The Incredible Story of Mary See: How She Became a Pioneer Business Woman
Born in the mid-1800s, Mary Wiseman, also known as Mary See, left her home in Canada and moved to California with her husband and three children in 1919. She soon got a job at a local candy store, where she learned the art of making chocolate.
In 1921, Mary opened her candy store, which quickly became successful. Thanks to her hard work and innovative business practices, Mary See’s Candies grew into a multi-million-dollar company. Today, Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway owns See’s Candies to keep the pioneering spirit of Mary See’s Candies alive and thriving.
This article will briefly overview Mary See’s life and work. We will explore how she was able to turn her candy store into a booming business and how she left her legacy behind.
Who was Mary See?
Mary See was the original owner of See’s Candies, a chocolate candy shop that began in Los Angeles at 135 Western Avenue North, In 1921. Mary See developed her chocolate candy recipes unlike anything else on the market. Her chocolate candy recipes are still some of the most sought-after in LA and around the country.
A Brief History
When Mary opened the first See’s Candies store, the business quickly became popular. Although Mary died in 1939, only 18 years after opening the successful franchise, See’s Candies remains a famous chocolate company today, partially thanks to Warren Buffett.
When Warren Buffett first caught wind about See’s Candies, he saw a tremendous investment possibility. He felt that See’s Candies had a bright future, and his instincts were correct when the company grew to be a massive success.
Buffett was initially attracted to the company because of its substantial competitive advantages, including its exclusive focus on high-quality chocolate and its unique ability to sell its products at a premium price.
Over the next 45 years, Buffett continued to invest in See’s Candies, and today Berkshire Hathaway owns 100% of the company. Thanks to Buffett’s early investment, See’s Candies is now one of the world’s leading candy companies.
See’s Candies Quality over Quantity
Mary See’s candy creations were innovative in her flavors and packaging at the time. She was one of the first to experiment with flavor combinations, some of which are still sold today, such as the Victoria Toffee and Maple Walnut Creams.
See also used high-quality ingredients in all her candy, which made it stand out from the mass-produced options available. As a result of her creative vision and commitment to quality, Mary See’s candy became hugely popular, both in California where she got her start, and across the country. Today, the company continues to be known for its delicious candy and elegant packaging.
How did Mary become a successful businesswoman?
Mary was only 20 when she had three kids before settling into a domestic yet productive existence as the co-manager of a hotel with her spouse, Alexander. She spent countless hours in the kitchen, perfecting her sweet confections throughout the years prior to opening her candy business. After being widowed at the age of 64, Mary moved to the U.S. to live with her son in Pasadena.
Charles, her son, saw great potential in his mother’s candy company and decided to help her get started. With a plan of lowered rates and bulk pricing, See’s survived the Depression by offering bargains as well as delivery and mailing services.
During World War II, butter and other ingredients were rationed, but Mary See was able to obtain enough through her connections with local farmers to keep her business going. She also started delivering her candy to soldiers stationed overseas. Her discounted prices and personal delivery service helped her weather the challenging economic times and emerge as a successful businesswoman.
What were some of the challenges she faced, and how did she overcome them?
The Great Depression was difficult for businesses, and Mary See’s candy business was no exception. With so many Americans out of work, her competitors could sell candy at much lower prices. Charles See managed to reduce his costs without depleting the bottom line, charging only 42¢ a pound for pre-paid orders over 50 lbs.
This innovative idea became the basis for our modern-day Volume Discounts pricing. Even with these measures, Mary See still had to be creative to keep her business afloat. By being adaptable and selling her candy in smaller sizes and offering discounts for bulk orders, her ability to think outside the box helped Mary weather the storm of the Great Depression and keep her business running.
Shortly after the Depression ended, Charles and Mary expanded their business by opening the “Sunlit Candy Studio,” a candy shop where customers could watch candy being made from behind a glass window, a concept we frequently see today.
While this was exciting and showed much growth for their business, they were forced to ration when World War II hit in 1942, as mentioned above. However, this didn’t stop Mary as she continued making high-quality candy. She just made less of it. Although this affected their business significantly, they were still able to maintain a loyal customer base and continue to expand.
Today you can see Mary See’s portrait on the company website, and there is more than one photo of the history of the family’s dream business developing throughout the 20th century. There is more than one record of the tenacity of Charles’s mother, Mary making impressive decisions to save their company.
Warren Buffett’s Involvement in Mary See’s Candies
Warren Buffet is an American investor, business magnate, and philanthropist. He is the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, a conglomerate holding company interested in insurance, freight rail transportation, utility companies, and retail businesses.
Buffett is known for his value investing strategy, which involves buying undervalued stocks by the market and holding them for the long term. He also has a reputation for being frugal, living in the same house he purchased in 1958 for $31,500.
