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Looking Back 2 Move Forward: Brownie Wise, The Tupperware Queen

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Brownie realized that women who had been employed during World War II were now looking for a means to engage in business and earn money of their own.  She saw an opportunity and encouraged women to host parties and sell Tupperware, creating a sales staff that she supervised.

Brownie Wise wasn’t born into a wealth or opportunity, but through hard work and imagination she became the first woman ever featured on the cover of BusinessWeek.  Her father was a plumber when plumbers made minimal wages and her mother worked as a hat maker to supplement the family income.  Finances got worse when Brownie’s parents were divorced.  She dropped out of school after finishing 8th grade and began traveling with her mother who had become an organizer for the hat-makers union.  Brownie was an extrovert and at 14, she was giving speeches to attract union members.

Brownie married at 23 and experienced serious problems with her alcoholic husband.  The marriage ended, and at 29, Brownie was seeking a means to support a 3-year-old son with health problems.  She worked various jobs and began supplementing her income working for the Stanley Home Products line.  Being an extrovert, Brownie was successful at selling the products at “home parties” and eventually gave up her day job.  Ever alert for expansion, Brownie paid attention when she learned about Tupperware being sold in a local department store.  She investigated the product and incorporated it into her sales parties.

Brownie realized that women who had been employed during World War II were now looking for a means to engage in business and earn money of their own.  She saw an opportunity and encouraged women to host parties and sell Tupperware, creating a sales staff that she supervised.


Stories differ on whether Brownie contacted Earl Tupper or he got in touch with her, but he hired her to supervise marketing of Tupperware, and the credit for the success of the Tupperware company is due to Brownie’s efforts.  Tupper gave Brownie the funding that she needed to expand the Tupperware sales force and home parties nationally.  Brownie’s genius was to take a product that was useful, offer a business opportunity and wrap it up in a stimulating social life – what better way to make a living than in a social setting with games, food, and drinks.  It worked.  She made Tupperware a household name and herself too.

 

Stories also differ on how Brownie came to leave the Tupperware organization.  Some claim that Tupper didn’t like her style of marketing – the convention parties were undignified –one theory is that he resented the expense of the convention parties – most believable is that Tupper was jealous that Brownie was getting more attention than he was for his invention.  At any rate, Brownie Wise left Tupperware, the company she helped to build, without owning any stock or any sort of golden parachute.  She was given a year’s salary.


On her own, Brownie attempted to start a cosmetic line, using the same sales techniques, but she didn’t have the financial backing she needed to succeed in a big way.  She also wrote a book:  How To Put Your Wishes To Work.  Most important, she left a legacy that Mary Kay, Avon and many other companies were able to apply.

 

Lessons learned:  Hard work pays off.  Pragmatics (money) and emotion (fun) are a powerful combination.  And, always make your best deal – Brownie forgot to establish financial protection for herself as she built someone else’s company.

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This guest post is part of a feature series courtesy of Alana Cash entitled “Looking Back 2 Move Forward.”  She is an author and award-winning filmmaker who was lucky enough to know Irving Mills during the last years of his life.  www.alanacash.com

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About Gresham Harkless Jr.

Gresham Harkless is a Media Consultant for Blue 16 Media and the Blogger-in-Chief for CEO Blog Nation. CEO Blog Nation is a community of blogs for entrepreneurs and business owners. Started in much the same way as most small businesses, CEO Blog Nation captures the essence of entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to have a voice. CEO Blog Nation provides news, information, events and even startup business tips for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners to succeed.
  • Sephora

    Excellent article. Thank you for sharing

  • Sephora

    Excellent article. Thank you for sharing

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