Why a Garage is the Perfect Place to Start Your Small Business

Hewlett-Packard garageDo you ever cringe a little bit at the term small business?

Most of us are proud to be entrepreneurs or to be part of the business world that’s creating the most jobs and producing innovative ideas. But if you have big dreams, that word small might kind of bug you.

Your vision for the company you create may include lofty, long-term goals. Yet right now, you wonder if you’ll always be stuck at square one.

Stop stressing. Starting small means starting smart. Without those first small steps toward the realization of your vision, you probably wouldn’t get going at all.

Just look at the many major corporations that kicked things off inside a garage.

Even the Big Boys Start Small

That picture of the garage with green doors was the original headquarters of Hewlett-Packard. It’s where a pair of electrical engineers named Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard opened up shop in 1939. Today it’s in the Top 10 of Fortune 500 companies.

If you’ve got a two-stall garage, then technically, you’ve also got a head-start on HP!

But they’re far from the only household name that began in a garage. Many of them have been around a much shorter time than HP.

Apple and Microsoft

early Apple computerSteve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were a couple of bright young minds with a vision for bringing the personal computer to the general public.

They started tinkering in a spare bedroom before moving to the garage after Steve Jobs’ father agreed to move out his care restoration equipment.

That photo of the wooden box really is one of the very first Apple computers. It’s now in the Smithsonian.

Around the same time Bill Gates and Paul Allen were starting Microsoft in a garage as well. They’d grow to become one of the most powerful companies on the planet.

Amazon.com

The name of Jeff Bezos strikes fear and respect in the hearts of everyone in the eCommerce world. It’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t made a purchase from Amazon.com.

In the early ’90s, Bezos started a bookstore in his garage. At first it wasn’t even an internet business. But he quickly noticed the opportunity to do something different online. Amazon survived the bursting of the dotcom bubble, diversified into many other products, and today it’s revolutionizing the publishing industry.

Diapers.com

baby in diaperMarc Lore and Vinit Bhara saw a major need they could bring to parents all over the country. Why drive to the store to get more diapers when they could be delivered to your door?

That big idea started in their friend Gina DePaola’s New Jersey garage. In the beginning, she would drive her mini-van to a wholesaler to buy diapers and fulfill the online orders that came trickling in. At first the company was losing money. But the entrepreneurs discovered a huge demand for what they were doing. Before long – that trickle turned into a tidal wave.

Just five years after its founding, Amazon bought Diapers.com and its sister company, Soap.com, for $550 million.  It is still operated independently.

Google

Back in 1998, before there was Googleplex, the corporate headquarters of the search engine giant was a garage in Menlo Park, California. Segey Brin’s future sister-in-law, Susan Wojcicki let him and partner Larry Page get started at her home for five months.

Today Wojcicki is senior VP of product management and engineering at Google. Brin and Page are two of the most powerful people in the world. More than 1-billion people use Google every month.

Just like HP – Google has decided to preserve that garage and the legacy behind it.

Disney

Walt Disney with dwarf figurinesWalt Disney’s first studio was in a tiny North Hollywood garage that belonged to his uncle. Walt and his sibling Roy started The Disney Bros Cartoon Studio in 1923.

Five years later, Disney would create Mickey Mouse – even doing the voice himself. By 1940, following the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the animator would get his own studio lot in Burbank.

Today, Disney is a massive media empire that’s much more than Mickey. The company very recently agreed to purchase Lucasfilms and now even owns the Star Wars franchise as well as Marvel Entertainment, The Muppets, countless of it’s own films, TV shows, music, theme parks, live productions – the list goes on and on.

And it all started inside a garage.

Want More Proof?

You can read about even more big businesses that began in the garage in an article from YoungUpstarts.com. Plus, read other  inspiring stories about small starts that became Fortune 500 companies at BusinessPundit.com.

Right now, I’m typing this article in my basement surrounded by a mess of toys (my kids’ not mine). The desktop computer I’m using has a fan that sounds like a jet engine and a monitor with a screen covered in pen scribbles – thanks to my son Max.

Do I think that my efforts will some day lead to a company like Apple, Disney or Google? Probably not – if we’re going to be realistic. But it’s encouraging for all of us to know that, at some point, many of the most successful people in history were starting at the same place as you and me.

What does your small start look like? Leave us a comment and tell us about your garage, basement, attic. What have you called you headquarters?

Kasey Steinbrinck is co-founder of Copyjuice Media. He specializes in copywriting and content marketing strategy for small to medium-sized businesses.

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    Comments

    1. Great post! There’s not a thing wrong with starting out from humble household beginnings. I always love to hear these success stories from small starts that blow up into big moneymakers. It gives me hope when I’m sitting in my living room, stewing over blog posts and tech specs, tinkering with tinkerables and planning my next moves. But a lot of “business people” (underlined, figuratively in Caps, and bold) laugh or worse just don’t take it seriously that you can bootstrap you business in this way. They’re all about the VC funding and big offices. VC money is great, but I’d rather put it into product development than into office space.

      • Yeah! Good for you Heather. I admire what you do. Not that there’s anything wrong with someone investing in your vision either. But that’s much more likely to happen when we take those first steps.

    2. Another great example is Blake Mycoskie, who started TOMS. I read his book “Start Something That Matters” and found it really inspirational. In it, he talks about several other companies who started just the same way, including Google. He also mentions Method, a company that makes soap and cleaning supplies, which was started by two guys who needed to clean their apartment but didn’t want to use all the harsh chemical cleaning supplies. LOVE IT! Good reminders that little ol’ me can do it too! :)

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