Success Stories That No One Saw Coming


There are two types of businesses (not counting successful and unsuccessful, of course).  There are businesses that the owner wants to expand and businesses that the owner doesn’t want to expand, doesn’t imagine expanding, or doesn’t expect to expand.

From One to Thousands in 21 Years

Not every business is a home-based business but many are small until the owners decide that there is room for growth.  InterCasino was the first online casino.  It stated in 1996.  Before it could take bets online, there had to be a system in place to deposit and withdraw money, to guarantee the fairness of the games, and games that would look good on a desktop computer screen.   Do you remember computers in 1996?

InterCasino started out with ten games!

The Magic of the Garage

Apple started in Steve Jobs’ parent’s garage.  Jobs was the business end of the company and Steve Wozniak was the computer genius trying to invent the desktop computer.  Fewer than 40 years before, the president of IBM had stated that he saw no widespread market for computers.  Do you remember when a single computer filled a room?

Steve Wozniak was having a terrible time figuring out the system of fans that would keep the computer cool.  That’s what he was doing in his partner’s parent’s garage.  They staked every penny they had on the dream of placing a computer on every office desk and in every household.  Do you remember those archaic movies from the early sixties in which there is not a single PC to be seen?

The First Two Were Probably Delicious, Too!

The Mars chocolate company was started in a home kitchen.  The family was working on a recipe for a chocolate bar and invested all their money in the business.  The first two attempts were failures and the “company” went bankrupt.  But they persevered and now we can enjoy discussing with our friends if Milky Way, Mars, or Snickers is the best candy bar.

Copyright: stocking / 123RF Stock Photo

Better Silicon Valley Than Death Valley

Hewlett-Packard also started in a garage.  At first they experimented with various products in the nascent high-tech field.  They sold their first product to Walt Disney Corporation to help them develop the new “surround sound” system they were installing in movie theaters. Because they used the garage as an incubator for technological ideas and experimentation, today it is a museum and is called the birthplace of Silicon Valley.

From Books to Drones

You might love Jeff Bezos, hate him, or have no real emotional feeling toward him at all.  In the first few years after he founded Amazon and took the company public, he was a millionaire and then a billionaire, on paper, but the company had yet to earn a profit in a fiscal year.  Today Jeff Bezos’ net worth is over 100 billion dollars (yes, billion).  He began his empire in his garage in Bellevue, Washington near Seattle.

His vision began with marketing books online.  Today he markets almost everything online.  In the very early days, he appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show and said that he started his business because he thought he saw a great opportunity and didn’t want to miss out on it.

Just north of Bellevue is a town called Redmond where the HQ of Microsoft is located.

Speaking of Seattle, Starbucks began as a single coffee shop in Seattle.  At first, they sold coffee beans and gave away brewed coffee as free samples.  From that simple first store, the company has expanded to 24,000 outlets all over the world.

Faster Than the Post Office

FedEx was originally called Federal Express.  It started in the business district in Memphis, Tennessee.  By law, only the US postal service can deliver standard envelopes so Fed Ex began by delivering small packages and letters “packed” in larger envelopes that the postal service defined as packages.  Despite the extra size of the “packages” and the extra overhead from size (small), the company delivered letters cheaper and faster to Memphis addresses than the postal service could.  Today FedEx is a world-wide company delivering “letters” and other packages quickly.


Walmart is the leading retailer outlet in the world.  It began in the northwest corner of the fiscally poor state of Arkansas.  The Walmart formula entailed selling for a few cents cheaper than the competition.  The company expanded in a tight circle around the first store and always located near a highway so people could drive easily to a store to save a few dollars.

Walmart expanded under the radar until it had overtaken the two urban giants, Sears and Kmart.


Vision, perseverance, and a little luck (at least) can take a small business far.

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