Motivation Others

Failed 1009 times but never gave up on his idea

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is an American fast food restaurant chain headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky that specializes in fried chicken. It is the world’s second-largest restaurant chain after McDonald’s with branches in more than 150 countries as of 2020. The chain is the subsidiary of Yums! Brand. KFC was founded by Colonel Harland Sanders in 1952. He has seen many failures in his life before getting his company to this stage. He became a professional chef at the age of 40, did his first KFC franchise at the age of 62 and became an icon at the age of 75. His success story is an inspiration for many and showcases that age is just a number to prove yourself and your talent.   

Harland Sanders was born on 9th September, 1890 in Henryville, Indiana. Father’s name was David Sanders and Mother’s name was Margaret Sanders. His siblings were one younger brother Clarence Sanders and one younger sister Catherine Sanders. Harland’s father died in 1895 due to high fever and Harland was only 5 years old then. His mother had to work to earn a living, so she started working in a factory and Harland, though being only 5 years old, had got the responsibility of his siblings. At the age of 7 he learnt cooking to fill his siblings’ stomach in the absence of his mother. The passion of cooking aroused in a very young age and cooking chicken was his favourite food.  

His mother married William Broaddus in 1902 and as a result the entire family had to shift to Greenwood in Indiana. Harland had a boisterous relationship with his step-father and he decided to leave his home and started living in a farm where he also worked. Seventh grade was the last that he studied as he left home and could earn only to fill his stomach. Later he took up the job of painting horse carriages in Indianapolis where his uncle used to live. After that he did various kinds of jobs and never stuck up to one because of his impatience, lack of self-control, bullheaded behaviour and a self-righteous lack of diplomacy. There is not a single type of job that Sanders had not tried, he also practiced law for three years. 

In 1930, Sanders opened a gas station on America’s Route 25 for the Shell Oil Company. The station was on the highway and he did not have continuous customers so after a few days he started selling fried chicken, country ham and steaks with six tables. His food was liked by many people and travellers. In 1935, the Governor Ruby Laffon gave Harland Sanders the honorary title of Colonel in recognition of his contributions to the state’s cuisine. Since then he was called Colonel Harland Sanders. He expanded his restaurant to 142 seats and added a motel in 1937 and named the entire business as “Sander’s Court and Café”

He used to cook the chicken in the frying pan and it took almost 35 minutes to cook each chicken which made the customers wait after placing their orders. Sanders was unhappy with this and wanted to change his method of cooking. He refused to deep fry the chicken as it would reduce the taste of the chicken. Then in 1939, the first commercial pressure cooker was released in the market which Sanders modified into a pressure fryer.

Though Sanders saw many failures, he never stopped believing in himself and his recipe. He knew that his recipe was different and also that it was a dish that could reach out to many people in no time.  

After so many jobs and a motel business, Sanders had finalized his “Original Recipe” of ‘11 herbs and spices’ by 1940 in his Sander’s Café. After finalizing his recipe, as he had always thought of a bigger picture about his food, he first sold  his property that is his Sander’s court and café and with the money he got, he set his way towards the United States where he thought of franchising his recipes to the restaurant owners. He used to sleep in his car during this journey to save money and travelled from one state to another so that he could franchise his recipe. He was rejected by 1009 restaurant owners, who did not want to put up his dish on their menu. Finally he got a franchiser, Peter Harman of South Salt Lake, Utah who ran one of the city’s largest restaurants. Including Sanders’s dish on Harman’s menu was a great thing for him as it differentiated his restaurant from his competitors. 

After Harman’s success, Sanders managed to sell his recipe to many independent restaurant owners. They would pay him five cents on each chicken as a franchise fee, they would include his dish on their menu and use Sanders’s name and likeliness for promotional purposes. 

Harman had hired Don Anderson who was a sign painter and devised the name “Kentucky Fried Chicken” and Harman trademarked the phrase “It’s finger lickin’ good” in 1963 which later on became the Company’s slogan. In 1962 Sanders had got the patent to protect this method of pressure frying chicken.  

In 1964, Sanders had turned 73 years old and he sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken Corporation for $2 million then to a partnership of Kentucky businessmen headed by John Y Brown Jr. Sanders became a salaried brand ambassador to that company.  Slowly the company expanded and became popular worldwide.   

Though Sanders saw success much later in his life, it was worth all his hard work and efforts. He did sell his company to other investors but always remained as an ambassador and promoted his products worldwide. He had estimated a certain success that his product and company should reach before his death at the age of 90, and that estimation too was right where the company had franchised in many countries worldwide and also had amazing turnovers annually. 

In 1980 he was diagnosed with acute leukemia and on December 16th, 1980 he died in Louisville Jewish Hospital of Pneumonia at the age of 90 and he was active in promoting and representing his company until one month before his death. He has been an inspiration to many to fulfill their dreams in spite of their age and other boundaries which are stopping them.  


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