Skip to main content

Seizing Opportunity: Gerber Legendary Blades

A set of Gerber-12 steak knives circa 1950. 
Source:  houseinprogress
You might think this is the story of a struggling knife maker making it big through sheer dint of effort.  The story of Gerber Legendary Blades is one of serendipity and the Christmas of 1939.  The name Gerber in hometown Portland, Oregon, is often associated with the regional advertising agency started by Joseph Gerber in 1910.  The agency dealt in advertising, which in those days required the agency have their own printing presses in addition to the standard staff of writers, artists and account managers.  By 1939, Gerber Advertising was one of three large agencies in Portland, with a staff of around thirty employees.

As a present to the agency's clients, Joseph Gerber, commissioned a knife maker to create 25 sets of steak knives which were delivered at Christmas that year.  The knives were such a hit that catalog retailer Abercrombie & Fitch made a big order - from Mr. Gerber and his advertising agency. 
The progression of the Gerber Legendary Blades' logo.

Not one to miss an opportunity, Gerber immediately started Gerber Legendary Blades, and, well, the rest is history.  Gerber continued to run his ad agency, and ran the cutlery company as well.  By 1960, Gerber was one of the most trusted and collected names in knives, and was the second largest firm in their industry.  Finally, Gerber turned the running of the ad agency over to "Duke" Wieden, father of Wieden+Kennedy advertising giant, Dan Wieden, and focused entirely on the knife company.

Today, Gerber Legendary Blades, is a part of the Finnish firm Fiskars.  How large is Gerber Blades?  It was always privately held until the sale to Fiskars in 1987, but a report in 2003 reported a company with over 300 employees and over $100,000,000 in sales.

Gerber advertising still exists in Portland, 102 years later, as part of Gard Strang Edwards & Aldridge since 1997.  It's interesting to note that Gerber Legendary Blades current advertising agency is Sasquatch Advertising, also of Portland, and not the agency that gave them a start so many years ago.

The moral of the story is to be open to opportunity.  If Gerber had said, "we're an advertising agency, we don't make knives", a solid company with a strong future would never have been built, and 300 or more families would be out of a job today.

*  *  *  *  *

The Entrepreneur's Bookshelf ~
The more you know about small business management and financing before you start, the more likely you are to succeed.  That's why I urge anyone thinking of starting a business to contact their local Small Business Development Center or Community College.  I have also organized this bookshelf for you at Powell's Books, the world's largest single site new and used bookstore, featuring the latest books on small business start-ups, marketing, and small business money management.   
A Selection Related to this Post:

Click on this link to see all the selections on ~

* * * * *


Popular posts from this blog

Earn a Living Shining Shoes. . . Really

Earning a Living as a Bootblack
Can someone make a living shining shoes in today's economy?  At on time there shoe shine boys as they were called were found on street corners across the country, thousands of them.  Many were from poor families and worked to help support themselves and their families.  Today, I found three established shoe shine stands in downtown Seattle, plus two bootblacks, the traditional name of those who shine shoes, working on the streets of Seattle.

Meet George Johnson, age 74 on October 20th, a self-employed operator of a shoe shine stand in downtown Seattle's Rainier Place.  George has been shining shoes for the last sixty years, starting in Arkansas and ending up some thirty years ago at the Washington Athletic club a few blocks from his current location.
"Sixty years," I asked him the day we met.  "You ever think of retiring?"

"Gonna work until I can't do it no more," he replied.  "I don't even think about i…

The Facts of the Small Business Survival Rate

Back thirty years ago when I first wrote about small business, a hoary and horrible statistic was bandied about, even by some of the most experienced entrepreneurial pros: "80% of new businesses fail in their first five years." 

This "statistic" has appeared in more places than you can imagine, from the leading small business magazines, books, presentations by employees of SBDCs, the SBA, SCORE, Chambers of Commerce, even professors on the college level - who should know better than to quote un-sourced numbers.  It still shows up in small-business blogs today.

For some years, I searched for a source of that statisitic.  Never found where that number came from, leading me to believe that some self-appointed expert made it up.  To quote a character from the popular television show, M*A*S*H, "Horsepucky." 

Here is the truth about the survival rate of new start up businesses in the U.S. economy from two unimpeachable sources, The Marion Ewing Kauffman Foundati…

The Seven Characteristics of the Creative Employee.

How to Find Good Employees:

On my post of February 18th of this year, we talked about the role of managing stupidity in the success of any organization.  "Stupidity Management" refers to the real need of a business to know the difference between routine tasks that must be completed by rote and those tasks that require innovation and fresh thinking.  

Every business has a need for discipline in tasks that must be performed the same way, each and every time.

Every business has a need to creative thinking and fresh ideas on certain other tasks or problems, just not every task of problem.  

The Hunt for the Creative Individual
There are certain jobs in every organization where you, the owner, need original thinking.  Or perhaps you're running a business that lives off original thinkers.  An advertising agency is a business where the company's assets walk out the door every day at five (ish).

Professor Øyvind L. Martinsen at BI Norwegian Business School has conducted a study to…