Ian Cassel Ian is a full-time microcap investor and founder of MicroCapClub.com and IntelligentFanatics.com to help him fine-tune his qualitative lens for finding and investing in exceptional leaders.

The Story of Milton Hershey – The Sweetest Place on Earth

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Few exceptional businesses are created quickly. In addition, exceptional leaders are not created quickly. It takes years of intelligent, diligent, and obsessive work before each intelligent fanatic hit their inflection point.

Life teaches you if you don’t give up, you win. Very few people are successful right away. You have to stumble and even fail a few times so you are prepared for success. Milton Hershey is a great example of this.

Milton S. Hershey (1857 – 1945) grew up on a farm in Derry Township, Pennsylvania. His father Henry Hershey would fail in a few endeavors which took him away from home for long stretches. Since his father was gone so much, Milton had to step in and help out on the farm regularly and quit school after the 4th grade.

Failure #1

At age 9, Milton became an apprentice for a local printer. He found it very boring. He ultimately got fired for not paying attention and dropping his hat in one of the printing machines.

At the age of 14, Milton’s mother signed him up to be an apprentice to a confectioner named Joseph Royer in Lancaster, PA. He enjoyed it and stayed on for four years.

Failure #2

Milton then moved to Philadelphia to start his own confectionery business. He made taffy and caramels and sold them from a pushcart. He did this for six years before being forced to close down. He was now 25 years old without a job, but had a passion for the confectionery business.  

Failure #3

Milton moved to Denver, Colorado and found work for another candy company that used milk to make chocolate. After a short time he set out for Chicago and started another candy business. It failed.

Hershey said:

“I failed. It was a bad beginning. Yes, and I had later troubles. I suppose I never would have done anything if I hadn’t kept coming back.” McClures Magazine, April 1924

Failure #4

In 1883, He traveled to New York and trained at Huyler’s. Huyler’s at the time was the most prominent and largest chocolate maker in the United States. He worked there for a while before starting Hershey’s Fine Candies. The company lasted only three years. He closed it down in 1886.

The fifth time was the charm.

Milton Hershey moved back to Lancaster, PA, and borrowed money from the bank to start the Lancaster Caramel Company. It quickly became a success. He put to work many things that he learned through his travels and failures. He used a caramel recipe he picked up in New Orleans. While in Chicago he learned that caramels sold better in bulk. By the early 1890’s the company employed 1,300 workers.

Milton traveled to the World’s Fair: Columbian Exposition in 1893. This event was held to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival to the new world. Milton would attend the event and stood mesmerized by a new chocolate-making machine that had been brought from Germany. He purchased the machine on the spot.

In 1894, Milton set up a subsidiary called the Hershey Chocolate Company. Chocolate was a luxury item at the time, but his mission was to make it affordable for the masses. He tinkered with a low cost chocolate bar for five years. Finally in 1900, he debuted the first Hershey's Chocolate Bar, made of milk chocolate. In a bold move, he sold the Lancaster Caramel Company for $1 million to focus on Chocolate.

In 1903 he purchased 1,200 acres of land and began construction of what would become the largest chocolate manufacturer in the world. He located it in an area that had ample dairy production to supply the vast quantities of milk. The facility was completed in 1905. The Hershey’s Kiss was developed in 1907, and the first Hershey’s Bar with Almonds made its debut in 1908.

In 1909, unable to have children of their own, Milton and Catherine Hershey decided to use their wealth to create a home and school for orphaned boys as outlined in their Deed of Trust. This would mark the beginning of Milton Hershey’s lasting legacy.

This is Part 1 in a two part series. Members can access Part 2: The Greatest Example of Effective Capitalism in American History

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