Million Dollar Companies Started from Home

Get inspired by these home based entrepreneurs who built empires

The garage where Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin set up Google
••• Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Even with the growing number of Internet millionaires, home businesses are often viewed as side hobbies to make some extra money. But as these savvy and persistent entrepreneurs prove the location from which you start your business has no bearing on the level of success. While all these businesses eventually moved out of their homes into larger offices, at one point, they were all like you; they had little resources, but a great idea and a dream to make it a reality.


Amazon started as an online bookstore in Jeff Bezos's garage in Washington in 1994. Since then, Amazon has pioneered ecommerce, online shopping and even how people read and publish books. Amazon also led the way in affiliate marketing, compensating readers who shared Amazon books instead of spending a fortune on advertising.  


Steve Jobs saw the potential in Steve Wozniak’s computer tech hobby. In 1976, the pair developed the original Apple computer in Jobs’ garage. The company grew due much in part to Steve’s vision of what the personal computer could do for ordinary everyday people. He was fired from his own company but eventually brought back as CEO when the company teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. From that point, Jobs was able to push forth his vision for innovation including the creation of iPods, iTunes, and the iPhone.


While many companies on this list are born from the digital age, many of today’s long-standing corporate giants were also started from home. Roy and Walt Disney left the mid-west, moving to California where from their uncle’s home, they started their studio. While Walt was an average cartoonist, he was a big thinker. He pushed cartooning into an art form including combining animation with live action, creating the first talking cartoon (Steamboat Willie, which is the first Mickey Mouse cartoon), and filming the first feature-length animated movie (Snow White). Like many entrepreneurs, Disney endured many ups and downs including losing rights to his big money maker, Oswald the Rabbit (which led to the creation of Mickey Mouse) and near-bankruptcy. Similar to Steve Jobs after him, Disney was a visionary, knowing what people would enjoy before they did, including a clean, family theme park.


Before Google, Yahoo! was the go-to source for finding information on the Internet. Then two Stanford University graduate students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin created Google in Susan Wojcicki’s (current YouTube CEO) garage. Their goal was to create a simple resource for finding information on the Internet. At one point, they attempted to sell Google to Excite, which passed on the offer. Since then Google has become the top resource for Internet search and added many, mostly free tools and resources including Gmail, Google maps, and Google Docs. Google has also expanded and now owns nearly 200 other properties including YouTube and Blogger.

Hewlett Packard

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started HP in 1939 in Packard’s Palo Alto, California garage, making them the original Silicon Valley tech company. The company took off when its audio oscillator was bought by another home-based start-up, Walt Disney. Over the years, the company expanded into computers, printers, and other technologies.


Today, Mattel is known as a toy company, but in 1945 it was a framing business operated from a garage by Harold Matson, and Elliot and Ruth Handler.  A few years later, Matson sold his share to the Handlers. Elliot started creating dollhouses from the framing scraps, and when they sold well, they turned their attention away from frames. The Handlers advertised their toys through the Mickey Mouse Club TV show, created by former home-based entrepreneur Walt Disney. In 1959, Ruth Handler created the Barbie doll. Since then, Mattel has grown and includes many product lines, such as Fisher-Price, Hot Wheels and Matchbox Cars, American Girl dolls and board games.

These are just a few of the many big companies started from a home. Others include:

  • Dell
  • eBay
  • Facebook (started in a Harvard dorm room)
  • Harley Davidson
  • Nike
  • Yankee Candle
  • YouTube (now owned by Google)

The success of these companies proves that just because you start small, doesn’t mean your vision or future is small.