Famous Amos: The Father Of Gourmet Cookies Essay, Research Paper
Wally Amos: Biography
Wallace Amos, Jr., better known as Wally Amos, was born in Tallahassee, Florida on July 1, 1936. Wally was an ambitious student and dropped out of high school six months before graduation. After serving in the Air Force for four years, he moved to Saks Fifth Avenue, where he earned eighty-five dollars a week in the early 1960s.
Ever ambitious and unsatisfied, he left Saks and took a thirty-five dollar pay cut to work as a mail clerk at the William Morris Agency. Though he started at the bottom, he quickly moved up to become executive vice-president and the first African-American talent agent for the agency. Some of his clients at William Morris include the Supremes, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Dionne Warwick, and Patti Labelle.
Of course, never having enough, in 1967 he left his great success at the William Morris agency to try and venture out on his own and run his own personal management agency. This, however, did not last very long due to a very limited number of clients. ?The business was just crumbling around me,? he recalled, ?but everybody loved my cookies. I?d bake up a batch and take ?em to meetings with clients, lawyers, whoever. They encouraged me to try the cookie business, and some of them even invested in the idea.?
Famous Amos is Born
This was the start of a totally new idea to Wally Amos: to sell Amos? cookies in retail stores, the suggestion made by his friend B.J. Gilmore. ?In 1975 I decided I would like to do something for satisfaction instead of for the money.? Based on his Aunt Della?s recipe he learned as a child, he created an original pecan-packed, chocolate chip cookie.
He borrowed money from several Hollywood stars and Motown artists, such as Bill Cosby and Helen Reddy, and with their financial backing, he was able to open up the first store in 1975, the Famous Amos Cookie Company, at the heart of Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. This was reportedly the first gourmet cookie shop in the country. It was an instant success in Hollywood. In 1975, his starting year, with his tasty product and an upbeat promotional advertisement, he sold $300,000 worth of Famous Amos chocolate-chip cookies. People were addicted to the small shop in the middle of Los Angeles, and the infectious smile on Wally?s face and delicious gourmet recipe brought customers back for more and more.
Two years later, the store and its operations went national. With his famous Panama hat and gray-flecked beard, his face launched a thousand chips for the rest of the 1970s. Little did Wally Amos know he would take an endless roller coaster of ups and downs with the company.
Famous Amos: the Success
By 1980 Wally Amos was selling five million dollars worth of his cookies each year. His store spread across the country and it was officially a known nationwide success. His operation expanded to include a large production facility in Nutley, New Jersey. In 1982, he reached a total peak of eleven million dollars in revenue and everyone knew about it. Amos was featured in stories in both Time and Newsweek. ?Little did I realize I would be launching a career as an entrepreneur.? He became an icon for the ideal entrepreneur, and was recognized and awarded for it by many companies.
Amos? recipe for success became the blueprint for many other gourmet cookie chains that strove to follow in the Famous Amos path. Not only was he a great business man, but he was spokesman with a unique, positive, mental attitude, society welcomed this happy-go-lucky character into the business.
Still furiously working for the people, he volunteered to a spokesman for the Literacy Volunteers of America. This would be the start of Wally Amos? troubles with the business world , where he learned the hard way, as is the case with many entrepreneurs, that success can be very overwhelming. And it would be a while before he could get back on his feet and firmly stay there.
Famous Amos: Battles in Court
While Wally Amos was volunteering as a spokesman for the Literacy Volunteers of America, there was no one at home to watch the business, and the money that went along with that business. His cookie company significantly floundered. Despite robust sales in 1982 to 1985, his business was losing money. His troubles began, Amos admits, mostly because of his own mismanagement. In a panic, he attempted to stop the bleeding by bringing in outside investors. He brought in a succession of outside investors. However, with each one, Amos wound up giving away significant chunks of his business. Amos ?just lost control.? The company ended up going through four owners in three years. After selling off more and more bits of his control, and the new partners greedily gobbling it up, he came to the point where he realized, ?I lost all equity in the company.?
Amos realized that he was trying to retail a product with no retail expertise. He says the cookies were much better-suited to a wholesale environment.
By 1986 Amos was nothing more than a salaried employee of the company, paid only to publicize the product. In 1988, the new owners, the Shansby Group, changed the original recipe to provide a longer shelf life and a lower price, and Amos could not tolerate these changes, ?so I just quit.? Frustrated, in March 1989, Amos quit and completely departed the company, signing a two-year ?noncompete? agreement. ?I thought it was more important for me to be free and start again than to be tied up with people that didn?t want me. If you don?t like where you are, go someplace else; if you don?t like who you work with, go work with somebody else.?
His departure from the company was not so simple, however. There was a trial and lawsuit in 1994. The resulting ruling from the court stated that Wally Amos could not call himself ?Famous Amos,? or use his name or face to sell cookies or similar products. Amos was shocked and hurt, but again he knew he would pick up the pieces and keep moving forward.
Uncle Noname: The Future of Wally Amos
?It gave me a story-?the man with no name?-and a lot of people identified with this little guy and his legal problems. But not being allowed to use my own name, that was the real kicker.? Considering that the Smithsonian Institution asked to include his trademark Panama hat and Indian shirt in its Business Americana Collection, the implications of being denied such a well-known marketing tool was staggering for Amos. But as Amos states, ?The past is a bucket of ashes; all that matters is what?s happening today. I don?t have a list of goals. I live life one day at a time. Opportunities come into my life and I respond to those that appeal to me. My number one goal is peace of mind.?
In 1992, he presented a new business venture, called Wally Amos Presents…Chip & Cookie, which included his original chocolate chip recipe, plus dolls, children?s books, shirts and cookie jars. With Amos? most recent and more successful business, Uncle Noname Muffins, Wally created a completely new name and new image for his company. The company makes low-fat and no-sugar muffins, as well as sugared muffins and muffins containing fat. Today, his job description includes supermarket promotions, television shows, many public appearances, interviews and constant traveling all over the country. Amos has written four motivational novels and autobiographies about his life, and with Uncle Noname Muffins rapidly growing, he could not be happier.
Amos did return to the Famous Amos Cookie Company as the Director of Cookie Fun, but his primary function is his Uncle Noname Muffins, based out of Hauppauge, NY, while Amos himself enjoys the paradise weather of Hawaii with his wife and children. ?Life doesn?t kick you around. You kick yourself around. You have to take those lemons they hand you and learn to make lemonade.?
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Name for Himself.? The Star Ledger 23 Jan. 1998: A10.
Stratton, Anne M. ?The Return of ?Widely Known? Amos.? Inside Business May 1998: 42-43.
?Wally Amos: Biographical Essay and Timeline.? Online. Internet. Dec. 2000. Available http://www.famous-amos.com.