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2011-01-20

Bankruptcy Didn't Stop Jim

Chaz Allen

I've heard it said, "You never know what you can do until you try." I guess that's about right. At least it was with Jim. Here was a fellow who didn't know a few things. Some of what he didn't know cost him a lot. Other things he didn't know made him a fortune.
Jim was born on the island of Nantucket in 1835 and as far as we can tell, he was doing pretty well until 1846 when the town of Nantucket literally burned to the ground. It was one of the worst fires in Massachusetts history. Well, it was going to be a long hard recovery for Nantucket, so Jim set off with his brothers for the promise land of California. He landed in San Francisco and soon got caught up in the gold rush fever sweeping that part of the country. Gold had been discovered in a place called Sutter's Mill, and it didn't take long for folks to start pouring in from all over the country.
Jim thought he'd do a little prospecting too. He even found a small strain of gold and was able to put a little money together. But soon the hills were over run with people looking for gold; and like most things, the folks who were there first profited the most. The rest spent a lot of time grubbing around trying to find a nugget or two.
Didn't take Jim long to figure out that a more profitable business might be to supply items the miners and other people needed, rather than spending his days looking for gold. So Jim started a little company and made a few trips from San Francisco to the mining camps to provide supplies. One supply in particular. But Jim wasn't quite the businessman he thought he was. At least not yet. He went into debt badly and when he couldn't pay his bills, he was told by his creditors that he had to declare bankruptcy.
Now, here's the part that just cracks me up. Believe it or not, Jim was only 16 years old at the time. That's right; he had done all this and was only 16. And when he was told by the bankers and suppliers to declare bankruptcy; well, he did! But he had no idea what bankruptcy meant, and he was too embarrassed to ask. So, he agreed. He declared bankruptcy, then went about doing exactly what he had been doing all along. Now you have to admit, that's pretty funny stuff.
Within a few more months, Jim figured out how to make money at his business and he started paying back all his creditors. Well, they were flabbergasted, but not so flabbergasted that they were going to turn down the money. The creditors kept their mouths shut about the fact that since Jim had declared bankruptcy, he didn't legally owe them money any longer. Within 10 years, Jim had everyone paid off, and was well on his way to becoming a success.
As a matter of fact, to becoming a household name. You see, It's a Little Known Fact that 16-year-old Jim Folger was forced into bankruptcy, but didn't know what it meant. So he just continued doing what he had been doing, until he became the biggest coffee supplier in the world.