9The Forgotten Penney

I resolved to stop accumulating and begin the infinitely more serious and difficult task of wise distribution.

—Andrew Carnegie

1902. A small town in Wyoming with a population of only 3,000. They were mostly miners. They made little money, and what money they did get was infamously spent in all the wrong places.

There were 22 saloons in this small town, willing to take the miner's hard-earned money on credit. This town showed little opportunity to the eyes of an entrepreneur. Yet, one aspiring entrepreneur had a passionate vision for his town, despite all the cards stacked against him.

Mr. Penney was a deeply religious man, raised by a Baptist preacher who taught him self-reliance as a young child. When he was eight, his father told him he would have to earn his own money for anything he wanted. Self-reliance was etched into him from an early age. This strict upbringing and early training in self-reliance made him sensitive to the needs of others.

As an adult, he was poor himself, with a wife and child to feed. But he had a mission. He wanted to open a store selling clothing at a discount, so that the people of his town could afford the quality clothing they deserved. No one believed he could pull it off. Every business owner, banker, and most of his family and friends questioned his sanity. On paper, his chances for success were dismal.

But this was his passion, and he used this self-reliant determination to take himself as far as he could go, whether ...

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