Imagine This: At age sixty-five, people tell you that you’re too old to start a new business. You have a recipe for fried chicken, and for two years, you travel across the country trying to sell franchises for your recipe. But no one wants to buy it and your secret chicken recipe is rejected 1,009 times.
You’re born in Henryville, Indiana, the oldest of three children. Your father dies when you’re six and you take care of your younger brother and sister while your mother works at the tomato canning factory three miles away.
Even at this young age, you do a lot of the cooking and quickly master many regional recipes to the delight of your family. During this time, you not only develop an independent spirit but also a passion for cooking.
You hold your first job at age ten, working and living at a nearby farm, but you’re fired after only a month because you spend too much of your time enjoying the squirrels and butterflies and not enough time working. You know that losing your job has disappointed your mother, and you vow to make something of yourself and become someone she’ll be proud of.
When you’re twelve, your mother remarries and moves to Greenwood, Indiana, in order to improve the family’s financial situation. But you don’t get along with your abusive stepfather, so you move back home to Henryville where you work as a farmhand.
You work odd jobs as a streetcar conductor, a blacksmith’s helper, a railroad fireman, an insurance salesman, and finally as a service station operator in Nicholasville, Kentucky. You do such a good job running the Nicholasville service station that the Shell Oil Company offers to build a service station for you in Corbin, Kentucky, and charge you no rent at all.
In 1930, in the midst of the depression, you open your first restaurant in the small front room of the gas station in Corbin. It’s actually a fifteen foot square storage room with one table and six chairs, and you are the station operator, chief cook, and cashier.
You specialize in southern cooking and everybody eats together—-truck drivers, tourists, and salesmen—-all at the same table family-style.
Word spreads about the homey atmosphere and the good food at your café and in 1935 Governor Ruby Laffoon gives you the title “Kentucky Colonel.”
Your restaurant flourishes and in 1950 you add another herb to your chicken recipe which you’ve never used before. You know that now you finally have the perfect combination of eleven spices and herbs.
In 1956, however, a new highway is built which bypasses the whole city of Corbin which drastically reduces your restaurant’s customer traffic. You end up having to auction off your property to pay your debts, and at the age of sixty-five, you’re virtually broke.
For two years, you travel the country cooking batches of chicken for restaurant owners and their employees using your secret recipe, but no one is interested in buying franchises for your chicken.
Your secret recipe is rejected 1,009 times, but you refuse to give up. By 1960, all your hard work begins to pay off and you have sold 400 franchises in the United States. And by 1964 there are more than 600 franchises.
By 1979, there are 6000 KFC restaurants worldwide with sales of more than $2 billion annually and today KFC has more than nine thousand KFC restaurants in eighty-six countries. And you are remembered as a man of vision and imagination who created a fast-food empire which symbolizes quality in the food industry.
“Feed the poor and get rich or feed the rich and get poor.”
Colonel Sanders (1890-1980)
For More about Colonel Sanders:
Giving Back: Colonel Sanders believed strongly in “giving back” and helping others and established the Harland Sanders Charitable Foundation which continues to donate generously to innumerable charitable organizations from churches to hospitals to colleges.
Did You Know that the Colonel’s secret recipe for his KFC chicken is kept in a safe in Louisville, KY, and that security precautions protecting the recipe would make even James Bond proud?
Something to Think about: Why do you think Colonel Sanders never gave up believing in his recipe even after hundreds of people rejected it?
Willoughby and I hope you enjoyed this week’s true story and will be back next week for another story to inspire you to DARE TO DREAM BIG!