Thursday, April 30, 2009

Blake Mycoskie


Today we celebrate Blake Mycoskie for the success of his creative endeavor - TOMS Shoes.

A world traveler, Blake came up with the idea for TOMS Shoes during a visit to Argentina. While there, Blake found two things: a shoe he adored - the Argentinian alpargata - and thousands of children without shoes. His business goal is to fix the latter with the former.

TOMS Shoes (short for "Tomorrow's Shoes") is a company that operates with a rather extraordinary business model. That is, Blake's ambition is to give away a pair of shoes for every pair he sells - "one-for-one" - to a child in need. What seems an unlikely feat, has turned out to be both productive and profitable.

Blake returned to the U.S. to start his operation. In 2006 Blake constructed a couple hundred pairs of his ideal shoes in his apartment and sold them to a single Los Angeles, CA boutique. Customers quickly bought Blake's cause, and, most importantly, his shoes. The press reported his success at the local boutique. The next day orders were made for over 2200 pair of TOMS.

Blake has since achieved recognition among the stars. You'll now find celebrities, and the like, sporting TOMS world wide. Blake admits his struggles in the beginning with retailing his shoes at approximately $40 while production costs were nearly $9 a pair - making total cost roughly $18 in order to keep his "one-for-one" promise. Blake, however, has since expanded the variety of TOMS shoes with prices now ranging from $35 to $75. The success of TOMS Shoes has brought licensing deals with the likes of Ralph Lauren and Whole Foods.

And Blake has kept his promise. According to the TOMS Shoes website, the company has given away over 140,000 pairs of shoes.

Blake is a true hero of capitalism. His self-interest (helping shoeless children) spawned a corporation that benefits all. From a single apartment and single-employee venture, Blake built a company that employs over 50 individuals world-wide, offers a unique product that consumers actually want, and sponsors a very successful and worthwhile charity. Cheers to Blake!

Sources:

TOMS Shoes
Blake Mycoskie's Blog
TriplePundit.com

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin

Today we honor Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin for taking their private property and creating Wham-O Inc. While many of you are probably scratching your heads wondering where you have heard Wham-O before, some of you probably recognize the fad-making machine. Wham-O Inc is responsible for toy fad after toy fad.

While Knerr and Melin rarely are credited for creating toys, they sought out neat ideas and marketed them. Wham-O brought the hula hoop to the US from Australia in 1958. Wham-O is also responsible for marketing the Slip 'n' Slide, the Super Ball, the Hacky Sack and the Frisbee. Many articles remarked that the most amazing aspect of the company was the ability to harness the power of fads over and over again.

Knerr and Melin decided to start the company 1948 after facing disappointment in their jobs. While both had degrees from the University of Southern California, they quit their jobs and started working on toys in Knerr's garage. Needless to say, they outgrew the garage. Knerr and Melin were noted for testing the products themselves and being open to the zaniest ideas. The company website mentions some failures right along with the successes. Some of the failures are more fascinating than the successes!

While aggregating the wealth Knerr and Melin created is probably well beyond any one's ability (how do you add up the joy these products have brought children in the US?), in 2006 the company sold for about $80 million. So, today we honor Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin for taking their private property and creating Wham-O Inc.

Sources:
Wham-O on Wikipedia
Wham-O Corp Site
Wham-O's official history
Knerr's Obit in The New York Times
Melin's Obit in The Independent

Here's an old school Wham-O commercial:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Merv Griffin

Tony Griffin once described his father as a visionary with a love for business. Merv Griffin (1925-2007) was a visionary, an entertainer, and an entrepreneur. He was always seeing new opportunities, and always taking new risks; he made a huge impact in the television and entertainment, in horse racing, and in real estate.

During his life Merv Griffin started many business ventures and enjoyed success in multiple sectors, but today we honor him for his contribution to game shows. Griffin is the creator of Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, and Merv Griffin's Crosswords.

Griffin created and produced Jeopardy! in 1964 after his wife came up with an idea for a game show where the question and answer part of the show was switched so the constants gave the questions. Griffin developed this idea and took his concept to NBC. The network bought the show without seeing a pilot episode. The original Jeopardy! ran for 11 years and was hosted by Art Fleming.

