The Roots Of Franchising Took Hold In A Hair Salon Chain
by URI BERLINER October 17, 2013 NPR
It makes sense to begin a story about franchising and the hairstyling business by looking to Martha Matilda Harper, a servant living in Rochester, N.Y., in the late 19th century. In her spare time, she developed a special hair tonic. The
tonic sold well. So she quit and opened a hair salon.
“The women just adored it,” says Jane Plitt, a researcher and author of Martha Matilda Harper and the American Dream: How One Woman Changed the Face of Modern Business. “This was a time in 1888 when, usually, wealthy women had their hair dressed in the privacy of their home. But Martha was now doing it boldly in public, and there was a lot of buzz. It was the showcase.”
Harper was an innovator. She invented the reclining shampoo chair — and she was a savvy marketer.
“A picture of her with her floor-length hair was posted on the front door so that people would come in and say, ‘What happens here?’ Her hair was her advertisement,” Plitt says.
” Perhaps her most important contribution was to the new field of franchising. Starting with that one shop in Rochester, she expanded her brand by selling franchises to other women, many of whom were quite poor. At the peak of her success, Harper had franchised her business to more than 500 stores. Her salons — and her hairdressing technique — were called the Harper Method.”The Harper Method, it was the method that people chose to use,” Plitt says.The Harper Method ultimately gave way to franchises we’re familiar with today