Saturday, January 30, 2016

How a Single Mom Created a Plastic Food-Storage Empire

How a Single Mom Created a Plastic Food-Storage Empire

 Jen Doll, the mag

 This story originally appeared in print in the November 2014 issue of mental_floss magazine. Subscribe to our print edition here, and our iPad edition here. On an unseasonably warm day in April 1954, hundreds of women in cowboy hats gathered outside Tupperware’s Florida headquarters to dig for buried treasure. There, in a nearby swampy area dubbed the “Forest of Spades,” 600 shovels stood at the ready. The excitement was palpable. At the appointed signal, the women raced for the roped-off soil, grabbed shovels, and began to hunt frantically for loot.

 It was the pinnacle of the inaugural Tupperware Jubilee, a five-day, gold-rush-themed affair celebrating all things Tupperware. No expense was spared: To give the event a Western feel, frontier-style buildings with false fronts had been erected and bulls and horses were trucked in. The women, and a smattering of men, had traveled from all across the country to participate. A collection of Tupperware dealers, distributors, and sales managers, they made the pilgrimage for the motivational speeches, sales instruction, and especially for the bizarre bonding rituals.

 For five hours that day, they prospected for mink stoles and freezer units, gold watches and diamond rings. One of them, Fay Maccalupo of Buffalo, New York, dug up a toy car. When she saw the real Ford it represented, she planted her face against the hood and began to weep, repeating, “I love everybody.” Four women fainted and had to be revived with smelling salts. It was understandable, considering that the total cash value of all the prizes buried in the Florida dirt was $75,000.

 Presiding over the treasure hunt was the general sales manager of the Tupperware Home Parties division, a 40-year-old woman named Brownie Wise. For hours, she cheered on the ladies from a loudspeaker with an air of royalty. As she watched them hop on shovels and unearth the rewards of their labors, she couldn’t help but feel proud. Wise took satisfaction in seeing her hard work pay off—once again. The jubilee, which she had organized, had all the pizzazz and spirit expected of an official Tupperware event. The media agreed: Network news was there to cover it, and Life magazine ran a photo essay highlighting the excitement and glamour.

 Clearly, there’s more to Tupperware than leftovers. The story of the ubiquitous plastic container is a story of innovation and reinvention: how a new kind of plastic, made from an industrial waste material, ended up a symbol of female empowerment. The product ushered women into the workforce, encouraging them to make their own money, better their families, and win accolades and prizes without fear of being branded that 1950s anathema, “the career woman.”

 Digging in the dirt for a gold watch may not mesh with today’s concept of a successful working woman, but at the time, the near-religious fervor seen at the jubilees and other Tupperware gatherings demonstrated just how ground-breaking the company’s sales plan was—the product became a multimillion dollar success not by exploiting women, but by embracing and boosting them. All of this was because of Brownie Wise. The story of Tupperware is her story.

 Brownie Wise, named for her big, brown eyes, was born in rural Georgia. Her parents divorced when she was young, and as a teen she traveled with her mother, who organized union rallies. While touring the Deep South, Brownie started giving speeches at her mother’s rallies and soon proved to be a gifted and motivating orator. She “awed people,” writes Bob Kealing in his biography Tupperware Unsealed. “[They] were surprised that someone so young could deliver a speech like a pastor.”

 Wise was married briefly, but by 27, she was a divorced single mom in suburban Detroit. During World War II, she worked as a secretary at Bendix Aviation, a company that made parts for navy torpedo planes. It was a decent but unfulfilling job. On the side, Wise penned an advice column for the Detroit News, writing under the alter ego “Hibiscus.” A housewife who led an idyllic life with her child and husband in a home called “Lovehaven,” Hibiscus had everything Wise did not. But what Wise did possess was an endless fountain of determination. As she wrote in a journal at that time, “I wanted to be a successful human being.”

