Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams
By Michael D'Antonio
Milton S. Hershey spent most of his life failing. He quit school. He started working at the local candy shop (because his mom forced him to, and it was the only way to meet girls!). Milton quit that. He started making candy and failed. He started making caramels and after a small success- he failed. He moved out west with his caramel recipe and failed out there. Milton moved to Chicago and failed. He spent every day observing how the wold fair confectioners worked. After the fair came down he bought all of their equipment and shipped it back East. After he came back East, Milton failed again. Pretty soon, he sold all of his equipment. He started making chocolate with a small success. He bought new equipment, hired a team, built a factory and after the initial boom- there wasn't enough demand so Milton fired everyone and sold his equipment. Milton S. Hershey never gave up; he went bankrupt several times; his family stopped giving him loans; his family even stopped believing in him.
It wasn't until he heard that the Cadbury Family was mixing milk into their chocolates, that he tried that. He combined his caramel and candy making skills into a new milk chocolate product. Milton created something wonderful! It was so wonderful in fact that someone overseas wanted a couple hundred of these chocolate bars. After pleading with his family and the bank- no one would give him money. He happened to go to the bank again- for one last plea. It just so happened to be at a time when the manager wasn't there, the new bank teller approved the loan and gave Milton the money. (Later the bank teller got in trouble with his manager.) With this loan, Milton bought equipment, made the chocolate bars, sent them off and SUCCESS!
It all went uphill from here. Milton's business took off, he created a school for orphan boys, and created a small (which later turned into a very large) community to support his business. Throughout all of Milton's successes he was always willing to give back to the community. He even invested all of the business's stock into the school stock so that if the business went under, the school would remain steady. He made quite a name for himself and his chocolate business just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Even when the country was rationing sugar because of the war- the US Military gave Hershey a sugar stipend to continue making his chocolate for the soldiers. Chocolate not only boosted the soldiers' morale, but it reminded them of home. This turned the Hershey bar into a classic American icon. Same thing happened to the Coca-Cola company. After Coca-Cola was shipped overseas, they decided to create factories worldwide. Hershey remained tied to Pennsylvania and did not want to follow in Coca-Cola's footsteps in this way.
Hershey had ties or connections with a lot of other big names throughout this time period. His biggest rival was Wrigley. And thankfully, Hershey did not invest in the Wrigley Company, nor in baseball. He did buy smaller candy companies and there was an interesting disagreement on which candies E.T should eat in the movie (between M&M and Reese's). Reese's ended up winning and Hershey received the benefit. Hershey was constantly looking to the Cadbury Company to see what they do, what they added to their chocolate, and how their community ran.
Milton Hershey never gave up. He was 80 years old and still experimenting with chocolate, trying to find new products. He even tried to make chocolate healthier by combining vegetables- broccoli chocolate. Even after all of his failure throughout his life- he kept trying to perfect his business. He died a very humble billionaire. The last 100 pages deal with the politics surrounding his estate, Hershey Park, the school and the business after Milton's death.
One of my favorite parts is that during the beginning of his success, Hershey was so overwhelmed because he was trying to do everything well. After he realized that he cannot do everything well, he downsized to do a few things perfectly. It was during this time that he perfected the little chocolate Hershey Kiss. The Kiss was something that everyone could afford and convenience stores could buy it by the thousands.