Most entrepreneurs are content just to start a business. Eileen Collins went a step further and launched a career school aimed at helping others achieve the same success she enjoyed as a small business operator.
Opened in November 2023, the Maryland Electrolysis Education Center in Laurel isn’t just training students. It’s also addressing a vexing workforce shortage in a personal service that’s in high demand, and easing the financial burden that makes it difficult for new electrolysis practitioners to set up shop in Maryland.
“When I had to go to California to obtain the qualifications to become a licensed instructor in Maryland, I realized that there was a need for a local educational institution that would offer students a rewarding career opportunity without requiring out of state travel,” Collins said.
MEEC is now providing a less expensive option for students in the mid-Atlantic region interested in pursuing a license, she said.
“They don’t have to travel or spend money on a hotel or Airbnb while doing the in-person part, which is a big part of the process,” she explained.
It’s the only electrology career school in Maryland, and the first in-state option in more than 17 years.
Collins’s journey began in June 2021 and has been entirely self-funded to date.
As a new widow with a son in his first year at an out-of-state college, she decided to become an instructor during the pandemic to guarantee an income if she lost her business.
That required making up the remaining study she needed to satisfy the 600 hours of education required by the Maryland Board of Nursing. While most of it could be completed online, Collins still needed to complete 80 hours of in-person training at the California Electrology Academy and had to spend two weeks in the state as a result.
“Prior to opening the MEEC, the nearest schools recognized for licensure in Maryland were in New York, Massachusetts, Georgia, or California,” she said.
Collins also needed to modify the curriculum she purchased from Academy Dectro to meet Maryland state requirements, square away insurance, and submit a list of existing equipment, which now includes eight treatment tables, epilators, lamps and stools.
The second part of her submission required a move-in-ready operation, a signed executed lease with all permits, and a bond to cover tuition.
Collins can accommodate eight students but is bonded for 10. Maryland state law, meanwhile, sets a limit of 10 students per instructor.
“There is only one other instructor in Maryland and I enlisted her to help me,” she said. “I hope to add more over time.”
Running a school has been quite a different experience from running a business, Collins said.
For starters, the Maryland Higher Education Commission’s extremely detailed application to set up a new career school runs 60 pages long.
“Maryland Board of Nursing members watched me work and I had to deliver two different lesson plans to the Board,” she said.
After two years of operation, MEEC will be able to accept payments made from students’ 529 college savings accounts.
“We offer a two-part curriculum with 250 hours of self-paced online theory and a 400 hour in-person portion, 50 hours more than the state requirement,” Collins said. “We estimate that students could finish in six to eight months, depending on how often they’re coming to school.”
Instruction is designed to be flexible, she added, as many students have jobs and lives that they need to work around.
Electrolysis is a procedure that uses thermolysis (localized heat), galvanic electrolysis (chemical dissolving) or a blend of both methods to permanently remove hair, and can be used on any part of the body.
According to Collins, established electrologists typically earn between $40,000 and $75,000 per year, and it’s a good career choice for people with families who want to set their own hours and workdays.
“This field has been in greater demand because many electrologists retired during COVID or didn’t come back to work,” she said. “We are all very busy in our practices and need help as a result.”
The number of clients continues to grow now, in part because men have become more inclined to use the service.
According to Collins, they typically seek out electrolysis for unibrow work, hair removal on the upper cheeks, neck and knuckles, and for thinning out arm hair.
“The amount of clients we see from the trans community has also drastically increased, as insurance is beginning to cover some of those treatments,” Collins said.
Although most electrologists don’t accept insurance, they do provide receipts that clients can submit for claims.
After passing the licensing exam, MEEC graduates are eligible to practice in Maryland and are also prepared to sit for International Board of Electrologist Certification licensing in other states.
Establishing a school wasn’t what Collins initially envisioned herself doing when she set out to become an instructor, but she said she decided to fill the need she saw.
“Maybe I didn’t see the enormity of what I was doing because I was concentrating on small pieces of it as I went along,” she said. “When I look back, though, the totality of everything coming together is a little overwhelming when I think about it.”