Great things come from small beginnings, as we say. Many of the biggest corporations, global companies, and empires started out in a small neighborhood garage. But without these determined, innovative, and enterprising individuals who formed their famous businesses in their small garages, we wouldn’t have benefited from the products and services that are famous the world over.
From these companies, we realize that a garage may be more than just a place to park and repair our cars. As it turns out, a garage is also a great place to build a company – you start from scratch inside a garage and then eventually turn your business into a national and world empire. Here are ten of the famous businesses that began in garages.
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos founded his company in 1994 inside his garage in Bellevue, Washington. Bezos initially chose to sell books for his new business, and so Amazon originally started off as an online bookstore. He sold his first book in the summer the following year and in less than two years, Bezos issued his Initial Public Offering (IPO) for his company.
Today Amazon sells more than just books. It also sells videos, clothing, music, gadgets (including Amazon’s own Kindle Fire and their newest Fire TV), toys, appliances, home and kitchen products, travel, software, music downloads, apps, and so much more. Amazon is now the world’s biggest online retailer.
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were in their twenties when they started Apple Computers in 1976, inside a garage in Cupertino, California. Together the two “Steves” and their small team built 50 computers (whose parts Jobs had purchased), called Apple Computer I in 30 days. These computers, which were Wozniak’s idea, were sold at a retail price of $500 each.
Apple has grown to be one of the most famous and valuable tech companies in the world.
It was at a small one-car garage in Los Angeles, California (which is not too far from the location of the now world-famous Disneyland) where the Walt Disney Company began its roots. Walt Disney’s uncle, Robert Disney, actually owned the house where the garage was located. Walt, Robert, and Walt’s brother Roy set up the first Walt Disney studio in that garage, where they start producing films such as the Alice comedies which were part of the original Alice in Wonderland.
Today Disney is one of the most recognized brands and the biggest multimedia company in the world.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin were still students at Stanford University in 1998 when they started a project at a garage in Menlo Park California, owned by their friend Susan Wojcicki.
Soon this project, now known as Google, was distracting their studies. So Page and Brin tried to sell Google to Excite for a million dollars. But Excite refused to buy it. So they turned Google into the multibillion-dollar global company that it is today.
Twenty-one year old William S. Harley developed his plans to create a small engine to power an ordinary bicycle. Along with his friend Arthur Davidson, they built what could be their first motorcycle at a small wooden shed (which is likened to a garage because it didn’t house cars) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Two years later they formed a company, Harley Davidson. Today it’s one of only two major American motorcycle manufacturers and one of the world’s best-known motorcycle brands.
Hewlett-Packard was founded in a one-car garage in Palo Alto, California on New Year’s Day, 1939. Together, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard invested $538 for their small company.
The two men developed their first product, the audio oscillator, in the garage. One of the first buyers of their oscillators was Walt Disney (who also built his own empire from a humble garage). Disney was going to use these oscillators for his film Fantasia.
Hewlett-Packard is now recognized as the symbolic founder of Silicon Valley. Today, it is one of the world’s biggest companies.
The company’s roots began in 1948 in the old stables at the back of Railway Hotel, in Hornsey, North London in the United Kingdom. Twenty-year-old Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman built his first Lotus Car in one of those stables, using a 1930s Austin Seven and a power drill. The first vehicle was called Lotus Mark I.
Lotus Cars are one of the world’s most esteemed and premiere racing car manufacturers today.
Anthony Maglica was born in New York but grew up in Croatia. When Croatia was ravaged during the Second World War, Maglica’s family returned to the United States, settling in Ontario, California. Maglica spoke little English, so he maintained his work as a machinist.
After earning $125, Maglica bought his first lathe on a down-payment (with the remainder being paid off with monthly payments), then started to work at a Los Angeles garage. He went on to manufacture precision parts. Maglica’s machine shop was incorporated in 1974 as Mag Instrument. The company’s first flashlight was unveiled five years later. Maglite Inc. is now known for its durable flashlight, which is the standard issue gear used by US police officers.
Mattel’s origins were established at a garage in Southern California by founders Harold “Matt” Matson and Elliot Handler. The company, founded in 1945, initially manufactured picture frames. The company then started to produce dolls that were created from picture frame scraps.
Soon they found out that the dolls were selling better than the picture frames, so they turned to make toys. Now Mattel is a world-renowned toy manufacturer.
Sixteen-year-old Michael Kittredge created his first scented candle out of melted crayons as a gift for his mother. He made the scented candle, called Christmas 1969, from his small garage.
Soon neighbors began to express interest in his scented candle, so Kittredge starts producing candles in mass quantities. With his business getting bigger, Kittredge eventually moved from his small garage to an old mill in Holyoke, Massachusetts. The company further expanded and added candleholders, related accessories, and dinnerware into their retail businesses. Today Yankee Candle Company has become the largest candle manufacturer in the US.