For many people, the idea of just starting their own business lies somewhere in the realm of fantasy. It’s something for someone else to do, something that requires investors and business know-how, or something an average person could never think of doing. The truth, however, is that starting your own business requires only one thing – determination. Well, if history is any indicator, a garage might help as well.
You see, some of the largest companies around today got their start from extremely humble beginnings – one or two people with the drive to succeed and a garage to work in. Of course, the story that immediately springs to mind for most people will be Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak building Apple I computers in Jobs’ parents’ garage, but you’d probably be surprised by the early days of some other companies. For example:
After the failure of his Laugh-O-Gram studio in Kansas City, Walt Disney and his brother Roy moved to California and set up the first Disney studio in a one car garage behind their uncle Robert’s house in Los Angeles in 1923 to film and sell his Alice Comedies, which combined a live-action actress with an animated cat. Nearly a century later, Disney is one of the largest media corporations in the world.
Tony Maglica was born in New York City but raised in his mother’s native country of Croatia. In 1950, he returned to America determined to realize his dreams, even though he spoke no English. By 1955 he had saved up enough money to buy his own lathe and start a machine tool shop in his garage. By 1974 he has started Mag Industries, and in 1979 the Mag-Lite was released. It is now the standard-issue flashlight for all US police officers and was referred to by the Wall Street Journal as the “Cadillac of flashlights.”
Some people may not even remember, but at one time Amazon was simply an online bookstore. Founder Jeff Bezos ran the company out of his garage in Bellevue, Washington. Needless to say, the Amazon of today is just a bit bigger – in fact it’s the world’s largest online retailer. In keeping with the company’s bookstore beginnings, the Amazon Kindle is widely regarded as the best e-reader on the market.
4. Harley Davidson
William Harley wanted to put a motor on his bicycle. From 1901 to 1903, Harley and his friend Arthur Davidson worked tirelessly in a 10×15 shed to make the motorized bicycle a reality. In 1903, Harley-Davidson was founded. Today, it is one of the largest and most well-known motorcycle brands in the world, not to mention the fact that you can buy nearly anything from aprons to clocks and even outdoor oil-can-shaped lights with the Harley-Davidson logo on it.
5. Yankee Candle Co.
Sixteen-year-old Michael Kittredge probably wasn’t thinking about multi-million dollar sales when he created his first scented candles out of melted crayons for his mother in the family’s garage in 1969. However, when his neighbors showed interest, he began producing the candles in larger quantities. With help from a pair of high school friends, the Yankee Candle Company was founded. Fast forward to 1998, Kittredge sells the company that began with a gift for his mom to a private equity company for $500 million dollars. Not bad!
These giant, multinational companies are only around today because their founders were able to take humble beginnings and, with hard work and perseverance, lead their companies out of the garage and into the homes of millions. So, the next time you think of a great idea for a business and then shrug it off because “it will never work,” think about all the companies that started with nothing more than a garage and a vision.
Have you ever let fear of the unknown stop you from starting a project? Did you eventually overcome your fear? Do you still regret not taking that leap? Or maybe you’re one of the people who stepped out and gave it a shot. Join the discussion below and share your story with us!
This article was written by Matthew Anderson.