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Business Success Stories

ENTREPRENEURIAL success stories for inspiration and enjoyment. Contributions welcome. Also see GB4 "Studying The Lives of Successful People" for 25 more stories of successful entrepreneurs.

The Game of Monopoly

The year 1933 was bleak. The weather was bad. The economy was bad. Charles Darrow of Germantown longed to visit Atlantic City as he had often done so in the past, but the depression had left him little money. As the next best thing to being there, Darrow concocted a little diversion. He invented a game based on the streets of Atlantic City: Boardwalk, Park Place, Baltic Avenue, and the rest. He called this new game Monopoly. It was all about making and spending money, some thing everyone wanted to do during the depression. Darrow showed the game to a few friends, and they liked it enough to want copies. Darrow made a few copies by hand, and thinking that he had a good idea, showed the game to Parker Brothers. But Parker Brothers considered the game too complicated to be successful.

Not willing to stop, Darrow managed to raise enough money to have some sets printed and offered them to Wanamaker's Department Store in Philadelphia. Very quickly Monopoly became the rage of the city. People who normally went to bed by nine o'clock would find themselves still trying to buy Boardwalk at two in the morning. The game was addictive. After this success, Parker Brothers took a second look and the rest is history. Today, Monopoly is licensed in over eighty
countries and in twenty-three languages.

SUCCESS TIP: If you have an idea you think will sell, you may have to prove you have a winner before any major company will be interested.

Arni Nashbar

In 1974, Arni Nashbar, a New Middletown Ohio advertising man, started a bicycle parts mail order company out of his home with $1,000. Ten years later, his company was grossing six million plus.

Conrad Hilton

A man visiting a small boomtown called Cisco, Texas, noticed a lot of activity at the town's little hotel. Thinking that it was likely that ALL boomtown hotels did exceptionally well, he was immediately intrigued. This young man had always wanted to be a banker but put this idea on hold. His name, Conrad Hilton.

Building Quality

An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife and family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire.

The employer was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but it was easy to see that his heart was not in it. He resorted to shoddy workmanship. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.

When the carpenter finished his work, his employer came to inspect the house and afterwards handed the front-door key to the carpenter. "This is your house," the employer said, "my gift to you for your years of quality workmanship."

The carpenter was shocked and ashamed. If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Think of yourself as the carpenter. Think of your life as a house. Each day you hammer a nail, place a board or erect a wall, so build wisely. It is the only life you will ever build.

Every Customer is Important

In the old days, when everything was much cheaper, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. The boy asked, "How much is an ice cream sundae?"

"Fifty cents," replied the waitress.

The little boy counted the coins in his hand. "How much is a dish of plain ice cream?" he asked.

Some people were now waiting for a table and the waitress became impatient. "Thirty-five cents," she said brusquely.

The little boy again counted his coins. "I'll have the plain ice cream," he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished his ice cream, paid the cashier and departed. When the waitress came back, she wiped down the table and then swallowed hard at what she saw. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies - her tip.

"Kindness": The Key to Customer Service

Kindness is the only service that will stand the storm of life and not wash out. It will wear well and be remembered long after the prism of politeness or the complexion of courtesy has faded away. When I am gone, I hope it can be said of me that I plucked a thistle and planted a flower wherever I thought a flower would grow.

Today is a new day. Hence,I refuse to be shackled by yesterday's failures. What I don't know will no longer be an intimidation; it will be an opportunity. I will not allow people to define my mood, method, image, or mission. I will pursue a mission greater than myself by making at least one person happy he saw me. I will have no time for self-pity, gossip, or negativism ... from myself
or others.
Max Lucado

Lincoln's Road to the Whitehouse
1831 FAILED in business.
1832 Defeated for Legislature.
1833 Second failure in business.
1836 Suffered nervous breakdown.
1838 Defeated for Speaker.
1840 Defeated for Elector.
1843 Defeated for Congress.
1848 Defeated for Congress.
1855 Defeated for Senate.
1856 Defeated for Vice President.
1858 Defeated for Senate.
1860 ELECTED President.
Do Not Limit Your Potential

Flea trainers have observed a strange habit of fleas which they have been able to use to train them to jump and perform within a confined space.

