Milton Hershey is a pleasant name to any chocolate lover. While most people enjoy the fruits of his labor, they are probably not aware of his rough childhood and the long road of failure he walked before his sweet success.
As a child, Milton’s unhealthy home situation forced him to grow up quickly. His father was lazy and eagerly followed the latest get rich quick schemes. Milton had to fill his father’s shoes by picking up the slack around the family farm.
When Milton was a young teen, his father made him an apprentice with a printer. Luckily for us chocolate lovers, he hated the printing business. Mrs. Hershey was sensitive to her son’s real talents. She found him a new apprenticeship at a candy store. Even though it was a challenging job, Milton thrived and soaked up all the tricks his boss could teach him.
The hard work ethic Milton possessed as a teenager propelled him into his career. He completed his candy training by age eighteen and promptly started his own business.
Despite his skill and relentless work ethic, Milton barely got started before his business crashed down around him. Many sleepless nights of work seemed to be in vain. He started twice more, but his business utterly failed.
A discouraged Milton Hershey took a break from candy making. He traveled to Colorado and discovered a special technique for making caramel while out there. When he went back to the east coast of the United States he finally struck success in the caramel industry with his special recipe.
Things were looking up, but this was just the beginning.
During this time Milton explored another business venture. Delicious milk chocolate was extremely rare in the 1800’s. It would usually turn out gritty. Milton’s relentless nature drove him to experiment with milk chocolate recipes in hopes of making a smooth, yummy milk chocolate. Eventually he discovered a successful recipe and was able to sell his caramel business and fully pursue the milk chocolate business.
The rest is history. His business boomed. He built a whole town around his chocolate factory for all his workers to live in. He was truly the chocolate king! Thankfully, Milton Hershey remembered his own humble beginnings and provided opportunities for people who were financially disadvantaged. He had a special place in his heart for young boys, who, like him, did not have a stable father figure in their life. Thus, Milton created a home for young boys where they would receive vocational training, education, and loving house parents to teach Biblical values.
He was known for treating his employees with respect and care, striving to create a positive living and work environment. When Milton was constructing the town around his factory, he insisted that each home should have a different design. His orders were disregarded and the builders started to make all the houses the same. Milton forced them to tear down the homes and start over. He wanted his employees to have both a comfortable and unique place to call home. He used his influence and money to treat others well.
What can we learn from Milton Hershey’s life?
Many things, but the whole point of this story is not actually about Milton Hershey or chocolate. It is about a principle that Milton applied early in his life. Milton took his confectionery training as a teen very seriously. If he had not started his training and career as a teenager and young adult, he may have never succeeded later in life. Furthermore, Milton needed years of trial and error before he found success. We will need trial and error time too, and the sooner we start the better.
We may or may not accomplish something monumental as a teen, but that is not the real issue. The training we are receiving now will serve as stepping stones and even bridges for future opportunities. Being a student is a unique and short lived period in our lives. Milton Hershey probably never dreamed that his apprenticeship would turn into a whole town for his booming business. As the Bible puts it, “and let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” – Galatians 6:9
Picture credit: The Famous People