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Inspiring Biography of Colonel Sanders

Colonel Sanders was an American entrepreneur and the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken.


Harland David Sanders (Colonel Sanders) was born on September 9, 1890 to Wilbur David Sanders and Margaret Ann Sanders in Henryville, Indiana, USA.

He was the eldest child in the family; he had a younger brother, Clarence Sanders and a younger sister, Catherine Sanders.

Unfortunately in the summer of 1895, his father, Wilbur David Sanders passed away.

Colonel Sanders was just five years old when this incident happened.

This forced his mother, Margaret Ann Sanders to work in a tomato cannery.

Taking responsibilities early on-

So, at this young age Colonel Sanders was burdened with the responsibilities of taking care and cooking for his younger siblings.

At this time, he took the responsibility of cooking the food, for which he learnt cooking from his mother.

During this period, Colonel Sanders developed an interest for cooking the chicken.

Later, in 1902, his mother remarried a man, by name William Broaddus.

After this marriage, the whole family shifted to Greenwood in Indiana.

But his stepfather, William Broaddus did not like the presence of boys in their house.

Leaving home-

His family experienced severe poverty, so Colonel Sanders left home at the age of thirteen to find a job.

Colonel Sanders was sent to work on a farm, which was located about 80 miles away from his home.

Colonel Sanders later dropped out from the school in his seventh grade, as he liked to work instead of attending the school.

At a young age of thirteen years, he reached Indianapolis city and started doing painting work of the horse carriages for a living.

Colonel Sanders left that work and in 1906, he shifted to New Albany, Indiana to live with his uncle.     

Working as a conductor-

After this, Colonel Sanders also worked as a conductor for a tram company; he was helped by his uncle who worked for the streetcar company to secure this job.

He started to do several odd jobs for a living; he also worked as a wagoner for the United States Army in its mission in Cuba.

His uncle was working for the Southern Railway and he later helped Colonel Sanders to secure a job as a blacksmith’s helper in the railways workshop.

While working on the railroad, he met Josephine King.

Later in 1909, he married Josephine King.

And this couple was blessed with three children, namely Harland Jr., Margaret Sanders and Mildred Sanders Ruggles.

Beginning of the bad times-

Colonel Sanders later worked as a fireman for the Illinois Central Railroad.

During these happy times, he was fired from his job, when he quarreled with a colleague.

After this incident, his wife and his children left him.

Later, Colonel Sanders did many odd jobs like practicing law, selling insurance, credit cards, tyres, etc.

He was not able to fit in any of these jobs as a result; he failed in his professional life and was frequently changing his jobs.

In 1920, Colonel Sanders started a ferry boat company and operated a boat on the Ohio River and later, he wished to manufacture lamps.

So, he started a company to manufacture acetylene lamps but his company failed when another company, Delco Electronics produced a much better lamp, which was much better than the lamp which Colonel Sanders manufactured.

In 1929, Colonel Sanders moved to a small city by name North Corbin in Kentucky, where he operated a service station on route 25.

He used to do almost any job which was available, without any proper career goal.

Realising late-

So, like this Colonel Sanders spent half of his life, doing many odd jobs for a living, failing to achieve anything significant in his life.

Colonel Sanders failed to stay in one particular job for an extended period of time; as a result he was always on the search for a new job.

He understood that instead of randomly switching careers which would lead him to nowhere, settling in a single career would be more beneficial.

Finding passion-

So, Colonel Sanders decided to settle in the field of cooking.

Luckily, the cooking skills which he learnt from his mother at the age of seven came to his rescue.

This earned him a job as a cook and dishwasher in a small restaurant.

And later, Colonel Sanders settled into a permanent job in 1930, working at the Shell service station, which was located in North Corbin.

While working here, he utilised his free time for cooking the dishes which he learnt from his mother.

Colonel Sanders used to serve these dishes in the nearby small quarters, which was opened near the service station.

Getting recognised-

Eventually, as his recipes grew in popularity, many travellers used to regularly visit his service station to taste his yummy food.

Colonel Sanders became well-known for his steak and country ham meals.

And as his small eatery failed to accommodate the ever increasing customers, he decided to open his own restaurant.

So in 1936, Colonel Sanders bought a large piece of land in the nearby area and built a restaurant with all his savings.

And during these times, he also did an eight week hotel management course from Cornell University, to run his business more efficiently.

In this restaurant, Colonel Sanders served many new dishes which also included his legendary fried chicken dish.

Getting the colonel title-

Colonel Sanders earned the title of colonel

The governor of Kentucky, Ruby Laffoon liked his chicken so much that he gave him the title of colonel.

And in the next year, Colonel Sanders expanded his hotel; this new hotel was capable of accommodating 140 people at the same time.

This success motivated him to work even hard, so he strived to continuously improve his production process and also expand his business to the different parts of the country.

Franchising out-

Due to the effects of World War II, Colonel Sanders was forced to close down his restaurant.

Even as his chicken recipe was very successful, he was not able to sell it because he did not have his restaurant; this made him franchise out his recipe.

So, Colonel Sanders decided to franchise out his chicken recipe and he started travelling by a car with the cooking supplies to different restaurants.

He used to market his chicken by cooking it in front of the restaurant owners and then request them to taste his fried chicken.

But unfortunately, 1009 restaurants rejected his chicken recipe as they did not like the taste of his fried chicken.

Believing in the self-

Even after all these rejections, Colonel Sanders did not lose his hope, he firmly believed in the uniqueness of his recipe.

He believed that one fine day his recipe would definitely become popular and successful.

So, Colonel Sanders kept trying and luckily one restaurant owner agreed to sell his fried chicken.

