Colonel Harland Sanders was fired from a variety of jobs throughout his career before he first started cooking chicken in his roadside Shell Service Station in 1930, when he was 40 years old, during the Great Depression. His gas station didn’t actually have a restaurant, so he served diners in his attached personal living quarters.
Over the next 10 years, he perfected his “Secret Recipe” and pressure fryer cooking method for his famous fried chicken and moved onto bigger locations. His chicken was even praised in the media by food critic Duncan Hines (yes, that Duncan Hines). However, as the interstate came through the Kentucky town where the Colonel’s restaurant was located in the 1950s, it took away important road traffic, and the Colonel was forced to close his business and retire, essentially broke. Worried about how he was going to survive off his meager $105 monthly pension check, he set out to find restaurants who would franchise his secret recipe—he wanted a nickel for each piece of chicken sold. He drove around, sleeping in his car, and was rejected more than 1,000 times before finally finding his first partner.