Fleas are trained by putting them in a cardboard box with a top on it. The fleas will jump up over and over again and will keep hitting the top of the cardboard box. However, over a period of time something strange happens. The fleas continue to jump, but they no longer jump high enough to hit the top.

When the trainers take off the lid, the fleas continue to jump, but they now will not and cannot jump out of the box. Why? The reason is simple. They have conditioned themselves to jump only so high, and once they have done so they can't change!

Strangely enough, people, who are suppose to be much wiser and self aware than fleas, do the same thing. We restrict ourselves and never reach our potential. Just like the fleas, we fail to jump as high as we can, thinking we are doing all we can do.

Edmund Scientific

In 1942, Edmund started his own scientific equipment business by selling damaged, chipped-edged lenses for $1 through $9 classified ads. Now his company, Edmund Scientific produces more than $23 million in revenue per year and employs more than 160 people.

NuSkin International

In 1984, starting with $5,000 in start-up capital, Blake M. Roney created a multi-million dollar network marketing company called NuSkin International. The company, in particularly, has targeted the health and beauty needs of the aging baby boomers using high quality ingredients and a legion of network marketing distributors.


A Baltimore druggist named George Bunting noticed that the skin salves then available had unpleasant odors and that they stained clothing. Customers complained about this, and so he put some soothing ingredients into a cosmetic cream. The first customer to try it raved about it, saying it, "knocks eczema out." The statement led Bunting to name the product Noxzema. The rest, is history.

Charles Atlas

Atlas was a poor immigrant boy from Calabria Italy whose real name was Angelo Sicilano. Unhappy with his physical condition, he studied lions stretching in their cages, and shortly later developed a series of exercises he called: Dynamic-Tension. In short order, he doubled his weight and became an artist’s model and strongman. He then sold thousands of body building courses through comic book ads that featured the famous slogan below.

FAMOUS SLOGAN: "I use to be a 97 pound weakling."

See GB4 "Studying The Lives of Successful People" for 24 other stories.

Spic and Span

A Michigan homemaker needed a stronger household cleaner. The items on the market just weren't good enough for her. So she did a little research and came up with ingredients for a more effective product, called Spic and Span.

Joe Cossman

Joe Cossman grossed more than $25 mil-lion selling mail-order ant farms, toy sol-diers, garden sprinklers, fly-poison, potato spud guns and shrunken heads. He started as an entrepreneur after World War II, working after hours from his $35-a-week job with a beat-up typewriter on his kitchen table. His first successful product made him $30,000 in less than one month. In his book, How I made $1 Million in Mail Order, Cossman describes how someone once brought him an unsuccessful mail order product and offered to sell him the rights. The product consisted of earrings with little bells attached. Cossman renamed the product “mother-in-law earrings” targeted them to newlyweds and managed to turn this mail order loser into a mail-order win-ner. Cossman claims he spends at least one full day a month at the public library.

ADVICE: "Effort means nothing without results."

See GB4 "Studying The Lives of Successful People" for 24 other stories.

Lillian Vernon

Any item can be personalized but some items lend themselves to personalization better than others. Back in 1951, Lillian Vernon started a small mail order company in her kitchen. Her first product was a monogrammed leather belts. Today, her company, Lillian Vernon Inc., which specializes in personalized mail order items (catalog sales, gift items, toys and games), in 1995 brought in $222 million in revenues. Her company employs more than 900 people.

Knott's Berry Farm

The Knott's Berry Farm entertainment park, began as a small entertainment feature to keep diners occupied while they waited for seats at the Knott family restaurant.

H & R Block

Incorporated in 1955, H & R Block excelled in preparing individual federal tax returns. Recognizing the growing complexity of tax forms, the Blocks offered a trustworthy and accurate service, and quickly gained a high reputation. Rapid franchising made competition difficult.

J. Paul Getty

Disliked by many, held in awe by others, J. Paul Getty was a man whose contradictions were more intriguing than his consistencies. He was a billionaire who never set out to strike it rich, a public benefactor who had been accused of being a Scrooge, and a man of decision who liked to procrastinate. He was also a man of precision who lived in chaos, a builder of huge ships, which he never traveled on, a deep reader who had no personal philosophy, and a family man who had been divorced 5 times. He once sent the following to a magazine requesting a short article explaining his success: "Some people find oil. Others don't."

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