This is a post that reminds us that most business empires today start from a humble beginning. In this time of bad economic, a great story like this will give us hopes and inspire us to achieve our dreams regardless where we start. Below is a list of 20 business empires who have started their businesses either from a apartment, bedroom, dorm room or garage but have outgrown their businesses from a humble place into an empire.
Founder: Jack Ma
Where it was started: In his apartment at Hangzhou, China
Jack Ma (Ma Yun) founded Alibaba.com in 1999; China-based business to business marketplace site that now serves 40 million users.
Having failed his college entrance exam twice yet becoming an English teacher in the same university and having learned the internet by himself, Ma was the first man to put China in the worldwide web. With no money, no technology and little knowledge of the internet, Ma gathered 18 people in his apartment and talked for two hours of his vision which raised him $60,000 as initial capital that started today’s biggest business to business online trading company.
His success in his local shores has paved way for another venture, Taobao.com, a top consumer-auction website that is so successful that made E-Bay China to close down.
Founder: Steve Jobs
Where it was started: His bedroom then moved to their garage in California.
Steve Jobs together with his buddy Steven Wozniak, who are both high school drop-outs, created Apple computer on April 1, 1976. The buddies agreed to form a company to market the new computer, which eventually took off in 1977 with the Apple II.
Going up in the industry is not easy for Apple. Competition is tough. To be on top of the industry, Apple developed major edge over their competitors. The main edge Apple gain is the Graphical User Interface (GUI) capability of their machines. Mac is the 1st personal computer to use the user-friendly interface with features like the trash can, windows, drag-and-drop file moveability, and plug-in-and-play compatibility. Today, it’s not just the user-friendly interface that separates Mac from other products. The speed, productivity, and security of Mac PC are by far the best in the industry.
Founder: Anne Beiler
Where it was started: Homemade pretzel sold on a Snack stand in a market Downingtown, Pennsylvania
On a farm in rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in an Amish society best known for their simple living, plain dress and resistance to the adoption of many modern conveniences was where Anne Beiler was raised. Her family lived without the conveniences of a television, a radio, a car and electricity. It’s when her family converted to Mennonite, a conservative church that permits electricity and vehicle usage, when she was a toddler that they had the luxury of watching television or listening to the radio.
Anne’s family was poor but, having asthma, Anne could not do much hard labor outside but that didn’t stop her from helping her family survive and so she learned how to bake. She started selling homemade pies and baked goods at a food stand at age 12, learning the basics of marketing and commerce. As is typical with Amish/Mennonite children, Anne left school after eighth grade and only returned to academia to receive her GED, along with two honorary doctorates, when she was 50.
She bought a vendor stand and sold pretzels, among other goods, in a farmer’s market in Downingtown in 1988. Her Pennsylvania-Dutch style pretzels took some time to perfect but soon became a hit. This was where Auntie Anne’s Soft Pretzels began. She poured energy into her business, often working 17 hours a day, and applying everything she learned through experiences like customer service, which she learned while waitressing as a teen. By the following year, she opened nine stores, seven farmers’ market, market stands and two franchises.
As the progressive years pass, the concept of a mall-based shop seemed the most productive, as shoppers can smell the aroma of baking pretzels, watch bakers rolling the dough and try free samples. Auntie Anne’s pretzels are easy to eat, healthy and on the go with shopping bags in hand. They targeted mall shoppers and later expanded to train and airport terminals.
Founder: Michael Dell
Where it was started: His dorm room at University of Texas (The picture below shows him revisiting the place where he started his company in 1984 together with the new occupants.)
As a freshman at the University of Texas in Austin, Michael Dell showed his heart to be a businessman. He started his business by selling personal computers in his small room in the school’s dormitory. Dell knows that buying computer parts in wholesale is a lot cheaper than buying an assembled personal computer. He would then assembled the parts that he bought into clones of IBM computers, and sold them by mail order to customers at a price lower than that of the computer stores. His business approach was very effective and soon he was earning $80,000 a month. The success pushed him to drop-out from school and pursue his business ideals.
Dell’s direct marketing strategies, print ads and superior brand quality allows them to win huge market share. Dell’s computers became the top brand name in the direct-mail market and now one of the most recognize brand in the computer industry.
Hewlett-Packard Development Company LP
Founder: William (Bill) Hewlett and David (Dave) Packard
Where it was started: Garage in nearby Palo Alto
In 1939, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded HP. They started their business on a small Palo Alto garage. What started small is now one of the most powerful brands. HP’s first product was an audio oscillator—an electronic test instrument used by sound engineers. Walt Disney was the first customer of HP to try their audio oscillator. The audio oscillator was used in the movie Fantasia to develop and test innovative sound system.
