Martha and Franchising

Sir Harold Evans has a U-tube out that summarizes how Harper created franchising.  Check it out or read on for the details.

Harper needed a way to expand her shops to meet many objectives.  Bertha Palmer wanted a Harper shop in Chicago for the 1893 World’s Fair and Palmer’s best friends committed to patronize the shop when it came.   Susan B. Anthony urged Harper to expand economic opportunities for women.“ I hope that a constantly increasing number of women will earn their own living instead of marrying men with whom it is impossible to live. “ Harper herself  needed money to fund the expansion AND she wanted to help other poor working class women like herself.

She found the expansion model in the organizational structure of the  Christian Science church.  It had a strong  Mother Church and training, with “satellite” operations, and prayer books that instructed members what to read when.   Harper applied this system to her shops and decided to put her targeted poor women in ownership roles under her tutelage.    In 1891, she created modern retail franchising.

The word “franchise” comes from the French and means, “to free from servitude.”  That is exactly what Martha Matilda Harper had in mind when she created the structure, although she did not initially  call her shops franchises, but she operated them as though they were.  All owners had to:

  • attend Harper training programs
  • purchase only Harper made products and equipment including the basin and innovative reclining shampoo chair
  • follow Harper’s directions to the tee, not allowing any non-Harper authorized products in the shops
  • locate a Harper shop only where Harper decided.

Besides Chicago, early shops sprung up in Boston, Buffalo,  Cleveland, Detroit,  Los Angeles, New York  City, Palm Beach, San Francisco, and elsewhere. Harper records indicated the first 100 franchises went to only poor women, former servants or entry-level workers.  At its peak, in the 1920s, there were over 500 shops around the world.

At a time when there were no computers, faxes, or smart phones, Harper’s methods and directives were strictly followed because her owners were significantly loyal to Harper for changing their lives.

Become a Harper fan to find out more!

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