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4 companies with surprising beginnings

Dreaming up a business idea, keeping it alive and nourishing it is a difficult enterprise that not many people can manage. Some corporations distinguish themselves with their ability to adapt to any obstacle that comes along, and to stay afloat and thrive.

Today, these four companies function differently than when they first opened their doors.                                        

Jo-Ann Fabrics

Crafters, quilters, and knitters are familiar with this international chain. The large, warehouse-like stores are piled to the ceiling with bolts of fabric. They also carry miscellaneous crafting supplies of all kinds. With its current popularity among the crafty, it may come as a surprise that Jo-Ann Fabrics got its start in dairy.

In the early 1940s, two couples newly arrived at the United States from Germany decided to make their mark by opening an imported cheese store. This first store in Cleveland struggled until the owners decided to add fabric to their inventory. The new textile offering was so well received that they were able to open a second location. Eventually, they decided that the cheese was holding the business back, and it became entirely a fabric store.


Nintendo may have the most diverse history of any successful company.

Founded in the late 1800s in Kyoto, Japan, the company originally designed and sold playing cards. This was a prime time for playing card sales, and the company became enormously successful. In 1956, those in charge realized that playing cards had limited potential for continued growth, and Nintendo began to move in entirely different directions. The company was converted to a taxi service, which did fairly well until labor disputes forced them to once again switch business plans.

The next operation took the company into the hospitality arena with a hotel chain. From there the Nintendo name graced a line of food products, children’s toys, and a television network. In 1974, Nintendo found its niche when they began to distribute one of the first gaming consoles, and the rest is history. Today, Nintendo ranks among the top-earning Japanese corporations.


One of the largest chemical companies in the world has its roots in the French revolution. Monsieur du Pont de Nemours, the son of a French nobleman, apprenticed in Paris under the tutelage of a noted chemist. Here, he learned the science of making high-quality gunpowder. At the start of the French revolution, it became clear to him and his family that their lives were in imminent danger.

They quickly fled to New Jersey to try and forge a new life. Du Pont’s experiences with gunpowder made in the US left him appalled at the low quality and high prices. He decided to remedy the situation by starting his own gunpowder manufacturing plant in Delaware. The succession of US wars that followed ensured the success of the company. In 1902, the DuPont company began slowly adding more chemicals to those they produced.

The company is now worth billions of dollars.


Today, Marriott owns and operates a highly successful chain of hotels. J. Willard Marriott and Frank Kimball, the company’s founders, had an entirely different vision of what the enterprise would look like when they opened up two years before the Great Depression.

It began as a soda stand in the nation’s capital. In the beginning, Kimball and Marriott only offered root beer to thirsty passerby. Eventually, their sidewalk stand began offering Mexican food. This blossomed into restaurant chains and food management services. In 1957, Virginia became home to the first Marriott motel.

The company has continued its interest in food service management, but hotels have become their best-known enterprise

These companies found success by reading the market and providing customers with the products and services they needed. By continuing to grow and evolve, they have remained viable and open for business over centuries.

4 Companies with Surprising Beginnings
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