If Amazon Started In A Garage, So Can You

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It may be surprising to learn that many businesses you know well started out as a home-based business:

  • Disney
  • Microsoft
  • Xerox
  • L. Bean
  • Apple

Interestingly, all of these now huge businesses started out as very small mom and pop type operations and yet eventually became global brands. This is not to say that if you go the home-business route you need to think that big, but rather, as a reminder of what is possible.

Take for example Jeff’s story: One day in the spring of 1994, Jeff was sitting at the computer in his 39th-floor office in midtown Manhattan, looking at something very few people had even seen – the Internet. Jeff happened upon a Website that said that the Internet was growing at a rate of 2,300% a year. As he later told Time Magazine, “it was a wake-up call. I started thinking, O.K., what kind of business opportunity might there be here?”

Jeff Bezos knew that whatever he created had to be unique; offering something people couldn’t get elsewhere. “Unless you could create something with a huge value proposition for the customer, it would be easier for them to do it the old way,” Bezos told Time in 1999.  That is what finally led Bezos to books. He figured that selling books online would in fact be unique because online he could offer every book that is out there. There were no giant mail-order book catalogs because such a catalog would have to list millions of books to be complete. Only on the Internet could Bezos offer every book.

So, Bezos quit his job, and he and his wife MacKenzie set out for Seattle. Why Seattle? Because the city had two big huge book distributors and plenty of computer geeks he could hire.  As MacKenzie drove across the country, Jeff wrote his business plan on his laptop.

When they arrived in Seattle, Jeff and MacKenzie rented a two-bedroom home in a suburb of Seattle, Bellevue. It was there that they started their company. Converting the garage into a workspace, Amazon.com was born.

Or what about Lillian Vernon? Born in Leipzig, Germany, she escaped to New York with her family during World War II. Newly married, Vernon used the $2,000 that she had received as wedding gift money and started a mail order business in the early 50’s in an effort to help pay household bills. Her office was the kitchen table in their apartment.

Ms. Vernon placed a sixth-of-a-page ad for a “personalized handbags and belts” in Seventeen magazine and waited. The ad was a hit, bringing in more than $32,000 in orders. With success like that, the Lillian Vernon Company grew, and then outgrew her home office in three short years. These days, Lillian Vernon has sales in the hundreds of millions.

So, as you plan ahead, keep in mind the many benefits of working from home. The advantages are numerous, and the commute is tough to beat.