- Posted March 29, 2014 by
Kansas City, Missouri
From Garages to Greatness: The Births of Four Major Corporations in Garages
Many of us assume that the large companies we are familiar with today had their beginnings in boardrooms. The truth is, some of the largest and most successful american corporations actually began in small garages. Here's a short history of four major US corporations that were born in a garage:
Mattel began in 1945, just after World War II in the little garage of Ruth and Elliot Handler in Los Angeles, California. Their good friend, Harold "Matt" Matson was an early partner in a small business making picture frames. Instead of throwing out the wood scraps left over from the picture frame business, the Handler's decided they could use the scraps to make small doll house furniture. Soon, Mattel (a combination of the names of Matt and Elliot) was selling lots of doll furniture and the picture frame business was scrapped.
Mattel grew through the years with the vision and leadership of Ruth and Elliot Handler, (who bought out Matson early on). Ruth is credited with the invention of "Barbie", one of the most successful toy products of the 20th century. The Barbie doll was named after her daughter, and the "Ken" doll that would follow, was named after her son. Mattel also produced the "Hot Wheels", "Creepy Crawlers", "Incredible Edibles", "Chatty Cathy", and numerous other toy lines that propelled Mattel into a monster worldwide toy company. And to think it all started in a small garage with picture frames and wood scraps..
The origins of Apple also has roots in a garage.. In 1976, Steve Wozniac and Steve Jobs who were electronics hackers, decided to create their own personal computer. With only $1300 of capital, the two friends began a quest to build a small business producing the machines and to try to sell them to a larger market. Wozniac's garage was the workshop where the two collaborated day and night to eventually produce a working model computer that was ready for sale. The two approached a local electronics store owner, and asked if he would be interested in selling a small personal computer. The store owner ordered 50 units, and Apple Computer was born. Apple is now ranked in the top 100 of Fortune 500 companies.
The giant corporation of Hewlett Packard began in a small garage in a region known as Silicon Valley, in Southern California. Palo Alto is a medium sized metropolis now, but was a sleepy little suburban bedroom commuity in the 1930's when Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard began fooling around with making an audio oscillator. The device was designed to test instruments used by sound engineers. One of the first clients was Walt Disney, who wanted the equipment for the production of his movie Fantasia. This product was the first of many that Hewlett-Packard would produce from that time on, as the company grew and rode the tech-wave into the future. Now the company produces computers, laptops, servers, printers, digital cameras, toners, monitors, calculators and many other products. (Thanks to Bill Slawski and Brian Solis for the photos and information they contributed, and permission to publish it here. Here's a link to Bill's excellent and extensive blog: http://www.seobythesea.com/
In 1998, in a Menlo Park, California garage, two Stanford University graduate students began working on an internet search engine they called "BackRub". Larry Page and Sergei Brin were trying to design a search engine that would look at connecting links between web pages, to rank a site's authority and prominence in the search results. By 1999, Google was growing exponentionally, and moved out of the small garage and into larger quarters. Today, from it's headquarters in Mountain View, California, Google serves millions of customers around the globe every second, and continues the quest to become the leader in not only online search requests, but an online provider of media through YouTube and other sources. Google's corporate motto is "Don't be Evil". That's a nice start, and I hope they can stick to it as they slowly engulf the world as we know it.
As America endures the current economic toilet flush, don't forget the ingenuity and genius of those before who started great companies in a humble garage. We can still create wealth and jobs for our future as long as we are willing to start out small and think big.