When NBC canceled the show in 1975, Griffin produced the shows successor Wheel of Fortune. Like Jeopardy!, the show enjoyed modest success with Chuck Woolery and Susan Stafford as hosts.

Both shows became huge successes once they reached syndication, Jeopardy! in 1984 with Alex Trebek as host and Wheel of Fortune in 1983 with Pat Sajak and Vana White as hosts. These are the two most successful game shows in television syndicated history.

Griffin sold his production company, Merv Griffin Enterprises for $250 million to Columbia Pictures upon his retirement in 1986. That year, Forbes Magazine listed Griffin as the richest Hollywood performer in history. Not only did Griffin create these shows, he also wrote the theme song for Jeopardy!, still used today, and wrote the theme music "Changing Keys" used by Wheel of Fortune from 1983-2000.

Griffin was developing a new syndicated game show through Merv Griffin Entertainment when he became ill in 2007. Merv Griffin's Crosswords was in its first week of production when Griffin died. He is listed as the shows creator and posthumously as the executive producer.

Today, Griffin is celebrated as a hero of capitalism for the entertainment his shows bring to millions of people every night, for his keen business sense, for his clear, distinctive, and specific goals for the future, and for his love of game shows. Celebrating the other great gifts Griffin has given to us through being an entrepreneur will have to wait for another day, for they are numerous.

Sources:
Merv.com - About Merv
MSNBC Entertainment - Merv Griffin, 82, dies of prostate cancer
Wikipedia - Merv Griffin

Monday, April 27, 2009

David Sarnoff


Sarnoff was a pioneer of both radio and television. In 1921, while working for the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), Sarnoff set out to try to get more radios into more homes in America by changing the content broadcast on these radios. Instead of focusing on just local news and content, he sought to deliver programs that held national interest. By developing such programs, Sarnoff lit the spark of national interest that turned radio into a national sensation. By using new technology to reach a much larger audience, the process of selling advertising became more lucrative for both the radio stations and the companies who advertised on them. This of course led to more money, more programs and better technology in the radio market.

The popularity of radio soon led RCA into television and Sarnoff again led the charge into this new technology. As president of RCA, Sarnoff invested significant resources into improving the television, even during the Great Depression, when research money was especially hard to come by. By 1941, Sarnoff’s hard work paid off and the National Broadcast Company (NBC) was launched as the first national television network

David Sarnoff was not a technology guru, nor was he the product of an Ivy League business program. His training was on-the-job training and he quickly recognized the value of the audience in any media endeavor. Sarnoff is credited with Sarnoff's law, which states that the value of a broadcast network is proportional to the number of viewers. This seems like an obvious concept now, but back when accessing additional customers was an extremely difficult undertaking, Sarnoff recognized that the benefits outweighed the costs before any of his rivals did.

Sarnoff bio
Sarnoff featured as one of Time's 100 most important people of the 20th Century

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rihachi and Rizo Mizuno

Today we honor Rihachi and Rizo Mizuno for using their private property to create The Mizuno Corporation. The Mizuno website reports that the company was founded in 1906 by the Mizuno brothers. At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, Japan began embracing traditionally western sports, and the Mizuno brothers filled the demand for baseballs and other equipment.

A year after the company began, Mizuno Corp began to produce personalized equipment, something it is well-known for today. In 1911, Mizuno began sponsoring baseball championships in Japan. In 1933, the company produced the first Japanese-made golf clubs. While personal information about the Mizuno brothers is limited, professionally, Rihachi Mizuno led the company to great achievements. In 1969, the Mizunos brought their company to the United States of America.

Today Mizuno employees almost 2,000 people and makes a variety of sports equipment. Masato Mizuno is the current president and helps the company pursue its vision
of "Contributing to society through the advancement of sporting goods and the promotion of sports." Today we honor Rihachi and Rizo Mizuno for using their private property to create The Mizuno Corporation, which has brought great wealth to many.

