The Entrepreneur: How It All Began
In 1915, when he established J.C. Hempel´s Skibsfarve-Fabrik, Jørgen Christian (J.C.) Hempel was 21 years old and the youngest wholesale dealer in Denmark. This extremely modest paint factory would go on to become the worldwide Hempel Group. Despite the war and the shortage of everything, J.C. Hempel managed to procure the necessary raw materials to build up a respectable business and opened a factory on Strandlodsvej, Copenhagen in 1917.
The Businessman: Growth into a Global Company
J.C. Hempel was a foresighted man and in the very year his first factory was built in Copenhagen (1917), Hempel acquired his first foreign representative in Spain. The following year saw the manufacture of Hempel paint in Sweden, and production in Norway followed shortly after. With his solid business acumen and strategic collaborations with the likes of A.P. Møller, J. C. Hempel soon succeeded in building Hempel into a global company. When World War II broke out, plunging the industry of the world into a state of emergency, Hempel’s Ship Paints were being manufactured in seven factories, marketed by 27 representatives and stocked in 22 ports all over the world. After the war, the expansion continued unabated until today, with 6,000 employees in 80 countries working day in and day out to turn Hempel into an even better company.
Social Engagement: Giving Back to Society
The interest of J.C. Hempel stretched beyond that of growth and business. Long before it was customary, he introduced employee benefits such as free milk and soft drinks at work. He acquired holiday homes for his employees’ use, established sports associations and subsidised his employees’ further training. This strong, supportive culture still exists and places the focus on the staff.
Moreover, he decided that, once the capital reserves were secured, all profits from the business should be given back to society for social, humanitarian, scientific, cultural, artistic or other non-profit purposes.
Love of the Company: Why He Gave It All Away
In 1948 J.C. Hempel made a far-sighted decision. To ensure stable ownership and a healthy future for Hempel and its associated companies, the founder transferred all the shares to the newly established J.C. Hempel’s Legatfond (later the Hempel Foundation). The aim was to ensure ownership of the future by making a foundation the stable and long-term owner. At the same time, the Foundation would always have capital reserves available for the company.
Today the Hempel Foundation is still the sole shareholder of the Hempel Group and every year awards donations. In 2021 the Foundation donated EUR 19.6 million.