10 famous companies that started in a shed
Starting your own business can be an expensive endeavour, so more and more people are converting sheds into offices to keep overheads down. If you're thinking of taking a similar route for your business, then it’s time to take inspiration from ten famous companies that had sheddie origins. These people transformed their own garden building into places to create, imagine and build. So, if they can, what's stopping you?
It’s 1923, and fresh from Missouri, Walt Disney sets up his first animation studio in his uncle’s LA garage. Paying $1 per week rent, Walt creates his beloved Alice Comedies in this space. Nearly a century later, his world-famous company continues to produce top-flight entertainment, and draws around 20 million visitors per year into their amusement parks.
After being saved from demolition, the garage has a new home, and is a popular tourist attraction in Stanley Ranch Museum, California.
The HP Tech Lab
When students Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard quit their jobs in 1939 to start their partnership, little did they know they’d later be considered founding fathers of Silicon Valley. Within this 12x18 shed, they started the technology giant Hewlett-Packard with a simple audio oscillator, and opened the doors for the computer and electronics breakthrough. The shed has now been transformed into a private museum.
Childhood friends, William Harley and Arthur Davidson, founded one of the earliest American motorcycle brands. They built their early bikes in a 10x14 garden shed, and started a great American tradition. With the company lasting through the Great Depression and both World Wars, Harley Davidson is consistently heralded as one of the world's most popular motorcycle companies.
Pip & Nut
With her fledgling business taking up all her finances, Pip Murray won the opportunity to move into a rent-free shed for three months. The competition, hosted by Startups, allowed Pip to focus all her energy and time into creating her nut butter company ‘Pip & Nut’. She says about her time in the shed:
Ask me a year ago if I’d be living in a shed about to launch my products into stores and I’d have said you were crazy. But, as crazy it may be, it’s turned out to be a fantastic experience.
Fantastic indeed - Pip's products are now available in 5,000 locations around the UK, including superstores like Sainsbury’s and retailers Fortnum & Mason.
Evolving from property website intolondon.co.uk, Rupert Hunt started Spareroom in 2004 from the spidery depths of his parents' garden shed. Now, it's the UK’s number one flat sharing site, and with a company over 300% busier than its competitors, Hunt remarks about his business’s origins:
I started it in my parents’ tiny shed. My first employee – a friend’s girlfriend – and I were squashed onto one desk. It wasn’t easy for two arachnophobes to work surrounded by spiders.
Spareroom is now the UK's number one flatsharing website with over two million visitors a year - and no spiders.
In 1943, at the tender age of seventeen, Ignvar Kamprad established IKEA initially as a small mail-order company. Starting off in his family’s 2 metre garden shed in rural south Sweden, his fledgling company produced disposable items, and enlisted the help of the local milkman to deliver his ordered products to the nearest post office. Ignvar then invested in an armless chair and started to develop a taste for furniture design.
Nowadays, IKEA products grace million of houses across the world and has changed the world of furniture construction.
Marie and Pierre Curie
A disused medical dissection shed doesn’t seem to be the best place for remarkable discoveries. But Marie Curie’s scientific legacy was born in just such a building. In a bad state, with poor ventilation and an incomplete roof, this shed was where Pierre and Marie conducted their radiation experiments. Respect German chemist, Wilhelm Ostwald once remarked upon seeing the Curie’s place of work:
If I had not seen the worktable and items of chemical apparatus, I would have thought that I was been played a practical joke.
Clearly the Nobel Committee saw no joke - they awared Curie two Nobel prizes - for Physics and Chemistry - the first of only four people to achieve this double honour.
In the 1980s, British inventor James Dyson took to his garden shed in a state of frustration over his cumbersome vacuum cleaner. It was within this shed that he came up with his revolutionary bagless system, and after 5,127 prototypes, the bagless system transformed the home cleaning system.
It also transformed Dyson's workspace - the company's head office is now a huge building with a rather nice view of the Cotswolds...
Mr Singh’s Sauce
With BBQ season taking over 1985’s summer, Popa Singh was increasingly dissatisfied with the chilli sauce that was on the market. So, he took to his shed, concocted his own original sauce and the rest was history. After a stint on the BBC Good Food Show, investors clamoured to help Popa out, and the sauce is now readily available in supermarkets and online retailers.
The Wright Brothers
Air transport became within reach when the Wright Brothers constructed their purpose-built shed for the building, testing and storage of the world’s first powered aircraft. In Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, this shed-turned-workshop housed all their ideas and tools for adjusting their prototype for actual airborne testing.
No matter the size, sheds have been used for workplaces for years. If you’re inspired to start your business in a shed, we’ll love to see how you adapt your workspace. Visit us on Facebook and drop us a message with all your best space-saving ideas.
Lead image: Shutterstock