convene in Nashville.” According to documents shared with Yahoo Beauty by the board, the board alleged that Belle was violating the state’s cosmetology laws, offering the company a deal to cease and desist or face worse punishment.
Meanwhile, Lauzon’s attorney Daniel Horwitz is fighting the board’s claims against Belle — including that the company was an unlicensed cosmetology salon.
As Horwitz told the Institute for Justice, “regulating Project Belle under the Tennessee Cosmetology Act because it uses the Internet to connect cosmetologists with consumers would be akin to regulating the Yellow Pages under the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act because the phone book contains listings for medical professionals.”