This recipe became a runaway hit and after this nothing stopped Colonel Sanders from succeeding.

The first franchise-

The first franchise of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) was set up in 1952 in South Salt Lake, Utah USA.

By observing the success of this recipe, many restaurants queued up for his recipe.

By 1963, more than 600 restaurants in the USA were selling the Kentucky Fried Chicken.

And just after four years, Kentucky Fried Chicken was in its peak sales.

Later in 1964, Colonel Sanders decided to sell his corporation to John Y. Brown Jr., who was a lawyer and future governor of Kentucky.

As a result, Colonel Sanders received two million dollars in cash and he was annually paid 250,000 dollars, for being the face of the company.

And KFC also set up its stand-alone stores which encouraged the take-home model.

In 1967, KFC became the sixth largest restaurant chain in the US, according to the sales volume.

And in the 1970s, KFC rapidly expanded all over the globe with more than 3000 stores in over 40 countries.

Getting acquired by numerous companies-

With the passage of time, KFC changed many hands.

In 1971, Heublein industries bought KFC for 285 million dollars.

And in 1982, the Heublein industries was acquired by R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.

And finally, in 1986, PepsiCo bought R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for 840 million dollars.

Later, PepsiCo renamed its restaurants division as Yum! and many new recipes were added which included desserts, drinks, sandwiches, etc.

Even after the addition of many recipes, its legendary fried chicken remained the best-seller.    

And by 1991, KFC opened around 8,500 franchises across the world which doubled its sales; as a result, their revenue reached a whopping 6.2 billion dollars.

Now, KFC is present in over 141 countries.

And today, the brand value of KFC is more than 8.5 billion dollars.

Quality and customer satisfaction above all-

The main reasons for the success of KFC can be attributed to Colonel Sanders who only focused on the quality and customer experience instead of focusing only on accumulating wealth.

Since its inception KFC won the hearts of the people all over the world with its unique recipe.

Colonel Sanders passed away on December 16, 1980 due to pneumonia when he was 90 years old in Louisville, Kentucky.

Success doesn’t know your age-

At the age when many people retire from work, Colonel Sanders went on to become an entrepreneur and eventually succeeded to become one, thus inspiring millions of people.

His success story affirms that you are never too old to achieve success in your life.

This story also proves that you can be successful at any age, provided you possess the qualities like persistence, determination and passion towards your work.

Now, KFC is one of the biggest and most successful global brands, all thanks to the relentless determination and persistence of Colonel Sanders.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is Colonel Sanders’s story?

Colonel Sanders’s story is very inspiring.
From a very young age, he did many odd jobs but wasn’t happy with them.
Later in life, Colonel Sanders decided to work on his passion of cooking chicken.
This passion inspired him to found KFC and make it hugely successful.

How did Colonel Sanders get started?

At the age of 5, Colonel Sanders developed an interest in cooking chicken.
He learnt cooking chicken from his mother, Margaret Ann Sanders.
Later, this passion of Colonel Sanders helped him to found KFC and make it successful.

When did Colonel Sanders start selling chicken?

In 1930, Colonel Sanders started selling chicken in a Shell Oil service station in North Corbin, Kentucky.
Later, he opened a roadside restaurant.

Where was Colonel Sanders’s first restaurant?

Colonel Sanders’s first restaurant was in North Corbin, Kentucky, United States.

When did Colonel Sanders become famous?

For the first time ever, Colonel Sanders became famous in 1935 when he was commissioned as a Kentucky colonel.

Is Colonel Sanders a real colonel?

No, Colonel Sanders isn’t a real colonel because he never worked in the military.
The Governor of Kentucky, Ruby Laffoon liked his chicken, so he bestowed him the honor of a colonel.

How old was Colonel Sanders when he founded KFC?

Colonel Sanders was 62 years old when he founded KFC.
He was born on September 9, 1890 and founded KFC on 24 September 1952, this means at the time of founding KFC he was 62 years, 0 months and 15 days old.

What did Colonel Sanders do before KFC?

Before founding KFC, he worked at many places and did many odd jobs like-
• As a child, he worked on a farm.
• When he was 13, Colonel Sanders painted horse carriages.
• Then, he worked as a conductor for a tram company.
• Colonel Sanders also worked as a wagoner for the United States Army in Cuba.
• He worked as a blacksmith’s helper in the railways workshop.
• Then, Colonel Sanders worked as a fireman for the Illinois Central Railroad.
• He also practiced law, sold insurance, credit cards and tyres.
• Later, Colonel Sanders founded a ferry boat company.
• He also made acetylene lamps.
• Then, Colonel Sanders operated a service station.
• Finally, he worked as a cook and dishwasher in a restaurant before founding KFC.

Where did Colonel Sanders go to school?

Colonel Sanders went to school at Greenwood, Indiana and in 1903, he dropped out of school.

Featured image credit- Wikimedia Commons

About Author

Hello folks, I'm Naveen Reddy.
I love writing the inspiring success stories of people so as to inspire you.
Enjoy the well-researched, thorough articles!
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kathleen evans

Saturday 26th of December 2020

This story date lines are not exactly true. His restaurant in Corbin, KY was still open in 1964. At that time his motel was closed, but we visited the restaurant. It offered many meals, including ham and steaks. The waitress gave us a menu from the restaurant to take back to Illinois with us. We still have that menu which features a picture of the Colonel on the cover of the open book type menu.

Naveen Reddy

Saturday 26th of December 2020

Hi Kathleen Evans, thanks for sharing your experience. While writing this article, I referred Wikipedia for the dates. Yes, his restaurant was open in 1964 as mentioned in this article and later in the same year, Colonel Sanders sold that to a group of investors (according to Wikipedia).