Sources:
Mizuno Corp on Wikipedia
Mizuno's Official History
Mizuno USA

Here's a promotional clip about Mizuno USA:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sam and Anna Mary Carty Shoen


Today we celebrate Sam and Anna Shoen for their brilliant idea and contribution to the wealth of society - the U-Haul Co. Sam and Anna's company began with the purchase of a combination of small trailers either pre-owned or manufactured from local welders. Their scheme: rent the trailers to movers. When the movers were done with them they would simply park the trailers on the lot of a service station in their new hometown with a "for rent" sign attached. And the rest is history. The company website explains the motivation behind U-haul:

Since 1945, U-Haul has been serving do-it-yourself movers households. Like many other successful ventures, the concept for U-Haul was generated out of need. After World War II, there existed the widespread need for do-it-yourself moving equipment that would be available on a one-way, nationwide basis. U-Haul co-founders L.S. “Sam“ Shoen and his wife, Anna Mary Carty Shoen, recognized that need and acted upon it. Their visionary approach spread the cost of ownership among many users, facilitating the mobility of the populations of the U.S. and Canada. The covered wagon of the pioneers morphed into orange U-Haul trailers. In the process, an industry was born.

Discharged from the Navy in the summer of 1945, 29-year-old Sam and Anna Mary tried to rent a utility trailer to move their possessions from Los Angeles to Portland, Ore. It couldn't be done. They had to take only what they could fit in the car
“Small luggage-type passenger automobile trailers were being rented from 'rental lots' in Los Angeles. Each lot had from 20 to 40 trailers which were rented locally for approximately $2 per day,” recalled Shoen in his book “You and Me.” “I recognized that here was an item with considerable utility value which had not been exploited at all in the Northwest or in the San Francisco-Oakland area. I was intrigued with the business potential of this idea, especially from the standpoint of one-way rentals.”

The Shoens reasoned that many other families had a need similar to theirs: the short-term availability of a trailer that could be rented “here” and left “there.” No one, at that time, seemed ready or willing to serve that need.


The company's philosophy leaves little doubt that the founders of U-Haul are true Heroes of Capitalism:
"The division of use and specialization of ownership are good for both our customers and the environment."


Sources:
www.uhaul.com

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson

Today we note the contributions of three Bell Laboratories researchers who first demonstrated the ability of solar cells to power electrical devices. Experiments with photovoltaic technology had been on-going since the discoveries of A.E. Becquerel in 1839, but it wasn't until 1954 that the world was introduced to functional photovoltaic technology after a major breakthrough with silicon transistors.

Daryl Chapin was a Bell Labs engineer working on a solar energy project in the early 1950s. He was experimenting with selenium and he couldn't surpass a minimal level, 1% or so, of efficiency (internal combustion provides efficiency in the area of 20%). Calvin Fuller and Gerald Pearson were working on a separate project to develop silicon transistors when they discovered that one of their transistors, when exposed to light, created electricity. Not only had they stumbled across their own version of a solar cell: it was more effective than any known selenium cell.

Fuller and Pearson joined with Chapin to create a solar cell that surpassed the frontier of 1% energy-to-electricity efficiency. When they introduced their “solar battery” to the world in 1954, powering a toy windmill and a radio, the efficiency had reached 6%. Solar power was technologically, if not yet commercially, viable.

Incidentally, a silicon solar cell had been developed and patented by a Bell Labs researcher in the 1940s, but it had not surpassed 1% efficiency and was not commercially exploited. Even in the couple of years after 1954, solar cells weren't common because of their prohibitive cost; early implementation was limited to militaries and space agencies. But as energy efficiency has improved, so has the manufacturing efficiency and affordability.

Solar panels are used today in thousands of applications and mobile devices where power from electrical utilities, chemical batteries, or combustion is unavailable or undesirable. Efficiency levels are in the 40's. And as you've likely noticed, the desire for clean energy technology is growing. Once built, solar panels create electricity with no emissions. For kick-starting the truly fascinating solar industry, Chapin, Fuller, and Pearson are today's Heroes of Capitalism.

Wikipedia entry on Solar Cells

American Heritage - "Solar Power: The Slow Revolution"

American Physical Society - "This Month in History"

A solar power timeline

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Simon Cowell

Yes, today we honor the man we love to hate: Simon Cowell. Let me assure you, this man is more than just sassy judge on American Idol. Today we honor Cowell for founding Syco, a TV, film and music production company. Cowell founded Syco in 2002. It is responsible for producing many of the shows we've come to associate with Cowell, including and The X-Factor, America's Got Talent and Britian's Got Talent. Syco Music has been the production house behind the American Idol winners as well as performers, like Leona Lewis.

