The Millionaire Next Door

Rags to Riches

On the way to the mountains last weekend I stopped at a favorite family owned hardware store.  This large, small town store carries a wide variety of merchandise from work clothes to high grade woodworking tools.  It also has a nice sporting goods department.  It was there that I found an item which I had mentioned in my book, The Millionaire Mind!  The logo on the package is quite unique; it depicts a pair of ladies’ “bloomers” hanging on a clothesline.  Also on the package were the words: Universal Rifle- Pistol Cleaning Patches, Cotton Knit, A Product of Southern Bloomer Mfg. Co.

I had interviewed Donald Sonner, the founder and owner of Southern Bloomer Mfg., because of the unique character of this very successful company.  When Don was 15, he decided to go into business for himself.  He bought socks from a textile mill with the intent of selling them to small town general stores.  However, the socks turned out to be “seconds” and no store would buy them.  Not deterred, he began selling his socks at lumber camps, saw mills and industrial factories.  He realized that his market niche was composed of people who are not into fashion but who want a product that is practical, comfortable and durable.  He began to focus on more industrial and institutional markets such as prisons and mental institutions.  Don began manufacturing and selling  “industrial strength” undergarments to these customers.  He had to use an extremely high quality cotton because these undergarments would be laundered in “big heavy steam washers.”  Don purchased manufacturers’ cotton scraps and overruns at deep discounts.   This cost advantage enabled him “to put more labor into the sewing of these garments.”

At the end of the day, however, the Southern Bloomer Mfg Co had its own “leftovers” as a result of the manufacturing process: small scraps of cotton.  Don used his creative intelligence once again and started making gun patches from these scraps.  These patches are treasured by gun enthusiasts and sold to the military throughout the world, including our own.  They are highly absorbant of cleaning solutions and won’t break down inside a gun barrel. Therefore, I was thrilled to find the two packages of Don’s product that were left.  As always there were plenty of packages of brands X, Y and Z. 

The millionaires surveyed [733] nationwide for The Millionaire Mind were asked about their important choice factors regarding their selection of vocation.  Four out of five [81%] indicated that they chose their vocation because “it allowed full use of their abilities and aptitudes.”  Certainly Donald Sonner  used his creative aptitude when going from irregular socks to “bloomers” to gun patches.  Today, the cleaning patches are Don’s main business.

4 thoughts on “Rags to Riches”

  1. I love stories that make you feel like you really can succeed with the simplest of ideas. I’m quite tired of having a great idea and seeing someone else succeed because they actually executed their idea. I still don’t have the execution thing down i know it’s vital for success, but the fear of failure immobilizes me! (pray for me!)

  2. Christopher P. Cervantez

    Great post! I especially like the statistic at the end regarding choice of vocation.
    I’m in college and still not clear which career path will allow me to fully use my,”abilities and aptitudes” but it sounds like I just have to start somewhere that like Mr. Sonner.
    Thank you for this post!
    Christopher P. Cervantez

  3. Kekoa, did you go to USC? Just wondering, because I went to school with a guy named Kekoa and I’m not sure how popular of a name that is.

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