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11 Big Companies Who Started Very Small

Not all big companies start in an office. Some start in a garage, a back room or on a kitchen table.

The important thing, in our opinion, is to sell something remarkable, something people will tell other people about because is desirable, satisfies a common need or is just plain crazy.

You can work from home, have a postal address  somewhere else  to keep casual callers at bay, and get on with building a better mousetrap! 

Here are some big companies whose founders worked from home in the beginning.


Founder: Jeff Bezos
Start date: 1994
Location: Garage
Address: 10704 NE 28th, Bellevue, Washington
Starter product: Amazon.com


Founders: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak
Start date: 1976
Location: Garage
Address: 2066 Crist Dr, Los Altos, California
Starter product: Apple computer


Founder: Walt Disney
Start date: 1923
Location: Garage
Address: 4651 Kingswell Ave, Los Angeles, California
Starter product: 'The Alice Comedies' which was part of the original Alice’s Wonderland cartoon.


Founders: Larry Page and Sergey Brin
Start date: 1988
Location: Garage
Address: 232 Santa Margarita Ave, Menlo Park, California
Starter product: Search engine

Harley Davidson

Founder: William S. Harley
Start date: 1901
Location: Shed
Address: northern Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Starter product: Motorised bicycle


Founders: Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard
Start date: 1939
Location: Garage
Address: 367 Addison Ave, Palo Alto, California
Starter product: Audio oscillator

Lotus Cars

Founder: Anthony Chapman
Start date: 1948
Location: Stables
Address: 472 Hornsey Rd, London N19 4EF, United Kingdom
Starter product: Automobile


Founders: Harold “Matt” Matson and Elliot Handler
Start date: 1945
Location: Garage
Address: Southern California
Starter product: Picture frames!


Founders: Bill Gates and Paul Allen
Start date: 1975
Location: Garage
Address: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Starter product: MS-DOS


Founder: Michael Dell
Start date: 1984
Location: Off-campus university dorm
Address: Austin, Texas
Starter product: Personal computer


Founder: Philip Knight
Start date: 1964
Location: Car boot
Address: Oregon
Starter product: Running shoes

Location is something that matters to estate agents and other offline retailers. They need to be in a certain location to make money. Passing trade is vital.

Many other business-types can get and fulfil sales without having a shop-front. They fulfil orders via:

1. Mail order

Household goods, clothes, anything that can be posted or delivered in a van.

2. Internet

You can sell all of the foregoing, plus software and information-based services.

3. Home visits

Trades (gardener, builder, electrician). These are easily run from a shed.

Any of the above can be run from your home, in the startup phase, if you have:

1. A website
2. Telephone number
3. Mailing address That’s a lot of potential businesses you could get into, for a very low outlay. 

Another standard way to make money is to Buy Cheap And Sell Dear. This is what a pawn-shop does, for example. 

Desperate people bring in expensive but inessential goods and either get a loan on their value, or just sell them. The pawn-broker offers them much less than retail value and, if he watches his outgoings, he can make a nice living.

For those who run shops, the Cash And Carry (wholesaler) is their friend. 

Sell on the goods you buy at a 33% - 66% markup and even a dullard should be able to stay afloat (if he doesn’t splurge on something stupid, forget to pay his taxes or get divorced from the wife!)

In the 21st century you may hear the phrase ‘knowledge economy’. It’s true, up to a point. 

A lot of businesses compete on the basis of superior knowledge; knowing more or being cleverer than the other guy. An obvious example is a doctor or a solicitor. 

A less obvious one is an internet marketer who has a pretty shrewd idea of how to promote websites and charges big bucks to those who don’t!

Other types of knowledge-based businesses are like the famous example companies above listed above: a very clever, energetic, determined man or a couple of pals make something, for which there is a significant demand, and which they can make a fat profit off of. 

These clever chaps find they have to leave college because their business is taking up too much of their time; it’s so darn successful!

Note to the less clever: Software company founders didn’t drop out of collect and then start a business. They had to drop out because it made no sense to stay in given the way their current business was booming.

You may be sure they would have returned to college if it didn’t work out! 

So, if you are 21 and having trouble in your second year in college, don’t use some half-baked idea as an excuse to stop studying.

There are myths floating around the internet that X great man did Y stupid thing when he was young, but look how he turned out, so I can do Y stupid thing as well!

What you’ve read is often a fabrication e.g. Einstein was in fact a good student, getting goods marks, it’s just that the marking system he was graded under was different to UK/US standards and got turned around in reader’s minds. 

Other great men are reported in crass media to have taken illegal drugs or engaged in immoral acts. Well, they were great in spite of these things, not because of them. Do more research. You will find the ugly truth i.e. with regard to these ‘heroes’ private lives.

We would love to believe great men are the same as us, but they’re not. We would love to believe we can do dumb things constantly and still succeed, but it doesn’t work that way.

The good news is that you can achieve greatness if you find something you are very good at, which is in demand and which you can offer in such a way it makes other offerings fade into the background.

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