When I was growing up, my dad and I used the garage to build step stools, hot plates, and derby cars. As it turns out, a garage is also a great place to start a company. To better understand how to build a world famous company, you need to dive into how other entrepreneurs have created theirs. Here are ten of the world’s most gigantic businesses that started in garages.
Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com in 1994 as an online bookstore. At the time, it was completely run out of his garage in Bellevue, Washington. He sold his first book in July 1995 and issued his IPO two years later in 1997. Today it’s the world’s largest online retailer.
Address: 10704 NE 28th, Bellevue, Washington
In 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, ages 21 and 26 respectively, started Apple Computers by selling 50 units of Wozniak’s Apple I Computer at $500 apiece to a local retailer. Jobs took the purchase order to a parts distributor and ordered the parts. “The Steves” and their small team hand-built 50 computers in 30 days from a garage in Cupertino, CA.Today, Apple is the most valuable technology company in the world.
Address: 2066 Crist Dr, Los Altos, California
About 45 minutes down the road from Disneyland Park in Anaheim, CA, there’s a house in Los Angeles where The Walt Disney Company got its start. In 1923, the house belonged to Walt Disney’s uncle, Robert Disney. Walt and his brother Roy moved in with their uncle and set up “The First Disney Studio” in the one-car garage out back. There they started filming the Alice Comedies which was part of the original Alice’s Wonderland. Today, Disney is the highest-grossing media conglomerate in the world.
Address: 4651 Kingswell Ave, Los Angeles, California
As Stanford Graduate students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin started what’s now known as Google from Susan Wojcicki’s garage in September 1998. Soon the project was interfering with their schoolwork, so they tried to sell it to Excite for $1 million. Excite rejected the offer and now Google is the most trafficked site in the world.
Address: 232 Santa Margarita Ave, Menlo Park, California
In 1901, 21-year-old William S. Harley drew up plans to create a small engine to power a bicycle. Over the next two years, Harley and his childhood friend, Arthur Davidson, built their motor-bicycle out of their friend’s 10 by 15-foot wooden shed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was the equivalent of a garage because they didn’t have cars. They officially founded Harley-Davidson in 1903 and today it’s the most well-known motorcycle brand in the world.
Address: Somewhere in northern Milwaukee, Wisconsin
In 1939, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded HP in Packard’s garage with an initial investment of $538. Their first product was an audio oscillator and one of their first customers was Walt Disney, who purchased eight oscillators to develop the sound system for the movie Fantasia. The HP Garage in Palo Alto is known as the birthplace of Silicon Valley and HP is now one of the largest companies in the world.
Address: 367 Addison Ave, Palo Alto, California
In 1948, at the age of 20, Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman started Lotus Cars by building the first Lotus racing car in stables behind The Railway Hotel in Hornsey, North London. Chapman used a 1930s Austin Seven and a power drill to build the Lotus Mark I. Today Lotus Cars is one of the premier racing car manufacturers in the world.
Address: 472 Hornsey Rd, London N19 4EF, United Kingdom
In 1950, Tony Maglica moved from his war-torn home of Croatia back to America. Knowing very little English, he settled in Los Angeles and took jobs wherever he could find them. In 1955, after saving $125, Tony put a down-payment on his first lathe. Then he started working out of a Los Angeles area garage to manufacture precision parts. He incorporated Mag Instrument in 1974 and released their first flashlight in 1979. Today, Maglite is the standard issue flashlight for all police officers in the US.
Address: Somewhere in Los Angeles, California
Harold “Matt” Matson and Elliot Handler founded Mattel out of a garage in Southern California as picture frame company in 1945. To get the most out of their materials, they started using picture frame scrapes to create dollhouses. Soon their dollhouses were selling better than their picture frames so they turned their emphasis to toys. Today Mattel, Inc. is the highest-grossing toy company in the world.
Address: Somewhere in Southern California
Yankee Candle Company
In 1969, at 16 years old, Michael Kittredge made his scented candle in his garage out of melted crayons as a gift for his mother. The neighbors took notice and expressed interest in buying Kittredge’s candles, so he started mass-producing them. Four years later, Kittredge outgrew the garage so he moved the Yankee Candle Company to an old mill in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Today it’s the largest manufacturer of scented candles in the US.
Address: Somewhere in South Hadley, Massachusetts.
What’s the Point? Everything starts as nothing.
It’s easy to look at the world’s largest companies and think, “I could never start something like that.” And you’d be right. Most of these companies took decades to get where they are today. They didn’t start by trying to create Amazon, Apple, and Google. They started by creating an online bookstore, a computer, and a search algorithm. Whether it’s a garage, a basement, or a dorm room, every business has humble beginnings. It’s not about where you start. It’s where you end up.