Greatest Consumer Good Entrepreneurs of All Time

UPDATED: May 6, 2008
PUBLISHED: May 6, 2008

Estée Lauder 1908-2004 It’s not that the queen of cosmetics, Estée Lauder, didn’t trust others to do the dirty work; she just loved her company so much she insisted on getting her hands dirty with every little detail. Starting with skin creams concocted by her chemist uncle, she sold the products at beauty shops and resorts, worked the major department stores until Saks Fifth Avenue gave her counter space, and she kept on selling. Known to visit her cosmetics counters herself, Lauder would school sales staffs in giving customers personal attention and a gift. Her gifts—chic cosmetic bags full of samples—were brilliant innovations that continue in popularity. 

Quote: "Put the product into the customer's hands, it will speak for itself if it's something of quality."

Madam C.J. Walker 1867-1919 Madam C. J. Walker’s accomplishments as an inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist are nothing short of amazing, considering the time in which she lived and the short stack she was dealt. Born two years after the abolishment of slavery, Walker was orphaned, married, pregnant and widowed by 20. But her strong resolve kept her going—the entrepreneurial lesson of her success. With her hair-care products, Madam C. J. Walker blazed a new trail for black women. She not only offered products designed especially for black women at a time when most beauty products ignored their hair type, she also opened the door for other women to earn money selling her Walker Hair Care System.

With her million-dollar fortune—a rarity for a self-made woman, let alone a black woman—she contributed generously to schools and programs such as the YMCA and the NAACP. She’s been posthumously inducted in the National Business Hall of Fame and the National Women’s Hall of Fame. 

Quote: "If you recognize an unserved customer base, do something about it."

Asa Candler 1851-1929 Asa Candler saw the potential in a little tonic syrup mixed with water and baking soda and created the international phenomenon called Coca-Cola. Invented by pharmacist John Pemberton, Candler came up with the idea to premix the ingredients and bottled the drink for individual sale. Their little enterprise became one of the largest manufacturers, distributors and marketers of nonalcoholic beverages in the world, largely through their brilliant marketing and merchandising. From its first advertisements in the Saturday Evening Post to its introduction of plastic soft drink bottles, Coca-Cola under Candler’s influence is a key example of what works in effective marketing.

Quote: "Aggressive marketing, unique brands and stylish packaging go a long way."

W.K. Kellogg 1860-1951 Before it graced American breakfast tables, W.K. Kellogg’s Corn Flakes cereal was served as a fiber-rich health food at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a holistic healing facility in western Michigan. While Kellogg created the first toasted wheat flake cereal, his entrepreneurial strength lay in his marketing and advertising prowess. Despite copycat cereals popping up in the marketplace (C.W. Post launched his own cereal company after staying at the sanitarium), Kellogg differentiated his product with a clever slogan: “Beware of Imitations. None Genuine Without This Signature, W.K. Kellogg.”

Quote: "Don't let anybody copy your process." (Referring to C.W. Post)

Milton Hershey 1857-1945 Milton Hershey offered the masses what had once been a luxury for the rich—a sweet, decadent enjoyment anyone could afford—called the Hershey milk chocolate candy bar. He used modern machinery to mass produce products at a lower cost than producing them by hand. He believed the most productive workers were those who earned a real, living wage so they, too, could afford to buy the products they helped produce.

But Hershey didn’t just build a company, he built a town—with tree-lined streets of single- and two-family brick neighborhoods, quality public school systems, inexpensive public transportation, and attractive parks and recreation. Hershey and his wife poured their fortune into philanthropic foundations to provide educational and cultural opportunities for local residents. In 1918, Hershey endowed what is known today as the Milton Hershey School with his entire fortune of Hershey company stock. Appropriately, the town was renamed from Derry Township to Hershey, Pa., and remains a popular tourist attraction.

Quote: "Give them quality. That's the best kind of advertising in the world."

Eberhard Anheuser 1805-1880 Adolphus Busch 1839-1913 Until Eberhard Anheuser and his son-in-law Adolphus Busch envisioned brewing a national beer, most breweries of the day operated only locally. To ship the beer cross-country, the two brewers introduced technical developments to make the feat possible. In the 1870s, Anheuser-Busch was the first American brewery to introduce pasteurization, allowing beer to be bottled and shipped to new markets for consumption. It later introduced artificial refrigeration and refrigerated rail cars to distribute the beer cold from the brewery. With these innovations, Anheuser and Busch forever shaped the alcoholic beverage industry in the United States, and is today responsible for about half of U.S. beer sales.

Quote: "Large-scale production and mass-marketing are meaningless without careful quality control."

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