The mother of franchising
Did you know that franchising was invented by a woman? The Canadian-American businesswoman Martha Matilda Harper was the first to expand her hair salons chain through this method. It was a mix of quality products, personal branding and PR that put her in this position. She first invented a hair tonic after she discovered the products on the market did more harm than good to women’s hair. With this product and some savings at her disposal, Martha Harper opened her first hair care salon in Rochester, New York in 1888, focusing on customer comfort and individualized care.
She used herself as a model in the advertising of the business with her floor-length hair serving as an effective marketing tool to attract high-class customers. The quality of her products made from natural ingredients and inventing of the Harper method (including the scalp massage, evening hours service, inventing the reclining shampoo chair) led her to success, therefore opening more hair care salons across United States.
In 1891 Martha Harper decided to let the chain develop beyond her limited resources, becoming the first businesspeople to start franchising under the Harper’s name, providing entrepreneurs the opportunity to become owners of well-perceived hair care and skin care salons. Not before training the franchisees and inspect their salons to ensure quality and compliance with her standards. At the height of its success, the chain reached over 500 Harper salons worldwide opened in a 30 years period.
In the present days the largest franchised chains are 7-Eleven with more than 53.000 partners worldwide, Subway with more than 43.000 partners worldwide and McDonald’s with more than 36.000 partners worldwide.