Famous Companies that were Founded in an Economic Recession

In several of my previous posts, I mentioned that hard economic times are known to be the harbinger of innovation and business opportunity. So I thought I would give you a few examples of some famous companies that got their start in the harshest of economic conditions:

General Electric (GE). GE got its start in the middle of the Panic of 1873, which became a six-year recession, when American inventor Thomas Edison created the first the incandescent light bulb. GE is today considered the world’s tenth largest company.

Fortune Magazine. Fortune, the famed global business magazine, was founded by Time co-founder Henry Booth Luce in February 1930, just four months after the Wall Street Crash of 1929 that marked the onset of the Great Depression.

Revlon Cosmetics. Revlon was founded in 1932 in the midst of the Great Depression by Charles Revson and his brother Joseph, along with a chemist, Charles Lachman. The three founders pooled their resources and developed a unique manufacturing process for a new type of opaque nail enamel. Within six years the company became a multimillion dollar organization

Hewlett-Packard (HP). HP began as an electronics company in a garage in Palo Alto, California at the end of the Great Depression. The founders, William (Bill) Hewlett and David (Dave) Packard, formalized their partnership in 1939 with an investment of US$538. Today, HP has operations world-wide and has grown into the first technology business to exceed $100 billion in revenue, earning $104 billion in 2007.

Sports Illustrated. This famous sports magazine was launched on August 16, 1954, at the tail-end of a recession. The magazine benefited from fortunate timing as a boom in professional sports exploded soon after its founding. Sports Illustrated now sells about 3 million copies in the U.S. each week.

Burger King. This well-known fast food chain began in 1954 when James McLamore and David Edgerton opened a Burger King restaurant in Miami, Fla. During a second recession in 1957, the company introduced its successful signature burger — the Whopper. Today, the company operates more than 11,100 locations in 65 countries.

Hyatt Corporation. The renowned hotel business got its start at the Los Angeles International Airport during the Eisenhower recession (1957 to 1958). The chain rose to worldwide fame in the following decades and now operates more than 365 hotels in 25 countries.

IHOP Corporation. The first restaurant of this well-known national chain began in July1958, in Toluca Lake, Calif. Owners Al and Jerry Lapin were at the helm of the fast growing company, which began franchising just three years later. Today, there are more than 1,300 locations across the U.S.

The Jim Henson Company. This company, known for its famous puppet characters including Miss Piggy, Kermit the Frog and Elmo, was created by famed puppeteer Jim Henson in 1958. Today, the privately held company is managed by Henson’s children and continues to thrive by creating popular kids-friendly shows and movies.

Trader Joe’s. The neighborhood grocery store began as a chain of convenience stores called Pronto Markets during the Eisenhower recession in 1958. In 1967, the company changed its name to Trader Joe’s and began to carry unique grocery items under its own brand. The company now operates more than 280 stores in the U.S.

LexisNexis. This computerized legal research service got its start during the 1973 oil crisis which brought the US into a deep economic recession. The service has since been made available online and is used in 100 countries by those involved with law, government, education and business.

FedEx Corporation. This shipping and logistics management company was founded by Frederick W. Smith on April 17, 1973, under the name, Federal Express. Today, FedEx manages more than 7.5 million daily shipments worldwide.

Microsoft Corporation. The ubiquitous computer technology corporation got its start in 1975, when it was created by Harvard University dropout Bill Gates as a little company in Albuquerque, N.M. Then, it dealt in rudimentary computing languages and began its climb to business stardom in the recession-plagued early 80’s with the success of MS-DOS. Today, Microsoft is a multinational company offering a wide range of products and services and an estimated revenue of over $60 billion a year.

Cable News Network (CNN). CNN was founded by Ted Turner in the recession of 1980. It was first station to offer a 24-hour all-news channel. Today, approximately 1.5 billion people across the globe watch CNN.

MTV Networks. MTV debuted during the economic slump of 1981 as an all music video channel hosted by various VJs (video jockeys). Today, the channel offers a selection of music videos as well as several popular pop culture and reality TV shows.

Clif Bar. The Clif Bar got its start in the midst of the recession of the early 90’s when company founder and CEO Gary Erickson decided during a 175 mile bike ride that he could no longer take another bite of the energy bars he had due to their poor taste. He developed Clif Bar as a tasty, healthy, and environmentally friendly alternative.

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