6 Major Companies that Began as Mom-and-Pop Shops

6 Major Companies that Began as Mom-and-Pop Shops

It seems that our love of celebration has yielded a “day” for everything under the sun. From National Squirrel Day to Chiffon Cake Day (today, if you’re wondering), it’s hard to keep track. However, at Nav, we’re happy to celebrate another group today – Mom and Pop Shops. And, in honor of humble beginning and entrepreneurial spirit, we thought we’d share with you some major U.S. corporations that once shared the honorable title of Mom and Pop Shop.

1. Ben & Jerry’s

Ben and Jerry’s may be household name when it comes to qualify frozen treats, but in 1978, it was just the name of two best friends who decided have a go at entrepreneurship. Though they originally thought bagels prove to be a tasty and lucrative avenue, the equipment was expense. Instead, the duo decided to have a go at ice cream – a decision for which many of us are thankful.

Opening in a converted gas station in the heart of Vermont, Ben & Jerry’s served up a flavor-filled ice cream packed with chunky morsels and zany culturally-driven names like Cherry Garcia.  

Their quality ingredients, commitment to social responsibility, and small-town attitude helped them maintain momentum and soon they become an iconic ice cream brand. Today the company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever, a deal that yielded $326 million dollars.

2. Whole Foods

Texas residents John Mackey and Renee Lawson knew what took others years to determine– wholesome foods are better for you. In 1978, they borrowed $45,000 from their family and friends to open SaferWay, a grocery store specializing in natural foods.

Two years later, they decided to join forces with Craig Weller and Mark Skiles, owners of Clarksville Natural Grocery, and open a store that has become infamous with health eating – Whole Foods Market.  

The company was instantly successful and soon began to acquire other natural food chains across the US.  Today, the company has stores from coast to coast as well as in Canada and the United Kingdom. In 2017, the Texas-born grocery chain was purchased by Amazon for $13.7 billion and today employs over 87,000 people.  

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3. Dell

In today’s big box electronic space, it’s hard to think of computers as mom-and-pop products, especially when it comes to top brands; however, that’s exactly how Dell started. In 1984, Michael Dell opened the doors to PC’s Limited, though the doors originally led to his University of Texas dormitory.

Though he started by selling customized PC upgrades, he eventually went on to build his own computer, the Turbo PC, which he sold through ads and mail-order catalogs.  

Dell believed in catering to his customers and offered technician visits and free returns, and by 1988, his small business went internal, rebranding as Dell Computer Corporation. Today, Dell is “the world’s largest private technology company,”  and continues to expand.

As for Michael Dell, he is the chairman of newly formed Dell Technologies (2016) and is considered one of the worlds most powerful and philanthropic individuals in America.

4. Burt’s Bees

You can likely pick up your favorite Burt’s Bees product at your local grocer, but that hasn’t always been the case. In the early 80s, Burt Shavitz was making honey and Roxanne Quimby was a single mom and aspiring artist. On a fateful day, the two met — perhaps one of the most successful hitchhiking stories in history — and Quimby started to make candles using Burt’s left-over wax.

By the late 80s, NYC boutiques began selling Burt’s Bees candles and shortly there after Quimby concocted a lip balm line that soon became a best seller – thus began their journey into health and beauty care. With Burt manning the bees and Quimby mixing up new formulas, Burt’s Bees went global at the close of the millennium.  

Today, the company, which is valued at over $1 billion, offers everything from skincare and beauty products to toothpaste pet care items.

5. Mattel

When you hear the word “Mattel,” you likely think of Barbies and kids toys, but Mattel’s beginning were quite different. In the late 1930s, Elliot Handler was just a young guy enrolled in an industrial design class. There, he learned to craft items from lucite, a new plastic material.

His classwork came in handy, as he was soon, he was making lucite-based lamps, hand mirrors, and picture frames, and his wife Ruth saw a financial potential.

Together, the couple went through several stages of business, moving around and renting various spaced, but it wasn’t’ until the mid-1940s that the Handlers partnered with to form Mattel. Under the new name, the trio started to develop doll-house furniture and other toys.

In 1959, Ruth suggested they make a three-dimensional doll, an effort inspired by her own daughter – Barbara. And thus, Barbie was born. From there, the Mattel went on to become a major name in children’s toys, and today the company is the number one toymaker and includes brands like Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price, and American Girl.

6. Walmart

Love it or hate it, Walmart is a staple in the U.S. economy, and though the company often faces scrutiny for various things, including putting mom and pops out of business, you may be surprised to learn that America’s biggest retail store once was a small mom and pop shop itself.

In the 1950, Sam Walton, recently retired from the military, opened Walton’s 5&10 in downtown Bentonville, Arkansas. While running the dime store, he began to formulate a powerful idea, one that would become the staple of his future success – selling things for less would yield more lucrative results.  

By 1962, Walton decided to take the next big step in his business journey and opened Walmart. The company went public in 1970 and since then has become a commerce giant with over 5,358 stores, including Sam’s Club, across the U.S.

And there you have it, six powerful brands that started out as small businesses, just like many of you. The takeaway? You never know when a “little” shop will blossom into a nationally recognized brand.

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