10 Famous Businesses That Started With Little to No Investment

From tech giants that started off from a garage to the world’s largest submarine sandwich chain, here are 10 businesses that proved that you don’t need a huge investment to start a multi-million dollar business.

There’s a widespread belief that you need a huge amount of investment to start your business and for it to succeed. While most of today’s successful startups had high initial investments, it is not always the case. From tech giants that started off in garages to world-famous pizza chains that started with a small loan, the success stories are multifold.

Depending on the type of your business, your start-up financing needs may come to an average of $30,000. Meanwhile, a micro business will cost around $3,000, and home-based entrepreneurial undertakings can be started with much less – around $2,000 to $5,000.

While it may seem like you need a lot of money to launch your dream business, sometimes all you need is a good idea and little to no investment, as these 10 businesses have shown.

1. Domino’s Pizza

Dominos Pizza

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The famous Domino’s Pizza’s story began in 1960, when brothers Tom and James Monaghan bought DomiNick’s, a pizza store in Michigan with US$900 (today $7,912.37) that they borrowed. A year later, James traded his share for a Volkswagen Beetle, making Tom the sole owner.

In 1965, Tom renamed the business to Domino’s Pizza, Inc., and the first franchise store was opened in Michigan the following year. In 1985, Domino’s became the fastest-growing restaurant chain in the U.S.

However, Tom retired in 1988, giving up ownership of the company to Bain Capital Inc. Today, the company has a market cap of $15.57 billion, and has over 17,100 stores, including more than 10,000 outside the U.S.

2. Dell

Dell Computer was founded by Michael Dell in 1984 at the age of 19 from his dorm room as a freshman at the University of Texas, Austin. He only had $1,000 dollars (today $2,504.61) to start off.

″[I] started the company with $1,000 a week before I was taking my final exams as a freshman,” Dell told CNBC.

Dell began by buying computer parts, which he customized and resold. Soon, he was earning $50,000 to $80,000 a month from his dorm. Four years later in 1988, Dell Computer went public with an $85 million market capitalization and he soon became the youngest CEO to rank in the Fortune 500.

Dell Computer went private in 2013 and became Dell Technologies in 2016. Today, the company has a market cap of $55.97 billion.

3. Pizza Hut

In 1958, two brothers – 26-year-old Dan and 19-year-old Frank Carney – borrowed $600 (today $5,402.68) from their mother to start a pizza business in Wichita, Kansas. They rented a 600-square-foot building and named the business Pizza Hut because their sign only had room for eight letters.

By 1966, there were 145 Pizza Hut franchises in the U.S. and the store became the world’s largest pizza chain by 1971. In 1977, sales reached $436 million and Pizza Hut was sold to PepsiCo for $300 million. Today, Pizza Hut is a subsidiary of Yum Brands and operates more than 18,000 restaurants in over 100 countries.

4. Apple

steve jobs

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Steve Jobs and his friend Steve Wozniak launched Apple in Jobs’s parents’ garage in 1976. The business that has since revolutionized the tech industry was started with just $1750 (today $8,003.53) that was raised from selling Jobs’ Volkswagen bus and Wozniak’s HP calculator.

However, Jobs was forced out of the company in 1985 and rejoined in 1997 after Apple bought Jobs’ company NeXT. In 2018, Apple became the world’s first publicly-traded company to achieve a market capitalization of $1 trillion.

Jobs passed away in 2011 at the age of 56 due to pancreatic cancer, leaving behind a legacy like no other.

5. Subway

Frank DeLuca was only 17-years-old when he partnered with Dr. Peter Buck, a nuclear physicist and family friend, who provided $1,000 (today $8,261.24) to open a sandwich shop called Pete’s Super Submarine in Connecticut. By 1974, the duo owned and operated 16 shops and began franchising by renaming the business ‘Subway.’

Today, Subway operates in over 40,000 locations across the globe, making it the world’s largest submarine sandwich chain.

6. Nike

nike

Photo by dan carlson on Unsplash

Bill Bowerman, a track-and-field coach at the University of Oregon, and Phil Knight, his former student, began Nike as Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964 with an investment of $1,000 (today $8,394.48)

Two years later, they opened their first retail outlet and in 1972, they launched the Nike brand shoe. They renamed the company to Nike Inc. in 1978 and two years later, went public. Through several acquisitions from the late 1980s, Nike expanded its business and also diversified its product line to offer sporting apparel, goods, accessories, and equipment.

In 2020, the sportswear behemoth’s global revenue amounted to about $37.4 billion.

7. Under Armour

Sports apparel company Under Armour was founded in 1996 by then 24-year-old Kevin Plank, a former captain of the University of Maryland Football team. He noticed that compression shorts stayed dry during practice and set out to make moisture-wicking gear with around $20,000 he had saved by selling t-shirts at concerts. He ended up racking up about $40,000 in credit card debt and was broke a year after founding the company.

However, the same year, he made his first sale to Georgia Tech for about $17,000, followed by two dozen NFL teams. The product soon took off, giving rise to a multi-million dollar business that reported global net revenues of around $5.27 billion in 2019.

8. Hewlett-Packard

Stanford University graduates Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard launched Hewlett-Packard in 1939 in a one-car garage in Palo Alto, California. From a diathermy machine (a medical device that produced heat) to a device to help astronomers, they made several inventions in their 12-by-18 feet garage.

Their first breakthrough happened when they sold an audio oscillator to Walt Disney Studios, which used it to produce the feature film Fantasia, to be released in 1940. The duo pooled their cash and equipment – a total of $538 (today $10,072.17) – to formalize their partnership and start the company in 1939. They decided on the company name with a coin toss, and so Hewlett-Packard was born.

The garage the duo operated out of is widely regarded as the birthplace of Silicon Valley. In 2015, Hewlett-Packard split into two independent companies – the HP Enterprise Company (HPE) and HP Inc. In 2020, HP Inc, which specializes in personal computers and printers, reported a total annual revenue of around $56.6 billion.

9. John Paul Mitchell Systems

John Paul DeJoria was sleeping in his car and selling shampoos door-to-door before he partnered with Paul Mitchell in 1980 to found hair care company John Paul Mitchell Systems in Hawaii. The duo only had $700 (today $2,210.68) when they started out.

Though they began with a product line of just two shampoos and a conditioner, they currently sell over 100 products. From its humble beginnings, the company did around $900 million in sales in 2019. However, the pandemic saw the company lose nearly 60% of its revenue.

10. Spanx

With an initial investment of just $5,000 (today $7,556) from her own pocket, Sara Blakely, then 27, launched shapewear undergarments company Spanx in 2000. The idea to start Spanx came into being when one day, while prepping for a party, Blakely realized that she didn’t have the right undergarment to wear underneath her white pants. She then decided to use her pantyhose with the feet cut off to solve the issue. Thus, the first iteration of Spanx came into being.

In its first year, the company saw $4 million in revenue. Today, the brand sells dozens of products like pants and leggings. Blakely was named the world’s youngest self-made billionaire by Forbes in 2012 and the same year, she entered the list of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People.

Header image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SHARE THIS STORY