You might look at your garage and think that it’s a great place to keep a car, but some very famous companies were garage start ups. The owners of these companies looked at their garage as a pure opportunity. Some of the famous garage start ups make it really hard to believe that the majority of us are still using our garage for our cars and not to start our own businesses.

Many of us never even give our garage a second thought other than someday we will get around to that deep cleaning. Why aren’t more of us using this bonus space in our homes to do great things? Look what other people have done in their garages. They built empires.


One of the most famous garage start ups is Apple. While most of us stash garden supplies in our garages, Steve Jobs credits his parent’s garage as the birthplace of the Mac computer. According to Jobs, his parent’s garage was where he did all his planning and designing to bring the first Mac to life.

The garage has become so famous and full of so much lore that recently, the city of Los Altos, CA, declared it a historic landmark. Jobs’ partner at the time, Steve Wozniak, recently revealed to Bloomberg News that the garage start ups myth was largely taken out of context. He reported that while they were based out of Job’s parents garage, the actual build did not happen there. However, Apple qualifies as a garage start up, because that is where all the thinking, planning, and plotting occurred.

Whether the actual first computer was built there or not, Apple is one of the most famous garage start ups because that is exactly where it all started. This was in the 1970s, long before mobile offices. They likely took a lot of heat for working out of Jobs’ mom’s garage, but look how that all worked out. Apple is one of the most successful businesses in the world, with billions of dollars of revenue.

Hewlett Packard

Hewlett Packard, more commonly known as HP, is another example of garage start ups that found unbelievable success from really humble beginnings. Hewlett Packard was named after the two visionaries who founded the company in a garage in Palo Alto, CA, in 1939. David Packard and William Hewlett graduated from Stanford University in 1938 and could not find jobs in this depression era, so they made their own.

As the story goes, they flipped a coin to see whose name would appear first on the company letterhead, and the company was born. They set up their garage office and set about becoming one of the world’s most famous garage startups. As luck would have it, another dreamer was looking for the exact skill set that HP could provide. That dreamer was none other than Walt Disney.

Disney heard about the audio oscillator that HP had designed and ordered 12 at a whopping cost of $71.50 each for his new film Fantasia. The oscillators were installed in movie theaters around the country to show the film and helped the HP garage start ups make their mark in the industry.


The Disney company’s official stance is that Disney was not one of the famous garage start ups, but if you want to make your own decisions about that, consider this. Walt used his garage as an animation studio in his earliest days. Even after he started his company, he would retreat to his garage to do some work.

His garage was rife with storyboards. When Walt moved to California, he worked in his uncle Roberts “ramshackle” garage that was in desperate need of garage door services. He worked in that garage for a short period of time until he could find better accommodations.

If it weren’t for that garage, this brilliant mind would not have had a place to do his early animations that launched our beloved Mickey Mouse. Disney may not like the idea of being one of the famous garage start ups, but there is no shame in humble beginnings.

Harley Davidson

While it may seem hard to believe that Steve Jobs or Walt Disney were garage start ups, it seems only natural that Harley Davidson would have found their beginnings in a garage. This well-known motorcycle company is a multibillion-dollar business that had a humble beginning.

20-year-old William Harley is the founding father of the Harley Davidson company. He started the company in 1901 in a “garage,” which was more of a shed. The first garage measured 10 feet by 13 feet. Three years later, the motorbike that Harley produced was a tremendous hit. His brother, Arthur, soon joined the company at the age of 21. More than 100 years later and Harley Davidson is a household name, all because a young man made good use of his garage. He continued to work out of that garage space for another three years after his brother joined the team. He did add a couple of additions to the space.


It seems like garages do a good job of doubling as computer labs. Google is another one the famous Silicon Valley garage start ups. Google’s founders actually paid to rent their garage. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, were recent Stamford University graduates and rented a garage for $1700 per month in 1998.

The two 25-year-old entrepreneurs filled the space with servers, hired an employee early on, and said goodbye to the garage, and rented a new set of offices by year two. They bought the garage at Santa Margarita Avenue seven years later as an homage to their humble beginnings.


How can we talk about garage start ups and not talk about Amazon. The bookseller company that changed how we all do our shopping. Amazon was a phenomenal idea that came along at the right time. They do not really manufacture anything. They do not actually create anything, but they are a household name. Amazon is simply a third-party provider that has learned how to manage a supply chain better than any other company in the world, and that has put them on the map.

Jeff Bezos used his garage to store inventory in the early days. That inventory was originally only books. His garage also was home to his employees, who would take orders, pack the books, and run them to the post office. He grew a very simple business into a multi-billion dollar business from his garage with a loan from his parent’s savings.

Yankee Candle

Who doesn’t love the smell of a Yankee Candle? This popular candle company is one of the famous garage start ups. Necessity is truly the mother of invention. Michael Kitteridge was 16 years old when he had no money to buy his mom a Christmas present, so he decided to create one. You guessed it. He made her a candle in their garage. He used a milk carton and crayons to fashion that first candle.

His neighbor saw the candle and bought it from him. That first candle never made it to his mom. He took the money from that first sale, bought more candle supplies, and made two more candles. He sold one and did gift his mom the other.

He spent the next four years making candles in his parent’s garage and selling them to friends, family members, neighbors, and at craft fairs. He realized he was on to something. It wasn’t too long before he had 12 employees and needed a little more elbow room. He rented an old paper mill for $80 a month. Today Yankee Candle is a multi-million dollar candle company that enjoys a great deal of popularity, and it got its start right in someone’s garage.


Mattel toy company has its roots in the founder’s garage. Mattel is one of the most famous toy companies in the world, known for being the creator of Barbie and so many other toys. Its humble beginnings in a garage can be hard to believe, but it is a well-documented fact that the company got its start in a garage in California.

When Mattel first started, it was in a garage, and it was not a toy company. Mattel began as a frame company, and to be frugal, the frame founders built dollhouses so as not to waste their scraps. Harold “Matt” Matson and Elliot Handler started their business in 1945.

While they changed business models and went from creating frames and dollhouses to creating wooden toys and ultimately Barbie, the fact remains they started in a garage.

What Are You Doing With Your Garage?

Today, it is easier than ever to get garage start ups off the ground. We have the advantage of connectivity to the internet. You can sell to anyone around the globe thanks to the internet. Some people are taking full advantage of having a garage space to run their business out of.

Some people are using their garage for teaching online. Offering an online class in woodworking, car repair, or even exercise can bring in extra money and help you to become your own boss. There are many ways to get in on the garage start ups movement. Take advantage of your garage space and let your dreams become a reality.

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