99 BIG Franchisees: Clara Osterhage

  • Great Clips
  • 21 units
  • # Employees: 150
  • 7 locations opened in 2005
  • Gross revenue 2005: $4 million
  • One store reported 1200 customers a week, with $750,000 in sales in 2005
  • Four stores on books for 2006


High-grossing, woman-owned
Becoming the employer of choice

Clara Osterhage says she is "the employer of choice in Dayton, Ohio."

"I treat them the way I want to be treated and I pay them weekly," she says. "I could cut costs in half by paying every other week, but I know how important it is to them. It's a huge recruitment benefit. I have people who will never leave me."

And it's that kind of loyalty that Osterhage depends on as she grows her franchise business. She's the first to admit that she is not very business savvy and relies on relationships, with vendors, landlords, bankers, and most important, employees, for her continued success.

The 45-year-old mother of four is in her tenth year as a franchisee and is grateful for the impetus that brought her to this point. As a two-time graduate and MBA grad, Osterhage had her sights set on the CEO position of the hospital she'd worked at for years. Instead, when time came for her promotion, the hospital hired a doctor for the position and kept her on for six weeks to train him.

"I had just come back from maternity leave with my third child," she says. "It was pathetic. I had a lot of stuff churning inside me, but I realized I had to get over it."

She ordered an infomercial video for Great Clips from an ad in the local paper and was hooked immediately. She felt the hand of fate guiding her decision. Today, in addition to running her own units, she spends a great deal of time helping the parent company by sitting on the franchise review board, participating in numerous committees and task forces, and talking to new franchisees. She loves to travel and troubleshoot for struggling owners.

Her husband retired four years ago from his hospital administration job and became her business manager, allowing her to indulge her competitive spirit and open new units in a market where she competes with three other franchisees - all male.

"I'm addicted to the entire process," she says. "It's all so fascinating."

Published: April 4th, 2006

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