These Entrepreneurs Went Ultra Lean in Their Early Days

Posted by Deepshikha Shukla

Small budgets don’t necessarily mean small companies. These founders started out their entrepreneurial pursuits by going lean, but they eventually grew into major forces in their industries. Here’s the scoop on how lean they went.

1. Phil Knight: Nike

Knight was a track athlete who founded Nike with his coach, Bill Bowerman, in 1964. Now, Nike is an international brand of footwear, apparel and accessories. With no official sales headquarters in their early days, the founders sold their shoes out of the trunks of their cars at different track meets.

In 1965, they had enough revenue to hire their first full-time employee. Nike's initial retail store opened its doors in Santa Monica, Calif., in 1966. The firm secured its first commercial funding of $3,000 from First National Bank of Oregon. Today, with the growing number of outlets and online sales, Nike’s current net worth has been estimated at over $34 billion by Statista.

2. Henry Ford: Ford Motor Company

In 1903, Henry Ford established the Ford Motor Company, an automobile maker that had to overcome myriad struggles and adapt through several stages. He worked from a rented property until the first car was ready in 1908. Earlier cars were built one at a time to save money and create wider margins.

In 1913, Ford introduced the world’s first moving car assembly line for fast and efficient car manufacturing. This method significantly decreased labor from the traditional 12-hour period down to just two hours. Thus, overall manufacturing costs and time decreased, allowing the Model T — the most popular car — to see a unit price reduction from $850 to $290.

3. Walt Disney: The Walt Disney Company

Disney was a cartoonist, animator, voice talent, film producer and one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs in the animation and cartoon industry. He was not born to privilege, although through his persistent hard work he gained success via The Walt Disney Company.

While working on the animation for “Alice’s Wonderland” in the 1920s, Disney lived in his office so he wouldn’t have to pay for a home, ate beans and bathed at railway stations. Those lean early days eventually paid off, and The Walt Disney Company is now worth an estimated $130 billion

4. Sam Walton: Walmart

Walton worked his way up to being a chain store owner, first taking a loan from his father-in-law to initially open a smaller group of stores, eventually opening the first Walmart in 1962.

The retail chain expanded internationally over the next 30 years, growing into the world’s largest company by 2010. Even when he became the US’ richest man, Walton continued living frugally, driving a pickup truck with missing hubcaps and occupying a desk at a small office in Arkansas.

5. John Jacob Bausch: Bausch & Lomb

In 1853, Bausch started one of the first optical companies in Rochester, N.Y., which later became the international firm Bausch & Lomb Incorporated, a maker of glasses, contact lenses and related products. Bausch’s friend Henry Lomb invested $60 in the shop and became his partner in 1855. Bausch got basic professional training in grinding lenses and making eyeglasses from his older brother, and used that expertise to do all of the work himself while creating the spectacles, despite having lost two fingers in a buzz saw accident. In the company’s early days, Bausch used old shoes for fuel and scraped by on $4.00 a week.

In 1860, Bausch built the first machine in America to produce spectacles, and secured the exclusive rights to manufacture optical instruments out of vulcanite rubber. The following year, he experimented making eyeglass frames from the material. Fast forward to 2007, Bausch & Lomb was sold in a deal worth an estimated $8 billion.

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