Great Clips® has more than 4,100 salons in the U.S. and Canada, and CEO Rhoda Olsen understands the impact that many people working together can make. Although Great Clips has about 1,200 franchisees, more than 200 corporate employees and about 40,000 stylists who work in the franchised salons, an underlying emphasis across Great Clips is the dedication to local, charitable giving and the impact it has.
Rhoda leads by example, encouraging charitable giving in a way that feels unique and personal to each individual. At Great Clips, the sense of corporate charitable responsibility fits under Great Deeds®, based on the pillars of Community, Support, Appreciation, and Health. But, most of the giving by franchisees and their employees is to charities and organizations of their own choosing. Rhoda said that approach is deliberate because it allows franchisees and their salon teams “to have a more personal investment and commitment about what matters to them.”
It’s important to Rhoda that each person has the freedom to give back in a way that is unique and meaningful to franchisees and the communities the salons serve. “We didn’t want to limit what they are doing,” she shares. “We’ve allowed franchisees and salons to pick their charity and nurture that so they are more engaged. One market really focuses on the Ronald McDonald House while another market has gotten behind juvenile diabetes.” Although franchisees have always been committed to giving, Rhoda has seen an increase in the past few years. She mentions a franchisee from Nashville who donates almost $100,000 to his church annually and how other franchisees have taken notice and increased their own giving. In cases like these, Rhoda welcomes a little friendly competition!
There are a few system created and supported programs as well, including Clips of Kindness®. This program is offered in all Great Clips salons and “provides free clipper cuts to individuals facing hair loss due to cancer treatments,” explains Rhoda. This program was inspired by Rhoda’s own experience with cancer, as well as the experience and leadership of a Great Clips franchisee named Jane Evans from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Great Clips also supports veterans with the “Thank a Veteran” initiative which allows Great Clips customers to give a free haircut card to a veteran they know. “It’s a simple, yet meaningful way for more people to show appreciation to veterans with the help of Great Clips,” shares Rhoda.
In 2016, Great Clips salons provided over 242,000 free haircuts to veterans through the Thank a Veteran program. Great Clips corporate employees are also heavily involved in giving back, and every January at the all-staff meeting, they do a charitable project together to benefit an organization in the Minneapolis area. In years past, employees have crafted tie blankets for the local children’s hospital, assembled dressers for transition housing, and even made baloney sandwiches that were distributed to the homeless community. As Rhoda says, “they all look forward to working on something meaningful together.” Great Clips, Inc. also offers its employees time off to volunteer and the staff enjoy being engaged in projects from raking leaves to working with Habit for Humanity.
One of Rhoda’s biggest personal causes she contributes to is Phakamani, a non-profit organization founded by Mark and Shirley Tucker, Canadian Great Clips franchisees originally from South Africa. The Tuckers started Phakamani to provide microloans to women starting businesses throughout South Africa. These start-up businesses include small convenience stores, catering businesses and vending stands that sell food or clothing. Phakamani’s focus is on women because when their businesses do better, the health of their families and children’s education also improves—all aspects are intertwined.
Rhoda explains that Phakamani helps the women “leverage their dreams to help them see a different life, and their dreams include feeding and caring for their families. Phakamani provides the financing and support.” The loan program is highly successful: 99% of Phakamani loans are repaid and then reinvested to provide loans to more women. “The women are so proud,” shares Rhoda, “because they can feed their family, buy school uniforms and have a door on their home that locks so their family is safe.” While these seem like basic standards of living to us in America, it is a stark reminder of how little others in the world have. Part of Rhoda’s charitable contribution has been to share the Phakamani vision with others in her life. My husband and I were fortunate to experience this first-hand by recently joining others on a Phakamani trip led by Rhoda in South Africa. By helping show the huge impact that a microloan and successful business can have on a family’s life, Rhoda is helping Phakamani further its mission of providing “a hand up, not a hand out.”
Regardless of where it occurs, Rhoda feels it’s always necessary to give to others, especially when you have a lot. In addition to giving money, Rhoda also emphasizes donating your skills and resources. “Help make a video,” she suggests, “sit on a board or draft a grant. I believe the more you have the more you should give.” Rhoda and the Great Clips franchisees and employees are celebrating success by giving back in a way that is unique and meaningful to each of them. She humbly shares that “one of the most important benefits of being a successful company is being fortunate enough to contribute on a bigger scale.” Philanthropy is not a destination; we can all take a cue from Rhoda to contribute what we can in many ways to provide a hand up, not just a hand out.