FULLER BRUSH HISTORY
The Insider Edition, Presented by Roland Rhoades, Fuller Brush Division Director, & Head of The DownEast Winning Team
A RICH PROUD AMERICAN TRADITION
A Century of Superior Home Cleaning Solutions
On a cold, crisp winter day...New Year's 1906...a 21-year-old entrepreneur from Nova Scotia, Alfred C. Fuller, began an enterprise which has become known worldwide as The Fuller Brush Company. From a bench between the furnace and the coal bin in his sister's Massachusetts home, young Fuller set out to make, in his own words:
"...the best products of their kind in the world.
Mr. Fuller quickly moved out of his sister's home to set up shop in Hartford, CT where they stayed until 1973. Through the years, The Fuller Brush Company has grown from one man's fiber suitcase, filled with unique custom-made brushes, to an exciting collection of home and business care, car care, and personal care products, all crafted with the same quality and precision that have made The Fuller Brush Company a name welcomed everywhere.
From the beginning Fuller established three basic rules:
Today, a century later, these words still guide The Fuller Brush Company.
A SLEEPING GIANT BEGINS TO AWAKE
Fuller's 500,000 square foot plant was completed in 1973, and Fuller has been the major employer in the Barton County, Kansas area. After a couple ownership changes, in 1994 CPAC Inc of NY bought the Fuller Brush Company and increased productivity by increasing manufacturing in the much under-utilized plant with an ever-expanding product line. They also purchased Stanley Home Products and manufacture most of those products now. And Fuller has even expanded their facilities by another 100,000 square feet. (oops - see 2017)
The Fuller Brush Company's Sales Force continues to grow and to answer the need for unique quality products and personal service. One salesman's utilitarian idea, acted upon at the beginning of the 20th century, has become the livelihood for thousands of dedicated men and women who are leading Fuller Brush into the 21st century.
1992 and 1993 saw Fuller's direct sales force transformed into a modern network marketing independent distributor force. Territories were eliminated and distributors can now sell nationwide using the "Fuller Direct" mailorder system set up for them, on the web to all of the US and Canada via the company provided fullerdirect websites, and they can recruit other people as new distributors anywhere in the country, as "word of mouth sales" takes on new meaning with distributorships also becoming a product. Distributor kit prices are kept extremely low to encourage more new distributors to join, so over-ride commissions are paid only on actual subsequent product sales. Fuller's modern Fuller Gold program eliminates the middleman syndrome with every distributor ordering directly from the Company and commission checks are also processed directly by the Company.
Entering the Twenty-first Century, the modern and flexible manufacturing facility in Great Bend, Kansas, continues a tradition of excellence by producing the world-famous quality products associated with The Fuller Brush Company. State-of-the-art automated equipment is mixed with many operations completed entirely and lovingly by skilled hands, so customers receive value without sacrificing beauty.More than 2,000 items are formed within the bustling twelve-acre plant including:
Household Cleaning Aids
To offer Customers Unique Products of the Highest Quality...
That Last... That Work
To Offer Associates and Representatives Real Opportunity...
To Grow... To Learn... To Earn
To Accept the Responsibility of Leadership...
In Service... In Our Community... In Our Environment
A QUEST TRUE OVER 100 YEARS AGO,
STILL HOLDS TRUE TODAY...
TO BE...AND TO GIVE...OUR VERY BEST
The first appearance of Fuller Brush in print came in 1909, in an interview with Alexander Graham Bell for American Magazine.
After six years, feeling confident that his company was doing well, Alfred Fuller bought a new pair of work overalls to replace the pair he always wore with one leg missing. When he put these on in the shop, one craftsman pointed to him and announced, Boys, the business is on two legs at last. Well never be fired. Dad Fuller has a new pair of overalls! From that day on, everyone in the company called the companys founder Dad Fuller.
The phrase Fuller Brush Man was coined by a salesman for The Saturday Evening Post. Until then, members of the Fuller Brush sales force werent sure whether to call themselves salesmen, dealers, representatives or distributors. Within the month, every Fuller salesman was approaching customers with a new introduction: Im your Fuller Brush Man!
The Fuller Brush Man
He had become a national celebrity by the early 1920s, having made regular appearances in popular comic strips with Mickey Mouse, Dagwood and Blondie, Mutt and Jeff and Donald Duck. He even made a guest appearance in Walt Disneys Three Little Pigs.
Insisting on uncompromising integrity, Alfred Fuller made each distributor sign what was called The Pledge of the Fuller Brush Man. Among the promises they made by signing the Pledge was the vow to realize that my obligation is one of service to the customer, to the company I represent and to the community in which I live and work. Each Fuller Brush Man also swore: I will be courteous; I will be kind; I will be sincere; I will be helpful.
Alfred Fuller hired Henry Cave - the English Inventor of an internal combustion engine, acetylene welding equipment, ball bearings and the original flame thrower - to develop additional products for his company. Cave invented the famous Fullergript principle for making superior brushes in 1934. In all, he developed and assigned to Fuller 80 patents which, according to the company founder, revolutionized the technical phases of our industry.
