In 1929, Samuel B. Fuller borrowed $25 and used his car as collateral to buy soap products that he began selling from door to door in Chicago, and later formed the Fuller Products Company. By 1939, his business was so successful that he opened his own factory and began to manufacture his own soap products and 30 other commodities. By the 1950’s, he was generating $18 million in annual sales and had a sales force of five thousand. He was the wealthiest African American of his era.
Fuller was born on June 4, 1905 into rural poverty to a sharecropper family in Monroe, Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. As a child, he had to quit school to work to help support his family. At the young age of 9, he began selling various products door-to-door and gaining experience as an entrepreneur.
His mother died when he was very young and he had the need to fend for himself, so he often tooks jobs like being the manager of a coal yard and and insurance representative for Commonwealth Burial Association. But his great opportunity happened when he asked for that $25 loan to invest in his business.
His success also allowed him to invest in other ventures. For example, he bought several Blac newspapers including the New York Age and the Pittsburgh Courier. He also owned the South Center Department Store, the Regal Theater in Chicago, and even bought out the company that helped him get started – Boyer International Laboratories.
Like most businesses however, he did encounter some troubles. First, a group of racist whites organized a boycott of his products line when they learned that an African American owned the company. And then he had to face accusations that he was violating the Federal Securities Law.
These and other issues caused his firm to enter bankruptcy in 1971. Although attempts were made to reorganize the company, it never was able to achieve it’s initial success again.
Sadly, Fuller died on October 24, 1988 from kidney failure.