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Wish Upon a Garage

May 15, 2020
A garage is a magical place; a site of dreams. In fact, many people have dreamed of starting a business in their garage and some even went on to become highly successful corporations. Maybe you’ve heard of a few: Hewlett-Packard, Disney, Amazon, and Google all started out as a big idea. All of these founders had the fire and tenacity to stick with their business through ups and downs and make it into something incredible. You may have a fantastic business idea. If so, read on about people who made their garage (or someone else’s) into a magical place that helped them start a successful business. No company starts out at the top – remember that. What you see now may be a multi-billion dollar corporation but all of these businesses had very meager beginnings and lots of hard work went into making them what they are today. (Corporations are listed in alpha order, not by income.)  


Jeff Bezos started Amazon in 1994. He worked out of his garage at his home in Bellevue, Washington. Amazon began as an online bookstore and it took almost a year for the company to sell its first book. That’s tenacity! After the first book order however, the business started growing and has become the largest online marketplace on the planet. It’s valued around $300 billion and Bezos is the richest man in the world – for now. Lessons Learned When you think about starting your own business in your garage, remember it could take a year or more to get started. So ensure you have the savings to cover this time period.  


In 1976, a little company call Apple was created by two guys named Steve –Wozniak and Jobs. Their initial job came along after Wozniak designed the first Apple I computer. A local retailer ordered 50 computers and he wanted them in 30 days! Wozniak called on his friend Steve Jobs and together they built 50 Apple I computers by the requested deadline.  Where did they start this venture? In Steve Jobs’ parents' garage located in Cupertino, California. Today Apple is worth over $550 billion. Lessons Learned Be willing to put forth a lot of extra effort especially in the beginning.  


Michael Dell is a college dropout who made it big in the computer business. Like the guys from Apple, Dell started building his computers in his garage. In 1984, he was customizing computers for other people. This venture was doing so well, he decided to quit college and expand his business. Unlike most new companies, Dell actually turned a profit the first year. Dell may not be as well known as some other tech whizzes, since his computer company is worth a measly $40 billion. However, the expansion went very well, making Dell one of the strongest competitors in the computer manufacturing business. Lessons Learned Do your job first and foremost because you love it, not because you want to be a billionaire.  


The year was 1923, the place Los Angeles, California. Walt Disney and his brother Roy created their own little studio in their uncle Robert’s garage. At this time, Walt was 22 years old and Roy was 30. They started by filming Alice Comedies, which were part of Alice's Wonderland. Because the Disney brothers started making short films in this garage, it is referred to as the first Disney Studio. Of course Walt and Roy Disney did not know it then, but their company became a multimedia conglomerate that’s worth about $140 billion. Lessons Learned Be great at whatever you do. Imagination can take you a long way.  


Susan Wojcicki allowed the creators of Google to use her garage for their project. If her name looks familiar it’s because she is the current CEO of YouTube. But way back in 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin attended Stanford and started Google as their college project. Today Google is an internet giant. What other company name can be used as a verb? “Why don’t you Google it?” When Page and Brin tried to sell the company for $1 million they were rejected. But it’s cool, Google is worth over $500 billion today. Lessons Learned Don’t give up if you can’t sell your company for $1 million.  


In Palo Alto, California, Will Hewlett and Dave Packard started their company in Packard's garage. It was 1938 when Hewlett-Packard created its first product, an audio oscillator.  A couple of brothers with the last name Disney purchased eight of these oscillators for a motion picture entitled Fantasia. While that initial investment was only $538 it started a company that today is worth about $13 billion. Lessons Learned Always do your best. You never know who your first customer might be!  


Toy company, Mattel actually started as a picture-frame company in 1945. The founders, Harold Matson, Elliot Handler, and Ruth Handler, started in a garage in Southern California. When they had left over materials from the frames, they used it to build dollhouses. Eventually the dollhouses became more popular than the picture frames, so the three founders decided to become toy manufacturers instead. From Barbie® and her Dream Home to Fisher-Price® and Hot Wheels® things turned out pretty well.  Mattel is the second largest toy-making company in the world – after The Lego Group. Lessons Learned Be flexible. Sometimes plans change.  


Another tech giant that started out small was Microsoft. Even their name sounds small. In 1975, Bill Gates and Paul Allen started their company in a small garage with few resources. But they did have programming skills to spare. They built their first operating system and licensed it for $80,000. Microsoft is now worth an estimated $350 billion making Bill Gates a rich man in competition with Jeff Bezos. Every few years they trade the title “richest man in the world”. Lessons Learned Never be afraid to start small.  


When you have a business dream, no matter how big or small, make a plan, sketch it out, and never give up. Your garage can be a magical place to start a successful business. Surround yourself with positive thoughts, motivation, work hard, and stay open to endless possibility.