To preserve the history of HP, the “HP Garage” on 367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto was restored to its condition much as they were in 1939. Completion of the project was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting on December 6, 2005.
Founder: Ingvar Kamprad
Where it was started: Around the neighborhood of Älmhult, Småland, Sweden riding a bicycle.
Who would have thought that a young boy selling matches around the rural neighborhood of Älmhult, Småland, Sweden while riding his bicycle will grow up to be a billionaire. Ingvar Kamprad is raised in poverty on a farm near the small village of Agunnaryd. At his very young age, the business mind is already there. He observed that buying items in wholesale is cheaper that buying items in retail. He then used this idea to re-sell items individually at a low price but still with a profit. A match expands to flower seeds, greeting cards, Christmas tree decorations, and later pencils and ball-point pens.
At the age of 17, Ingvar uses the money from his father to establish his own business. Ingvar named his business from his initials (I.K.) plus the first letters of Elmtaryd (E) and Agunnaryd (A), the farm and village where he grew up, thus the business name IKEA.
What started from Matches now is a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products still with very affordable prices.
Founder: Laura Zander
Where it was started: Her home in Reno, Nevada
The million dollar knitting business of Laura Zander all started as a way to climb up after being laid-off in her former job as an engineer. Artistic and talented Laura amazed the market with her fashionable designs and superior quality of her products. The small shop in Reno, Nevada soon got into the spotlight with the Hollywood Celebrities.
Growing competition is never a treat to Laura’s Jimmy Beans Wool. Laura sees this as a business opportunity and a way to further improve her business. In August 2002 Jimmy Bean Wool officially launch their website jimmybeanswool.com. This was the door to further expose her business and get more attention from the larger market. Customers are no longer limited to buy in her shop in Reno they can now buy her products online as well.
Nine Dragons Paper
Founder: Zhang Yin
Where it was started: In her and her husband apartment in Los Angeles before they went back to China
The woman who made millions from waste paper came from a soldier’s family in Heilongjiang, China. She was a former accountant Hong Kong who lost her job when the company went bankrupt. This downfall gave Zhang the power to start making money from waste paper. Hard labor is just a daily routine for Zhang. From a mere 30,000 Yuan (about $4.000) she was able to build the Nine Dragon business empire. In 1990, Zhang and her husband Lai Ming-chung moved to Pomona, California to start a paper collection company in their apartment (later became the Ameican Ching Nam, Inc.). They would buy waste paper from garbage dumps, and send it back to China to be made into packaging for China’s growing consumer-goods market. Zhang then started the Nine Dragons Paper at Pearl River Delta which later expanded into production of cardboard.
Founder: Konosuke Matsushita
Where it was started: Two story house in the Japanese village of Wasa with only three staff.
The Panasonic brand was created from the elements “pan” meaning “all” combined with “sonic” meaning “sound”, because it was first used for audio equipment.
The company that was to become Panasonic was started on March 7, 1918, when Konosuke Matsushita moved from his tiny dwelling to a larger two-story house, and set up Matsushita House wares Devices Manufacturing Works. The staff consisted of three people: the 23-year-old Matsushita, 22-year-old Mumeno and her brother Toshio Lue, then just 15.
Converting their three-room ground floor into a workshop after installing two hand-operated presses for molding insulation, Matsushita was convinced that there was a huge, untapped market for convenient, high quality household electrical fixtures. He stayed up late refining his designs, ultimately choosing to manufacture new products. Their products became a hit because it proved of higher quality than other products on the market and were 30% to 50% cheaper. The company employed 20 people by 1918 year-end.
Products were initially sold through a single wholesale outlet but this agreement broke down when sales fell due to heavy price cutting by other manufacturers. Nevertheless, as Matsushita began dealing directly with other wholesalers, sales grew and the company found itself on firm footing.
Panasonic started off with a desire to create things of value. As hard work and dedication result in one innovative product after another, the fledgling company takes its first steps towards becoming the electronics giant of today.
Founder: Amancio Ortega
Where it was started: His own living room in Coruña, Spain.
Amancio Ortega, a railway worker’s son, started as a gofer in a shirt store and started making dressing gowns and lingerie in their living room with then-wife Rosalia Mera, also now a millionaire.
They named their company Inditex, and their clothesline Zara and their business became one of the world’s most successful apparel manufacturers. Today, Inditex has more than 4000 stores in 71 countries, sales skyrocketed to $12.3B.
Inditex exported its cheap chic Zara stores to four new markets last year: South Korea, Ukraine, Montenegro and Honduras.
They also have personal investments in gas, tourism, banks and real estates. They own properties in Madrid, Paris, London, Lisbon plus a luxurious hotel and apartment complex in Miami, a horse-jumping circuit.
Amancio’s daughter, Marta, is being groomed to be his successor at Inditex.