He first became involved with Mary See’s Candies in 1972 when he and Charlie Munger purchased the company for 25 million dollars, which greatly outrighted its current evaluation.
Little did they know at the time that this investment was one of the best decisions they could have made. Today, See’s Candies has become one of Berkshire’s most profitable subsidiaries, and it has also served as a model for other acquisitions.
Buffett has often said that See’s represents the ideal type of business: a simple operation with high barriers to entry, strong brand loyalty, and reliable cash flow.
In addition, See’s has proven to be an exceptionally efficient user of capital, generating an impressive return on investment even during periods of economic downturn. Thanks to its strong performance, See’s has helped fuel Berkshire’s growth and continues to make Buffett one of the world’s wealthiest men.
The Similarities Between Mary See and Warren Buffet
Warren Buffet and Mary See are both highly successful entrepreneurs who have built large businesses from the ground up. Both have a strong drive to succeed and have demonstrated a remarkable ability to identify and capitalize on opportunities.
Perhaps most importantly, both have maintained a laser-like focus on their goals, relentlessly pursuing their vision until it has become a reality. In many ways, then, it is no surprise that they have both achieved such tremendous success.
For this, Warren Buffett saw the potential of investing in See’s Candies when he purchased it in 1972, and he has since turned it into one of his most successful investments, with returns far exceeding the market average.
A famous quote from Buffett relating to the purchase of the widely successful candy company states, “Price is what you give, value is what you get.”
In other words, See’s Candies was an excellent investment because it was a perfect business opportunity back then and continues to be a great business today. With over 500 million dollars in revenue every year, Mary See’s entrepreneurial vision and hard work in addition to Buffett’s astute investment skills, have made this company a tremendous success. Over time, See’s Candies has become a billion-dollar business and an asset to the Berkshire Hathaway investment group.
What we can learn from them about success in business
See and Buffet have proven highly adept at managing businesses and generating wealth. However, they have also been very generous with their knowledge and experience, sharing their insights with other entrepreneurs.
Here are three lessons that new business owners can learn from Mary See and Warren Buffet:
- The importance of focus. Both See and Buffet have succeeded by focusing on a specific area or industry. See’s Candies is a prime example of this; by concentrating on making high-quality confectionery and offering incentives to continue selling her candy even during trying economic times, See built a hugely successful business.
- The power of persistence. Throughout their careers, both See and Buffet have faced challenges and setbacks. However, they have always been able to bounce back due to their determination and resilience. This is an essential quality for any entrepreneur to possess.
- Invest in what you believe in. One of the reasons Buffett was attracted to See’s Candies was that he believed in the company and its potential. This is a lesson that all entrepreneurs should take to heart; it is often better to invest in a business you are passionate about, as this will increase the chances of success.
- Think Long-Term Investing. See, and Buffet both also demonstrate the importance of thinking long-term. It can be easy to get caught up in the short term and lose sight of your long-term goals in today’s fast-paced world. Both See and Buffet were able to think about their businesses in the context of years or even decades without losing sight of the big picture. This has allowed them to make decisions that may not have had immediate benefits, but they knew it would pay off in the long run.
What impact did her work have on the community and other women in business?
As a female entrepreneur, you can learn a lot from the story of Mary See. She was a pioneer in candy making, and her success story is an inspiration for female entrepreneurs everywhere. See’s candy is one of the most successful confectionery brands globally, and it all started with one woman’s vision.
When Mary See started her candy company in 1921, she had no way of knowing that it would one day be purchased by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. However, See’s commitment to quality and customer service made it an attractive target for Buffett. Thanks to See’s innovative approach to business, the company expanded beyond its existing network of centers and increased its revenue.
In addition, See’s Candy had a positive impact on the community, providing employment opportunities for women and minorities. Her work paved the way for other women to enter the business world and helped to break down barriers in the marketplace. As a contribution to Mary See’s first candy store, countless women have realized their dream of owning a successful business.
Final Thoughts – Strategic Focus
Mary See was a true pioneer in the world of candy making. What started as a widowed woman with a dream, Mary and her son, Charles, founded See’s Candy. Through their dedication to quality and customer service, they created a confectionery empire that would be purchased by one of the world’s most successful investors.
When Warren Buffett learned about See’s Candy, he saw an immense opportunity to invest in the company. Buffett was impressed by the company’s quality products and the strong existing demand, and he believed that See’s could be successful in shopping centers across the country. His investment proved wise, as See’s Candy generated substantial revenue for Buffett and his partners.
While her story is incredible, it also provides valuable lessons for entrepreneurs of all stripes. The importance of strategic focus, persistence, and thinking long-term are just some things that we can learn from Mary See. (regardless of your stage, check our programs to develop strategic focus).
So, the next time you feel discouraged in your business venture, remember the story of Mary See and her son Charles. With a little hard work and dedication, you can achieve sweet success too!
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