Fuller Brush went to war, supplying the military with 40 million brushes to clean weapons. Also, Fullers Noble Combs were absolutely essential for the production of uniforms. Getting the oriental hog bristles for these combs was a major objective of the famous airlift from China to India - known as Flying the Hump. The workers of the Fuller Brush Hartford CT Plant received an award for high achievement in the production of war materials in 1945.
Red Skelton appeared with Alfred Fuller on Eddie Cantors radio show to talk about the soon-to-be-released movie, The Fuller Brush Man. The hilarious comedy-mystery movie, starring Red Skelton, was a box office smash, drawing movie-goers in record numbers.
Lucille Ball starred in the movie, The Fuller Brush Girl. The film met with the same overwhelming success The Fuller Brush Man had enjoyed.
The 1950s were the heydey of Fuller Brush with their highest sales volumes.
Focus on Character
One of the keys to the enduring success of The Fuller Brush Company was its emphasis on people. Yes, Fuller products were superior. But companies with excellent products fail every day. Alfred and his management team focused on the salesmen and created one of the most successful and popular businesses in the history of commerce.
Growth and Transition
In 1968, Fuller became a part of one of the worlds strongest and largest business entities: the Sara Lee Corporation. For over a decade, Fuller Brush matured and grew into the technological age under the influence of this multi-billion dollar giant. Fullers capabilities in the areas of manufacturing, research and development and computerization greatly increased during this period of time.
Here is a PDF of a nicely written and interesting 1986 history of the Fuller Brush Company. 6 pages.
A private group led by Mr. H. Lee Turner, a successful Kansas trial lawyer and business investor, purchased Fullers manufacturing facility from Sara Lee. His intention was simply to insure that Fuller Brush survived with its own identity and remained an American Company. Finances to properly run the company were a problem, however.
1991 - A Fresh Direction
The world had changed radically since Alfred Fuller launched his brush company in 1906. Yet the new owners were determined to carry the Fuller tradition of quality, service and integrity into a new century of growth.
In 1992, the door-to-door sales method was replaced with an innovative new direct marketing plan called Fullshare. This plan gave distributors of Fuller products the chance to generate unlimited incomes by sharing those products with others and developing their own marketing networks. In the same way Alfred Fuller made door-to-door selling an art and a science, todays Fuller Company has raised to new heights the process of marketing products through sharing. Just as The Fuller Brush Man of yesterday was the acknowledged leader in direct sales, so are todays Fuller distributors the leaders in profitably sharing products with others. The DownEast Winning Team was established in 1992 and has become a nationwide support and training group for a large segment of Fuller Brush distributors and affiliates.
The Fullshare marketing program was completely overhauled in 1993. It is now called Fuller Gold and offers an even better earning opportunity for Fuller Distributors in both sales and network marketing (my checks immediately increased - Roland). And the Fuller Direct program now allows independent distributors the ability to offer complete mail order and internet service to their customers. The Fuller Brush Company is now entirely owned by CPAC, Inc., a world-wide leader in the field of imaging, cleaning and janitorial supplies [NOT the conservative political group]. They were also concerned with keeping the heart and nostalgia of the Fuller Legend alive and well, and in 1994 pumped millions of dollars into Fuller for raw materials, inventory, and new manufacturing equipment. CPAC also purchased Stanley Home Products in 1995 and moved them into the Fuller Brush plant, increasing productivity and giving Fuller dealers the added product line of this 70-year old company. In 2007, CPAC and Fuller Brush restructured back to a privately held corporation.
Today and Beyond
In March 2001 in its 95th year of operation, Fuller Brush ensured its viability in the 21st century, blending the new with the old. The Company established a secure sales website for its distributor force and opened up the web affiliate opportunity for individuals and fundraising organizations. In August 2003 this website was enhanced for better navigability, monthly sales, and the inclusion of the Stanley Home Products line. In 2004 Fuller gave us a "back office website" to check our monthly volume stats, place wholesale orders, and gain access to any new promotional materials.
Distributor Growth & Decline
ROLAND RHOADES had begun his business in 1992, actively recruiting and creating a support and training system to fill the void - the Downeast Winning Team, with a newsletter sent to everyone 4-6 times per year. (See also About Us page and Team Training page). Besides being the most prolific recruiting team of new distributors, we also helped those distributors advance to Director and higher positions, creating almost all of them, and in fact, ALL of them in the Company since 1999.
Fuller Brush in Kansas even called my team, their internet team. When they published the Company Top Sales Leaders, many of my team were at the top, including Mark Haynes, Champion Supplies, and Albert Preston.
My top years in total volume were in 2006-2008, MILLION $$ years. I was making a full-time income by 1998, and grew to a very comfortable full-time income 1999-2014. During that period, the backorders started mushrooming. Fuller actually told my team members that I was training, to slow down and save some products for other distributors and that we were taking up too much time placing orders, so many large salespeople got disgusted and left. Products also started being discontinued.