 It all started with a bad door-to-door salesman. When a Stanley Home Products salesman knocked on her door and proceeded to deliver a terrible sales pitch for cleaning supplies, Wise scoffed that she could do better. At the time, Stanley was experimenting with a peculiar sales model: home parties. A New Hampshire mop salesman had watched his numbers fly through the roof after he invited a bunch of women over for a party that included a mop demonstration. The company encouraged other salesmen to try the strategy, but many of them delegated the party-hosting to their wives. Thinking it’d be a fun job on the side, Wise started selling Stanley products at parties too. Before long, she was making enough money to quit her job at Bendix.

 Wise was blessed with the gift of gab, and her special blend of folksy real talk and motherly encouragement helped her rise through Stanley’s ranks. Soon she was in management and hoping to ascend even higher. But those illusions were quashed at a meeting with Stanley head Frank Beveridge, who told Wise she’d never become an executive. Its halls were “no place for a woman,” he said. Wise returned home furious. The rejection lit a fire in her—she vowed that someday, somehow, she would prove Beveridge wrong.

 She didn’t know that the key to fulfilling this dream would be in plastic food-storage containers. Wise first glimpsed Tupperware at a sales meeting. One of her coworkers had seen the products gathering dust in a department store and decided to bring them in. At first, Wise didn’t think they were anything special. But when she accidentally knocked a Tupperware bowl off the table, she realized its full potential: Instead of breaking, it bounced.

 It seemed like magic. Tupperware was unlike any home product she’d seen before. It was attractive, coming in pastel colors and flexible shapes, almost like art. More importantly, it was functional—no other competing product even came close. Convinced of its potential, Wise traded in her Stanley brooms in 1949 and started throwing parties to sell Tupperware. What she didn’t intend, exactly, was to kindle a revolution.

The most amazing thing about Tupperware wasn’t that it extended the life of leftovers and a family’s budget, although it did both remarkably well. It was, above all, a career maker. When women came to one of Wise’s parties, they were more than just convinced to buy the product— Wise was such a charming host that she persuaded many buyers to also become Tupperware salespeople. The more parties Wise hosted, the more tricks she learned to convert women into Tupperware faithful. Putting people on waiting lists, for instance, made them more eager to buy, so she signed them up regardless of whether the product was available. She also discovered that throwing containers full of liquid across the room made customers reach straight for their checkbooks. Amassing more and more saleswomen, Wise encouraged her followers to do the same. By October 1949, she had 19 recruits, enough to move her supplies out of her house and into a larger warehouse. Driven by the idea of making money simply by throwing parties for friends and neighbors, the women in Wise’s workforce ballooned in number. Soon, other Tupperware parties were taking place across the country. Wise’s team in Detroit was selling more Tupperware than most department stores. This soon attracted the attention of the no-nonsense founder of the Tupperware Corporation, Earl Silas Tupper.

 Tupperware, true to its name, was Tupper’s masterpiece, and he was counting on it to make his dreams come true. Having grown up in a poor Massachusetts farm family, he had vowed to make a million dollars by the time he was 30. He hadn’t. He did have a host of esoteric inventions—among them, a fish-powered boat and no-drip ice cream cone—under his belt. But with a wife and family to support, he’d concentrated on a practical career in plastics, first at DuPont and then at a company of his own, which made parts for Jeeps and gas masks during World War II. When the war ended, Tupper decided to buy cheap surpluses left over from wartime manufacturing. He figured he’d be able to do something with them.

 That’s how he ended up with a glob of greasy black polyethylene, a smelly waste product left behind when metal is created from ore. Tupper took it and, after months of trial and error, wrangled the slag into submission, creating a light-weight plastic that refused to break. Tupper dubbed it “Poly-T,” and, taking inspiration from the way paint cans sealed, created a flexible container with a noiseless lid that snapped on. He called the box Tupperware. He patented the seal in 1949 and rolled out 14 products he called the “Millionaire Line.” The only problem? He couldn’t get anyone to buy it.

 At least not until Wise came along. Her sales record was remarkable—in 1949, she’d rung up $150,000 in orders and was offered a promotion: distribution rights to the entire state of Florida. In the spring of 1950, she moved south with her son, Jerry, and her mother. She found a store space, and by May she’d opened her business and was scouting for new salespeople.