Cowell was born in 1959 to a family already involved in entertainment. His father was a music industry executive and his mother was a ballet dancer. But his path was not easy. After leaving Dover College without completing his degree, he (surprisingly) did not get along well with bosses at a series of menial jobs. Finally, Cowell's father got him a job in the mail room at EMI Music Publishing.

After working his way up at EMI, he took a risk and left the company to go to a start up. From 1984 through the early 1990s, Cowell experienced the ups and downs of being in the entertainment business. He dabbled in TV, film and music. In 1989, it all came crashing down, and he was forced to move back home with his parents. Needless to say, Cowell fought his way back to the top. In 2002 he founded Syco, and the rest is history.

Cowell claimed that in 2006 Syco accounted for 40% of its parent company's profit. If that's so, then in 2006, Syco made about 1.7 million pounds. Cowell has created wealth for so many people. From the Syco owners to the Cowell haters, today we honor Simon Cowell for taking his private property and creating great wealth.

Sources:
Syco on Wikipedia
Simon Cowell on Wikipedia

And now (drum roll please), Simon Cowell at his best:

Simon Cowell on imdb

Monday, April 20, 2009

Jamie Hyneman


Today we celebrate Jamie Hyneman for founding M5 Industries Inc. While Hyneman is best known for co-hosting Discovery Channel's hit show Mythbusters, he is also the founder and CEO of the visual special effects company M5 Industries, now a producer of Mythbusters.

Hyneman was raised in Columbus, Indiana and earned a degree in Russian language and literature. He has had a number of different careers before settling into his current passion including scuba diver, wilderness survival expert, boat captain, linguist, pet shop owner, chef, machinist, and concrete inspector.

His company M5 does visual effects for movies and commercials and has created almost a thousand visual effects over the last 20 years. This work was all done on a free lance basis.

M5 no longer does special effects, but it is busy with all the work it does for Mythbusters. Many of the people on the show are employees of M5 and much of the filming takes place at M5. The company still does do a small amount of research and development and consulting work, but that is limited to the projects Hyneman just cannot say no to.

Today we honor Hyneman for creating a company that helps keep as wowed as we watch television and movies, for continuing to invent, explore, ask questions, and think critically, and for still playing with toys, fire, and explosions.

M5 Industries website is a neat site to visit, the company's history is told with Hyneman's wit. Also here is a link to a video tour of M5 Industries by Hyneman.

Sources:
M5 Industries
Wikipedia: Jamie Hyneman
Wikipedia: M5 Industries

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Jess Oppenheimer, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez

Today we honor Jess Oppenheimer, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez for innovating a TV process that we take for granted: filming with multiple cameras (diagram to the right) in front of a live studio audience. While some shows filmed before live audiences and other shows used multiple cameras, the producers of I Love Lucy were the first to put both processes together at once.

This may seem trivial, but the innovation had several implications. First, the multiple cameras allowed for faster, cheaper filming. Since the multiple cameras minimized the number of takes, the live studio audience fed into the energy of the actors without sitting through numerous takes. In my opinion, I Love Lucy's comedic energy is a hallmark for sit-coms, and surely some of that had to do with this innovation.

As producers, Oppenheimer, Ball and Arnez made the decision to allow this innovation to flourish. The method was so successful that many of the beloved American sit-coms, like The Cosby Show and Seinfeld, used the same method for filming. Oppenheimer, Ball and Arnez took a risk, which paid off in great wealth that many of us continue to enjoy today.

Sources:
I Love Lucy on Wikipedia
Multiple Camera Filming

Check out one of my favorite clips from I Love Lucy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jann Wenner and Ralph Gleason


Today we celebrate Jann Wenner and Ralph Gleason for their 1967 creation - Rolling Stone magazine. Rolling Stone is a magazine founded in San Francisco, now based in New York, NY, that is devoted to pop culture, music, and politics.

