Dick’s – How A Grandma Helped Create An $11 Billion Dollar Company

  • Reading time:5 mins read

We are all, at least to some extent, familiar with the sporting goods industry giant known as Dick’s Sporting Goods. Few people are, however, aware of how exactly this company came to be the powerhouse that we know today.

Let’s take a deeper dive into this company’s story to find out how a grandma from upstate New York and her cookie jar helped create one of the biggest sporting goods companies in the world.

The American Dream

Before getting into specifics, we need to understand the historical context of the period in which Dick’s was founded and how it influenced a young man’s decision to venture into the unknown and start his own business.

In 1948 the United States was experiencing a post-war economic boom which meant that people were genuinely more optimistic about the future. This, in turn, brought a great increase in entrepreneurship as people considered their businesses less likely to fail. Alongside the optimism of economic prosperity stood the collective pride of the American people that came about from winning the second world war which established the United States as the world’s strongest superpower. At this point, the spirit of the American Dream was stronger than ever and people worked to achieve it more than ever before.

Whilst living in an economically prosperous time, filled with optimism about his future and the future of his country, an 18-year-old Richard “Dick” Stack was feeling as confident as he’ll ever be and wanted to prove himself by achieving his own American Dream.

Opening A Can Of Worms

At the time, the 18-year-old was working at an Army surplus store in Binghamton New York where he was born and raised. Eager to prove himself and advance, Dick was constantly asking the store owner for more assignments and duties. His persistence possibly led his boss to become a bit envious of the young man’s drive and energy. The two were never in great relations but Dick did the job well so the owner kept quiet for the time being.

One day, the store owner had an idea to start selling fishing tackle and asked Dick, an avid fisherman, to make a list of products needed to get into this line of sales. Displeased with Dick’s suggestions, the owner let out all the resentment he had for the young man and proceeded to call him a dumb kid that had no idea what he was doing.

Dick being the driven and proud individual he was, of course, didn’t want to tolerate any of this and promptly quit, vowing never to work for anyone again. What he didn’t know was that his vow would not only come true but surpass even his wildest dreams.

The $11 Billion Cookie Jar

Still angry because of the insults, Dick came back home to his grandmother’s house where he spent a lot of time as a kid, and proceeded to explain to his grandmother what had happened. His grandmother thought about it for a moment and quickly asked how much it would cost for him to build the store himself. He replied that it would cost $300.

After hearing this she stood up and opened the now famous cookie jar in which she had kept all her life savings. She slowly reached into it, took out $300, and told him, “Do it yourself and prove him wrong.”

The craziest part about this story is that Dick didn’t even ask for the money himself, it was like she knew that her grandson was capable of greatness. I have to say, her intuition was something else. This single act of faith toward her grandson would lead to the start of a colossal company that spearheads the industry and doesn’t show signs of stopping anytime soon. I can’t help but imagine what would have happened if she had tried her luck on Wall Street.

P.G.P. – Post Grandma Period

After receiving this generous donation, Dick quickly used the money and opened up a fishing tackle shop in Binghamton, in the near vicinity of the store owned by his old boss. In the following years, he used his relentless work ethic to expand his product line which, by 1970, contained most of the products that you can find in a Dick’s Sporting Goods store today.

In 1984 Dick’s son Ed purchased the store and became its CEO, after which the company went through a phase of rapid expansion and started carving its place as an industry leader. Today there are 854 unique Dick’s Sporting Goods store locations making it the largest sporting goods retailer in the world, valued at approximately 11 billion dollars as of 2022.

It’s insane to think about it, but none of this wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for a grandma in upstate New York that took the leap of faith and her 11 billion dollar cookie jar. This story stands as a great example of what a little faith in a project or a venture can bring.

Take this as a lesson and don’t give up, because your future business might very well be the next Dick’s Sporting Goods!

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