Big Brands with Modest Beginnings


Turning a great business idea into a reality is becoming more and more difficult thanks to the financial downturn, the large number of people trying to go it alone as entrepreneurs and the high level of risk involved with walking away from a salary to become your own boss. Whilst prices for most things continue to soar, the declining number of innovative ideas and business ventures which actually go on to become a success is becoming a real concern for policy makers.

Samuel Benveniste from W1Office, a company offering mail forwarding, meeting space and reception services to entrepreneurs in the UK, spoke to us about entrepreneurial trends he has seen over the last 12 months: “Although the entrepreneurial spirit is still strong here in the UK, I have noticed a decline in the level of commitment put into start-ups by their founders. Whereas in the 90’s it was all the rage to quit your job and try to go it alone as an entrepreneur, it seems that now the ‘you’re lucky to have a job in the first place’ mind-set has had an impact on the way people think about entrepreneurship. For some it is more of a part time experiment than a full time lifestyle choice.”

Although Samuel has noticed that conditions for entrepreneurs are less than ideal at the moment, it is certainly still possible. While many people are happy with a decent wage and some job security, those with truly rich taste and an insatiable sense of ambition will usually end up taking the entrepreneurship route. Perhaps this inspiring list of world-wide brands with surprisingly humble beginnings will give you that little boost you need to stop dreaming and start making your entrepreneurial dreams a reality.

The Body Shop


Anita Roddick was inspired by her visit in 1970 to The Body Shop in California and decided to set up an identical establishment in England in 1976. In 1977 she mixed products at home and crafted stories for each creation. Finally in 1987 Anita offered the American company a payment of $3.5 million to change their name and thus grew The Body Shop we all know and love today! Check out how she did it here.

2 Wrigley Company

22-498x295Wrigley’s is famous for supplying numerous flavours of refreshing chewing gum and an array of sweets including Skittles and Starbursts, but it wasn’t always in the sweetie business. Mr Wrigley moved to Chicago in 1981 with nothing but $32 to his name. He sold soap and gave his customers free baking soda if they made purchases from him. Baking soda sales surpassed that of soap so he switched and began using chewing gum as the incentive instead. History repeated itself and thus emerged one of the most popular and successful confectionary companies of all time.


3 Tiffany & Co.


Shockingly Tiffany was not always the desired jewellers it is now known as. In 1937 selling stationery was Tiffany’s first endeavour and the first day of sales accumulated to a mere $4.98! It wasn’t until 1953 that the company re-directed its focus onto jewellery. Charles Tiffany followed his own path, refusing to allow any form of haggling and only accepting payments in cash.

4 Subway


4-498x295Subway’s origin was exceptionally humble. 17 year old Fred DeLuca borrowed $1000 from a friend Pete Buck and opened up a sandwich shop, advertising for appliances in the papers and furnished his shop. A pricey sink ($550) nearly destroyed the shop but DeLuca preserved and created a kingdom selling delectable subs.

ALSO READ  What is the Best Business to Go Into?

5 Whole Foods Market


5-498x295Whole Foods faced great hardship when it was first actualised. John Mackey and Rene Lawson borrowed just over £25,000 to create a natural foods shop called SaferWay, but were evicted from their house for storing stock in it. Unable to afford accommodation, they moved into their shop which was sans shower. They made do with a water hose! Today over 350 stores operate across America, Canada and the United Kingdom.

6 Ben & Jerry’s


6-498x295Ben & Jerry’s began its life in the unlikely setting of a renovated gas station. Two friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield revolutionised the world of ice-cream, with their symbolic flavours. With a mere investment of just over £3,500 each, they opened their first parlour. Cohen suffered from ageusia (a loss of taste functions), which led to their signature chunks being mixed into each ice-cream.

7 Harley Davidson


7-498x295In 1901 this iconic brand started by designing engines for cycles. For two years after that William Harvey and his good friend Arthur Davidson worked on their motor-bicycle and were ultimately unsuccessful in their first endeavour. They learnt and began work at once on the next machine. The prototype version of the first complete Harley Davidson was assembled in the Davidson’s shed and was ready by 1904. Today Harley’s remain one of the most revered motorbikes ever created.

8 Polo Ralph Lauren


8-480x295Ralph Lauren served in the army and worked briefly as a sales assistant before deciding to pave his own pathway. He started off making ties out of scraps from a drawer in the Empire State Building, selling them to local shops in New York City. In 1967 with financial backing he opened his first necktie shop where he sold his own unique version of the wide, European style necktie designs. Today Ralph Lauren has around 200 stores worldwide.

9 McDonald’s


9Love or hate it, McDonalds is perhaps one of the most globally known establishments. It began life as a food stand, selling hamburgers for an unbelievable 10 cents. Patrick McDonald’s two sons expanded the business and made it into a barbecue venture. After noticing a considerable profit in the sale of burgers over all their other barbecued products they decided to simplify the menu. Thus appeared McDonald’s, today it is worth billions.

10 Domino’s Pizza


10-498x295A down payment of $75 and a further borrowing of$900 for a store resulted in the creation of Domino’s. Known for their deliciously rich pizzas, this empire began modestly when Tom Monaghan dropped out of college after unable to pay the fees. With his brother he opened the first Domino’s in 1967. Since then, Domino’s has established itself in over 70 countries with over 10,000 stores.