Will Keith Kellogg
Born: April 7, 1860
Will Keith Kellogg was born in the small town of Battle Creek, Michigan, on April 7, 1860. He never had much in the way of formal schooling, and when he was fourteen, he left school entirely. His father had a small business making brooms, and Will began his working career as a traveling salesman for his father's brooms. Will's older brother, John Harvy Kellogg, was a physician who directed a health facility in Battle Creek. John was a strong advocate of a healthy lifestyle, especially when it came to exercise and diet. His recommendations for his patients included a diet heavily weighted toward vegetables and cereal grains. After selling brooms for a few years, Will joined his brother at the facility, and the two focused on the nutritional needs of the patients at the Battle Creek facility. Their experiments with cereal grains finally led to the discovery that they could roll out a mash of wheat and turn the cooked dough into flakes. They served the concoction to the patients, and it was a hit. John was content to focus on the health and nutrition of the facility's patients, but Will saw the potential for creating a product that might be more widely accepted. Continuing to experiment, they found that corn could also be flaked, and yielded a very tasty, crunchy breakfast food. These flakes of corn became the foundation for a minor revolution in America's breakfast habits.At first, the brothers marketed their breakfast product via a mail order operation. John was content with this because his first concern was his patients. But Will's ambitions were constrained by this arrangement. So, in 1906, Will founded the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, which he soon renamed to the W.K. Kellogg Company. Even though the company had a good product, it might have remained a small business, except that Will seemed to be a natural at product promotion. He began a national advertising campaign for his new breakfast food. He touted his corn flake product not just as a health food for people concerned about their nutrition, but also as a really tasty and convenient breakfast food suitable for every family across the country. He was relentless in his promotion. In his first year, he had shipped out 175,000 cases of his corn flakes, and before long, Kellogg's Corn Flakes became a household item across the country. Not bad for a kid who left school after the sixth grade! Will Kellogg's cereal company not only transformed the breakfast habits of America, but it also helped pioneer the advantages of effective mass advertising campaigns in the United States. In a short time, Kellogg's Corn Flakes, and later many other Kellogg's breakfast cereal creations, became familiar products in America's grocery stores and soon became everyday items on America's breakfast tables . Will Kellogg's path to success was not easy. He worked long hours throughout much of his career, often facing stiff competition, but through it all he remained a tireless promoter of his products. When he retired as the company's president in 1929, he used his huge fortune to establish the W. K. Kellogg Foundation as one of the country's foremost philanthropic institutions. He also stayed on with the Kellogg Company as chairman of the board until 1946. Will Keith Kellogg died in his native Battle Creek, Michigan on October 6, 1951.
Find out more about the amazing Will Kellogg by purchasing W.K. Kellogg : Generous Genius (Community Builders), a new biography by Rachel Epstein, written for the 9-12 age level.
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