The Failures Behind your Favorite Brands: Founders Who Made it Big


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The Failures Behind your Favorite Brands: Founders Who Made it Big


We’ve only seen the success of our favorite brands. The millions and billions of annual sales, the popularity, and the number of money people are willing to shell out to purchase its products. But, before the glam, let’s see the failures of these empires.

Colonel Harland Sanders

Failures Behind your Favorite Brands

Colonel Harland Sanders was born in 1890 in Indiana and is the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). He’s not only famous for the food chain that he has built but also for dozens of failures in both his personal life and business ventures. 

When he was 5-years old, Sanders’ father died, leaving his mother to feed and support three children, including him. While his mother is trying to make ends meet, Sanders is left at home, helping to take care of his siblings. During this time, he has learned how to cook bread and vegetables, eventually learning how to prepare meat at the tender age of 7-years old. 

When he was 10, he was already working as a farmhand and at 12-years old, his mother remarried. However, the situation proved to be difficult for Sanders and it forced him to leave home at the age of 14. He began working as a farmhand at another farm in Southern Indiana later in the year. 

Sanders has a lot of business ventures but nothing really stuck. He once owned a ferry boat company on the Ohio River and even sold tires in Winchester. By the time he was 40-years old, he opened a restaurant inside a Shell Oil gas station, selling and serving chicken dishes. 

Another business failed in July 1939, when a motel and restaurant he owned was destroyed in a fire. When he was 50-years old, he finalized his “secret” chicken recipe. In 1943, during the war, Sanders sold his business and even got divorced. 

At 65-years old and only a $105 social security check to his name, he sets out to sell his franchised-chicken model to restaurants across the country. He was said to have been rejected by 1,009 restaurants before one agreed to his pitch. 

Look at where KFC is now. 

Elizabeth Arden

Elizabeth Arden, born Florence Nightingale Graham, is a Canadian business magnate that went through the failures of her time and eventually rose to the top of the beauty industry, creating a beauty empire that has 150 salons throughout the United States and Europe. At the peak of her success during her time, she was considered to be one of the wealthiest women in the world 

When Ardern was 39-years old, she failed in business only after 6 months in when she partnered with Elizabeth Hubbard. A year later, at 32-years old, she birthed the name Elizabeth (an effort to save on money for the salon sign) Arden and opened the Red Door Salon in New York City. 

In 1912, she traveled to France and during her stay, learned beauty and facial techniques. Upon her return, she partnered with a chemist to begin developing a wide range of beauty products. 

She went on and founded Elizabeth Arden, Inc., and has surpassed $1 billion in annual sales, still making it as one of the most successful beauty businesses. 

Henry Ford

Henry Ford, born in 1863 in Greenfield Township, Michigan, was an industrialist that started Ford Motor Company, one of the biggest automotive companies in the whole world. His company catapulted Ford to become one of the richest individual in this lifetime. While it’s right that we celebrate his success, let’s also look into the failures he has in his earlier years. 

It wasn’t until 1891, when he was 28-years old, that Ford decided to become an engineer. He worked for the Edison Illuminating Company and earned a promotion to Chief Engineer at 30-years old. It was also around this time that he started experimenting with gasoline engines. 

When Ford was 35-yeard old, he designed and created a self-propelled vehicle. He boasted about his creation and he won the backing of William H. Murphy, a lumber baron in Detroit. 

He founded Detroit Automobile Company later in 1899. 

However, in 1901, the company was unable to pay back a loan and had inefficiencies in the vehicle design and ultimately, ceased its operations. It was a huge blow to Ford, but he managed to convince one of his partners to give him a second chance. Unfortunately, due to disagreements, that venture also failed. 

Finally, in 1903, at 40-years old, Ford decided to give it one final shot. He created the Ford Motor Company and found Malcolmson, a Scottish backer who he made agree to not meddle in the business. 

The rest was history and Ford Motor Company became a breakthrough in the automobile industry. 

Howard Schultz

Howard Schultz was born in 1953 and is the entrepreneur behind the infamous coffee company, Starbucks. But it wasn’t all glitz and glam. Schultz grew up in extreme poverty in Canarsie Bay, part of the New York City Housing. He graduated from Northern Michigan University with a Bachelor in Arts under a sports scholarship. 

After university, Schultz worked for Xerox Corporation and was quickly promoted to a full sales representative. After his stint with Xerox, at 24-years old, he worked for a Swedish coffeemaker Hammerplast as a general manager. However, what really made him back was the company’s client, Starbucks. 

At the age of 29 years old, he joined Starbucks as their Director of Marketing. At that time, Starbucks only sold coffee beans and not coffee drinks. After his trip to Italy, he saw the popularity of the coffee culture and the country’s 200,000 coffee bar. He then managed to convince the owners of Starbucks to try out the concept. 

The owners weren’t too interested in the concept but Schultz persisted and was allowed to open one coffee shop in one new store in Seattle. It was an overnight success. However, Starbucks didn’t want to push through with the coffee bar concept as they didn’t want Starbucks to get too big.

In 1985, Schultz left Starbucks to open his own coffee bar and named it Il Giornale, Italian for ‘The Newspaper.’

After two years, Il Giornale achieved great success but Schultz dreamed of a bigger venture. He went on to buy Starbucks, which at that time carried a heavy price tag. He, later on, said, “was turned down by 217 of the 242 investors I initially talked to. You have to have a tremendous belief in what you’re doing and just persevere.”

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