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Companies From Nothing

On13/ 12 /15

Humble Beginnings of 5 Top Brands

Virgin, Apple and Starbucks…what do these well-known brands all have in common? The answer may not be what you think.

Positive balance sheets and worldwide recognition aside, all these successful companies actually came from humble beginnings.


 So how did they do it? Often great companies start from a simple but brilliant idea, however, it’s not always plain sailing.

1. WhatsApp

WhatsApp is the classic rags to richest story. Co-founder and CEO Jan Koum arrived from Ukraine to the US as a child, surviving on food stamps. Fast forward 2 decades to 2014 and Facebook bought his company, WhatsApp for a huge $19 million.

So, how did he do it? It seems that Koum’s first asset was his resourcefulness. He taught himself computer networking from manuals bought and returned to a used-book store. This allowed him to land jobs at Ernst & Young as a security tester and Yahoo as an infrastructure engineer, and also resulted in his partnership with co-founder Dan Acton.

Together they were able to build up the company up in just 5 years to become one of the most downloaded apps out there.

2. Apple

In 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniack started building a computer in their garage, making their first sale to a local retailer. Today Apple is the most valuable technology enterprise in the world.

The road to success may not have been entirely smooth, however their persistence paid off. Many believe the secret to their success is ‘thinking laterally’ – trying to anticipate where the market is going rather reacting to current trends.

Additionally, Steve jobs may have been a hard taskmaster but he was instrumental in maintaining Apple’s exacting standards.

3. Virgin

Richard Branson started his first magazine ‘student’ from a back room, aged just 16 with more than modest funds. From there, he started a mail-order record company, the first of the ‘Virgin brands’.
Branson has often put his success down to not be afraid to try new things and fail. Undoubtedly each new venture gave him valuable business experience, whether successful or not.

The virgin umbrella now covers an array of sectors from mobile communications to aviation and even the first space tourism company.

4. Starbucks

It seems that the secret of Starbucks’ success is adaptability. The company, founded by a writer and two teachers, originally started out selling coffee beans in 1971.

It wasn’t until Howard Shultz joined in 1982 that they decided to open their first coffee shop. Interestingly, Shultz came from an impoverished background, growing up in a housing estate for the poor.

Whilst the original founders were initially hesitant, they eventually bought into Shultz’ new vision for the business. Today Starbucks is the largest chain of coffee shops in the world with over 17,000 stores spanning 55 countries.

5. Mattel

Like Starbucks, Mattel didn’t quite start out, as we know it today. The company began as a picture-frame making business in 1947, run out of the house of founders, Ruth and Elliot Handler.

The transition to a toy business came out of using the wooden offcuts to make doll’s houses. Mattel is now the largest toy company in the world based on revenues.

Building Success

So what can we learn from these stories of success? We may not all be entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs or Richard Branson, however we can certainly apply some of their wisdom to our own careers.

First of all, follow the example of Jan Koum and try to use all the resources at your disposal.

Secondly, don’t discount an idea, however wacky it may seem at first sight - even if takes you in a very different direction. After all, your first idea might not be the one that sells.

Like Richard Branson, treat each setback along the way as part of the learning curve. Closely evaluate what’s working and not working and don’t be afraid to make changes.

Finally, patience, persistence and determination are the name of the game. You many not succeed overnight, however by persevering and adapting your approach, you’ll provide yourself with the very best chances of success.

We started, many years ago, with a few typewriters in a front room on the Farnham Road in Slough. Now we have offices across the Thames Valley, help thousands of candidates each year, work with hundreds of organisations and employ a wonderful team of staff!! If you want to be part of our success story get in touch today or upload your CV.
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