What do Apple, Amazon and Google have in common? Apart from being three of the largest companies in the world, they all started life in a garage. This is perhaps no surprise, as a garage provides a space where you can get away from distractions and truly focus.
Here we give you an insight into the humble beginnings of these and other multinational brands that started life within a garage.
The world’s most famous search engine was started by Stanford University students Larry Page and Sergey Brin in a California garage. The pair rented the space from their friend Susan Wojcicki in September 1998, and began their foray into website indexing. They worked day and night in the garage during its first five months, before operations outgrew their makeshift work area. Sergey and Larry have gone on to develop Google into a tech giant that, under the name Alphabet, incorporates other platforms like Gmail, Maps and YouTube. The last of these is today headed by their friend Susan Wojcicki, while her old garage is still owned by Google as a tribute to their humble roots.
Brothers Walt and Roy Disney created their first films in their uncle’s Californian garage in 1923. They began by creating Alice Comedies, which were a part of the original Alice in Wonderland animation series, in their makeshift studio. After much rejection from distributors, the series was picked up by M.J. Winkler, who signed the Walt Disney Studios to a one year contract. Today, the Walt Disney Company is the world’s largest media conglomerate, making billions of dollars from their theme parks, animated films, and merchandise. The garage, about 45 minutes by car from Disneyland Park, can be visited today by tourists interested to see where it all began.
Following in the theme of Californian garages, technology giant Apple was also started in one; Steve Jobs’s parent’s one to be precise. This was where Steve and his friends Ronald Wayne and Steve Wozniak built the first Apple computer, the Apple I in 1976. Fifty of these computers were sold to a local store for $500 each, and shortly after the Apple II was developed. It was their line of Macintosh computers, with their sleek design and ease-of-use, that made them millions of dollars. These two aspects have been used in other product lines like the iPhone, iPod and iTunes to great effect, and have helped to make Apple the most valuable technology company in the world.
Recently crowned the world’s richest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos started his business in his garage in Bellevue, Washington. His online bookshop was created in 1994 to order, sell and deliver books to 48 different countries. Bezos sold his first book in July 1995 and set up a bell to ring every time there was a sale. After a couple of weeks, it had to be turned off because it wouldn’t stop ringing. Only two years after selling his first book, the business offered its first public shares. Since then, Amazon has grown into the largest online shopping store in the world, selling everything from groceries to electronics.
It may come as no surprise that a car company started its life in a garage. Engineers Colin Chapman and Colin Dare formed British sports car manufacturer Lotus Engineering Ltd. in a North London garage in 1952. Their first production car, the Mark VI, was sold in kit form for club racers, who then just had to acquire an engine. Their first cars were built for trials and races, and by 1958 their vehicles were competing in Formula 1. Since 1966, the company has been located at an old RAF base in Hethel, Norfolk and still continues to push boundaries in sports car engineering.
Think you’ve got the next big business idea? You don’t have to move to California just yet – instead, take look at our guide to starting your own business in your garage!