Before McDonald’s King Ray Kroc was born Martha Harper built an enormous franchise empire. At a time few women worked in business, much less founded and owned them, she developed two vital strategic moves.
Harper created cross-marketing, the concept where that stores with one purpose can sell related products. Specifically, she created hair salons to sell her hair care products. Additionally, she created the modern franchise and built an enormous network of franchised salons.
Initially, Harper developed a line of beauty products. The products were successful, but distribution was a challenge. In response, she decided to create a line of salons where they could be both sold and used.
Rather than own the salons herself, a capital- and labor-intensive undertaking, she developed a franchise system. Her first franchised salon opened in 1891. Eventually she had more than 500 salons.
Susan B. Anthony and Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge were all patrons of Harper Hail Salons. Anthony often cited Harper as proof that women were equal to men.
At age 60 and still single, she married a man 24 years younger than herself eventually retiring at age 78 and passing control to him. Despite the breadth of her empire, her franchises have long since disappeared.
It wasn’t until 1925 that another successful franchise was created, Howard Johnsons.