Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Luggage (08/15/05)
TITLE: You Can't Take It With You
By Brad Paulson
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Jesse Shwayder moved to Denver, Colorado in the late 1800's at the age of six. His father opened a grocery store where young Jesse helped deliver groceries and sold newspapers. Jesse developed a strong work ethic that found its way into all aspects of his life, including his love for music. Although his family was Jewish by the age of nine Jesse sang as a soloist in St. Johns Episcopal Cathedral. He also played violin and would eventually start his own dance orchestra. Growing up in a Jewish family, Jesse was encouraged to study the Old Testament Bible stories. These stories had a profound effect on how he would conduct himself and his business in his later years.
After graduating high school Jesse went to work in his father’s new business, a used furniture store. However, it was not long before his unquenchable ambition led him to open his own business. In 1910 the Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing Company was born. The founding goal was simple: build and produce uncommonly well-made trunks that would stand up to even the most rigorous travel conditions. This originally included the Colorado gold rush. As time went on Jesse’s trunk company ventured into different types of luggage, but it was in 1941 when the company really took off. Using new technology to create imitation leather, Jesse was able to produce sets of matching luggage at very affordable prices. The durability standard would remain, and to illustrate the strength of this new line, Jesse named it ‘Samsonite’ after one of his favorite Old Testament Bible characters. As popularity of this new style of luggage increased, the Shwayder Trunk manufacturing Company changed its name to Samsonite and grew into the multi-million dollar corporation that we are all familiar with today.
Jesse Shwayder was a brilliant business man, but no one can build a giant corporation like Samsonite alone. It takes a large number of people all striving for the same goal to achieve the level of success demonstrated by the Samsonite corporation. The real challenge for a leader is to set a goal, then let the employees take the ball and run with it, or in this case the marble. In forming a business philosophy Jesse went back to his Biblical roots. Jesse gave out marbles to his employees and even venders and customers. A gold band encircled the marble inscribed with his personal and business mission statement, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Over the years the marbles served as a reminder not only to employees, but also to customers and friends of the universal doctrine of the Golden Rule. These Golden Rule Marbles are still around and several church organizations such as the United Methodist Men’s group have developed their own marble ministries. Not only do the marbles remind these men to keep hold of their faith, if you’re caught without your marble there is a small fine imposed that is donated to the needy as a way of holding each other accountable.
Jesse Shwayder had a profound effect on the luggage industry, but I also think that he had a profound effect on the people who knew and worked with him. His commitment to what was right and good was what made him a success, not just building a really good trunk. I’m convinced that his simple marble ministry did more for the kingdom of God than his luggage business ever could. There will be a time when we stand in judgement before God, our Samsonite luggage will be collecting dust in the hall closet or attic where we left it, but hopefully, in a spiritual sense, we won’t have lost our marbles.
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