I ran across a story today that talked about food history. The first item on the list was Pez candy, those little plastic dispensers of small hard candy that kids (and some adults) love. But it was the span of time that made me want to dig in deeper.
According to the history page at Pez.com, they were created in 1927 in Austria by Eduard Hauss III. But not the lovable dispenser…just the candy. It was another 21 years before a dispenser was created, and then it was made to resemble a cigarette lighter and marketed to adults. The first characters didn’t appear until the 1950s.
There was some level of success in selling the candy right away or they would have gone out of business. But it didn’t become a phenomenon until decades later. The vision and tactics of selling the candy shifted over time. Even the mission changed from trying to provide an incentive for adults to stop smoking to entertaining kids.
So what can we learn here?
First, it’s critical that you have a vision. It sets you in motion and helps you frame the future. Working without a vision is simply working. You might get somewhere interesting, but you’re more likely to end up in the middle of nowhere.
Second, things are going to change over time. It’s hard to cast a long-term vision accurately. It’s harder still to know what will work, what won’t, and what will change along the way (and changes in technology are happening faster and faster). Know what cannot change, but be willing to find new ways to get there.
Third, start without a perfect vision. I’m sure when Mr. Hauss started in 1927, he didn’t plan wait 25 years to create candy dispensers of cartoon characters. But one vision for his candy led to the next, and the next, and the next. Now you can get some pretty wild Pez dispensers, including the Tuetuls from Orange County Choppers (the first real people to have dispensers), an Elvis collectors set, a set from the Lord of the Rings movies, sets for both Star Wars and Star Trek, and of course, the rock band KISS (photo from Pez.com).
Whatever you are trying to create will change. It must change. Get started so you can enjoy the ride!
Need help creating a vision? Check out this Inc. Magazine article from my friend Ari Weinzweig, co-founder and owner of Zingerman’s Deli.
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