1975 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"There is no magic wand. If you have an idea and you believe in it and you work at it and you have the grace of God, there’s a chance."
Vincent Marotta is the son of an Italian immigrant. He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where his father ran a coal company. Since his father was not fluent in English, Marotta was required to help with the business doing front office work in addition to weighing deliveries and sifting coal.
A good student and excellent athlete Marotta signed a contract to play professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals. That fall, he enrolled in Mt. Union College, where he won All-Ohio football honors in his freshman year. Seven months later, just two days before he was to join the Cardinals for spring training, he was called up for active duty in World War II. He had enlisted the previous fall.
After his honorary discharge from the military, Marotta returned to Mt. Union, where he set records in both football and track. He briefly played football for the Cleveland Browns, and then taught school for two years. He began building backyard garages, and his business boomed. He expanded into building housing subdivisions and shopping centers.
In 1968, Marotta's thoughts turned to coffee. He didn't like the coffee at home and began to wonder about new ways of brewing coffee rather than percolating it. He set up a shop in a back room of his real estate development office and spent the next two years developing the ideal coffee maker. He took his working model to the Chicago Housewares Show and came home with thousands of orders. At that time, it took an entire day to make one Mr. Coffee, the name he gave to his invention. Three years later, Marotta's company was manufacturing 42,000 Mr. Coffee units a day.
Recognizing the needed to market Mr. Coffee nationwide, Marotta called Joe DiMaggio to ask him to serve as the spokesperson for Mr. Coffee. "I chose him because he had a good reputation and he was my boyhood hero," says Marotta.
Today, Mr. Coffee is the largest selling coffee maker in the world. Now semi-retired, Marotta is frequently asked to address business students. "They're all looking for some secret formula, and I let them down pretty fast," he says. "There is no magic wand. If you have an idea, and you believe in it, and you work at it, and you have the grace of God, there's a chance you will succeed."