We’ve all gotta start somewhere! It can be hard to imagine some of the most iconic and ubiquitous brands of today as a struggling start-up, yet every company has its own origin story.
While many people like to romanticize and sometimes exaggerate the ‘bootstrap ideology’ of self-made billionaires building the foundations of business empires in their garages, some companies do have genuinely humble and surprising beginnings, and they are really interesting to see!
This list, compiled by Apegeo, looks at the baby photos of some of the business world’s greatest celebrities. Go back in time to when Amazon was just a book store, and Samsung just a guy with a phone,. Witness these mega-corporations taking their very first steps toward fame!
Scroll down to check them out for yourself below, and let us know what you think in the comments!
#1 Rice Cooker (1946)
Founders – Masaru Ibuka, Akio Morita
First location – Tokyo, Japan
After World War II, Sony founder Masaru Ibuka invented a product to try and serve the millions of homes who had electricity but lacked the appliances to use it. The result was this electric rice cooker.
Released under the business name Tokyo Telecommunications Research Institute, before Sony itself became an incorporated company, the rice cooker was little more than some aluminium electrodes on the bottom of a wooden bucket. Depending on the unregulated electric current at the time, the kind of rice or how much water was used, the rice generally ended up served as overcooked mush or undercooked grain.
Because of this, the product was never actually released onto the market. Instead, a prototype now sits ensconced in glass at the Sony Archives in Shinagawa, a relic from a distant age before electronic gadgets were the norm.
#2 Online Bookstore (1994)
Founders – Jeff Bezos
First location – Bellevue, WA
Amazon began as an online bookstore in way back in 1994. Founder Jeff Bezos decided at first to call the bookstore “Cadabra,” He later changed the name to, Inc. a few months later, after a lawyer misheard its original name as “cadaver.”
Bezos selected the name Amazon by looking through the dictionary; he settled on “Amazon” because it was a place that was “exotic and different”, just as he had envisioned for his Internet enterprise. The Amazon River, he noted, was the biggest river in the world, and he planned to make his store the biggest bookstore in the world. Additionally, a name that began with “A” was preferred because it would probably be at the top of an alphabetized list.
#3 Stationary Delivery (1943)
Founders – Ingvar Kamprad
First location – Älmhult, Sweden
IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad showed entrepreneurial promise from a young age. At age 5, he began buying matches in bulk from Stockholm and selling them to neighbors for a profit. He later moved on to selling flower seeds, greeting cards, Christmas tree decorations, and more.
In 1943, when he was 17, Kamprad founded IKEA from his uncle’s kitchen table. It began as a mail-order business, selling a variety of items like stockings, jewelry, watches, pens, and picture frames. Kamprad added the first piece of furniture to the company’s offerings a few years later. Furniture sales got even bigger with the introduction of the famous IKEA catalog in 1951 and the first showroom in 1953. IKEA’s furniture soon became the focal point of the company as it began phasing out all other products over the next few years.
#4 Card Game (1889)
Founders – Fusajiro Yamauchi
First location – Kyoto, Japan
Nintendo, the video game brand that launched such 1980s and ’90s-era franchises as Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Pokemon, is actually one of the older companies on this list. It was founded in 1889 as a playing card company based in Kyoto, Japan. The cards (named hanafuda, or “flower cards” for their ornate floral imagery) were popular among the organized crime gangs that inhabited Japan’s gambling halls. The company’s origins are even reflected in its name: When separated into three characters, “Nin-ten-do” roughly translates to “Leave luck to heaven,” or “Work hard, but in the end it is in heaven’s hands.”
#5 Wooden Toys (1923)
Founders – Ole Kirk Christiansen
First location – Billund, Denmark
The toy brand that’s best known for its plastic, interlocking bricks was founded by a carpenter.
Struggling to find enough wood to build furniture during Denmark’s recession of the 1930s, Ole Kirk Kristiansen began turning wood scraps into children’s toys. Some of LEGO’s first products included toy trains, automobiles, and a wooden duck on wheels that quacked when pulled.
When he started experimenting with plastic toys in 1947, most department stores weren’t interested. Fortunately for future generations of LEGO builders, that didn’t discourage him, and plastic bricks eventually became the focus of the company.