Wenner is credited with the financial backing for the founding of the magazine in 1967. The story goes that Wenner borrowed an estimated $7000 from future in-laws to cover start-up costs. Together with music critic Ralph Gleason, Wenner published what turned out to be a gold mine. Rolling Stone magazine hit the scene in the midst of a cultural and musical revolution.


Through the 1970s Rolling stone introduced us to many, now iconic, individuals, including: journalist Hunter S. Thompson, photographer Annie Leibovitz, and many rockstars before they made a name for themselves. Thanks to Gleason's excellent nose for musical talent, Rolling Stone was the first to acknowledge the importance of the work of such musicians as Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan, and Miles Davis.

Neither Wenner nor Gleason stopped there. Gleason is also well know for having co-founded the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1958. The festival still runs yearly in Monterey, California, attracting the biggest names in Jazz as well as thousands of spectators. Wenner, on the other hand, has continued to expand his publications. Since Rolling Stone, he has founded, co-founded, and published other now-well-known titles such as: Outside magazine, Men's Journal, and US Weekly. Wenner also co-founded the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1983, an institute to which he was later inducted in 1997.

Sources:

Wikipedia: J. Wenner, R. Gleason
and Rolling Stone
RollingStone.com

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

George Lerner

Did you know that the original Mr. Potato Heads were actual potatoes? Perhaps your parents knew from firsthand experience, even though they implored you not to play with your food. George Lerner, the inventor of Mr. Potato Head, liked to play with food as a child. His early adventures with fruits and vegetables were the inspiration for the famous plastic adornments, long since attached to potatoes of a less perishable nature.

Lerner, from New York City, first sold plastic facial pieces to a cereal company that wanted to give away the toys in cereal boxes. Mr. Potato Head himself didn't arrive until two years later in 1952 when Lerner partnered with the Hassenfeld brothers to put similar toys into pencil boxes. Lerner approached the Hassenfelds after he saw their success filling the boxes with themed toys. School supplies were the original focus of the brothers but Mr. Potato Head transformed their company, which became Hasbro, into a toy powerhouse,.

One reason for Mr. Potato Head's success: it was the first toy to be advertised on television. The Mr. was followed by a Mrs. in 1953, and the Potato Heads started coming with plastic bodies in 1964. By the time I was playing with toys, Mr. Potato Heads were everywhere. I'm a little sad I didn't think to use real spuds. Oh well. For such a simple but enjoyable idea, Lerner is today's Hero of Capitalism.

George Lerner Wikipedia Entry

mrpotatohead.net

Hasbro Wikipedia Entry

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ewing Marion Kauffman

Today we honor Ewing Marion Kauffman for taking his private property and creating great wealth. Though Kauffman is famously known for establishing the Kansas City Royals and directing his private philanthropy, today we honor him for starting Marion Laboratories (former building pictured to the right). Kauffman grew up in Kansas City. As a young man he served in the Navy and is honored as a Distinguished Eagle Scout Award winner. Kauffman made a successful living as a pharmaceutical salesman. When his company cut back on his earning potential, he struck out on his own.

In 1950 Kauffman started his own pharmaceutical company in his basement with $4,000 in capital. As the only employee of Marion Laboratories, Kauffman did it all from packaging calcium supplements to selling a finished product. Eventually, he moved his company out of his basement and started doing some major expanding. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Marion Labs made a nice profit.

In 1974, Marion Labs Inc. reported $12 million of earning on sales. Perhaps most fascinating is that the research budget was $0. Kauffman spent most of the company energy repackaging and reformulating products other companies ultimately rejected. Kauffman kept the company focused on products that related to calcium. Marion Labs Inc. continued to grow until it was bought in 1989. Then known as Marion Merrell Dow Inc., it is now part of Aventis. When Kauffman sold his company in 1989, it was worth almost $1 billion and employed more than 3,400 people.

It is Kauffman's use of his private property to create Marion Labs and produce great wealth that we honor him today. I highly recommend that interested readers check out this video about Kauffman on his Kauffman Foundation website.

Sources:
Kauffman Foundation Biography
Marion Merrel Dow, Inc. on Answers.com
Kauffman on Wikipedia

Friday, April 10, 2009

Allen Stoltzfus and John Fairfield

Today we honor two men who have helped to make learning a new language easier, Allen Stoltzfus and John Fairfield, founders of Rosetta Stone.

