Many the young American entrepreneur that has set his or her sights on the true American dream, hoping to move from humble beginnings to the big time. But where do they start? Fortunately, a constantly growing list of successful companies were founded in the humblest of beginnings; the American garage. The world now looks up to these companies and is often amazed that so much more than cars, tools and junk can come from a garage.
The quintessential garage-founded company, Apple is now a global electronics juggernaut. As depicted in the blockbuster film Jobs, Apple Computer was established by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak on April 1, 1976. The pair dreamed of marketing a personal computer that would be embraced by the general population. Working out of Jobs' parents' garage in Los Altos, California, Jobs and Wozniak soon became some of the greatest innovators of the digital age.
The Walt Disney Company
Everyone knows Disney, but few are aware of how the world's most successful entertainment company got its start. Walt and Roy Disney moved from their home in Missouri to Los Angeles back in 1923, where they spent the first few months producing their original series, Alice Comedies out of their uncle's garage. Who knew then that the cartoonists' company would grow into the largest media conglomerate on Earth and become a leader in not only film and television, but also travel, leisure, music and publishing? Fortunately for prosperity, the Disney garage was saved from demolition in 1984 when it was donated to the StanleyRanchMuseum.
Yes, even the world's biggest toy manufacturer got its start in an American garage. Ruth and Elliot Handler started by making picture frames in their California garage. When they found they had too many wood scraps to waste, they started crafting dollhouse furniture and other children's toys out of the spare wood. When they found success in this venture, Ruth felt there was a market for dolls that looked like adults. She named the doll after the couple's daughter, Barbie, and the rest is history.
Yankee Candle Company
The year was 1969. When 17-year-old Michael Kittredge found he didn't have enough money to buy his mother a Christmas present, he got creative instead. The Massachusetts teen melted down some crayons in his parents' garage and made his mom a scented candle. Soon, neighbors were asking Michael to make them similar products, so he teamed up with some friends and started making the candles. Yankee Candle Company is now the leading U.S. candle manufacturer, boasting hundreds of retail locations, multiple product lines and even international distribution.
Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos started an online bookstore in 1994, running it out of his garage in Bellevue, Wash. The following year, he sold his first book, and just two years later was able to take the company public. Today, Amazon is the world's largest online retailer.
Stanford graduate students Larry Page and Sergey Brin started the search engine now known as Google in 1998, working from Susan Wojcicki's garage. When they soon found the project interfering with their schoolwork, they tried to sell it to Excite for $1 million, but Excite rejected the offer. That rejection turned out to be the best million dollars they never made, as Google is now the most trafficked site in the world.
Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard actually founded HP in Packard's garage way back in 1939. With an initial investment of just $538, their first project was an audio oscillator, and one of their first customers was Walt Disney, who purchased eight of the oscillators in order to create the sound system used in Fantasia. Packard's garage is now considered the birthplace of Silicon Valley and HP one of the world's largest companies.
The American story demonstrates it's not about your humble beginnings - whether they be from a garage, a basement or even a dorm room - instead, it's important where you end up. Although achieving the success of the above-mentioned entrepreneurs may seem out of reach to the average American considering a startup, most of the companies took decades to reach their current status. No one started out thinking they would create the largest online retailer, the largest electronics retailer or the world's biggest media conglomerate. The entrepreneurs simply wanted to create a bookstore, a computer, a cartoon or even just a search algorithm.