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Institute for Justice: The Power of One Entrepreneur Campaign

If government is serious about job creation, it should get out of the way of the entrepreneurs who actually create them.

That is the message of a new campaign launched this week by the Institute for Justice–the nation’s leading legal advocate for economic liberty. A series of studies called The Power of One Entrepreneur highlight the tremendous impact that a single entrepreneur can have on their family, employees, community, other entrepreneurs and beyond.

Power of One pic 2

Consider Melony Armstrong of Tupelo, Mississippi.

Melony is an African hairbraider and a mother of four. She is the owner of Naturally Speaking, a hairbraiding salon that serves her community and has employed dozens of women. In addition, Melony has taught more than 125 individuals how to braid.

But before she could even open her doors, she had to battle through mountains of red tape. The state forced her to spend 300 hours in cosmetology classes. And to teach others how to braid, she had to obtain a special license that required over 3,000 hours of additional classes. Here’s the kicker: In all of this government-mandating training, she received no actual instruction in hairbraiding.

In August 2004, Melony teamed up with the Institute for Justice to challenge these needless barriers that had the effect of keeping grassroots entrepreneurs just like her from being able to open their own businesses. Less than a year later, her case resulted in a new law that lifted the restrictions, paving the way for hairbraiding entrepreneurship throughout the state.

Chervy Lesure is a hairbraider who learned her skill from Melony. She said that Melony has “given an opportunity to people who had the talent to braid but couldn’t and were on public assistance.” Deborah Nutall, who owns a hairbraiding salon in neighboring Tennessee, understands well the importance of Melony’s impact on the region:

“She put up a fight, and that gives others courage to believe in themselves. By standing her ground, she created an opportunity for others to lead a successful life–they don’t have to wait for a handout.”

Jackie Spates learned to braid from Melony and went on to open her own business:

“I took Melony’s braiding classes because I wanted to learn the professional way. The experience showed me how to do it and gave me the confidence I need to run my own salon.”

In all, Melony Armstrong has created over 300 hairbraiding jobs. She exemplifies the power of one entrepreneur, when simply cut free from needless red tape. In a nutshell, people like Melony are the key to helping countless Americans improve their economic fortunes, and, more broadly, the key to our nation’s economic recovery.

Of course, Melony is not the only entrepreneur fighting big government to secure her American Dream. The other four reports released this week detail the following cases:

  • Seattle-area bagel man Dennis Ballen donates nearly as many bagels as he sells, supporting nonprofit organizations across his region. But Ballen’s thriving enterprise was almost driven out of business by busy-body bureaucrats: www.ij.org/Ballen

  • Kim Powers took on the powerful funeral home and cemetery cartel in Oklahoma. She went to dramatic lengths and fought a good fight, ultimately losing in court. But that didn’t stop her. Now she is back and more successful than ever: www.ij.org/Bridges.

  • Thane Hayhurst from Dallas helps businesses across the state keep their computers running at peak efficiency. He also places workers from across the nation in hard-to-fill jobs and volunteers for local community centers. Naturally, government officials are trying to shut him down: www.ij.org/Hayhurst.

  • Hector Ricketts’ “dollar vans” have battled the politically powerful and heavily subsidized New York City public buses for years. He serves the low-income areas that are routinely neglected by public transportation. Despite overwhelming odds against him, Hector continues to grow his small business that takes–as well as puts–numerous people to work: www.ij.org/Ricketts.

For more on the Power of One Entrepreneur, check out http://ij.org/power.

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