5 firms that have sustained success across generations

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According to the Small Business Association, 50% of new businesses fail during their first five years and 66% fold during the first ten.

So startup entrepreneurs who survive against these odds should be applauded, because usually only the most robust, agile and well-organised operations survive the storms of highly competitive and volatile markets.

When you start a new business, there are so many variables that may affect sustainability that the likelihood of ongoing success is an educated guess at best.

But since there are a few firms which have been in business for hundreds of years, taking a longevity leaf from their books might be worthwhile.

With that in mind, here are five firms that have sustained success across generations.

1. Kongo-Gumi

Since it was founded in 578AD in Japan, construction firm Kongo-Gumi has focused solely on the construction of intricate shrines and temples.

It was absorbed by the Takamatsu organisation in 2006, but is still in business after 1441 years, proving that if you’re good enough, there’s no such thing as ‘too niche’.

2. St. Peter Stiftskeller

The next time your stomach is rumbling in Salzburg, you could do worse than book a meal at the St. Peter Stiftskeller.

It first opened in 803AD, so you can be sure that whichever one of its 11 fine dining rooms you enjoy a sumptuous meal in, you’re tapping into a tradition of haute cuisine which stretches back eons.

3. Caswell-Massey

If you like smelling sweet and feeling fabulous, the chances are that you’ve purchased products from artisan bath and body gurus Caswell-Massey.

And the firm has a long and interesting history – founded in 1752 in Newport, Rhode Island, it bills itself as ‘America’s original apothecary’ and fans of its scents have included Jackie O, JFK, Lauren Bacall, The Rolling Stones and Greta Garbo.

4. The Shore Porters Society

If you want to move home from Scotland to anywhere else in the world, or need a fragile and expensive item transported with the utmost care and professionalism, Aberdeen’s Shore Porters Society employs some of the safest pairs of hands in the removals business.

It was founded in 1498, just six years after Columbus became the first European to discover America – pretty amazing.

5. Ormiston Wire

When braid manufacturer Ormiston Wire was founded way back in 1793 by savvy Scotsman James Ormiston, it specialised in crafting spring wire for corsets and wigs.

It still focuses on wire products, but its areas of expertise have expanded across the centuries to include architectural installations, puppetry, high-performance cars and Antarctic exploration.

It just goes to show that by adapting and developing one core product line, you can futureproof a highly technical firm.


These five long-lasting firms prove that in the right circumstances, specialist offerings can stand the test of time, that adapting a good idea enhances sustainability and food, transport and feeling good never go out of fashion. Hopefully you can extract a few entrepreneurial lessons from their fascinating backstories.

Do you have a favourite ancient company? Share your thoughts in the comments section.