Tuesday, 28 March 2017

How Some Very Famous Brands Were Started

Here are some more inspirational stories about how some famous brand names were started.  They are stories about companies being started by people who found success through innovation, hard work and making the most of opportunities given to them.


Wilhelm Böing left Germany for the United States when he was 20 and labored at menial jobs, including farm work.  After he met lumberman Karl Ortmann, Böing found made a sizable fortune by purchasing land in Minnesota for both the timber and the minerals

Böing dies at the age of 42 but his son William Boeing continued his father's business and made his own fortune in the lumber business.  In 1909, he was in Alaska and saw a manned airplane for the first time.  This led to a fascination with airplanes and a friendship with fellow enthusiast Conrad Westervelt who agreed with Boeing that they were better off building planes themselves.

After changing their company name Pacific Aero Products Co. to Boeing Airplane Company and receiving 50 orders for planes from the U.S. Navy (thanks to Westervelt), Boeing was able to literally take off.  His later focus on commercial aircraft, passenger services and airmail enabled Boeing to become the famous company that we all know today.


Gerhard Heinrich Mennen was another German immigrant who founded his New Jersey company in 1878.  What led to his company being formed?  It was a  bout of malaria that led to Mennen taking an interest in pharmaceuticals while he was recovering.  

His remedies included Mennen's Borated Talcum Infant Powder, which was the first talcum powder.  Of course, other products came about including Skin Bracer, Speed Stick and Lady Speed Stick along with that famous jingle "By Mennen", made popular again on Seinfeld!


Colgate and Mennen have a connection in that Mennen was bought out by Colgate-Palmolive in 1992.  Colgate itself was founded by William Colgate who left England in 1804 to settle in the United States and make his own fortune.  After working as a apprentice in the soap industry, he was able to open his own business two years later in New York City.

During that time, soap was traditionally made at home although the process wasn't easy (animal fat and lye were used) and the resulting product didn't have an agreeable aroma.  Colgate's soap business offered home delivery and also added perfumes to the soap.  Customers found that they preferred  buying a perfumed cake of soap as opposed to making it themselves!

Of course, Colgate eventually became most famous for selling toothpaste.  The company sold toothpaste in glass jars but then was the first to package it in collapsible tubes, an innovation which continues to this day.  Indeed, the efforts of Gerhard Mennen and William Colgate can be seen in the many products we use to keep ourselves clean!


The iconic brand Tupperware owes its success to two people who thought outside the box, or container (to put it another way).  Company founder Earl Tupper developed the airtight plastic container that replaced glassware to store food while Brownie Wise successfully marketed the product thanks to her innovative and famous Tupperware parties.

Earl Tupper first had a landscape and nursery business that was a victim of the Great Depression.  Although a major setback, this led to his employment with the Dow Chemical Company in 1937.  Like William Colgate, Tupper saw his employment at Dow as an ideal way to learn about the industry, namely plastics.  He was able to turn polyethylene slag from an oil industry waste product into plastic containers.  Inspired by paint can lids which naturally had to keep the cans airtight, he developed the Tupperware plastic container which sealed in freshness. However, plastic wasn't popular with households yet and glassware was still preferred when consumers shopped in hardware and department stores.  How were shoppers to be convinced that Tupperware was better than glassware? Enter Brownie Wise.

Brownie Wise was a divorced single mother who made ends meet by selling brooms door-to-door.  She had a natural charm and was gifted at persuading people to buy her products. However, she wasn't able to gain a promotion to upper management at her company due to her gender.  She might have settled for being an above-average salesperson had she not been introduced to Tupperware products by a member of her sales team. Seeing the potential, she opted to use house parties to promote Tupperware rather than simple door-to-door sales.  

Gathering women together for a fun event, Tupperware reps were able to be shown firsthand how leak-proof the containers were.  Instead of a boring sales pitch, the women were treated to a fun social gathering with their friends, family and neighbors.  As Wise wrote, "The buying spirit is contagious; it is a proven fact that you will sell more to a group of 15 women than you will sell to them individually.”

Combined with innovative ways to reward top sellers, such as speedboats and exotic vacations, Tupperware and Brownie Wise's network marketing techniques have become major stalwarts that are still prominent today.

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