When you think of large, successful companies you might need to remember what it took to get them there. Many of the most successful companies in today’s landscape started out in garages or college dorm rooms with just some friends, a great idea, and the unwillingness to give up.
Google is one of the most recognized names in business. Even toddlers telling their parents to “Google” something when they need an answer to a question. It’s hard to imagine that it all started back in 1995. Even before the internet was really even a thing. The company started in Stanford University dorm room with two friends, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The original name of their search tool was “Backrub”. (Let’s all admit that their first good decision was to change the name!)
In 1998 they got their first investor and continued to work to evolve their business in a way that benefited their customers. From the dorm room, they moved to a garage until they eventually moved up to their headquarters in California. Google is now used by billions of people and all because two friends saw the potential of breaking down the world wide web and helping people find what they need.
Back in 1976, Steve Jobs sold his Volkswagen minibus and his friend Steve Wozniak sold his programmable calculator to give themselves the funds needed to start a company. The company was originally operated out of Job’s parents’ garage. While it was definitely painful at first, their personal investment definitely paid off.
Apple Computers was originally only supposed to sell design and sell personal computers. They started with clunky pieces of machines and continued to ride the waves of the industry and really found their stride. The company would later find massive success after the launch of of the iPhone, iPad, and the iconic iPod. Apple is now the most valuable company in the world with a $2.54 trillion valuation.
One of the few companies to carry the name of the initial inventor, Michael Dell put his company on the map in 1984 in his dorm room at the University of Texas. He quickly realized that his company had the potential to take off and dropped out of college to continue pursuing his dream. He moved his computer business out of his dorm and into a garage.
By 1999, Dell was the largest seller of PCs in the United States. However, the company then began to expand its business offerings to include TVs and digital cameras along with a large variety of other computer-related products.
One of the oldest companies on our list, Disney is a great example of the won’t-quit mentality that business takes. Walt’s firsts film studio was his uncle’s garage. Walt rigged up a cartoon stand in his Uncle Robert’s garage, using dry-goods boxes and spare lumber. That same year he moved out to California and he and his brother Roy launched what is now a global.
In 1928 they introduced Mickey Mouse to the world, and their storytelling skills and fun animation skills have continued to grow and change throughout the decades. He also showed in 1937, that even after bankruptcy, he wasn’t afraid to take risks as he went over budget by 400% on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The company now has a market capitalization of $171.87 billion.
Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight saw an opportunity to bring high-quality, low-cost running shoes to American consumers. The company they started originally operated as a distributor for Japanese shoe maker Onitsuka Tiger, which is now known as ASICS. Knight convinced Onitsuka to let them distribute its shoes in the United States. From there, they began selling them out of the trunk of Knight’s car at track meets. During that time, they stored the shoes in a garage.
In 1971, the company changed its name to Nike, Inc. and began developing its own line of footwear. The company’s first shoe, the Nike Cortez, was released in 1972. It became an instant hit with runners. The company went public in 1980 and has since become one of the world’s largest manufacturers of athletic footwear, apparel, and accessories.
Now with his own song, Jeff Bezos had big dreams and expectations for Amazon when he started it in 1994. He never lost his focus even when his naysayers named the company “Amazon.bomb”. The company started selling books online and even had a bell in their original small office space that would ring every time an order would come in. That bell had to be removed within a few weeks!
In today’s worldwide buyer’s market, Amazon is one of the most familiar places to find any product that you might need. They have continued to grow and expand. In the company’s original plans, the company never wanted to keep any inventory on hand. Amazon now has multiple warehouses and fulfillment centers to work on streamlining their processes and getting products to people faster.
Harley Davidson Motorcycles
There aren’t many companies that can say they have not only survived through two World Wars. And not only survived but made products that were used in those wars. However, Harley Davidson can! Beginning their story in 1903 by two buddies, William Harley and Arthur Davidson, had an original idea of adding a motor to a bicycle. They continued to expand and grow into the gorgeous machines you see on the road today.
Harley built the original prototype for the company in a 10 x 15 shed. They went on to make 50 bikes in their first year. Still headquartered in Milwaukee, WI, that number looks pretty small compared to the 194,256 they manufactured in 2021.
The 1980s laid the framework for the world of technology that exists today. But it took a lot of people who had a vision of what it truly could be to get here. Bill Gates and Paul Allen were working together on trying to develop software for an Altair 8800. That’s when their minds began to wander way beyond that original project.
They were soon asked by IBM to produce essential software for a new product they were working on, the personal computer. Microsoft completed that project and continued to fine-tune and expand their business and systems throughout the 80s and 90s. They even found themselves in some legal trouble when they were found guilty by a court for trying to maintain a monopoly. While this might have stifled them for a bit, they continued to work through it and are one of the most well-known and popular computer systems today.
What started in a garage in 1945 between 3 friends, Ruth & Elliot Handler, and Harold “Matt’ Matson, turned into a company where millions of kids now have products among their collection of toys. The first success was called the Uke-A-Doodle in 1947. This toy paved the way for tons of new ideas and products to come. Including the world-changing Barbie doll in 1959.
In 1955 they began utilizing tv advertising through the Mickey Mouse Club to reach their ideal customer. This revolutionized how to market new toys to their target audience.
William “Bill” Redington Hewlett and David “Dave” Packard started up Hewlett-Packard in a one car garage in Palo Alto, California in 1939. They originally spent $538 dollars to rent the space. There were times in their product creating that they even used the family oven to finish test products. There first financially successful product was a precision audio oscillator.
If this doesn’t get your entrepreneurial heart and mind racing, then check out these 10 Billion Dollar Companies that Started as Home Businesses! You can’t get to the finish line if you don’t start at the beginning!