Bet you didn’t know that 69% of entrepreneurs started their business out of their home. Most people, even entrepreneurs, don’t have the startup capital to build an empire overnight. If you’ve seen Shark Tank, you know that those who hold all the money aren’t going to give it up unless they know you’re a good investment.

If you can’t prove it, and this doesn’t mean you’re not worth it, you’ve got to start small. And plenty of major corporations were once garage operations.

Microsoft is one of the most well known of these operations. It’s so well known that it’s cliche to talk about tech companies that started in a garage. And yet the stories about other corporations remain untold.

So, let’s get to it. Here are five stories about those who dared to dream big and actually achieved something.

1. Coors Brewing Company

Adolph Coors himself was a poor immigrant from Prussia (now Germany). And he was only 21 when he stowed away on a ship to the United States.

After landing in the United States, Adolf made his way west working odd jobs. Back in Prussia, he had been a brewer. And when he met another German immigrant in Golden, Co, he decided it was time to take his savings and invest in his own beer recipe.

While Coors entered the United States poor, he had a decent amount of capital when he began his brewing company. $2000 in 1972 is $33,000 after inflation.

While that’s a decent amount of startup capital, Coors didn’t attribute his company’s success to money alone. It was the water he used to brew his beer: fresh water from the Rocky Mountains.

2.  Subway Sandwiches

To open a sub shop today, you’d need more than $1000. Even accounting for inflation between 1965 and now, the amount Dr. Peter Buck and Fred Deluca put into their first sub shop wasn’t much.

But they stretched it to fit, even setting a goal of having 32 stores opened in ten years.

Dr. Buck was a Ph.D. and Fred Deluca hoped to go to medical school. Neither dreamed they would be billionaires int he year 2018. Today they boast more than 44,000 locations all over the world.

3. LuLaRoe

“There is something to be said about the fact that grown women are swearing, crying and threatening people over leggings with cats on them.” Today, if you know about LuLaRoe, you’re either obsessed or you know someone who is obsessed.

Today the company is worth over $2 billion and they achieved this in only 4 years. That’s a lot of money for a clothing company that opened on old-fashioned modesty principles.

In 2012 a grandmother created a maxi skirt for her daughter. Her daughter posted the skirt on Instagram and suddenly 44 of her friends wanted an exact copy.

The grandmother’s name is DeAnne Stidham and she began her company with next to no capital. Within the first three days after selling the 44 skirts, she sold 300 skirts she had made by professionals. Her husband wisely suggested she turn this into a business.

The company now runs a consumer marketed, multi-level scheme. LuLaRoe Consultants must put up a sizeable amount of cash to even get started and they won’t get that money back if they don’t sell their merchandise.

It’s the story of a small company that rode a fad and pivoted to continue to make billions after the fad faded.

3. Wrigley Gum

In 1891 William Wrigley somehow thought that what the world needed was a good scrubbing. So when he moved to Chicago, he took $32 in change and turned it into a soap and baking powder company.

Now, he did have to borrow $5,000 from his rich uncle, but it’s still impressive that he eventually built one of the most popular chewing gum companies from pocket change.

4. Harley Davidson

Harley Davidson is over 100 years old. And the company wasn’ always into hogs.

Back in 1903, cars weren’t particularly popular. But bicycles were. And Arthur and Walter Davidson dreamed of making bicycles go much faster than human legs could propel them.

So, with very little money on hand, the brothers took a bicycle and strapped a motor on it. They had so little that they had to borrow a shed from a family member.

They sold three motorized bicycles in their first year. Now they’re the most iconic motorcycle in the world.

5. Maglite

Maglites are now known as one of the most dependable flashlights. And if you get one of their larger options, it’s heavy enough to use in self-defense.

All Tony Maglica saved up to build his flashlight empire was $125. Ever since he had left the shores of Croatia, he’d always dreamed of leaving behind his days of working for others and become his own boss.

He used the $125 on a down-payment for machinery. He used that machinery to do precision work on US missiles and satellites under contract with the Government.

He won several clients from his excellent work. While doing this, he eventually began making improvements on designs for various private companies. One of these companies was a flashlight parts manufacturer.

Maglica was dissatisfied with the current state of flashlights that he designed a better one for himself. This re-designed flashlight eventually became the Maglite.


By Ben Mattice

Benjamin Mattice is a freelance writer/editor, horror and sci-fi writer, SEO and affiliate marketing newbie, dog wrestler, cat wrangler, capoeirista, and long distance runner. He lives in the Palouse with his wife, three dogs, two cats, and two rats. Yes, that would probably be considered a mini-zoo.