Stoltzfus first developed the idea for Rosetta Stone while trying to learn Russian in a classroom. Years earlier, he had learned German through emersion and wished that the classroom learning for Russian could also be as enjoyable, quick, and easy. Stoltzfus formed the idea of using a computer program to develop language skills naturally and without translation, similar to an immersion experience.

He enlisted the help of John Fairfield, a computer scientist, to develop the program in the late 1980s. The computer technology was not yet advanced enough, but by 1992 the men had developed a successful program and founded Fairfield Language Technologies. Along with the companies new president the three men developed the name "Rosetta Stone", named after the artifact that had unlocked the secrets of Egyptian hieroglyphics for linguists.

Rosetta Stone now offers language programs in 29 languages and in 2006, their company had had a five year growth of 368 percent.

Stoltzfus and Fairfield have greatly improved language learning in the United States and around the world. Their program is used by small companies trying to enter the global market, fortune 500 companies, the US Military, and households around the world. Through Stoltzfus and Fairfield's success, transaction costs and language barriers for countless numbers of people of been greatly reduced. We are all richer for their success.

Sources:
Rosetta Stone- Our History
Wikipedia- Rosetta Stone Software
Daily News Record - Private Equity Firms Buy Majority Share Of Fairfield Language

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Phil Knight



As a child of the 1980’s, I grew knowing just one thing about fashion. The shoes had to be Nike. Phil Knight is one of the co-founders of Nike and under his leadership (and with an assist from several great advertising campaigns starring Michael Jordan), Nike became the undisputed leader in athletic shoes throughout the 1980’s. Today, Nike’s empire has expanded greatly, covering all types of sports apparel and even branching into sports equipment – like golf balls. Even before Tiger Woods’ dramatic chip-in at the Masters in 2005 – when his golf ball hung dramatically on the lip of the cup, prominently displaying the Nike logo to the world’s largest golf audience – the Nike logo was one of the most widely recognized and powerful corporate logos.

Through the use of skillful marketing campaigns, Knight led Nike from its founding in the late 1960’s, through its huge successes in the 1980’s before retiring in as CEO in 2004. Along the way he built a company that is now a major presence in the sports apparel market worldwide and boasts a market capitalization of over $24 billion. Knight was certainly not the first to use athletes in marketing campaigns, but his decision to center his marketing around Michael Jordan in the late 1980’s was nothing short of genius as Jordan quickly became the most famous basketball player ever. Air Jordan’s remain an iconic name in athletic shoes, and have spawned dozens of copycat efforts attempting to tie a big name athlete to a shoe. As Jordan began to fade from the spotlight in the mid 1990’s, Knight found his next superstar in Tiger Woods, committing to a 5 year, $40 million dollar contract before Woods had even swing his first professional swing of the golf club.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the rest of the advertising world has been flattering Knight and Nike for the past two decades, as more and more advertising campaigns aggressively compete for the next superstar from the world of sports. Knight stuck gold twice and build a sporting goods empire in the process.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bob Hurley

Today we honor Bob Hurley for producing wealth with his private property: his talent. Hurley is famous for being the basketball coach at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City. While most people think of him as the coach that has won 23 state championships in 37 years of coaching, today we honor his personal investment in his players.

Hurley's program at St. Anthony has produced 5 first round NBA draft picks and has sent over 200 players to college on scholarships. While I could find little information about non-basketball professionals that Hurley's teams have produced, I suspect that many went on to have successful careers in other industries. Hurley's coaching has been called old-school, and he is known for instilling discipline in his players. They are expected to meet the highest standards on and off the court.

Perhaps the most amazing part of this story is that Hurley only makes $9,000 a year coaching. He works as a probation officer, but it is clear that his passion is coaching. Hurley is a prime example of a Hero of Capitalism. He used his talents to increase the wealth of his community. His personal reward is not typical, he is noted for turning down million dollar coaching contracts so he can continue to help young men to better lives. The wealth he created cannot be quantified in dollars, but it is real nonetheless. It is for Hurley's use of his personal talents to create wealth that we honor him as today's Hero of Capitalism.

