Richard Warren Sears was born on 7th December 1863 in Stewartville in Minnesota and became a millionaire by cofounding along with Alvah C. Roebuck: Sears, Roebuck and Company.
Sears started working when he was quite young to help his family with money. He learned telegraphy and then got a job in Redwood Falls in Minnesota as a station agent, working for the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway. In 1886 Minnesota retailer Edward Stegerson refused a shipment of gold-filled pocket watches made by a Chicago manufacturer. Sears managed to persuade the wholesaler to let him have any profit he made that was over $12. He then went around offering the watches to station agents along the line at $14. The station agents found it easy to sell the watches due to the expansion of the railways during this period and because of the recent introduction of time zones. Over six months Sears managed to earn himself a profit of $5,000.
He then went to Minneapolis to found the R.W. Sears Watch Company. He put adverts in farm newspapers and mailed flyers to possible clients.
In 1887 the company moved to Chicago as it was a significant transportation centre for the Midwestern United States. He moved to Oak Park in Illinois and went on to hire Alvah Curtis Roebuck who was a watch repairman who helped him to repair watches that were returned. He was the first employee of the company. In 1893 along with Roebuck, at the age of 30, Sears co-founded Sears, Roebuck & Company. Roebuck departed from the company a couple of years after and Sears got new business associate called Julius Rosenwald. Rosenwald was a clothier who went on to become President of the company in 1908 when Sear retired, aged 44. After he retired he moved from Oak Park to Lake Bluff in Illinois.
In 1893 Sears published their first catalogue which only offered watches at this time. Come 1897 the catalogue offered men and ladies clothes, silverware, plows, athletic equipment and bicycles. The catalogue had 500 pages and was posted to around 300,000 houses. As Sears used to live on a farm in his youth, he catered to rural consumers as he knew the things they needed. His experience on the railroad helped him to send merchandise to distant places.
The company started to sell mail order homes using the catalogues in 1908. Sears died at the age of 55 in 1914 from Bright’s disease in Waukesha in Wisconsin.