Sy Sperling built a hugely successful business empire from scratch. Starting with a few thousand dollars borrowed against his credit cards, Sy started a small "hole in the wall" hair replacement center in New York in the '70's. His company quickly grew to be the dominating force in the industry.
Hair Club became something of a cultural phenomenon because of television commercials featuring founder Sy Sperling, whose signature line, "I'm not just the president, I'm also a client," became the fodder for humor for decades. It also made Sperling, born in New York's hardscrabble South Bronx neighborhood as the son of a plumber and a homemaker, a wealthy man. Sperling began going bald at the age of 17. According to his recollection a girl he was dating, Sharon Finklestein, ended their brief relationship, the failure of which he attributed to his thinning hair. Sperling soon found a mate and began raising a family in the early 1960s, working as a swimming pool salesman after earning a degree in political science at C.W. Post College. By age 26 he was going bald at an increasing rate. Moreover, his marriage failed, he was divorced, depressed, and back on the dating scene. "I was unhappy with my appearance," he told the New York Times. "And it was destroying my self-confidence. My father had gone bald at a very young age, but I didn't think it would happen to me. All of a sudden there I was, trying to establish myself in sales, trying to date again." Sperling tried the available hair-loss solutions, donning a toupee and trying a hair weave, but he was not satisfied until he came upon a hair-restorer in Manhattan who skillfully weaved in real hair to create a more natural look. Sperling's self confidence returned and he began to take more pride in his appearance, losing about 35 pounds while also giving up a three-pack-a-day cigarette habit and becoming a vegetarian. He also found a new wife, Amy, a hairdresser, and together they decided to start their own business. With just $5,000 in the bank and credit cards, they bought out a Manhattan hairpiece maker in 1968 and launched their own hair-weaving salon.