One of my greatest role models for how to be “Atypical” with your money is Mr. Milton S. Hershey, the founder of The Hershey Company. He was truly a forward thinking entrepreneur and really wanted to bless people with his money.

Milton Hershey was born in 1857 to Henry and Veronica “Fanny” Hershey on a family farmstead built by Milton’s great-grandparents. His education was very limited from an early age due to his family moving so much because of his father’s unsuccessful business pursuits. The Hershey Company website states that in eight years of school he went to seven different schools. Not exactly a great way to get educated. As we will see, Hershey’s trouble getting an education will greatly impact how he conducts himself in business and philanthropy.

When Hershey was 14 years old his mother was able to get him an apprenticeship with a confectioner in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Hershey had a natural talent and affinity for confection making, and in four years he learned everything there was to know about the art.

Starting the Business

After several unsuccessful attempts at creating his own candy business, including moving to Colorado to learn the art of making caramels with fresh milk, Hershey returned to Lancaster in 1886. It was there he started the Lancaster Caramel Company. Using the methods he learned while in Colorado, he was able to secure a large order from a British candy importer who offered to market his candy overseas. Hershey took this order to the bank to convince them to finance his need to expand. In four short years, he became one of the leading producers of caramel in the United States.

In 1893, Hershey would travel to the Columbian exposition in Chicago. It is here where he discovered how chocolate was made. He was convinced that this was the future of confection making. Hershey subsequently bought all of the equipment being used at the expo, had it shipped to his caramel factory in Pennsylvania and began making chocolate. He would take the next few years to perfect his recipe for milk chocolate. By the year 1900, the milk chocolate would be so successful that Hershey would sell his caramel company to focus on chocolate for the sum of $1 million dollars. That is a HUGE amount of money in 1900!

The Start of Being “Atypical”

In 1898, Hershey would marry his wife, Catherine. Unfortunately, for them, they could never have children, something that would also shape the way Hershey did business. This is where he would start to be “Atypical.”

Hershey moved his Hershey Chocolate Company back to his hometown of Derry Township in Pennsylvania. The area was surrounded by dairy farms and would be the perfect place for a milk chocolate factory. Hershey, however, did not stop there.

With his forward thinking, he figured out that a worker who is well compensated and treated fairly would perform best. He set out to build an entire town where he could take care of his employees and their families. In this town, he built homes, churches, parks, recreational facilities, and a trolley system that would connect the town to others. The sole purpose of this town was to provide for the welfare of his employees. Incredible!

Over time Hershey added an amusement park, a community building, a convention hall, a swimming pool and tons of schools. In 1909, he started the Hershey Industrial School for orphan boys. It would eventually expand to include girls as well.

The name of the town? I’m sure you’ve all heard it: Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Everything that Hershey himself founded, plus more, is still going strong in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

The Icing on the Cake

Hershey always kept his lack of education close to his heart. It was an honor to him to use HIS money to provide an education for all of those orphan boys. It was a privilege for him to provide affordable housing and a complete town(!) for his employees. Before he died he founded the M.S. Hershey Foundation and The Hershey Trust Company, both of which together fund the bulk of the non-profit operations of The Hershey Company. My favorite part is this, though. This is taken straight from The Hershey Company website.

“The death of his wife in 1915 prompted Milton Hershey to turn his attention to the school he always credited as being ‘Kitty’s idea.’ In the midst of World War I and with no publicity, he transferred the bulk of his wealth, consisting of $60 million in Hershey Chocolate Company stock and other assets, to the School Trust.” (Emphasis added and not found in original)

That is incredible! To fund his dream of helping others he gave ALMOST ALL of his wealth to the School Trust. And he did it behind the scenes instead of for publicity. It was from his heart, not for a PR stunt. What a legacy! The website goes on to say that the original funding by Hershey has grown to more than $6 billion.

Here we have one of the most successful men in the USA at that time deciding to give almost all of it away. What a role model for money! I assume he kept what he needed to live off of and continue to fund his dreams of changing the world, but he gave $60 million away! $60 million is a lot of money today, imagine what it was like to get that much in the early 1900’s.

Milton Hershey is one of my biggest influences and role models in finance. What are you influences?

Note: A special thank you to The Hershey Company and all of the information on their website. If you would like to find out more about Milton Hershey than what was presented in this article, I encourage you to go to the official website of The Hershey Company.

Also, did you know there is a thank you note on the back of every Hershey Chocolate Bar? Pretty cool! 😉