 Still, not everything was going smoothly. Along with disputes over turf with other distributors, she was constantly contending with botched orders, shipping delays, and product shortages. In March of 1951, Wise had had enough. She called Tupper in a fury. It was the first time they’d spoken, but she was too livid for niceties; she ripped into him immediately. This was hurting not just her bottom line, but also his. Did he not understand how crucial it was that the problems be fixed immediately? Tupper assured her that he’d fix any issues and then asked a favor: He wanted to hear her sales secrets.

 The next month, the two met at a conference on Long Island and Wise explained her selling technique. It was pointless, she explained, to think that people would see Tupperware on store shelves or in catalogs and want to buy it. Instead, people had to touch it, squeeze it, drop it, seal it. They had to experience Tupperware from a trusted friend or neighbor. She gave a bold prescription for saving Tupper’s business: Ditch department stores altogether and focus entirely on throwing home parties.

 Tupper took the advice to heart. So much, in fact, that the day after their meeting, he created a new division just for home parties and asked Wise to be the general manager. Wise had reached her goal: She had become an executive. It was a perfect fit, too. She had a stellar track record—she was selling more Tupperware than anyone anywhere—and Tupper was bowled over by her charm. “You talk a lot and everybody listens,” he said.

 “She was the yin to Tupper’s yang,” Kealing writes. “Where he was fussy and reclusive, Wise lived to mingle with and inspire the dealer workforce.” They were a match made in sales heaven. Or so it seemed.

In 1952, the first full year of Wise’s watch, Tupperware sales rocketed. Wholesale orders exceeded $2 million. During the last half of the year, sales tripled. Tupperware parties did exactly what Wise promised they would, and she became the company’s shining star. That year, Tupper gave her a salary of $20,933.33, more than she had ever made. For her birthday in 1953, he presented her with a gold-dyed palomino horse. Even more remarkably, he gave her the freedom to do practically whatever she wanted. So Wise traveled the country recruiting, presiding over sales conferences, and announcing contests and doling out prizes for incentive—including, sometimes, her own clothes.

 By the looks of it, most of Wise’s Tupperware recruits fit neatly into the stereotypical role of a proper housewife. But, in reality, they surreptitiously represented a new kind of female empowerment. During World War II, many women had no choice but to enter the workforce. At its end, many of them had no choice but to leave it. Suddenly, selling Tupperware at parties allowed women to straddle both worlds. They were employed, yet they didn’t appear to challenge their husbands' authority or the status quo. This pioneering entrepreneurial model allowed them to inhabit a workforce outside of the one the hustling salesman inhabited, and, in many cases, to do even better than he did. And that power relied specifically on a network of female friends and neighbors.

 The parties weren’t just a way for women to keep occupied—it was a way they could contribute to their family’s bottom line. Most women who worked outside the home had low-paying jobs in fields like light manufacturing, retail, clerical work, and health and education. The money—committed dealers could bring in $100 or more per week—was a revelation. The opportunity for success was so great that the husbands of some Tupperware ladies left their own jobs to work with their wives.

 Wise was something of an early Oprah, giving away fantastic prizes, operating in a grass-roots, word-of-mouth fashion and showing rather than telling other women how to succeed in the comfort of their own homes. The fact that she made many women understand the benefits of becoming salespeople, building the brand further, simply made her a fantastic executive.

 Wise embraced the spirit of female entrepreneurship wholeheartedly. In her prime, she wrote a morale-boosting newsletter called Tupperware Sparks, published a primer called Tupperware Know-How, and had a 52-minute film, A Tupperware Home Party, made as a training tool. She even convinced Tupper to move the company headquarters to Florida. When Tupper bought property in Kissimmee, Wise turned it into a Mecca-like pilgrimage site for Tupperware devotees.

