Section 2: The Entrepreneurial Life
Part 4: Kingdom Entrepreneurs
Another one of my heroes is Jesse Boot. If any of you has been to England you may have been to Boot's the Chemists. Boot's the Chemists is the oldest chain of retail shops in Britain. They are also the biggest retailers in Britain. I think about 75% of women in Britain shop at Boot's weekly. Those are amazing statistics--the biggest retailer in Britain is Boot's. If you go into a Boot's store as a business person and analyze what they do, you'll be very confused. There's a pharmacy. They sell vitamins and minerals, herbal supplements, all that kind of stuff as well.
They sell pots and pans for cooking food and then they sell books and sell baby clothes and food. It's an odd combination of things to sell in one shop. If you put together a business plan and went to a bank and said, "We want to open a chain of chemist shops that also sell baby food, pots and pans and this and that," the bank manager would laugh.
The story proves a fascinating one because Boot's father was an apothecary, a chemist, to the wealthy families of Britain. He used to make these herbal remedies and coat them in gold leaf and these very, very wealthy people would then have these gold leaf covered tablets that they would take when they didn't feel quite 100%. Jesse Boot's was a Christian young man and he was appalled at what his father was doing.
"You're making medicines for the people who don't need it. What we need is someone to make medicine that the poor people can afford to buy and use." So Boot set about starting to make medicines as cheaply as possible and selling them as cheaply as possible to the poor people who really needed them. He had a cart that he used to wheel into the market at Nottingham and he used to help the poor people that came along. He would diagnose what was wrong with them and sell them what they needed. They were just basic medicines in huge jars and he would dispense them the best he knew how and he made medicine available to the poor people in Britain.
He got married and his wife said one of the problems is not just that they need medicine but they need a good diet throughout the whole year. So they started processing foods. Foods that were good for people and processing it in such a way that it would be preserved and they could sell it throughout the year. That's why they added food to the medicines they sold. She said another thing we need to do to is teach people how to cook this food properly. So she used to run little cookery classes and then added pots and pans to what they sold.
Then she was concerned with illiteracy- she was really the driving force behind Boot's. All these people that were coming to the cookery classes were illiterate, so they started helping people to learn to read and write and they added books in these little libraries. All the lending libraries in Britain come from Boot's. They started these little lending libraries where people could come and they were in shops by this time and they could come to learn to read when the shops closed and borrow books when they needed to, etc. The children were in bad condition so she started making children's clothes and selling children's clothes alongside these things.
It was a very holistic approach to business and that business was their mission. They were effecting change in society through their business— they weren't doing business for missions. Boot's company grew, as I said, and it's now the biggest retailer in Britain. It grew to such an extent that at one point he decided to start training people to do what he was doing. He set up a small college and he recruited people to train them to make medicines for poor people that they could afford and to expand his company. That became Nottingham University, now one of the biggest medical universities in Britain. It trains thousands of people to go into medicine.
He built Nottingham University with the profits from his company. The aim of Nottingham University was that half of the people they trained would end up making medicines for poor people and be pharmacists. He invented the whole pharmacy system in Britain. The other 50% were trained to be pharmacists and chemists and go out overseas to those who didn’t have medicines. So half was to train people for missions and the other half was to train people to effect change in the UK. That wasn’t very long ago, yet when we look at some of these nations we are working in, some of them actually need business people who will go with the mission to be the solution to the problems.