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Small Business Week: 3 Big Companies that Started Small

small biz week - 3 big companies that started small

Small-business owners begin their ventures with measurable, achievable goals in mind. While you may open your first donut shop and hope that it one day becomes the next Dunkin, realistically, getting to that level takes a great deal of time, patience and dedication.

That being said, many of the world's most successful large companies came from humble beginnings. Whether you're looking to transform your mom-and-pop shop to a franchised entity or you're content managing one store on your own, there are many lessons to learn from the following companies.

1. Apple's first office was in a garage

It's hard to think that a company now worth billions of dollars began in a garage, but that's exactly the case with Apple. Founder Steve Jobs began tinkering on his first version of Apple I in 1975, according to Entrepreneur magazine. The original company employed only two people - Jobs and his friend Steve Wozniak - but within just a few years, the business became a massive success. 

The takeaway: Be driven by a vision

From the first day Jobs stepped into the garage, he had a vision - give everyone access to the best computer imaginable. He was driven by dedication and hard work, both of which helped propel him into the annals of history. Having a specific goal in mind is critical for any small-business owner, as it not only shows your customers exactly what your company is trying to achieve, but it keeps you motivated throughout the duration of your venture.

2. Starbucks started small in Seattle

Few companies share the brand recognition Starbucks has. The business is arguably one of the world's most recognizable, but it didn't achieve that success overnight. According to the brand's corporate website, the first Starbucks opened in Seattle in 1971. It wasn't until business-minded Howard Schultz entered the scene about a decade later that the store started aggressively growing in the U.S. 

The takeaway: Know when to trust the professionals

While Starbucks was popular in Seattle, it didn't start spreading rapidly until 1987 when Schultz started pursuing loftier goals. He applied his own business knowledge toward expanding the company and ultimately helped create one of the most successful franchises in the world. Similarly, small-business owners should recognize the importance of reaching out to experts when the time is appropriate. Whether you need help with fundraising or installing new devices, trusting professionals can provide a range of benefits to your business.

3. Ben & Jerry's started from the bottom

Did you know the first Ben & Jerry's store was at a renovated gas station? According to the Ben & Jerry's site, the first store opened in 1978 in Burlington, Vermont. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield started their venture after spending only $5 for an ice cream making course. To draw more attention to the store, the owners offered a free ice cream day the following year - a tradition that still takes place to this very day.

The takeaway: Stick to your roots

Over the past several decades, Ben & Jerry's has expanded globally and introduced waves of new flavors for loyal customers. While its ice creams are constantly shifting, its core beliefs are not. The founders - who still play an active role in the business today - host a yearly free ice cream day reminiscent of the first one held in 1979. Stick to your annual traditions to keep your customers coming back for more. You may change your logo, your store layout or your product displays, but staying true to your roots allows your loyal buyers to keep that connection between themselves and your company.

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