Where There is a Need, There is a Business

baker hat

Today’s Imagination Hat honors Otto Frederick Rohwedder. Otto Frederick who? OK, so you may not know who he is. But I can guarantee you have at least heard the phrase, “the best thing since sliced bread”. Otto is the guy that invented the first bread slicing machine- that invention so wonderful that it inspired a household idiom that we are still using some 86 years later. Before Otto, loaves of bread were sold whole. You had to slice them yourself when you got home. If your knife was not sharp enough? Your loaf did not yield as many sandwiches for your hungry little munchkins. Householders dreamed about buying bread that was already sliced. Otto was paying attention. And the first loaf of sliced bread was sold commercially on this date, July 7th, in 1928.
Otto’s timeline was not exactly a straight line, and it contained a few detours and dips. He graduated college with a degree in optics but started his career as a jeweler. He was successful enough to own three stores in St. Joseph MO. But Otto was also an inventor, and he was thinking beyond jewelry. He knew that where there is a need, there is a business. He was convinced he could create a bread-slicing machine. He sold his jewelry stores and successfully prototyped this machine. Unfortunately, in 1917, a fire broke out in the factory, destroying his prototype and his blueprints. (That was one major dip in the timeline). He was delayed, and certainly discouraged, but not derailed. He went around the obstacles and kept right on going. He came back in 1927 to build a second better machine that not only sliced the bread, but wrapped it too. He patented it and sold it to the Chillicothe Baking Company, in Chillicothe, Missouri.
Want to find a great business idea? Be an Otto. Be on the lookout for problems that people have over and over, and on the lookout for things that can improve their lives. Where there is a need, there is a business. Notice how any existing idea might be improved. And even if you are derailed,  follow Otto’s example and keep right on going.
That’s this week’s Imagination Hat.