 Part of the power of Wise’s sales technique, which at times seemed more faith than business, was that it gave the impression that the sky was the limit, and it relied on collective power. This wasn’t just the traditional salesperson’s dog-eat-dog world: Instead, the group was a “family” that helped one another climb to the top. Women who had previously only had their names in print upon birth or marriage were being recognized for their success, with their names, photographs, and accomplishments appearing in Wise’s newsletters. Along with making their own money, they received rewards—top distributors got cars—and the chance to collaborate with other women in a friendly but competitive environment. Wise increased the fervor with her annual jubilees, which had their own rituals, like candlelit graduation ceremonies and group sing-alongs featuring choruses of “I’ve got that Tupper feeling deep in my heart.”

 “No woman got praised for scrubbing floors,” Elsie Mortland, who became Tupperware’s Home Kitchen Demonstrator, told Kealing in an interview in 2005. “But when they got praised for selling Tupperware, they had something to be proud of.”

 Wise was the head of the household, and the Tupperware ladies all wanted to be a part of her extended family. Success was limited only by how hard a person was willing to work, a belief that Wise preached passionately. Unfortunately, she had been duped into thinking her boss shared that opinion.

As Wise became the face of Tupperware, sales and press continued to skyrocket. In 1954, she was the first woman to appear on the cover of Business Week. But as glowing as the magazine’s profile was, it contained warning signs about the future of her partnership with Tupper. The piece credited Wise and her sales technique with Tupperware’s estimated $25 million in retail sales and seemed to downplay Tupper’s role as president of the company he had created.

 Tupper had never craved the spotlight; in fact, he was known to use the back door of his office to avoid attracting attention. But he was keen to ensure that his product, not an employee, received the lion’s share of any attention. And somewhere along the way, Wise had started to upstage the plastic containers she helped make famous. After the Business Week article, Tupper wrote a note to Wise that contained a glimmer of the storm that was to come: “However, good executive as you are, I still like best the pictures ... with TUPPERWARE!”

 The good press continued but, in 1955, after several powerful distributors left the company, sales began to lag. Hard times strained Wise and Tupper’s relationship. By 1956, angry letters were flying back and forth between them, and at one point, Tupper stopped taking Wise’s calls. Her complaints and frank criticisms, previously helpful, had become jabs he couldn’t endure. He also started to believe that she was costing him money, irked that she had her own side business selling self-help books at company events. More to the point, he started to suspect that if he tried selling the company—which he was planning to do—having a female executive would get in the way.

 Finally, in 1958, Tupper flew to Florida and fired Wise. After a heated legal battle, she received only $30,000 as a settlement. She didn’t own her house and was ordered to vacate. She had no stocks in the company; she didn’t even own many of the clothes she wore. The man she’d helped make a millionaire didn’t seem to care: Tupper ordered her name expunged from the company history and buried the 600 remaining copies of her book in an unmarked pit behind Tupperware’s Florida headquarters. Later that year, he sold the company to Rexall Drug for $16 million, divorced his wife, and bought an island in Central America. He died in Costa Rica in 1983. Wise, on the other hand, tried starting new companies but never achieved the same success she had with Tupperware. She led a quiet life with her horses, pottery, and her son until she died at her home in Kissimmee in 1992.

 Her influence, however, has not waned. Today, according to the PBS American Experience documentary Tupperware!, the product is sold in about 100 countries, while “every 2.5 seconds, a Tupperware party is held somewhere in the world.” In this respect, the Golden Age of Tupperware hasn’t ended so much as it has solidified. When was the last time you stored food in a plastic container with a sealing mechanism? Tupperware is so much a part of our food culture that we don’t even think about its continuing influence, and yet we still rely on it daily.

 This story is one of reinvention too: a useless plastic reimagined into something needed, of food being stored in wholly new ways, of women emerging from their kitchens to showcase their worth and proclaim their identities, of sales techniques evolving to embrace the customer, and of the singular character of Brownie Wise, who changed what it meant to be a woman in the workforce. Because of that, as Houston Post writer Napoleon Hill wrote in 1956, “It has been estimated that Brownie Wise has helped more women to financial success than any other single living person.” 

