Debunking Coca-Cola’s Most Popular Business Motivation Myth

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Michael Brooks

An award-winning entrepreneur, speaker, and author.

I’m an entrepreneur, and business quotes, memes, and inspirational stories are my guilty pleasure. They always make my day.

I don’t mind if I see the same thing over and over again all over the social media posted and shared by my fellow entrepreneurs. You couldn’t ask for a better confirmation of the quality and impact certain words or pictures have on business owners, could you?

Here’s one of the most heavily “exploited,” and therefore, the most popular business motivational story. It goes without saying that you must have stumbled upon it at least once on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, with different pictures, but with the exact text:

Whenever you feel bad, just remember that Coca-Cola only sold 25 bottles the first year. Never Give Up!


It really sounds amazing, doesn’t it? You begin with 25 bottles, and 135 years later, give it or take, you sell somewhere between 2 and 2.5 billion bottles daily (estimated!).

Just like thousands of other, more or less similar, stories and messages, I took this one for granted. Why in the world, would you doubt something positive and inspirational? Even if it isn’t entirely accurate down to the last detail, what’s the harm? Right? Nobody is going to get hurt. We feel better and inspired after consuming the content, such as this. So, what’s the point in dwelling on this uplifting story? Is it really necessary?

Well, it is. Here’s why.

A Business Mind Is Both Curious and Dubious!

You know how they say, your brain is like a muscle. Meaning, you have to exercise a lot and regularly to get and stay in entrepreneurial shape. First, you have to make sure that you have all the facts straight. Then, you have to ask the right questions.

There’s more to any story, especially this one. Don’t you want to know more? Coca-Cola hasn’t become a business empire by simply repeating “never give up” every single day for more than a hundred years. The same applies to Nike and their business “mantra” Just-Do-It. There has to be more, and what do you know, there is.

Here’s a very rare screenshot of the website ‘World of Coca-Cola‘ (history page), I was able to find on News Mobile India. I have tried to access this particular page myself, but for some reason “this content is password protected” by Coca-Cola itself (?!).


The moment of truth:

The first servings of Coca‑Cola were sold for 5 cents per glass. During the first year, sales averaged a modest nine servings per day in Atlanta.

We are talking about the year 1886. The first bottle of Coca-Cola became available in 1894 after the initial success and growing demand.

So, let’s do some quick math. The first year, 365 days, with “modest” nine servings a day for not only a new product, but also for a new concept. That’s 3,285 servings during the first business year. Five cents per serving (glass) should give us $164.25. Based on the inflation calculator, one dollar in 1886 should be worth $29.18 today. Not even five gees, gee.

But, the most important thing is that “the growing demand for Coca-Cola” stimulated and inspired the founders “to make the beverage portable.” Let’s quickly sum up the facts and findings of this story the right way:

  1. Coca-Cola didn’t sell a single bottle the first year!
  2. Coca-Cola was selling nine “units” (servings or glasses or whatever) on average a day (!!) in one city alone (!!) the first year (1886).
  3. Coca-Cola was “technically” speaking successful from day one.
  4. Who and how came up with the number of 25 bottles of Coca-Cola is beyond me.
  5. It took 13 years for the first bottling system to develop and launch!

Thanks For Nothing! What’s The Point of Your Story?!

Firstly, even the most popular and powerful brands have humble beginnings.

Secondly, and in this particular case, more importantly, there is no fake news or false fact. There are only people who take all online “things” for granted, with no desire or a natural curiosity to invest a couple of minutes in checking them out. And, I’m totally OK with it.

If I see one of many versions of this 25-Coca-Cola-bottles story on someone’s Twitter or Instagram, and that someone is not an entrepreneur, business owner, or startup founder, I’m just going to register and forget it the next second.

However, if an entrepreneur, who invests a lot in business image, posts this “Never Give Up” Coca-Cola bottle on their LinkedIn, then I have a problem. I have every right to question someone’s entrepreneurial mindset. Are you the right person for me to do business with? I’m not exaggerating. I’m not an annoying stickler for perfection. Oh boy, that’s such a cheesy line.

The devil is in the details, and when it comes to business details, rest assured the devil has full-time employees eyeing even the most trivial things around the clock. What kind of a business creature are you? Do you just consume pieces of information and share content while you’re running through the digital jungle? Do you stop for a moment to investigate, question, or learn? Eventually, are you an entertainer who’s occasionally also an entrepreneur, or an entrepreneur who occasionally entertains their social media followers with inspiring, provocative, but above true posts?

I am working with like-minded people, who are sharp, thorough, focused, and reliable.


I am reading stories published on Hacker Noon because “every post goes through a second human, and there are quality control issues, there are content improvement efforts, so that’s like just a better experience. I think the second human rule is something; everyone should use when they post online.”

I am nominated as the Contributor of the Year in Business, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, and COVID-19 categories for the Noonies2021 Awards for the reasons, I leave up to you to judge and vote for after reading my stories.

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