A lot of people have bucket lists.
For Stanley Tam, a three-and-a-half gallon plastic bucket became the key that turned a small silver reclamation firm into a major manufacturer.
“You might say we got into the plastics business by accident,” he recalls in his autobiography, “GOD Owns My Business.” Not that he believes in fateful “accidents” or coincidences.
The title of the book by this devout Christian is literally true. In 1955, he stunned his board and customers by turning over his entire, thriving business to God. All profit from the United States Plastics Company was to go toward Christian charity. It still does.
Today, the Stanita Foundation’s beneficiary is the Greenwood, Indiana-based One Mission Society, which establishes and supports churches in Third World countries. The Society has received more than $140 million for its missionary work in 42 countries.
Mr. Tam’s story is a classic bootstrap, entrepreneur-makes-good tale, but with an important distinction. Every step of the way, he included God as his inspiration and chief advisor.
A More than Helpful Customer
Stanley Tam grew up in Lima, Ohio, during the Depression. After graduating from high school in 1933, he sold products door to door. One of his customers shared the Gospel with him, and he went to a church, was convicted, and answered an altar call.
A year earlier, he had read about the Eastman Kodak Company using 16 tons of silver each week making film emulsion, most of which washed off during photo development in labs across the nation.
“It seemed incredible,” he wrote. “Nearly 13 tons of silver going down the drain every week!”
He then learned about a man who had invented a machine to reclaim the silver, but who was unable to market it. Enter 20-year-old Stanley. He paid a fee to the inventor and began placing the machines at no charge in photo studios, where the owners were given a share of the silver proceeds.
The business, which he named TAMCO, had its ups and downs, and he labored for years to build it. The more he relied on God, the more he succeeded. He began to give more and more of the profits to God.
In 1940, Stanley made God his senior partner. He and his wife Juanita established the Stanita Foundation, giving it 51% ownership of the company and using the profits for missionary work. Having God as majority owner actually brought Stanley more clients. Photo lab owners trusted him to be more honest than some other silver reclamation operators who had cheated them.
In 1945, Stanley felt the Lord calling him to put more effort into winning souls. While on a crusade tour of Korea, the evangelist he was supporting suddenly returned home, leaving Stanley in charge. He was shy and fearful. But he recalled that sharing his personal testimony was “one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
In 1955, while speaking in Medellin, Colombia, Stanley had a fateful talk with God, as related on the U.S. Plastics Company website:
› What are you asking me to do, Lord?
› Stanley, if you agree a soul is the greatest value in the whole world and is the only investment you can make in this life that will pay dividends throughout eternity, would you be willing to go back to Ohio and become an employee of Mine?
› An employee, Lord? Isn’t that what I am now?
› We’re partners now, Stanley. I want you to turn your entire business over to Me!
Stanley was stunned. It was beyond anything he had ever considered, but he managed to pray, “If this is what You want, I will obey.” On the way home from South America, Stanley mustered the courage to share the experience with his wife. She supported the decision wholeheartedly and together they signed over 100% of the company’s stock to the Stanita Foundation.
The Bucket Gives Him an Idea
But getting back to that bucket. In 1955, after he had deployed larger silver collection units, Stanley realized he needed bigger receptacles. At a photofinisher’s convention, he saw a large plastic bucket and bought a few of them. Plastic at that time was nearly a novelty. He later realized he could make a profit making the buckets himself. And other things.
Soon, the plastics business overtook TAMCO, and the United States Plastics Company was born. Stanley quadrupled the size of his plant in Lima and had “Christ is the answer” painted in huge, bright blue letters on the side facing Interstate 75. It’s still there. The company now makes more than 30,000 products on the five-acre site.
In 1997, Stanley handed the reins of the company over to others and concentrated on evangelism.
His autobiography contains all sorts of spiritual gems and some amazing stories in which God used what seemed to be calamities to strengthen his faith. One time, he realized he had overcharged customers a small amount, but blew it off as inconsequential. But God convicted him, and he and Juanita spent hours licking stamps and mailing more than 3,000 small refunds to customers.
In “God Owns My Business,” he shares five guideposts for life:
1. To thank God for every adverse event.
2. Rather hold a bolt of lightening in my hand than to speak against a brother.
3. To pay any price in order to be obedient to the Holy Spirit.
4. To administer in love and never to govern in anger.
5. To pay three compliments each day.
He also wrote, “I cannot overemphasize the importance of obedience to God. Only then can we be sure of God’s blessing.”
A writer for Timothy Partners, Ltd. He is a regular weekly columnist for The Washington Times and Townhall.com and is frequently published by AmericanThinker.com, DailyCaller.com, OneNewsNow.com, and others. He has authored the following books: “A Strong Constitution: What Would America Look Like If We Followed the Law” (D. James Kennedy Ministries, 2018), Invested with Purpose: The Birth of the Biblically-Responsible Investment Movement, and A Nation Worth Fighting For: 10 Steps to Restore Freedom.