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Incredible Businesses That Started at Home


This is the Los Feliz garage that in 1923 belonged to Robert Disney when his nephew came to live with him, paying just $5 a week for rent.

In this small one-car garage, The Disney Brothers Studio was created, later becoming Walt Disney Studios. It’s where Walt started creating cartoon reels for local movie theaters.

Using wooden crates and scrap lumber, Walt and Roy created an animation station. Before long they rented a new space just down the road, generally believed to be their first proper studio. Their first film was complete by the end of the year. The garage now stands as a Walt Disney Museum.


Two students met at Stanford University in the 90s and decided they wanted to start a business together. They rented a garage from a recent business school graduate to help her meet her mortgage requirements.

In Susan Wojcicki’s garage, the two Stanford University graduates, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, created Google.

Within one year, Larry & Sergey along wit their eight employees moved to a new location in Palo Alto. Today they have 12,000 employees throughout the world and their company is worth just under $2 Trillion Dollars.


Yankee Candles started a few days before Christmas when broke 16-year-old, Mike Kittredge, needed a Christmas present for his mom.

When inspiration hit, he grabbed his childhood crayons, a container, and ‘borrowed’ a wick from a candle on the table. Soon he’d made his very first Yankee candle. A neighbour stopped by and asked to purchase it. He sold it for $1.36.

He made a second candle (which he did give to his mum) and a third, and now Yankee Candles sells over 200 million candles a year with more than 560 shops worldwide.


In 1945, Harold “Matt” Matson and Ruth & Elliot Handler were making picture frames in their Southern California garage.

From the scraps, Elliot would make doll house furniture. They had such success with the dollhouse furniture, they turned their focus to making toys.

By combining their names Matt & Elliot, Mattel was born. In 1959 Ruth created a doll and named her Barbie after their daughter Barbara.

Now Mattel are leaders in their field and have an increasing range including Fisher-Price, Hot Wheels and Matchbox Cars, American Girl dolls and board games.


Possibly one of the most well known stories of a business that started in a garage is the story of Apple.

In 1976, Steve Wozniak created what would be Apple’s first computer, the Apple I. He tried to sell it to HP (Hewlett-Packard, another garage success), but they rejected it on 5 different occasions. Steve Jobs suggested that they should start their own business.

Using Steve’s parents garage at 2066 Crist Drive in Los Altos, California, Apple was born.

They sold 50 units at $500 a piece to a local computer store. Steve and Apple would continue to push the envelope and change personal computers and how we use them.

The Silicon Valley house where Steve Jobs grew up is now listed as a historic property.

There’s been some amazing Kiwi & Aussie businesses started at home too.


In 2006, Melanie Perkins was 19 and studying at university in Perth with her boyfriend Cliff Obrecht.

She was teaching other students how to use systems like Photoshop and InDesign, but noticed the struggle to learn and use these systems.

They started by creating Fusion Books, a website where students could design their yearbook pages, and Melanie’s mum’s living room became their office.

Fusion Books was the first step in Melanie’s plans for a one-stop-shop design platform. 

Canva was officially founded 1 January 2012 and was soon boasting 750,000 users in its first year. Subsequently in June 2020 the business was valued at $6 billion.


Xero is an accounting platform used in 180 countries, but it started at a dining room table in a flat in Wellington (A flat filled with cheap office furniture and having 14 staff crammed in… all sharing one toilet!)

Even the internet connection was dodgy. They paid $50 for unlimited data through Cafe Net, but the signal could hardly be picked up as the cafe was across the road. They came up with a ramshackle solution however: hanging a metal rod attached to a wifi extender off the balcony.

The company was called Accounting 2.0 to begin with, but they soon chose the name Xero… a name that already had complications.

An American Nu Metal/Rock band had started their life as Xero, before changing their name to Linkin Park. The website domain belonged to a diehard fan, who had previously refused to sell it. But after a quick trip out to New Zealand for the fan and his wife, he agreed to hand the domain over, and Xero the accounting software was born.

The dining room table from the Willis Street flat is now a part of “The Innovators” display at the Auckland Museum of Transport & Technology.

Those are just 7 of many incredible businesses that have started at home.

Speaking of businesses that started at home, we’ve got some incredible customers who do business at home in a She Shed!

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