Brownie Wise Burps a Bowl

“I wanted to be a successful human being.”

  Brownie Wise.

Brownie WiseIt was 1947 and 34-year-old Brownie Wise found herself a divorced, single mom trying to scrape out a living. She was barely making it. Then one afternoon a woman selling Stanley Home Products knocked on her door and did an in-home demonstration. Wise wasn’t impressed and believed she could have done a much better job. That belief spurred her to become a sales representative. Soon she was making a comfortable living selling brushes and cleaning products in the living rooms of her friends and neighbors in what was called a Stanley Party.

The Poly-T Wonderbowl

In 1949, she moved to Florida and was introduced to the Poly-T Wonderbowl by some Stanley colleagues. The Wonderbowl was an ingenious product made of a unique, flexible plastic. It came with a lid that when “burped,” formed an airtight seal. It was the invention of Earl Tupper, a grouchy, reclusive New Englander with a long history of failed products. Unlike some of his other inventions, (including the fish-powered boat and the Sweetie Picture Belt) the Wonderbowl had the potential to be a big seller but instead languished on store shelves. Wise quickly discerned it was a product that had to be demonstrated to be appreciated. She added it to her product line and quickly sold more bowls than Tupper could produce. That caught his attention and in 1951 he offered her a job as Vice President. Wise pulled the Wonderbowls from retail shelves and focused entirely on selling through Tupperware Parties. In short order, Earl Tupper was a multi-millionaire and Wise was synonymous with the product. She promoted Tupperware on TV, radio and in countless newspaper and magazine articles. She made the cover of every homemaker’s magazine and was the first woman to be featured on the cover of Business Week. She—like the product—was a sensation.


Of course, Tupperware’s phenomenal success had much to do with the quality of the product. It was well-made, innovative and met a need. But the company’s impressive growth was driven by the zeal of its dealers. Wise recognized that it took more than commissions to keep her sales force motivated and growing. She was one of the first to appreciate that recognition was the key to building a successful workforce. In 1954, she introduced the four-day Jubilee. It was an exuberant gathering of dealers that was part pep rally, part entertainment, and part (a small part) sales meeting. Jubilee included extravagant giveaways like Cadillacs and mink coats. It also included treasure hunts with dealers digging up prizes safely buried in Tupperware containers. Most of all, it provided an opportunity for successful people to become more successful.

A Tupperware Party For Your Office?

Many leaders assume an employee’s paycheck is sufficient reward for a job well done—and often it is. But everyone likes some recognition for their effort. Folks like to know that their contribution is, if not appreciated, at least noticed. While we can’t stage a Jubilee to show our thanks, it’s a good idea to remember that Wise ultimately made successful people more successful by simply recognizing them and saying thanks. Using whatever means are at your disposal, make sure your high performers know they are valued. It can be as easy as a pat on the back or something with a price tag but it will always pay back more than it cost. And it will help you both be successful human beings.   —Ebert

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