Six Surprising stories of corporations that started as small businesses

Who doesn’t enjoy the thrill of a suitable “pull yourself back from your bootstraps” story about small-scale businesses who fought the odds to grow into billion and million-dollar companies in the present?

The most famous of these is Silicon Valley’s Apple, created by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in a California garage. It grew into a multi-billion-dollar business that revolutionized how we use our phones and computers and play music.

Here are six more big successful businesses you’ve heard of and admire that had humble beginnings but managed to become a household name.

Ben & Jerry’s

According to time, the ice cream giant was born out of a friendship between Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who grew up in New York.

In 1978, at first, they’d start a bagel business but then, slowed by the expense of equipment, they enrolled in an ice cream-making course instead. They invested $4,000 (with assistance from Cohen’s father) and a bank loan of $4,000 and began working in a converted gasoline station in Burlington, Vermont.

The unique flavors and cute name (Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey) won over fans of ice cream across the nation. In 1987, they’d received 30 million dollars; by 1994, they had earned $150 million.


If you’ve ever tried the internet looking for home improvements you cannot manage to afford but would like to do to your home in the end, you’ve likely come across Houzz. Houzz is a hub for home improvement, providing ideas for design both inside and out and listing the resources available to those who can do the modifications for you.

In 2009, Houzz’s founding couple, the couple of marriage Alon Cohen and Adi Tatarko, were working on the home improvement project and running into snags. According to The Balance, to help other homeowners facing similar issues, they created their website to help them locate contractors.

The website version was very well popular. However, their iPad application was a more popular hit and helped propel them to the forefront of the top of the heap. In 2016, Houzz boasted more than 40 million exclusive and international users per month from all over the globe. In 2017, Houzz had a valuation of $4 billion (some assistance from venture capitalists in the process has helped them reach their point today).


YouTube small

The leading video-sharing site online, boasting more than two billion users per month, according to Business Insider, YouTube has an incredibly humble beginning. In the latter part of 2004, the three ex- PayPal employees-Chad Hurley, Jawed Karim, and Steve Chen Chad Hurley, Steve Chen as well as Jawed Karim began using Hurley’s garage located in Menlo Park, California, to develop a business model that would allow users to upload their videos to YouTube.

The company didn’t have time to reach its peak of success.

Then, in May of 2005, their first beta version was launched. By September 2005, they had $3.5 million in funding from investors via Sequoia Capital. By October, 1 million videos had been posted to YouTube. In December 2005, when they released the Beta version of the site to the public, it had 8 million visits daily.

In April 2006, even more money from investors came into the site. In October 2006, following an auction dispute with Yahoo Google and Google, Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion, making the site founders into instant millionaires. In 2019, YouTube was worth more than 14 billion, a massive 9 percent of its parent company’s revenues.


The company’s shapewear line was founded in 1998, when the founder Sara Blakely cut the feet from her control-top pantyhose to create an outfit that didn’t seem exactly right, according to the company’s website. From there, her vision took off.

In 2000, she found a company to aid her in producing shapewear, and the high-end retailer Neiman Marcus became their first client later in the year. Spanx was later featured on the “Oprah’s Most Recommendations” list the same year — which is almost always a blessing to businesses.

As the company launched new products, it gained many customers, including celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow. This helped increase sales. The year 2001 saw Spanx partner up with QVC’s home shopping network QVC According to CEO Today and hugely boosted profits.

In 2003 Blakely founded a foundation with the help of billionaire Richard Branson. In 2012 Forbes named her the youngest self-made billionaire of the year. Then, in 2021 Blakely transferred the business to a private equity firm Blackstone.


Mattel, the giant toy business that has produced many of today’s favorite toys, was established in an abandoned garage in 1945 by Ruth, Elliot Handler, and Harold “Matt” Matson, engineers and designers, according to the Mattel website.

The first product released by the company in 1947 was “the Uke-doodle,” which aimed to make Ukulele playing fun and enjoyable. In 1950, they released The Magic 8-Ball, which sells approximately a million units annually. Most likely, the toy that brought them to the forefront is The Barbie doll, which was introduced in 1959.

The company had made enough profit to be a publicly traded corporation by 1960. The Hot Wheels cars were introduced in 1968. They also released Masters of the Universe “He-Man” action figures in 1982. They bought The Fisher-Price firm in 1993. They added American Girl dolls by 1998 and later purchased HIT entertainment in 2011. They even introduced Hot Wheels NFTs in 2021.

It’s not difficult to understand why this little business has become one of the most successful companies ever. Today, it’s valued at $7.91 billion, as per Macrotrends.


Groupon The app/site that lets you shop for coupons was created by Andrew Mason in 2007 to help individuals achieve goals together, as stated on the company website.

It was later renamed “The Point” after the birthplace of Groupon, a site that helped advertise local businesses with limited-time deals. The place was boosted by a television show that aired on “Today,” Groupon was operating in 28 cities by the year 2009 before expanding internationally with countries such as Germany, Italy, and France.

The press by Ellen Degeneres and The New York Times in 2011 increased users. By 2012, they had a reliable application. While the company has had significant revenue fluctuations and declines since then, it’s still valued at over $300 million, per Macrotrends.

By Mia

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