Wednesday, September 26, 2012

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.

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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 ~

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