Sources:
Bob Hurley on Wikipedia
"A Basketball Miracle" on Forbes.com
"Holding Court and Performing Miracles" on CBS

Check out Hurley giving coaching tips. I think you'll understand his coaching style if you watch this.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

William Rosenberg


Following World War II, William Rosenberg put his money together to found Industrial Luncheon Services (ILS) - a small business serving coffee, sandwiches, and pastries to factory workers. The ILS soon morphed into a mobile catering business. In a short time, Rosenberg had over 100 trucks, 25 in-plant outlets, and a vending operation. Being the bright entrepreneur, Rosenberg realized that over 40% of ILS revenue came from donut and coffee sales. So in 1948, on the heels of the success of the ILS, Rosenberg opened another business, The Open Kettle, serving coffee and donuts. In 1950 he changed the company's name to Dunkin' Donuts.

Rosenberg discovered a nearly untapped market and decided to expand variety. Instead of the "typical practice of selling four varieties of donuts [he] sold 52 kinds." Dunkin' Donuts was an instant hit. By 1954, Rosenberg owned and operated 5 Dunkin' Donuts locations. Upon opening the sixth location the following year he decided to sell the newest store as the first franchise.

Today, Dunkin' Donuts is the leading retailer of coffee, donuts, and bagels with over 6000 Dunkin' Donuts stores across 37 countries.

A description of Rosenberg from the company website sums up today's Hero of Capitalism:

Mr. Rosenberg embodied the American spirit of hard work and passion. He came of age during the depression and despite a limited education, his hard work and spirit brought wealth and fame enabling him to become a philanthropist in his senior years.


Sources:

DunkinDonuts.com
The New York Times
the Let's Talk Business Network

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dave Thomas

Today we note another entrepreneur who started a popular food chain in Ohio. Dave Thomas (1932 - 2002), founder of Wendy's, was born in New Jersey and adopted by Lebanese immigrants. His adoptive mother died when he was five and his father moved the family often to find work. When Thomas was 12 he started his first restaurant job and never left the industry - even when he enlisted in the army during the Korean war. Through some luck and a lot of initiative, Thomas went from successful forays in the enterprises of others to founding his own company, now the third largest hamburger chain in the US.

At the age of 15, when Dave Thomas's family was on the verge of moving to yet another town, he decided to stay where he was in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. He dropped out of school and worked at the Hobby House restaurant in Ft. Wayne until he enlisted with the army at the age of 18. After a stint in Germany where he ran a mess hall, Thomas was discharged and returned to Indiana.

The owner of the Hobby House appreciated Thomas's talents and offered him opportunities of increasing challenge. First they opened a new restaurant together, with Thomas as the manager. Then Thomas moved to Columbus, Ohio, to turn around a group of failing Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises. It was during this time that he was mentored by, and helped in turn, Colonel Sanders himself. When he succeeded at this task, his boss sold the franchises back to KFC and Thomas received a handsome profit share. A year later, in 1969, Thomas opened his first hamburger restaurant in Columbus.

Wendy's was a fast success with its fresh hamburgers and milkshakes. Within three years, the company was selling franchises. In seven years Wendy's went public. Thomas is famous for his commercials (over 800 of them), but he didn't get involved in marketing campaigns until well after he had left the helm of the company. He also promoted child adoption and numerous health and education causes.

One of Thomas's mottos was that "profit is not a dirty word," and his success embodies that spirit. As a successful entrepreneur at the head of a very successful chain of restaurants, Dave Thomas profited from making millions of people happy. Not bad for a high school dropout.

Wikipedia entry for Dave Thomas
A remembrance by Lea Davis of QSR Magazine (2007)
Independent Obituary (2002)
Wendy's company bio
Ohio History Central

Friday, April 3, 2009

Norman Borlaug

Today we honor Norman Borlaug (born March 25, 1914) for his innovations in farming that allow us to feed more people than we have at any other time in history. While I probably would need a doctorate in genetics to understand the full connotations of Borlaug's inventions, the beauty of the market means I don't have to understand the details to reap the benefits. Put simply, it is Borlaug's innovations that allow us to produce enough food to feed billions of people.

