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Gus Van Horn blog

Reblogged:The Mother of Franchising

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Over at The Hustle is a piece about Martha Matilda Harper, who invented the modern hair salon and the franchising business model. These she accomplished despite starting from poverty, and having to defy social conventions.

I am very impressed with how creatively she turned problems into opportunities along the way:

MMH_Hair.jpg
Harper's own hair figured prominently in her advertising. (Image by unknown photographer, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain due to date (pre 1900).)
In the beginning, business was slow. Her high-end clientele -- still insistent on home visits -- were opposed to the idea of going to a public salon. As a trailblazer of the modern salon, Harper realized she'd have to change the behavior of her customers.

Soon, she got a break.

When a music teacher next door to her business mentioned he had no waiting room, Harper offered up her salon. Women began to wander in to get hair treatments while waiting for their children to finish their piano lessons.

At a time when customer service was still something of a foreign concept, Harper reinvested profits in enriching her clients' experience, inventing the first reclining shampoo chair and a special sink with a unique cut-out for the neck.

Word of this exotic new salon concept spread among Rochester's elite. In short order, the 3-chair shop was bustling with prominent women from other cities, too. [link omitted]
Her approach to expanding her business was equally impressive: She insisted on petitions from areas that wanted new locations and trained her operators thoroughly in her methods, among other things.

The piece is a bit under 1800 words and, for those who find the story gripping enough, it points to her biography, Martha Matilda Harper and the American Dream, by Jane Pitt.

-- CAV

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