Success doesn’t always come easy. While many aspiring entrepreneurs would like to start out on top, it often takes years (or decades) of dedicated and diligent work to grow your small business into a corporate powerhouse.
Luckily, there are plenty of examples of businesses that started from humble beginnings and eventually grew into successful giants of their respective industries. Here are just a few examples of how far hard work, ingenuity, and a dash of business sense can take you.
1. Whole Foods
The idea for Whole Foods came from two twenty-year-olds – one a college dropout – who wanted to start a natural foods store in Texas. After being evicted from their store’s first locale, the two started over, this time saving money by living at their new store. Two years later, they merged with another natural foods store, becoming the very first Whole Foods Market in 1980. Business quickly took off and before long the company had expanded to other cities and states. That growth has steadily continued, and today Whole Foods’ total annual revenue has reached more than $12 billion.
By now, many are familiar with the story Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founding Apple in a garage in 1976. While there, they developed their first Apple prototype, eventually building 50 computers for a local electronics store. From these humble beginnings, Apple grew to revolutionize the personal computing industry with brilliant, cutting edge hardware and programs. Today Apple is one of the most profitable companies in the world, continuing to out-innovate its competitors in the field of wearables, personal computers, and mobile phones.
Though it may come as a surprise, Dell is another company with incredibly modest origins. Michael Dell began his business out of a University of Texas dorm room with an investment of only $1,000. After leaving college to focus on the business, it only took three years before the company was worth more than $100 million. And Dell has continued to evolve. After starting out with PCs, the company has expanded to several major industries including enterprise solutions for cloud computing and IT security.
Back in 1971, three former University of San Francisco students – a writer and two teachers – decided to open up the first Starbucks. They didn’t start off selling coffee, though. Their original business model was focused on selling premium coffee beans to local coffee brewing snobs. Within a few years the company was bought out by a former employee, who decided to sell pre-made coffee, tea, and espresso. Expansion quickly followed, and current revenues now reach nearly $15 billion worldwide.
It all started in 1994 as a simple idea from the mind of Jeff Bezos: create an online bookstore. And, like some of the other examples on this list, the business was first started out of his garage. In 1995, the first book on Amazon was sold. Two years later, Bezos issued his IPO. Needless to say, business exploded and Amazon grew to encompass more than just books. Now, Amazon not only has a diverse marketplace, it has entered the mobile device market with the Kindle and is the leading cloud provider.
6. Ben & Jerry’s
Ice cream moguls Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield kicked off their careers in the business by taking a $5 course on the finer points of preparing ice cream. They opened their first Ben & Jerry’s location in 1978 in an abandoned gas station. Talk about an appetizing business, right? They pushed forward, though, and used their knack for creating fun new flavors to begin selling their ice cream brand through distributors. Their popularity has reached astonishing heights in the past three-plus decades, becoming a worldwide brand and household name.
7. Yankee Candle Company
Who would have thought that a tiny candle company could become such a sensation? The story of Yankee Candle Company began in 1969, when a 16-year-old boy began making scented candles for his mother. When neighbors began clamoring for the opportunity to buy them as well, a business idea was born. The first Yankee Candle shop was opened a few years later, in 1975, and the company was eventually sold in 2013 for $1.75 billion.
If you’re starting out small, remember that you’re in great company! The companies above found innovative ways to succeed, and the results speak for themselves. Keep pushing forward and in a few years you may find your business’s name added to this list.