My Favorite Books of 2007: McIlhenny’s Gold

One of my favorite business book of 2007 was McIlHenny’s Gold: How a Louisiana Family Built the Tabasco Empire.

Few products are as immediately recognizable as the bottle of Tabasco sauce. In the book, author Jeffery Rothfeder tells a fascinating story about the remarkably long history of the distinctive bottle and the family business that succeeded with only single product.

There are many lessons for the small business entrepreneur inside: from Edmund McIlhenny’s tennacious in the face of a ruinned economy to the value of branding and marketing. You’ll never be able to sprinkle a few drops of Tabasco on your food again without thinking of McIlhenny’s Gold.

I have one copy of the book to giveaway. To enter, comment on this post.

Haper Collin’s description of the book after the jump.

After the Civil War ended, Edmund McIlhenny, an ambitious and tenacious Louisiana businessman, found himself with few prospects. The South’s economy in ruins and his millions of dollars in Confederacy currency worthless, he had no choice but to return with his wife, Mary, to her family home in Avery Island, a former sugar plantation destroyed by Union soldiers.

To McIlhenny’s surprise, the hot peppers he had planted before being forced off the island had flourished. Desperate to start a new business, he chopped up the peppers, combined them with salt and vinegar, and produced the first batch of hot pepper sauce. Or so the story goes. He called the sauce Tabasco.

In this fascinating history, Jeffrey Rothfeder tells how, from a simple idea–the outgrowth of a handful of peppers planted on an isolated island on the Gulf of Mexico–a secretive family business emerged that would produce one of the best-known products in the world. In short order, McIlhenny’s descendants would turn Tabasco into a gold mine and an icon of pop culture, making it as recognizable as far bigger brands such as Coca-Cola and Kleenex.

To this day, the McIlhenny Co., still run by a family of matchless characters who believe in a rigid code of family loyalty, clings to tradition and the old ways of doing business. Yet by fiercely protecting its beloved brand and refusing to sell out to big food conglomerates, this family business has run circles around its competitors, churning out annual revenues that have surpassed everyone’s expectations.

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