Milton S. Hershey was raised in a Mennonite family and moved often which meant that he only had a 4th grade education. But a lack of formal education didn’t stop him, in his teens he studied as an apprentice at a candy factory for four years. Finally, at the age of 18 he opened his first candy store in Philadelphia. For six years he worked hard to make the store at success, but despite his best efforts the store failed and he was forced to file bankruptcy.
With the help of bankruptcy, his few remaining assets were protected, so Hershey tried his hand at the candy business again. This time he went bigger, opening stores in Chicago and New York, both monumental failures. Unable to make a profit and falling deeper into debt, in only a few short years he was forced to file bankruptcy for a second time.
Two bankruptcy filings might discourage the average man or woman, but not Hershey. Instead of giving up, he doubled down, and revisited his strategy. Since bankruptcy had protected his basic assets from creditor seizure, he was free to venture out one more time to build the candy business he had dreamed of. He learned to make caramel candies in 1883, and they were a hit. They earned him so much money that he was able to set his sights on building the Hershey chocolate brand that’s famous all over the world today.
It’s scary to ponder what would have happened to Hershey if he had not been allowed to file bankruptcy when he was still a young man. Where would he have ended up? Would he have wasted years (or decades) repaying high interest debt? Would he have fallen into poverty and stayed there? One thing’s for sure, it’s not likely Hershey would have built his chocolate empire without the help of bankruptcy.