July 30th, 2020

91: Martha Matilda Harper— The Woman Who Launched Modern Retail Franchising, with author Jane Plitt

Martha Matilda Harper

This week, we take a step back in time to discuss the lifework of Martha Matilda Harper— one of the greatest businesswomen you may not have heard about. In this special episode, Erik is joined by Jane Plitt, the author of the book Martha Matilda Harper and the American Dream: How One Woman Changed the Face of Modern Business. 

Martha Matilda Harper is an American businesswoman, entrepreneur, and inventor who launched modern retail franchising and then built an international network of 500 franchised hair salons that emphasized healthy hair care in the late 1800s. 

After conducting in depth research, Jane Plitt shares with us how she was able to unearth Martha’s incredibly rags to riches story, and how a former servant girl from Canada created the American hair salon industry, empowering thousands of young women along the way. By dictating that poor women would open the first 100 salons, in one fell swoop Harper became a pioneer of social entrepreneurship and modern franchising.

Jane endeavors to bring Martha’s story alive and showcase just how her life experiences remain relevant to us today. She has a fascinating story for those who believe in entrepreneurship and the role women have played to shape innovative successful business and humane models. 

Tune in to hear more about Martha’s franchise story and how her spirit and wisdom live on in modern times. 

What we talk about:

  • Jane’s story on researching about and ultimately writing a book about Martha Matilda Harper
  • What was extraordinary about Martha
  • Harper’s desire to “Delight the customer”
  • Her story became the motivation for both her customers as well as for her franchisees
  • Listening to your employees
  • The idea of social entrepreneurship
  • Having flexibility and strong leadership
  • Martha’s background that made her the way she was as an entrepreneur
  • Having positive discontent and believing in the future
  • The essence of the principles that guide us

What we mention:


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