Making Millions From Bananas: The Story Of Sam Zemurray

Here’s the story of a poor Jewish boy from Russia who made a fortune of $30 million USD.

Sam Zemurray (Net Worth – $30 million USD) was a Russian born U.S. fruit distributor.

He was the Founder of Cuyamel Fruit Company, as well as the head of the world’s most influential fruit company – the United Fruit Company.

So how does a regular employee make the transition into becoming the founder of a multimillion dollar company?

Here’s how Sam made his millions:

Sam’s First Step:

Sam was born in Bessarabia, Russia in 1877 to poor Jewish parents.

He didn’t have much as a child, and had to scrape on by with the little he had.

Sam’s Second Step:

In 1892, at the age of 19 Sam packed up his bags and emigrated to Selma, Alabama.

At that point in his life he began to work at several low paying jobs.

He raised up enough money and sent it to his family in Russia so they could move to Alabama too.

Sam’s Second Step:

Sam knew that he had to work hard and hustle in order to live a good life, so in 1895 he entered the banana business.

He started off by purchasing carloads of ripe bananas in Mobile, Alabama, and peddled them to people along the railway.

Sam’s Third Step:

Sam was gaining popularity as he peddled his way across the state, in fact, the locals along the railway nicknamed him “Sam the Banana Man”.

Eventually, he expanded his trade to New Orleans after getting a contract from the United Fruit Company (UFCO) to sell to other small dealers.

Within three years he had $100,000 in the bank.

Sam’s Third Step:

In 1905, he partnered with Ashbel Hubbard and purchased a steamship line with UFCO (which supplied 60% of the capital).

Heavily in debt, Sam sailed to Honduras with the steamship to purchase bananas at a lower rate.

Sam’s Fourth Step:

In 1907 the UFCO sold its interest in the company, and in 1910 Sam became the president of the Cuyamel Fruit Company.

It was also at this time where he was rewarded with concessions, by the President of Honduras (Manuel Bonilla), which resulted in the company’s success.

Sam’s Fourth Step:

At this time, Sam was able to acquire land for banana plantations and railroads, and it was at this time (1916) when he started getting out of debt and started prospering.

Acknowledging that the UFCO was his competition, Sam expanded into other parts of Central America and in 1922 he acquired the Bluefield’s Fruit & Steamship Company in Nicaragua from his father in law.

Sam’s Fifth Step:

Motivated and enthusiastic about his growth, Sam went in the fields himself to place himself in his own business.

In comparison to the leaders of the UFCO, who stayed in their Boston offices, Sam went out of his way to int
eract with his employees.

He went as far as to go into the mosquito infested lowlands, learn Spanish, and personally supervise the land to involve himself more with his business.

In addition, he became involved in Honduran politics in order to create a profitable and favorable business environment.

Sam’s Sixth Step:

In 1929, Sam retired from active management and sold Cuyamel to the UFCO for 300,000 shares of the company – making him the largest stockholder.

He then went on to become the director of the UFCO due to the amount of experience and knowledge he had.

Sam’s Seventh Step:

Unfortunately, during the depression in the 1930’s, the UFCO’s stock dropped by 90%.

Being the proactive entrepreneur he was, Sam went to Boston himself to take over the company.

Sam’s Eighth Step:

Under Sam’s leadership, the UFCO expanded to other parts of the world.
During this time he came face to face with tropical diseases and other risky activities, however he was able to grow and expand the business.

Sam’s Tenth Step:

After growing his the UFCO, he engaged in several philanthropic enterprises such as:

-Mayan ruins
-Major donations to universities
-The development of botanical gardens

He did all of this in an attempt to develop the educational, human, and cultural resources in Central America and the United States.

Sam’s Eleventh Step:

In 1961, Sam became seriously ill from Parkinson’s disease and passed away in New Orleans in November 30th, 1961.

—— ——

Sam was willing dedicate his life to his purpose.

He was willing to go into the fields himself, learn another language, get involved with politics, and even risk his health for his success.

He also worked well with his competition, in fact, he worked so well with his competition that he eventually became the President of their company too.

So… are you pushing yourself like Sam?

If so, comment below.

Aleksander Vitkin

Aleksander Vitkin has helped over 700 people with a sincere interest in entrepreneurship and contribution, to start profitable businesses and quit their jobs.