06.13.19

Cash in on Your Idea. Don’t Settle for Crumbs.

Tammy Y. Allen, Director, Marketing & Programs, The NIIC
Photo provided by Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (The NIIC)

When focused on the day-to-day of your business, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. Take, for example, the original inventor of the potato chip—American chef George Speck (Crum). He became notorious for serving the crunchy, salty snack to customers of his restaurant. Yet, he lacked vision for what became the $28 billion global market that is potato chips.

How the chips fell.

The son of African and Native American parents, George Speck (later nicknamed George Crum) began his culinary career at upscale Moon’s Lake House in Saratoga Springs, New York. Wealthy families from Manhattan frequented the area, including Cornelius Vanderbilt (of the prominent Vanderbilt family). He was familiar with Speck but couldn’t remember his name. He remedied this by calling him “Crum” instead. Speck immediately embraced the nickname, rationalizing that, “A crumb is bigger than a speck.”

Historical facts are hazy. Some people attribute the potato chip’s creation to Crum’s sister. Local legend credits George, who was responsible for popularizing the snack. According to popular folklore, in 1853 a patron complained that the French-fried potatoes were too thick and soft. So, Crum sliced a batch as thin as possible. After frying them until they were hard and crunchy, he threw some salt on them. The famous “Saratoga chips” were created.

Other guests began asking for the crisps, and soon Crum’s chips were one of the most in-demand items at the lodge.

Years later, Crum opened his own very successful restaurant, which featured a basket of chips on every table. Crum didn’t attempt to patent his invention or market them outside of his restaurant. For many years they remained a local delicacy.

You snooze, you lose.

Other aspiring snack food entrepreneurs picked up where Crum left off. Popularity of the salty snack spread. In the 1920s a traveling salesman named Herman Lay began introducing a version of chips to communities throughout the south. Lays® Potato Chips was the first successfully marketed national brand and became phenomenally successful.

If Crum realized his product’s full potential and had someone to look out for his business interests, his legacy might not have been eclipsed by others’ success.

Odds are stacked against you.

If you don’t make the most out of your product, someone else will. The odds are stacked against entrepreneurs from the start. With experienced individuals on your side, the chances of success increase. Business builders working through The NIIC, have a higher likelihood of success—that is 91.9 percent business survivability rate.

For more information about how to launch, grow and innovate your business, visit TheNIIC.Org.

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