PDF story The weekly American Journal asked for an interview after receiving my press release. I certainly didn't expect a FRONT PAGE ARTICLE AND PHOTO of me! Continued on Page 11. This is the Oct 15, 2003 issue and the paper covers Westbrook, South Portland, Gorham, Windham, Scarborough, Standish, and Cape Elizabeth Maine. I found out it was in the paper by a bunch of phone calls asking for catalogs. Click on both links for a photo and a readable version of the article.
Even having the ear of the VP head of consumer sales at the Company since 1993, and telling them what we in the field need to increase sales, they continued wanting to increase their bottom line by cutting expenses, instead of increasing the training and product education so that we could sell more. Mis-managed.
Fuller Brush and Stanley Home Products filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and instituted cost-cutting measures. They completely merged their product lines, with some of the same equivalent products being dropped in favor of one brand or the other. It made business much simpler, and more economical for inventory control. We have new owners. A group of Great Bend Kansas area investors including the President of Fuller Brush, bought the factory, land and business. The Distributor and product distribution program was separated as a separate company and bought by a capital investment company. The new owners also closed their outlet stores by year-end, that had competed with independent distributors since the 1980s. It was a good thing for 3 years.
In Summer 2013 Fuller Brush, after having the previous backorder problems resolved, began the expansion of a new division of Fuller Brush - Fuller Home Products - that included hardgoods to complement our traditional product lines, like the Spin Mop, kitchen utensils like cookware and ceramic knives, and much more. And unlike some similar products in the past that had somebody else's brand name, they have the Fuller logo on not only the packaging, but on most of the products itself. These products are imports, but it is not like Fuller would be able to manufacture these products themselves. Fuller DOES continue to manufacture their own traditional products, in Kansas.
January 2015 Fuller Brush completely replaces their website system, giving its distributors a self-replicating website system for their new distributors, with customer and distributor shopping carts, recruiting application, back office stats, and much more.
It sounded like a good idea to us at first. The websites were not functional in Jan 2015 and the old websites were dismantled before making sure they worked. Orders were going straight to the Company instead of being credited to us. They also changed many distributor ID #s so that their website links did not work. The back office did not provide the needed information to properly monitor group progress, and whether people were meeting their qualifications as Director and their group volumes. My newsletter ended in 2014 because this new accounting system did not provide the info to determine the new Managers, sales leaders, etc for my Recognition pages.
September 2016 After 110 years, Fuller Brush - Stanley Home Products signals the end. They close down their distributor system as of September 30, taking away the life work and income of all the distributors who recruited and trained their sales force. They "allow" everyone to continue selling directly under them, at a lower compensation and continue their search for imports to replace American-made quality that Fuller Brush is known for. The Company is "deep in the red" and heading towards bankruptcy if they cannot find a buyer in 2017. So, on Oct 1, 2016, Fuller stole my entire team of distributors and wholesale customers that I had built, saying they would handle all the distributors themselves, which turned into so much work that they started charging distributors $10 just to place an order, and fired all of customer service "wasting time" answering questions. Each month since then shows a continued steady decline in products available, with more manufacturing being moved to Mexico.
Thank you #FullerBrushCompany RIP for being so mis-managed that you are putting your thousands of distributors out of business along with yourselves. My bonus check for Jan 2017 was $39. Ten years earlier in Jan 2007, my retail team volume for that one month was $103,112. Finishing my 2016 tax return, with 9 months of business, I paid my bills, but did not even make enough to owe any income tax at all. In 2017 I will focus on selling off my inventory and calling it quits after 25 years. I can get by until I start social security in December.
As far as a possible new owner trying to bring the business back, they have burned their bridges with distributors, and with the Fuller factory division itself, and I don't know any distributors who would come back and place any trust into investing their future with Fuller-Stanley.
After months of backorders, products that were manufactured at the Kansas factory
are showing up again, but now emblazoned "MADE IN CHINA". SAD. They also
announced a new catalog April 1 with price increases and a long list of products
no longer available or while supplies last. They also issued a notice that they
are actively searching for new manufacturers for their products in Mexico and
China instead of paying for American workers at the Kansas factory.
Jan 5, 2018 - Larry Gray finally gives us an update on the new owners. Fuller Brush was sold to Galaxy Brush LLC of Lakewood NJ (note that location since there is a different Galaxy Brush in PA.) What about us? They can't be bothered with us anymore. He says "SOME" distributors may be allowed to sell the products [rumor is case lots only]. No more details on us or the product line until March or April. I am actively selling off my inventory. If you were on my Downeast Winning Team and need help, I can refer customers to you - email me with your inventory list.
March 21, 2018 - We have received enough info through the grapevine that, I am not removing the RIP from my title above. Looks like they are trying to make a go of it again by doubling all their prices. See my FB4ME link below for details. RIP. So sad, but I will enjoy my retirement. - Roland Rhoades
Further Updates (June 30, 2018) are on my former Training webpage.