Early in Wise’s tenure at the company, Tupper presented her with a piece of the raw polyethylene he’d used to make Tupperware. She saw it as poetic proof of his vision: He had created something beautiful from this unappealing glob of plastic, using nothing but imagination and persistence. It was “the best sales story I have ever heard in all my life,” she wrote. She considered “Poly,” as Tupper called it, a prized possession and would have her women touch it for good luck, telling them, “Just get your fingers on it, wish for what you want. Know it’s going to come true, and then get out and work like everything ... and it will!”

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Woolzies Dryer Balls (Review & Giveaway)

I received a package of Woolzies Dryer Balls to review this week and I have to admit that I was skeptical at first.  I had heard of this product before, but I had not used them because I was very unsure if they would even work.  I do an average of three (3) loads of laundry every week.  Between the dogs and the ol'man things around here get pretty dirty.  I spend a lot of money each month trying to get the laundry to feel and smell like I want it too. Some fabric softeners smell wonderful while others soften better, so I am always giving up one quality for another.

The dryer balls:
Save time and energy by cutting down drying time
Help reduce static and wrinkles
PVC-free and won’t fall apart or melt
Hypo-allergenic and safe for those with sensitivities to wool
Last for hundreds and hundreds of loads (They claim 1000 loads!)

Woolzies are made of 100% Pure New Zealand Wool and are 100% safe for people with wool sensitivities.  You do not have to worry about them shredding in the dryer and getting all over your clothes.  

All you have to do is follow the directions.  Toss 6 or more Woolzies into the dryer with your clothes and start the dryer.  If your Woolzies lose their static reduction quality you can put them in a sock and run them through a wash cycle.  

It's that easy!  An added benefit that the Woolzies company does not tell you about is that the balls fluff up the laundry a little and you will find less tangled clothes in your dryer.  Woolzies does not leave a "fresh" scent on your cloths like a traditional fabric softener and I miss that, but they do take care of the static.  No more "crunching" noise when you pull the clothes out of the dryer. 

You can purchase a set of 6 Dryer Balls for $34.95 on the Woolzies website here. Or, thanks to the wonderful people at Woolzies, you can take your chances at winning a set from me in the Rafflecopter form below!  The giveaway will run from March 26, 2013 until April 17, 2013 at midnight.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Nana's Paradise received one or more of the products mentioned above for free for evaluation purposes.  Regardless, all opinions expressed and photographs shown are 100% my own.  Giveaway sponsor is responsible for shipping the prize to the winner.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Starting My First Garden

I have to admit that I have absolutely no idea what I am doing when it comes to gardening or planting flowers, but today I put some seeds in some dirt and watered them in hopes that I will have some fresh veggies this summer. I also started one pot of flowers just so I have something pretty to look at.

I started with the flowers.  I do not have any flower pots yet so I had to make my own out of a 2 liter bottle.  It was really easy and, according to my daughter, it works well.  Here are the steps:

Gather all of the supplies you are going to need to start your seeds.  I gathered newspaper, a bag of soil, a hand rake to break up the soil, egg cartons, scissors, a shoe lace, a 2 liter bottle, scissors, and a spray bottle of water.  I gathered all of my seeds so they were readily available as well.  

Cut the bottle in half. 

Poke a hole in the lid. 
Run a shoe string through the hole. 

Put the lid back on the bottle top leaving the string hanging into the bottom and turn the top upside down into the bottom of the bottle. 

Run the string through the bottom of a coffee filter and insert the filter into the bottle lining the "top". 

Break up the soil and moisten it with water.  The soil should be damp like a sponge but not soaked. 

Put dirt in the top half of the bottle filling the coffee filter while holding the string up through the center of the dirt. Cut the string to the appropriate length.  Add your seeds to the soil, cover them with more damp soil, and put water in the bottom of the bottle.  The string will keep the seeds watered with as much water as they need to survive, you just have to remember to put water in the bottle. It is that easy!  

I also planted some tomatoes, peppers, beans, okra, and snap peas.  I used the egg cartons for those so when they are ready to plant all I have to do is tear the carton apart and plant them.  Now I just need all of the snow to go away and the weather to warm up.  I still have a lot of seeds left so hopefully I can find some more egg cartons soon.  

