Last Updated on January 9, 2020 by James Gentile
History is full of successful people who filed for bankruptcy. Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Milton Hershey, H.J. Heinz are prime examples of people who filed for bankruptcy and went on to become financially successful.
Long before he became President of the United States, Lincoln found himself looking for work after his employer went out of business. Lincoln and a partner decided to go out on their own and opened a general store in New Salem, Illinois. In 1833, Lincoln declared bankruptcy after the business went under and his partner died, which left him saddled with the debt. While current bankruptcy laws now provide for the discharge of most unsecured debt, it took Abraham Lincoln nearly 17 years to pay off his debt.
Ford left his engineering job in 1899 to start the Detroit Automobile Company with several investors. There were production issues and the company went bankrupt two years later. He learned from those early mistakes and later founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903.
In 1922, Walt Disney and a partner started Laugh-O-Gram films in Kansas City, Missouri. After investors pulled out, Disney couldn’t cover his overhead, and his studio went bankrupt in 1923. He decided to start fresh in Hollywood and would later become one of the highest-paid animators of all time.
Milton Hershey spent four years apprenticing in a candy shop before starting his own business in 1876. After six years of struggling, his business went bankrupt. Hershey then returned to his hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania and started the Lancaster Caramel Company. Twelve years later, he sold the company for $1 million (about $24 million in today’s currency) and used the proceeds to develop his famous milk chocolate products.
In 1869, Henry J. Heinz and L.C. Noble founded the partnership, Heinz, Noble & Company, to sell bottled horseradish. Following a widespread economic downturn in 1875, the partnership was forced into bankruptcy. The very next year, Heinz reorganized the business and founded a new partnership. Tomato ketchup was introduced to the product line and the business took off. H.J. Heinz Company now manufactures thousands of food products in plants on six continents and markets these products in more than 200 countries and territories.