Joe Francis (1933-1994) was born on a farm near Mazeppa, MN. He started as a shoe shine boy in his uncle's West St. Paul shoe repair shop. He attended Lee School of Barbering in St. Paul, MN and completed the course in 1952. He was 17 years old and at the time was the youngest barber to get his license in Minnesota. in 1957 he started his own shop with a single chair charging $1.50 per cut until he learned of the European razor cuts in which a man's hair was shampooed, sculpted with a straight razor and blown dry. Once he had perfected this technique he raised his price to $5.75. Soon business got better and he was offering franchises.
Joe built and owned five barbershops from 1963-1975. He started selling franchises in 1970 and established a publicly held corporation "The Barbers, Inc.". Ultimately he had over 700 franchise owners in 40 states and 3 foreign countries, including Russia and France, at the time of his death in 1994. Most of the shops became Cost Cutters, We Care Hair or the more upscale City Looks International Salons. Cost Cutters made up 80 percent of the company's salons and there were 633 salons in operations with companywide sales of more than 130 million in 1994.
A book of Joe's life "Joe Francis, An American Entrepreneur" written by Edwin Klein provides profits from its sales to fund The Joe Francis Hair Care Scholarship Foundation. Joe gave hundreds of lectures in the U.S. and foreign countries as well as being interviewed by TV, newspapers, and magazines. He was named Minnesota Entrepreneur of the Year (1990), Magazine U.S. Entrepreneur of the Year. Joe was a board member of International Franchise Association, Washington, DC (1992) and awarded Entrepreneur of International Franchise and Inducted into IFA International Hall of Fame (1999).
Joe created quality training programs to develop hair cutting skills of hundreds of barbers. He introduced retirement plans, paid vacations, group insurance and job security to barbers all over the U.S. He opened five barber schools and graduated over 200 barbers a year.
Joe was married to Florence Francis and has two sons and three daughters. He often said, "If you can find opportunity in my opportunity, then we both win."