Jerry Akers, Great Clips – Cedar Rapids, IA - Open for Opportunity

Sixteen years ago, Jerry Akers and his wife, Mickey, didn’t know anything about hair or cosmetology. But what they did know was that they were ready for a new career path and help change lives. With years of business acumen and experience, they found the Great Clips franchise system and purchased their first location. “Our workforce is made up of a very diverse population, the vast majority of it comes from lower income, multi-generational poverty situations. We decided early on that we could change a lot of lives by helping them improve in those areas.”

For Jerry, the beauty of the franchise business model is the fact that he didn’t have to be an expert in hair to be successful. The tried-and-true Great Clips franchise brand combined with his business expertise has allowed him to grow his business from just one location to 36 across two states in less than two decades.

But one of the most important aspects of the job isn’t his additional income or being his own boss. It’s his employees that have quickly become like family to Jerry, Mickey, and their children. When opening that first location 16 years ago, Jerry made a concerted effort to provide good, well-paying jobs to employees that they might not find elsewhere. “We spend a lot of time investing not just time and effort, but money, into employees as they come to work for us. And, you know, I believe we do that for the right reasons. Because we want to change lives.”

Jerry’s business today employs over 200 employees, providing them with good, quality income, health, dental, and vision insurance, and retirement benefits. Many of his employees are low income, with families that have often struggled through multiple generations of poverty.

To Jerry, it is important to treat employees well. His franchise invests in their employees because he wants to help them find a better path forward and to break poverty cycles. And the benefits are two-fold. Not only is it good for the soul to watch a single mother buy a home or send her kids to college because of her job at Great Clips, but it’s good for the business model, too. These loyal employees, some of whom lovingly refer to Jerry and Mickey as “mom and dad,” end up training new generations of Great Clips workers. When a single mom hires and trains another single mom, Jerry’s business grows for all the right reasons.

Jerry Akers is a local business owner, and he is Open for Opportunity.