Entrepreneurship by Faith

by Trish Overby

R.H. Macy

ENTREPRENEUR-Def. person in effective control of commercial undertaking; one who undertakes a business or enterprise, with CHANCE of profit or loss… - Oxford Concise Dictionary

Who would have thought that Macy’s Department Store in New York City was founded by a man who failed in at least six previous money making enterprises. This is a man who was instrumental in developing the idea of department stores around the 1850’s in America.

R. H. Macy was born into a Quaker family of seafarers. His first job was as a sailor on a whaling ship. Then he returned to Boston to open his first dry goods store (haberdashery). After five years and a failed business, he went to join the California Gold Rush. There he opened another dry goods store—Macy and Company. He never ‘struck’ enough gold with the business and it folded and was sold at public auction.

He returned to Massachusetts and started another dry goods store. Again, this business failed. Then he moved to Superior City, Wisconsin to go into real estate in the boom town. Unfortunately he was too late -- the town had finished booming. So he returned to the East Coast and started a fancy goods store in New York City. It wasn’t in the most popular shopping district of New York but slowly, and surely, he kept adding to the variety of products he sold all under one roof. Along with this, he created and introduced new marketing techniques.

Macy & Co.

One technique was the one-price system, in which the same item was sold to every customer at one price. Previous to this, customers were expected to ‘haggle’ over the price. He also started advertising specific prices for his goods in newspaper advertising---something that had never been done before!! Because of this use of advertising, he started a printing business. His competitors couldn’t keep up with the amount of newspaper advertisements he produced. His creativity didn’t fade and he is known for introducing to the American public the following: Idaho potato, colored bath towels AND the first in-store Santa Claus and elaborate holiday displays, just to name a few.

It seems that throughout his life that he never gave up in the midst of failure. Some might call this the American dream finally come true. Others might say he just kept going, not only to provide for his family, but also because he knew he had to. We will never know for sure what it was. But the remarkable story here is repeated over and over worldwide. The Entrepreneurial spirit survives in us all. Some of us just need to find what we were made for, as Mr Macy finally did with the store in New York City.

And how might we go about finding what we were made for? Well, we all have unique talents as well as hobbies or skills we enjoy doing. Perhaps this could give us a clue to what we should do for the rest of our lives. Also, we have our education, which has given us insight into different aspects of business, media or technology. This could add to our interpretation of what we do. And we have our family and friends to guide and advise us. But would we ever consider that our Maker made us for a purpose? He made us in His image-- which means we have His character. What would you think of going to Him for advice?

Who Do We Ask For Advice?

This may appear daunting to someone (like me) who might not know how to start a conversation with someone you can’t see! I remember in my teens longing to have a relationship with God. I knew there had to be more to life than “eating, drinking and being merry”. It wasn’t until I started reading my Bible that I realized how much my Heavenly Father cared for me and that He wanted to speak to me as much as I wanted to speak to Him! Daily I would sit before Him and read His Word and ask it to be real in my life. I also asked Him to guide me in what university classes I should take, where I should live, what church to go to, etc. Slowly, but surely, the answers to these questions took shape. And I had a real peace in my heart that God was working in my life.

Could I, like Mr Macy, say that I was made for business back when I was a teenager? No, back then the world was so new and strange to me. Just as Mr Macy travelled further afield than the East Coast of America, so I travelled across the Atlantic for business. It wasn’t anything I could have dreamed of for my life. (I thought I would have studied to be a language interpreter.) But I knew it was the right way for my life to go. I had such a peace in my heart about it even though I would be leaving family and friends.

And it still is the right way, even with the major changes or failures (as Mr Macy faced). I keep moving in the direction that God has for my life. Hopefully, following God even more closely than when I was a teenager. From now on, every Macy’s Thanksgiving parade will have a new meaning in my heart. Because I know God moves us all on by faith in Himself and His Word.

Return to Table of Contents