In a time long ago and a place not too far from our home lived a man who finally made it. Years of failed ventures and experience gained finally converged with a product idea that put a rural community in Pennsylvania on the national and international map.
Armed with a fourth grade education, Milton Hershey learned candy making during a four year apprenticeship in Lancaster, PA. At age 19 he moved to Philadelphia to open his first company, which went bankrupt in 6 years. After traveling and learning and looking for opportunities, Hershey started two more candy making companies which also failed.
Standing in the Hershey Story Museum and reading about these failed business ventures, I felt a kinship with Milton Hershey. In the last 10 years I have explored several opportunities that have been unsuccessful and costly. I’m so grateful for a loving and supportive husband who believes in me and walks this path with me. There are so many times when I feel defeated by not producing the outcome I envision. How? How do you overcome the guilt and discouragement of failing?
“What’s remarkable is not the number of times Hershey failed. It is the number of times he tried.”* Moving forward with a vision refined by experience and motivated by passion, that’s how to overcome failure. Want to know Milton Hershey’s secret to success? “The ambition to think big. A fearless inventiveness. And most unusual, the ability to nurture a creative climate, inspiring workers to innovate and experiment.”*
Many companies today are trying to figure out how to create a culture of creativity for their employees and here Milton Hershey was doing that over a century ago! Hershey didn’t just build a factory, he built a community. His grand vision for this community included cultural resources, parks and education for workers and their families. Instead of just providing housing for his employees, he encouraged people to buy their homes thus having a stake in nurturing the community. Most importantly, Milton Hershey wanted a place for families; a place where workers would want to raise their children.
Milton Hershey was a man who took BIG risks. He had several failed attempts to find just the right product to start his business. But when he landed on the perfect fit, milk chocolate in rural Pennsylvania, his vision accelerated the success and growth of the Hershey Chocolate Corporation.
I might still be in my floundering stages of finding the right fit for my creative ambitions and desire to give encouragement and beauty to the world around me. I might have days of discouragement where the day-to-day responsibilities of home, motherhood and marriage seem daunting and I wonder if I’ll ever move out of survival mode. I might even have days where the weight of my mistakes and failings leaves me hopeless that I’ll ever make my inward dreams an outward, concrete reality.
But today I feel inspired. I feel hopeful. I feel empowered. I feel ambitious!
How are you feeling today?
*These quotes come from The Hershey Story Museum’s exhibit on the history of Milton Hershey. When you stay at the Hershey Lodge, you receive complementary tickets to the Hershey Story Museum for each member of your group. Photo credit for Milton Hershey goes to Hershey Entertainment & Resorts.