These are all the statements associated with John Wellons and, like me, I’m sure many of you have heard him express these thoughts over the course of his business career. These were not just random thoughts or musings. John believed they were like the keys to success in the business world and in life. He forged these beliefs over many years and from many experiences. I was privileged to work for and with John for 34 years and I can promise you that he believed in them and he wanted you to believe in them too.
To say John Wellons was a successful business man is a little like saying the “Mona Lisa” is a pretty picture! It’s a bit of an understatement. John was a self-made man. He, as well as his brothers, rose from humble beginnings to achieve success in a variety of business ventures; gained the respect and envy of his peers; and, established a business enterprise that reached far beyond the limits of Dunn vand Harnett County. How did the son of a preacher and farmer accomplish so much?
The third of five boys, John grew up working on the family farm in Micro, NC. This was his first business experience. Picking cotton, priming tobacco and tilling the soil were among daily tasks to be accomplished before and after school. His Dad’s expectations and quotas were high. There was a good deal of competition among the brothers to see how much work could be done or how much work could be avoided. With no big tractors or combines to do the work, hours were long and the work was hard on the farm. But from this experience, John and his brothers learned a valuable lesson—the road to success was paved with determination, persistence and hard work. There would be no rich relative, no lottery prize or get rich quick scheme—just plain determination, persistence and hard work. These traits became the foundation of John’s future successes.
Nonetheless, after spending too many hours looking at the south end of a north bound mule, John decided to seek opportunities elsewhere. After graduating from high school, John began clerking at the local pharmacy. He also drove Dr. Hinnant, his uncle, around Micro and the surrounding areas as Dr. Hinnant made house calls.
Shortly thereafter, John was drafted into the army. Following his discharge from the military, he began working for the Proctor and Gamble Company. Going door to door selling household products, John noticed a curious thing. Other salesmen were leaving candy for housewives to sell. For some reason, John saw an opportunity here. So, on a part-time basis, he began selling candy from the trunk of his car. John was hooked! Selling candy fascinated him and when the opportunity to purchase a small candy company in Dunn appeared, he jumped at it. And thus was born the Wellons Candy Company.
John nurtured the company from its origins, a staff consisting of him and four other employees, to a thriving enterprise that employed 250 manufacturing staff, over 50 salesmen, and distributed the candy to 45 states. The rapidly growing company required expansion into a larger facility on three occasions. John had found his first love in the business world. But like the gambler in the Kenny Rogers song, John knew when to hold them and knew when to fold them. In the early sixties, he saw the candy business changing, so he sold the company. In 1970, the company closed. John may have sold the candy company, but his love for making and distributing candy stayed with him for the rest of his life.
Mr. John & Mrs. Alma Wellons
In addition to his business pursuits, John was a philanthropist. In 1950, he established the John H. Wellons Foundation. The Foundation provided loans to individuals who wished to pursue a college education. The Foundation was also an active sponsor of affordable housing for the elderly, building thirty-two facilities that serve 1,248 residents. One of the Foundation’s primary missions became the effort to “provide a better quality of life for those who reside in our communities.”
John’s philanthropic activities also included his devotion to and financial support of his church and other Christian organizations. He was, for many years, a devoted member and active participant in Gospel Tabernacle Church. He was a founding member of the Board of Regents at Oral Roberts University and devoted much time and resources to nurturing the growth of that institution. John was also a member of the Board of Regents of CBN (now Regent) University and served on the Presidential Board of Advisors at Campbell University.
As a result of his diversified and successful business pursuits, John Wellons was known and respected in board rooms and office suits from New York to Florida. Beginning with meager assets, he was able to establish a varied, extensive and very successful business enterprise. How did he accomplish that? Determination, persistence, hard work, strong religious convictions and an unshakable belief that if you had a good product, if you could provide good service and if you were willing to get out and see the people, you would succeed.
John did indeed have a good formula for success in the business world. But more importantly, he has a formula for success in life. He was a good business man. He also was simply, a good man.
Clement E. Medley, Jr. │President and CEO
FIRST FEDERAL BANK
Wellons Foundation Management Services has specialized in managing affordable properties since 1990.
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