The Top Businesses That Started Small

Wednesday March 25, 2020

Everybody has to start somewhere, and some of today's biggest brands came from humble beginnings, with tales of inspiration in business all around us. Whatever our industry and goal, there's usually somebody who's faced similar odds and overcome them.

Of course, the hardest period of business ownership is often the beginning. Cashflow is tight and the investment required usually dwarfs the amount of money you can have coming in, which sometimes makes it hard to stay motivated.

The temptation to close your doors and get a job someplace where there's a steady salary and a little pressure can be strong, but it's important to stick at it. Many of the world's most successful entrepreneurs have endured tough times and seen projects fail.

Tough Times, Tough People

In every aspirational business owner's tool kit are the essentials. These are the aspects of preparation that can super-power a start-up and lay the foundations for sustainable growth.

One such essential is business insurance, which is vital from the early stages in a business's history to guard against unexpected costs, loss of earnings, injury - or worse. It can be tempting to overlook this aspect as you make ambitious plans and keep eyes firmly trained on the horizon ahead, but building blocks like business insurance from Next Insurance provide an essential foundation for growth.

It's important, too, to get tax advice. Ensuring your financial affairs are in order can't be dismissed as a task for a rainy day, and tax advice from PwC can help put you on a sound footing. Having an administrative ally at your side, crunching the numbers while you focus on the bigger picture, can be invaluable.

But becoming successful also takes a little character. The old adage tells us that tough times don't last, but tough people do, and that's perhaps no truer than in the world of business. Here are five businesses that put that into practice and put the tough times behind them to become leaders in their industry.

A global leader in tech and a standard-bearer for the modern smartphone, Apple is today one of the world's valuable brands. But you may be surprised to learn that the brand started life in the garage of a house in Cupertino, California. Their first major order was for 50 computers, which they worked tirelessly to turn around. The rest was history!

Now the world's richest man, Jeff Bezos' Amazon empire is sprawling. Prior to Amazon, Bezos had been a high-flyer and was once the youngest-ever vice president of a Wall Street investment company. But he quit his job and moved to Seattle to pursue his true business ambitions, which also happened to involve setting up in a garage. He even held meetings in a local bookshop to save on cash.

Harley Davidson
One of the famous names in motorcycling, Harley Davidson sprang from surprisingly modest beginnings. Founder William S Harley kicked off his masterplan with designs to create an engine that could power a pedal bike. These plans evolved to become a primitive predecessor of the modern motorbike. The company was founded in 1903 and during the 117 years that followed, Harley Davidson has become a household name that transcends its industry.

Established in Germany in 1913, Aldi's roots were in a small store owned by the mother of founders Karl and Theo Albrecht. Dad worked as a baker's assistant, while the sons completed apprenticeships and also helped out in the shop. The brothers eventually took over the business and quickly established more than 10 branches, before national and international expansion followed — a true family business!

Like Harley Davidson, Virgin is a name that transcends industry — but that's because the business has interests in pretty much everything. Operations range from books to banking and radio to retail, but before founding Virgin, Sir Richard Branson experienced failure selling budgies and Christmas trees! Virgin's own beginnings were in a record store, but Branson's aggressive expansion strategy quickly saw it become a multi-national household name.

Names like those on this list are rightfully recognized as helping to set standards in their respective industries and brands like Virgin, in particular, appear unfathomably big. So, it's perhaps heartening to small business owners, or just those starting out in their journey, to learn that even the richest and most successful businesses had to scrap keep going during their early days.

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