10 World's Best Companies That Were Started in Garages

by RobertKeith

"From humble beginnings can come great things." The origin of this quotation - or its variations - isn't definitive...

"From humble beginnings can come great things." The origin of this quotation - or its variations - isn't definitive, but the words ring true regardless of the source and in application. For example, there are thousands of companies that started from virtually nothing to become mega-successful, universally-recognized businesses, each of them qualified to be included on any Best Company list. Following are 10 examples that trace their beginnings, literally, to a garage.

Harley-Davidson (1903) Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Working in a 10-by-15 foot wooden shed, long-time friends William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson set about designing an engine that could be fitted onto a bicycle. After much trial-and-error, the duo eventually succeeded, and less than a year later, H-D's first official dealer debuted in Chicago. 
Harley-Davidson has thrived for over a century, becoming the undeniable iconic symbol of motorcycles worldwide. https://marketrealist.com/2016/03/early-history-harley-davidson-motorcycle-pioneer 


Disney (1923) Garden Grove, California

From a small garage/storage shed owned by his uncle Robert, aspiring artist Walt Disney brainstormed and designed many of his first successful cartoon characters in the cramped quarters. Benefiting from the subsequent Hollywood film industry boom of the 1920s and 30s, Disney quickly became the universal symbol of entertainment, a position it continues to maintain nearly a century later. https://www.ci.garden-grove.ca.us/HistoricalSociety/disney 

Hewlett-Packard (1939) Palo Alto, California

Stanford graduates William Hewlett and David Packard rented a garage, applying their electrical engineering degrees to developing products for the then-fledgling electronics industry. From these less-than-auspicious beginnings, HP has grown into one of the world's foremost computer hardware and software developers/manufacturers, as well as providing information technology services across various platforms. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hewlett-Packard 

Mattel (1945) El Segundo, California

Elliott Handler, assisted by wife Ruth, operated a modestly profitable picture frame business out of the family garage, but when they began making dollhouse furniture from leftover material, they discovered a much bigger market. In 1959, the Handlers struck gold when they introduced the iconic Barbie, which quickly became the world's most popular doll. Now an industry mega conglomerate, Mattel typifies the "humble beginnings" theme. https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/6-incredible-companies-that-started-in-a-garage/ 

Yankee Candle Company (1969) South Hadley, Massachusetts

The largest scented candle manufacturer in the U.S. had its beginnings in the Kittredge family garage where 16-year old Michael melted crayons to create a Christmas gift for his mother. When neighbors also began requesting the unique candles, the budding entrepreneur realized he was onto something, and nearly a half-century later, Kittredge is a billionaire. https://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/wildly-successful-businesses-started-garage.html/?a=viewall 

Apple (1976) Cupertino, California

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were "computer geeks" long before the term became widespread. When a retailer placed an order for 50 of Wozniak's groundbreaking Apple 1 computers, the duo hastily put together a small group of friends, and working out of a garage, hand-assembled the order in 30 days, and the world's most valuable technology company was born. https://www.retireat21.com/blog/10-companies-started-garages 

Maglite (1979) Los Angeles

Immigrating to the U.S. from his native Croatia in 1950, Anthony Maglica arrived speaking minimal English, and was forced to take whatever job he could find to survive. Five years later, he saved up enough money to purchase a small lathe and began manufacturing precision machine parts from a garage. Nearly a quarter-century later (1979), he introduced his namesake, the sturdy Maglite which became one of the world's bestselling flashlights. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maglite 

Dell (1984) Austin, Texas

While a college student, Michael Dell assembled and sold computers from his dorm room, but when his "hobby" became profitable, he dropped out of school and used a garage to build his company, eventually becoming a multi-billionaire. http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/6190/Creation-of-Dell-Computer-Corporation-by-Michael-Dell/ 

Amazon (1994) Bellevue, Washington

Founder Jeff Bezos, working out of his garage, began Amazon as a way of selling books over the Internet. Soon however, his "bookstore" branched out to include practically every product and service imaginable, becoming the #1 online retailer and making Bezos worth in excess of $100 billion. https://www.forbes.com/profile/jeff-bezos/ 

Google (1998) Menlo Park, California

Frustrated by the inadequacies of late 1990's-era Internet search engines, Stanford students Larry Page and Sergey Brin rented a garage in 1998 to research and develop the web algorithms necessary to solve the issue. 20 years later, their creation -- Google -- is by far the world's most-visited website and both are multi-billionaires. https://www.google.com/about/our-story/

Updated: 05/26/2018, RobertKeith
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