Next project........chickens!  :) 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Bad Dog!

I finally got the money together to invest in a Kong Extreme toy for my dog. I know, they are not that expensive, but with three dogs and two cats we can never buy just one toy at a time.  He is an avid chewer and nothing else has ever stood up to him for more than a few hours.  I was so excited when the package arrived and I was finally able to give him a toy that is made for dogs that destroy their toys.  Here is what the Kong website says about the Kong Extreme:

"KONG Extreme represents the most durable version of our original KONG toy. The ultra-strong, ultra-durable, black rubber compound is recommended for the most powerful chewers."

It has been less than a month and guess what.....the top of the Kong is now missing. :(  Danzig is a 7 year old pit mix that loves to chew.  Since this toy is recommended for the "most powerful chewers" I really expected him to be able to have it longer than a month.  Now he is all sad because I have to take it from him so he doesn't eat it.  He knows he did something he shouldn't have....just look at his face!  Poor puppy!  Is there anything out there he can't destroy?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Garnier Fructis Miracle Dry Oil Review

As you all know, I received a free full size sample of the Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Miracle Dry Oil.  Boy, that is a mouth full!  I was really excited about it when I first opened the box and immediately tried it on my skin.  It made my skin so soft and silky that I just knew it was going to be great for my hair as well.  After all, it is an all purpose body, face, and hair oil.  I was wrong!  It left my hear greasy looking and like I had not taken a shower for days.  :(  Since then I have been afraid to even use it and it has just sat on my bathroom shelf untouched for the last week.  I am going to give it another try, because it did make my skin feel wonderful.  However, I will not be purchasing another bottle.

Just because this product wasn't for me, well my hair anyway, doesn't mean that it won't be for someone else.  I have seen a lot of reviews that rave about how well it works for them.  Maybe I just do not have the right hair type to be adding oil to.  I suggest you try it for yourself.  You can find it at places like Target and Walmart for around $6 a bottle.

All opinions are my own. I received a free product to review, however my opinions were not influenced by the compensation. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Miracle Dry Oil

I received my FREE full sized sample of Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Miracle Dry Oil for hair, body, and face today.  I am excited to see how it works on my dry skin.  It smells nice and the little bit that I sprayed on my arm absorbed quickly and did not leave a residue on my skin.  I will let you know in a fee days if it has made a difference in the dryness of my skin or not.  I am sure that it will, but I have been fighting dry skin for years so I am skeptical.  I plan on using it after my daily shower.  Here is what the BzzAgent site says about this product:

Breakthrough Innovation
It isn’t every day an innovative and sexy multipurpose product is made available to you. But an all-in-one product that delivers silky, shiny hair and soft, supple skin? That’s sexy by association. NEW Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Miracle Dry Oil is a breakthrough multiuse formula that delivers rapid-action nourishment to treat your hair, body and even dry areas on your face with no oily residue.
  • Combines three weightless oils – olive, avocado and shea – to transform dry hair and skin
  • Made for everyday use on your hair, body and face
  • Instantly absorbs in a touch with no oily residue
  • Can be used on damp or dry hair
  • Available for suggested price of $5.99

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Trinity update....

Trinity, the newest member of our family, is doing wonderful!  She is so amazing and makes us laugh every single day. I love watching her bounce around the house and yard playing.  She hopes like a baby goat! LOL Crate training is going much better then I had expected.  The first few nights she whined and cried off and on all night and had accidents in the crate. Now she goes in without fussing and sleeps through the night without any accidents.  During the day she is still having an accident here and there but for the most part she is going outside to potty.  I am so proud of her and how well she is doing.  The only issue we are having is she likes to chew on everything!  We have invested in KONG toys for her and the boys and they are all very happy.  Misfit is playing really well with her, but Danzig still growls at her too much.  He is the oldest and kinda grumpy with the kids.  I am not sure what to do about it so any suggestions in the comments will be welcomed and taken into consideration.