“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” – Einstein
Many entrepreneurs think it is a strange idea to start a business in the garage. After all, don’t we need lots of money, investors, partners, office desks, computers and communication equipment? Don’t we need to “build it and they will come”. Not so – say many experts and some who are among the most successful today.Here are ten successful giants who started in a garage:
- Google. Sergey Brin and Larry Page started in Susan Wojcicki’s garage in 1998.
- Hobby Lobby. David Green started making picture frames in his parents’ garage when he was in high school, sensing he was destined for business creativity and not academics.
- Microsoft. Bill Gates and Paul Allen started developing software in a garage in Albuquerque.
- Maglite Flashlights. Tony Maglica was an immigrant who did not speak much English in 1950. By 1955 he saved $125 to buy a lathe but did not have his first flashlight sale until 1979.
- Hewlett-Packard. Dave Hewlett and Dave Packard invested $538 in 1939 and built one product, an audio oscillator which they sold to Disney.
- Apple. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak conceived of the Apple I and used purchase orders to buy parts to construct the first 50 units in their garage.
- Amazon. Jeff Bezos started selling books out of his garage in 1994, in Bellevue, Washington.
- Yankee Candles. Michael Kittredge was sixteen in 1969 when he melted crayons in his family garage to make candles which he sold to the neighbors.
- Walt Disney. Walt and Roy started in his uncle Robert’s garage in 1923 filming Alice Comedies, which later became Alice in Wonderland.
- Harley-Davidson. William Harley and Arthur Davidson experimented putting an engine on a bicycle in a 10×15 shed in 1903.
There are many more examples, but it is interesting that half of above companies are in the technology sector, but half the list are not tech companies at all. Why then might starting in a garage be a good thing?
First and foremost (as start-up entrepreneurs are catching on to), it is more important to follow lean canvas business modeling, than have a detailed business plan, a full-scale product development cycle and sophisticated marketing plan. The key word is ‘lean’. Raymond John of Shark Tank fame explains that it is all about two things – knowing the customer and getting out there to sell the idea to meet their need. He calls it the “power of broke”. He says people with lots of investment capital, often waste it on non-essentials; the lean principle allows the entrepreneur to pivot and make important adjustments.
To be sure, these garage entrepreneurs had plenty of failures but without massive capital outlays, it was easier to recover losses and move on, building on what had been learned.
Kingdom entrepreneurs striving to build companies in lesser developed areas have added complexities considering culture and language variances and the integration of the Quadruple Bottom Line into one business. So, starting small is even more important. Rent or borrow a garage or basement and start to experiment, then pivot and try again; all the while talking to potential customers about the product and listening carefully to what they may want.
Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures