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10 World Famous Companies that Started in Garages

By:     Topics: Blog

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.

10 Famous Garage Startups

Amazon Garage#1 Amazon

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

Apple Garage#2 Apple

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

Disney Garage#3 Disney

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

Google Garage#4 Google

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

Harley Davidson Garage#5 Harley Davidson

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

HP Garage#6 Hewlett-Packard

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

Lotus Cars Garage#7 Lotus Cars

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

Maglite Garage#8 Maglite

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

Mattel Garage Workshop#9 Mattel

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 Garage#10 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.

Post written by Retireat21 writer, Nick Tart.

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Comments

  1. Very inspiring Story.

    • Gregory C. says:

      So true, the web has allowed people to start ventures that could be huge, with very little money upfront.

  2. Larry Waight says:

    Great Post Michael! It reminds me of the place where I work – The Lodge at Chaa Creek. It started as a small farm in 1977 and today it is one of the most awarded eco resorts in the world http://www.chaacreek.com.

    To be an entrepreneur, you must have the courage, the confidence and the unstoppable persistence.

  3. i start my business just in my small room with a lot of stuff in here (and sometimes it will be very messy) and i believe, no matter where we start our business, if we have the passion to success, and it will :)

  4. Brendon Held says:

    Fantastic list Nick, and hugely inspiring… ok cheers, I am off to my garage to do some brain storming… 😉

  5. Awesome post! Always love seeing where millionaires and billionaires started! It seems like most of the didnt start in big cities either, which givea great hope to the small town business man!

    • Nicholas Tart says:

      That’s another good point, Lee. Six out of the ten were started in California. And these companies are part of the reason that Silicon Valley is such a popular spot for tech companies. Makes ya realize that you can start a company that’ll put your town on the map.

  6. Wow!! It truly is amazing how everything starts as an idea in someone head that they decided to take action on!

    We all get billion dollar ideas daily whether we decide to act on it is on us.

    That’s why I am constantly writing down my thoughts. You never know when that big idea is coming.

  7. Very inspirational! Your lists are great. Keep up the good work!

  8. Bratu Sebastian says:

    Interesting post and great stories!

  9. Michael Larbi says:

    Great list. Inspirational stories. Keep up the good work.

  10. Great post, it’s true… we always think that starting a biz needs a lot of something!

  11. I am sat at a homemade desk in the garage at my mothers house. The desk was made about 15 years ago and has never seen much use.
    I am starting to produce affiliate sites and websites for others. I found this very inspiring and a little strange to accidentally come across this today when I have just set everything in place.
    Thanks for a great post

  12. Hi,

    What an inspirational post for all with a dream in their eyes to do something and make something of ourselves. I agree with the point made by the writter. Where is see the internet is so fulla bullshit content…i must say i have never been disappointed at this address and incomediary too. So great work guys…a good read and like always a message worth the time. Great work Nick.

  13. fazal mayar says:

    this is a great post, a billion dollar business can be started out of an idea at a random place.

  14. Hi Michael,

    Great list! This is certainly a booster and motivator. It’s shows that with modern technology, it even makes things easier to start a business from home, basically any place in the home.

  15. NgPillai says:

    very nice list that buddy. Such an inspiring post which will inspire individuals to work hard in whatever business they are. Keep up the good job

    Cheers

    NgPillai

  16. Blog Marketing Experts says:

    I remember when I started my one man business in the kitchen using the kitchen table and making phone calls to get business. All I had was a telephone book, a handwritten script and scratch pad. That was back in 1993. From there I now operate my business out of a professional office and have two employees. All small businesses started very small and grew depending on how driven the owner of the business is.

    • Nicholas Tart says:

      Hey Bruce! Thanks for sharing. If you think about it, very few businesses start from somewhere other than the founders’ homes.

  17. I’m going to move everything out to my garage right away.

  18. I wonder if teh Google boys took care of Susan Wojcicki.

    • Nicholas Tart says:

      Susan was Google’s 18th employee and eventually became Vice President of Product Management. Sergey is married to her younger sister, Anne, and Google has $3.9 million invested in Anne’s startup, 23andMe. And most of the Wojcicki family is employed by Google. So, yeah, she’s been taken care of.

  19. Fisayo @ Secrets Of Entrepreneurship says:

    This is an inspiring pot. Thanks Mike

  20. Great post Mike
    That’s a dream mate

  21. Thanks Mike, a billion dollar business can be started in garages.

  22. Nimantha Dias says:

    Woow this post is really inspiring Mike. I never knew these huge companies started from a garage. Thumbs Up.

  23. I need a garage lol… This is crazy, google for 1 million. i know excile feels stupid now. But who knows, the knew company could of brought the company down instead of up.

  24. Wow, you just need to follow your dream.

  25. Vic @ Business Tips says:

    Very inspiring. This people are so resourceful. It only means we can do everything and realize our dreams if we are really determined.

  26. Websites For Sale says:

    If walls could talk! Thanks again Nicholas, you have done a wonderful job.

  27. WOW .. all the top most companies of the world started from garage ..
    i am going to clean my garage to start my new business .. lolz
    thumbs up

  28. 7oss El Leel says:

    Thumps Up For CA Garages 😉

  29. Utibe Etim says:

    Few things in common about these great companies are:
    the right mindset,
    determination,
    taking opportunities,
    genuine interests in providing services and solution to people problems among others.
    I love the list.

  30. Fren Dee Bee says:

    This made me think that a garage in this generation are not just for cars or bikes anymore, It’s for big corporations! I’m an engineer, so the first company that I thought to start from a garage when I’m young is Hewlett-Packard only (from their commercials). As I grew up, I’ve learned about Apple, and from this post I’ve learned their were at least 10 who started from their garage. Very inspiring!

  31. It shows that one should always have the end at heart. Like what Michael wrote on incomediary about exit strategy for one’s website. No matter how small you start, you can get it up and get going.

  32. Michael C says:

    Great Post! I have been struggling to get funding for my internet start up that could change the way we do business over the internet. Young Entrepreneur out of Marana, AZ from California. Can anyone suggest some ways I go about raising money that has worked for you or someone you know.

    Michael C

  33. Lakshmi kanta reddy says:

    Superb! post. It’s realy incredible.

  34. I don’t have a garage. I guess my living room will have to do. As long as you put your heart into it. It shouldn’t matter where you start.

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