Today: How a sideline business turned Fred Morrison into a multi-millionaire.
The year was 1937 and 17 year old Fred Morrison and his future wife Lu were having fun tossing a popcorn can lid back and forth during a party. After the lid got dented, the couple switched to a metal cake pan, which held up better.
The next year, they were tossing a cake pan back and forth on the beach in Santa Monica when someone who was watching the fun they were having offered them 25 cents for the pan.
As the pan cost his mother just 5 cents, Fred knew instantly there was a potential business here if they could sell a lot more cake pans to people who wanted to play with them then and there.
Soon he and Lu were regularly tossing cake pans at beaches, parks and fairgrounds, any place people gathered to have fun. Selling pans turned into a profitable little business.
The money kept flowing in after the couple got married in 1939, and continued until Fred went off to World War ll. There he became a fighter pilot for the U.S. Army Air Force.
Then tragedy struck. Fred was shot down over Italy and could have been killed. But he survived and spent the rest of the War as a POW.
As a pilot Fred studied aerodynamics, and after the War, he began designing and building better flying discs than his mother’s cake pans.
But flying discs didn’t pay the bills so Fred became a carpenter in Southern California’s booming home building industry. Yet Fred never let go of the disc idea.
In 1948, he and a partner, Warren Franscioni, produced Flyin – Saucer, the original plastic flying disc. They spent their money producing them in quantity hoping to sell a ton of them.
But the sales never materialized and after a considerable effort and the heartbreak of failure, the men took their losses and went their separate ways.
Fred refused to give-up and in 1955; he produced a better disc, the Pluto Platter. For the next two years, he worked hard to market it but it didn’t sell and once again his losses mounted.
So in 1957, 20 years after Fred and Lu first tossed their popcorn lid, and many dollars spent and hours invested in trying to sell his disc, in frustration he threw up his hands and licensed the rights to it to a small toy company in Emeryville, California, Wham-O.
Until then, Wham-O’s best selling product had been a sling-shot. But they saw potential in Fred’s disc and to make it easier to sell, they changed the name, selecting one from a Connecticut pie company whose tins were being tossed around by Yale students.
Taken from the Frisbie Pie Company, the disc became a Frisbee. With aggressive marketing and some design improvements by Ed Headrick, a Wham-O employee, disc sales skyrocketed.
And they’ve never stopped. To date, Wham-O has sold over 200 million Frisbees worldwide and they keep right on selling.
Fred, who recently passed away at 90, long hated the Frisbee name, calling it “a horror,” but after he cashed his first few million dollars in royalty checks, he changed his mind and came to love it.
Success Tip of the Week:
If you have a good idea and it hasn’t gotten off the ground, don’t give-up. It took Fred over 20 years before his disc took off. My bad puns aside, think persistence and give it your best effort as he did, and you too may one day have great success.
In the next KazanToday:
How Glen Bell started Taco Bell with just $4,000.