Various reports state that there might be upwards of 500,000 new businesses that are started each month across the United States. Many of these entrepreneurs have the same goal in mind when they start their own business: establish financial freedom. Everybody wants to be a millionaire and everybody wants to have their product, service, and business concept in the headlines as one that helped change the world, a region, or change a community for the the better.
However, reality sets in that there exists various market forces, challenges, and setbacks that have to be dealt with. Many are not able to deal with this reality, which leads a number of those hundreds of thousands of new businesses to close up shop.
The upside to this reality is that failure can be the next chapter in the journey to financial success, rather than the final stop on your entrepreneurial road. Take it from the great Thomas Edison, who once said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Similar to Edison, there was a man that found 1,009 ways to sell his unique fried chicken concept, none of which worked, but it was the 1,010th way that did. This sparked the growth of the fried chicken enterprise, Kentucky Fried Chicken, that grew to be the 2nd largest food empire in the world. This man was Colonel Harland Sanders, and here’s a few details from the story of this American Icon.
Harland Sanders, Trial & Error
Before his success as the Colonel, Sanders worked various job roles that didn’t produce any meaningful level of success or sustainability.
From farming, to painting, to cleaning, to a role with the US army, and a gig selling insurance. He operated a ferry boat company which he later sold to start up a lamp manufacturing company, a venture that lost him most of his savings. He worked in tire sales, but would lose said job due to downsizing.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison
In 1924, the GM of Standard Oil asked Sanders to run a service station in Nicholasville, KY. He operated the service station until 1930 when he was forced to close it down due to The Great Depression.
When Things Started to Turn
As a result of his experience with the service station in Nicholasville, the Shell Oil Company offered him a service station in North Corbin, KY. The deal was that he would be allowed to operate rent-free if he provided them with a percentage of sales. Sanders operated the station for 25 years from 1930 to 1955, and it was while running the North Corbin station that much of the groundwork for his soon-to-be success would formalize:
- Sanders finalized his “secret chicken recipe” by the summer of 1940, which was focused on cooking the chicken faster using a pressure fryer, rather than using a pan fryer.
- Sanders was commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel not once, but twice.
- Sanders divorced his first wife and re-marry Claudia Ledington-Price.
In 1952, after many attempts to franchise his secret recipe, he found his first franchisor, Pete Harman. From this relationship, Sanders was connected to a sign painter by the name of Don Anderson who came up with the name “Kentucky Fried Chicken,” a name Sander’s used for his franchise company. He was paid 4 cents per chicken sale.
The Growth Of KFC
In 1955 at the age of 65, Sanders was forced to close his services station in North Corbin, Kentucky due to decreased customer traffic. He was left with his savings and his $105 monthly social security check.
However, through his own hard work and persistence, Sanders continued to focus on franchising his chicken recipe throughout the country. By the early 1960’s, KFC had expanded both nationally and globally to over 600 locations.
Sanders went on to sell KFC for $2 million to a group of KY investors in 1964, but spent the remainder of his life using his image to help promote the KFC brand. He lived until the age of 90 and, at the time of his death, there were over 6,000 KFC locations globally, pumping out over $2 billion in annual revenue.
What You Can Take Away From Sanders’ Story
In his 60’s, when most people are taking a step back from work, Colonel Harland Sanders decided to endure 1,009 rejections over the course of many years to grow his chicken franchise using his patented “secret chicken recipe” as the foundation. (Read more here about why you might consider starting a business in your 70s.)
Through Sanders’ efforts, KFC would go onto become a global brand, one of the largest food empires in the world, and make Sanders a self-made millionaire before his late 60s.
There’s a quote that says, “Right before you quit is the moment right before the miracle happens.” We all have dreams, visions, and aspirations, but for many of us, life doesn’t give us an easy route to victory. For some, life doesn’t give us a route to victory at all. It’s impossible to predict who will be the next Colonel Harland Sanders, but I can guarantee that if you quit on your visions, dreams, and aspirations, you stand no chance of seeing true prosperity.
This article was originally written on August 15, 2017.