Borlaug grew up in Iowa. His education at the University of Minnesota included forestry, planet pathology and genetics. Borlaug's Nobel Prize Biography puts his early years of research succinctly:
"In 1944 he accepted an appointment as geneticist and plant pathologist assigned the task of organizing and directing the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program in Mexico. This program, a joint undertaking by the Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation, involved scientific research in genetics, plant breeding, plant pathology, entomology, agronomy, soil science, and cereal technology. Within twenty years he was spectacularly successful in finding a high-yielding short-strawed, disease-resistant wheat."
Borlaug worked during an extremely dismal time. Famous doom-sayers, like Paul Ehrlich and Lester Brown, wrote books and actively promoted the idea that millions of people were going to die because of a lack of food. But Borlaug kept pursuing his academic work. He merged the practical application of his science with the practical realities of the world to spread The Green Revolution throughout the world and feed millions.

Borlaug went on to win the Noble Peace Prize in 1970 because of his fantastic innovations. And even today, at 95 years old, he still is working to improve agricultural production. Norman Borlaug is today's Hero of Capitalism because his pursuit of personal desires has led to great wealth for millions today.

I highly suggest that readers check out the sources below. I don't think the few paragraphs here do justice to the amazing circumstances of Norman Borlaug's contribution. I am truly richer today for learning about him and The Green Revolution.

Sources:
"Billions Served" from Reason
Normal Borlaug on Wikipedia
Norman Borlaug Nobel Prize Biography

Thanks to Lea for the tip!

Here's a clip from YouTube where Borlaug himself explains what he did:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Erie Sauder


Erie Sauder (1904-1997) was a very successful business man, founding Sauder Woodworking Company in 1934, now the world's leading manufacturer of Ready-To-Assemble Furniture. But today, we honor him not for his woodworking company or for inventing the first assemble-it-yourself pieces of furniture, but rather for the historic village he founded.

Sauder founded Historic Sauder Village outside of the town of Archbold in northwest Ohio in 1976. He developed the idea for the historic village while giving a tour of his woodworking company. While explaining the automatic machines in his modern factory, he considered how easy new technology had made our daily lives. Not wanting people to forget the hard work of their ancestors in this new age, Sauder decided to create a historic village to pay tribute to those who drained the Great Black Swamp, farmed the land, and worked in northwest Ohio during the 1800s.

Sauder bought new land and worked towards creating his village. He began collecting and purchasing cabins, tools, and farm implements left behind by those who had transformed the swamp. Historic Sauder Village was opened to the public in 1976.

Today, families and school children visit the Village to get a taste of the past. Workers dress in historic dress and explain the process of sheep shearing, farming, cooking, blacksmithing, and old printing techniques to those who want a hands on experience to history. The Historic Sauder Village is now run by third generation of Erie Sauder's family and has continued to expand and grow over the years.

Sauder not only created wealth for himself and others through his factory, but also through creating a living museum of an area's history. The Historic Village was my favorite field trip spot when I was in grade school. My classmates and I were definitely enriched as we learned about Ohio's history. Sauder embraced new technology in his business dealings and knew new technology was vital to his continued success, but he also honored the work and entrepreneurship of his ancestors through his village.

Sources:
Historic Sauder Village

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Elvis Presley


Sorry – no April Fools joke for you. I thought about putting Karl Marx out here or something, but just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Instead, today we’ll celebrate the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. Elvis was more than just a successful recording star – though he was staggeringly successful at that – with 17 #1 hit singles, and over 500 million records sold. He was also a prolific movie star, starring in 31 critically panned, but mostly popular motion pictures. He remains a cultural icon today, more than 30 years after his death.

As wide-reaching and lucrative as these direct impacts were, Elvis’ contribution goes well beyond that. His combination of talent, charisma and musical innovation helped launch Rock and Roll as a dominant force in the music industry. The music industry today is almost immeasurable, as it extends well beyond simple music sales (though rock music sales were estimates at $32 billion last year). Concerts, video, video games (Guitar Hero, anyone?), MTV, and so many other avenues of celebrity generate a staggering amount of wealth for the musicians, manager, producers and industry insiders.

Elvis was an innovator, an entrepreneur and a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. His influence generated a tremendous amount of wealth for himself during his life and for the thousands of individuals who have benefitted from his influence in the 50+ years that have passed since he first got paid to record a song.