Brandy McMorris Wins the 2016 Connie Brown Freedom Award:
Omaha Small Businesswoman Who Championed Reforms Receives Award
OMAHA, NE (October 13, 2016) – The Platte Institute for Economic Research is proud to honor Brandy McMorris as the winner of the Platte Institute’s 2016 Connie Brown Freedom Award.
McMorris, a natural hair braider from Omaha, successfully advocated for the passage of Legislative Bill 898 in the 2016 legislative session. The new state law removes a barrier for entrepreneurs, making it possible for Nebraskans to start a job or business offering natural hair braiding services without acquiring a costly state cosmetology license. The award was presented to McMorris at the Platte Institute’s annual Legislative Summit, Removing Barriers in Nebraska on Tuesday.
“The Connie Brown Freedom Award recognizes Nebraskans who take exceptional action to remove barriers to economic freedom and opportunity. When the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services informed Brandy McMorris that braiding hair for pay without a state cosmetology license was a felony, she could have just moved along. But she didn’t give up,” said Jim Vokal, Chief Executive Officer of the Platte Institute.
“Brandy McMorris has not only fought for her own right to make a living in Nebraska, but has started a larger conversation about how we can put the Good Life within reach for all hardworking Nebraskans through Occupational Licensing Reform,” said Vokal, Chief Executive Officer of the Platte Institute.
McMorris had been earning extra income offering hair braiding services after her husband, Donte, had lost his job. Her client list grew rapidly through word of mouth and advertising on Craigslist. But when she reached out to Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services to learn how to start a formal business, she was informed that she had to stop her work immediately.
At the time, Nebraska state law considered braiding hair for pay without a cosmetology license to be a felony. Acquiring the license takes over a year of training unrelated to hair braiding, and can cost up to $20,000. While the passage of LB898 means hair braiders can now practice their profession freely as in a dozen other states, these larger requirements for cosmetology are still on the books, leaving Nebraska as one of the hardest states in the country in which to receive a cosmetology license.
Brandy McMorris’ dedicated efforts in the Legislature are far from the most difficult life struggles she faced. She learned how to braid hair as a teenager living in Nebraska’s foster care system, practicing on other girls she lived with. Following foster care, McMorris struggled with and overcame homelessness.
“I just always wanted to make sure my kids had a better life than I did. I wanted to make sure they can always look back and say that ‘my mom did this’ even though she didn’t have that in her childhood,” said Brandy McMorris. “I wanted to reach back to the girls in foster care that were like me…so they could see that just because they’re in that situation, that’s not the end of their story. They can see me as an example and be able to say that they can grow up and do something better than what they see in their life today,” said McMorris.
McMorris’ story is also featured in a video hosted at PlatteInstitute.org/About and a photo of Brandy McMorris receiving the 2016 Connie Brown Freedom Award award with Donte McMorris, Jim Vokal, and State Senator Nicole Fox is attached along with alternate photo choices.
About the Connie Brown Freedom Award:
Connie Brown was a dedicated Platte Institute volunteer and family member who believed firmly in the values of hard work, individual liberty, and personal responsibility. After her untimely passing in 2015, the Platte Institute for Economic Research named the annual Connie Brown Freedom Award in her honor, to recognize Nebraskans who share Connie’s dedication to the principles that make the Good Life possible. Each year, the award is presented to a Nebraskan who is taking exceptional action to remove barriers to opportunity in Nebraska.
The Platte Institute for Economic Research advances policies that remove barriers to growth and opportunity in Nebraska. To learn more about our research, view our recent articles, or subscribe to our weekly #PlatteChat column at PlatteInstitute.org/Subscribe.