Some of the world’s most recognisable brands started out as small businesses and though they surely believed they could earn a living, they chose not to take out small business loans on the strength of their ideas. These businesses started in garages, on local library computers, or from a spare bedroom.
With the right kind of attitude, a big dose of ambition, and a pinch of luck some of these companies that started out with next to nothing grew to be multi million pound enterprises which are recognised worldwide. Here are four of the best.
Famously Apple, the owners of ubiquitous iPods, iPhones, iMacs and iPads, began their mission to world domination in a garage where Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs built a personal computer. The pair was so skint that when the first order came in for one of their systems they had to order the components on credit. These days the Apple brand is one of the most recognised on the planet and the company nets billions of pounds in profit each year.
There is barely a city in the world that has escaped the Starbucks revolution. Seattle in the early 70s saw three coffee lovers pool their resources to open a shop with little over $1000. Admittedly, they did have to take out a $5000 small business loan a few months in but every struggling moment was worth it. By the 1990s, Starbucks shops were opening at a rate of one per day.
Another little enterprise that grew to be one of the biggest fast food chains on the high street. At 17 years old, Fred DeLuca set up a little sandwich shop to help pay his med school fees. He borrowed $1000 from a friend. They planned to expand the business over a ten year period, and expand they did. Subway now has more locations worldwide than McDonalds – estimated at around 34,000 in 98 countries.
If you don’t recognise the name of the business, you’ll certainly know about Mattel’s biggest export: Barbie. The company started in the home of Ruth and Eliot Handler who used scraps of leftover wood from their picture-framing business to make doll’s houses. This was the first step towards them becoming the driving force behind every little girl’s favourite toy. Mattel is now the world’s largest toy company.
Now you’ve got some inspiration from the big shots, it’s time to start thinking of you can can make a little go a long way for your own business venture. You may have the greatest business idea in the world, but if no one else is interested then your business will go bust.
To really make moolah, you need to choose the Out There option. Come up with that genius concept that no one else has thought of and you could be in the money! These guys went weird and were on the money.
1. Divorce cakes
This cakey concept tapped into the zeitgeist with baked goods! Fay Millar made her first divorce cake in 2001 and she’s been up to her eyes in orders for her ‘separation celebration’ confectionary ever since. Her success has inspired other unusual cake makers to set up shop and today hundreds of bakers offer Divorce Cakes.
2. Million Dollar Pixels
21-year-old Alex Tew had exactly the right idea at exactly the right time when he launched the genius ‘Million Dollar Homepage’. His simple concept was to sell pixels on his homepage for $1 each. The idea was a huge hit and made student Alex his millions. Copycat sites sprung up all over the net but none was as successful because the selling point of the Million Dollar Homepage was its originality.
3. The Venting Place
Only the Japanese could have come up with this eccentric idea and made it work! Shoppers in a busy mall can stop off mid shop to smash plates against concrete slabs and vent their spleens. Crockery costs from around a pound for smaller items, to £7 for large plates. The Venting Place has been so successful that plans for a franchise are afoot.
4. Say it with T-Shirts
Katharine Hamnett made slogan T-shirts massive in the 1980’s. What started out as political protest became a worldwide phenomenon that is still going strong. The first slogan T-shirts were sold in 1983 with a percentage of the sales going to charity. Today, millions of people sport slogan T-shirts every day and Hamnett is a household name.
5. You’ve Got Santa Mail
This Christmas cash-in concept has proved a festive success selling letters from Santa. Parents can order personalised letters, Good List certificates and even texts from Santa. Since its birth in 2003, Santa Mail has delighted over 200,000 children making a mint for the shrewd Santa impersonator.
Photo Credit: Flickr/nic519