Inspirational Businesses that Started Small and Grew into Giants


Some entrepreneurs get lucky and start off with a huge amount of capital, but most of them have started small and built their business over time. That can be hard, but many of the biggest, most famous, and most successful companies in the world prove that great things really can come from humble starts.



Subway is one of the largest fast food companies in the world. and it came from very unlikely beginnings. The founders were nuclear physicists, who provided a small amount of funding, and an undergraduate student that was hoping to use the business to pay for college. They started with a single shop that made sandwiches to order, but their business grew fairly quickly.


The company eventually started to expand through franchising, which fueled rapid growth at a fairly low price. That demonstrates the power of franchising as a tool of expansion for businesses that have all of the talents and products that are necessary for success but lack the cash to grow on their own.

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Apple Started Small

Apple is a giant in the tech world, but it started in a garage. A large part of the funding even came from reselling a car and a calculator instead of through traditional finance. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak get most of the credit, but there was also a third founder. Ronald Wayne bought into the company early with the intention of serving as an arbiter during disputes, but it only took him 12 days to back out and sell his stake.


That's not a great start for a business, but the two Steves pressed on. The company had to build computers by hand on a kitchen table while also searching for better deals, but they pulled it off. Like every business, they had some growing pains, but Apple is now one of the biggest and most influential tech companies in the world.



U-Haul proves that identifying a gap in the market is far more important than starting with a lot of funding. The Company started shortly after WWII, a time when a huge number of people were moving to new homes. A married couple, Sam and Anna Mary, started the company after they tried to rent a trailer while moving but simply couldn't find one.


They started so small that they had to leave their first trailer parked at a service station instead of a dedicated lot. Their trailer storage methods have gotten better and now form a big part of their strategy, but the core method remains the same. It's likely that the business will keep thriving for as long as people need to haul a lot of stuff in only one direction.


Harley Davidson

Harley Davidson is the oldest company on this list, with a history that stretches back for slightly more than a century. William Harley, Arthur Davidson, and Walter Davidson founded the company in 1903. The founders worked out of a relatively small shed. Modern technology companies can do that without much trouble because they work with digital products, but it was a much bigger challenge for Harley Davidson because they had to manufacture motorcycles in a tiny space. They couldn't even afford to buy or rent their own shed, and instead had to borrow one from a generous relative.


Fortunately, that sort of setup was fairly common for the time, since motorcycles were a fairly new technology. The company started out by adding engines to traditional bicycles and only produced three of those in the first year, but they soon moved on to more familiar designs. They got their big break when World War One broke out and the government needed to buy a huge number of motorcycles for military purposes. That shows that it only takes one big contract to propel a small business to stardom if they can play their cards right and take advantage of opportunities as they appear.