Funny, sometimes, how things begin.
One of the world’s largest, most effective and respected charities, for example, began in the simplest, humblest and smallest of ways.
With cute little bunnies, to be precise.
When Dr. James Jackson, founder and chairman emeritus of the Denver-based mega-charity Project C.U.R.E. tells the story of the bunnies, he does so with smiles and bouts of robust laughter, well matching an upbeat and outgoing personality sunny enough to quickly melt the iciest of hearts.
He tells of being a boy, the youngest of three brothers, growing up in the 1940s in Idaho’s Boise Valley.
One day, Jackson’s father took James and his brothers aside.
“He told us straight out, ‘I’m never going to be able to give you anything but I can show you how to get anything you want.’”
The father told them how to get ahead in life: “Take what you have and make it into what you need or want”; and how to keep their customers satisfied: “Everybody in the deal has to come out better in the end.”
He then had the boys cut tall grass from their land and fill their red wagon with it.
Finally, he presented them with a gift: A beautiful, and extremely pregnant, white New Zealand rabbit.
Not long after the rabbit gave birth to a large litter, the boys put the bunnies in their grass-filled wagon and hauled them around the neighborhood to show them off.
Other children immediately fell in love with the irresistible little creatures and began making offers for trades. The Jackson boys — already picking up on their father’s lesson plan — were happy to oblige.
In no time at all, the boys exchanged the bunnies for an extensive marble collection, a tricycle, a scooter and a beautiful Schwinn bicycle.
“That’s how we got started in business,” Jackson says today. “It was all about value for value.”
By the time the Jackson boys were teenagers, they were bartering various commodities for such things as Pontiac automobiles, even though none of them were old enough to have a driver’s license.
They were all able to pay their own way through college.
Their business acumen followed Jackson and his brothers when they moved to Colorado in the mid-1960s.
They smelled opportunity in the Colorado Rockies. In partnership with local investors they began buying former sheep grazing land in Winter Park and the Vail Valley for as low as $127 an acre. Developments related to the state’s then-exploding ski industry began to appear on that land.
Jackson and his brothers made millions.
“My goal when I was a little kid was to be a millionaire by the time I was 25,” Jackson says. “By 30, I was umpteen times over whatever I thought I’d be in my whole life.”