Fri. Apr 19th, 2024

Top 10 Well-Known Businesses With Strange Beginnings

By Trang Nguyen Mar 13, 2024

Most businesses are typically associated with particular products and services. For example, we identify Nintendo with video games, Nokia with phones, and Shell with oil. However, neither of these businesses nor a plethora of others began in the markets for which they are now well-known. Some, in fact, existed before their niches and only became involved for the most strange reasons.

10 Royal Dutch

The origins of Royal Dutch Shell date back to 1833, when Marcus Samuel, a London retailer, began bringing in oriental shells from the Far East for use in interior decoration. When his children Sam and Marcus Samuel Jr. took over the company in 1886, they expanded its imports to include rice, silk, copper, and chinaware. They traded wheat, sugar, and flour in addition to exporting textiles and machinery to Japan and the Far East.Later, the brothers grew interested in the oil industry and were the first to ship oil on tankers. The two were able to transfer more oil simultaneously, cut down on leaks, and sell it for less money by using tankers rather than barrels, which were more frequent back then. In 1897, the brothers renamed their newly formed oil transport business from “The Tank Syndicate” to Shell Transport and Trading Company.Shell Transport and Trading Company quickly became involved in competition with the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company after expanding its operations to the Far East. Both businesses continued to compete until 1903, when they joined forces to establish the Asiatic Petroleum Company in an effort to take on the larger Standard Oil.The Asiatic Petroleum Company changed its name to Royal Dutch Shell in 1907; Shell Transport and Trading Company owned 40% of the partnership and Royal Dutch owned 60%. The Shell Transport and Trading Company is the owner of the well-known scallop shell logo, which it adopted in 1904 after abandoning the mussel shell.

9 Samsung


With just $27 in money, Lee Byung-chull launched a small business and a food store in Taegu, Korea, in March 1938. The company was named Samsung, and its main business was importing and exporting noodles, vegetables, and dried fish. Later on, it expanded into textiles, insurance, security, and sugar refining. Samsung used to even possess the largest textile mill in all of Korea.In 1960, Samsung began manufacturing electronics when it established a number of companies that made phones, fax machines, washing machines, mobile phones, microwaves, televisions, and telephone switchboards. Samsung was split up into Samsung Electronics, CJ Group, Shinsegae Group, and Hansol Group in 1987. While the others were involved in retail, chemicals, food, logistics, and entertainment, Samsung Electronics concentrated on electronics, construction, engineering, and technology.In 1993, Samsung divested a portion of these companies to concentrate on electronics, engineering, and chemicals. Currently, Samsung is an 80-company conglomerate with interests in electronics, banking, shipbuilding, telecommunications, construction, and medical.

8 Nokia 3

The origins of Nokia may be traced back to Tammerkoski Rapids, Finland, in 1865, when engineer Fredrik Idestam established a paper factory. Idestam got the idea for the name Nokia Ab when he constructed a second paper mill on the banks of the Nokianvirta river in Finland six years later.As time went on, Nokia Ab began producing electricity and was eventually bought by Finnish Rubber Works, which in turn was bought by Finnish Cable in 1922. The three businesses continued to function independently until 1967, when they united to establish the Nokia Corporation, which was primarily involved in the manufacture of computers, bicycles, toilet paper, rubber shoes, and vehicle tyres.Nokia first entered the mobile phone industry in 1979 when it formed Mobira Oy, a joint venture with Salora. The 10-kilogram Mobira Senator, the world’s first automobile phone, was Mobira Oy’s debut product. After purchasing Solora in 1984, Nokia Corporation introduced the Mobira Cityman 900, the first mobile phone in history, three years later.The Nokia Corporation was split up into six companies in 1988, with an emphasis on mobile phones, data, electronics, cables, telecommunications, and machinery. Nokia-Mobira Oy, which changed its name to Nokia Mobile Phones in 1989, was one of the subsidiaries. In the 1990s, Nokia sold off all of its companies with the exception of Nokia Mobile Phones, and it continued to operate as a phone firm.

7 Nintendo

In 1889, Nintendo was established. Back then, it was called Nintendo Koppai, and playing cards were its main product. The Yakuza, the Japanese mafia’s counterpart, used Nintendo Koppai’s playing cards extensively for gambling, making them a huge success in that country.The executives at Nintendo soon began to doubt the viability of playing cards and looked for alternative revenue streams. They opened a cab service and a love hotel with windowless rooms for couples looking for a short break. They also made unsuccessful attempts with hoover cleaners and quick rice.Subsequently, as was to be expected, the playing card market became saturated, and Nintendo nearly went bankrupt. It was only salvaged by its immensely popular Ultra Hand toy, which let users pick objects that were out of reach by acting as an extension of their arm.When Nintendo started serving as the official distributor of the Magnavox Odyssey, the first game console ever made, in Japan, it signalled that it was interested in the gaming business. After then, it concentrated on creating games for consoles until 1983, when it unveiled the Family Computer (Famicom), a later-released video game machine that was later redesigned and given the name Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

6 Toyota

Sakichi Toyoda, a Japanese engineer, invented the country’s first mechanical weaving machine in 1897 and is credited with creating Toyota. Toyoda established Toyoda Spinning and Weaving in 1918 to produce threads for his machines after obtaining patents for his discoveries.He founded Toyota Automatic Loom Works (now Loom Works) in 1926 with the intention of concentrating on the production of weaving equipment, while Toyota Spinning and Weaving was focused on producing threads for the machines. His innovative G-Type weaving machine, which could be handled by one worker at a time, was put into industrial production in 1927. Two years later, he paid the British company Platt Brothers 100,000 yen for the patent rights to his G-Type machine in all other nations save China, Japan, and the United States. He then handed his son Kiichiro the money, which he used to fund car development.Under Loom Works, the automobile division produced its first vehicle in 1935 using components from Ford, Chevrolet, and Chrysler. In the same year, it also debuted its first vehicle. The following year, it renamed itself Toyota to make pronunciation simpler. Loom Works and Toyota Motor Corporation split apart in 1937. Forklifts, air conditioner compressors, and weaving machines are still produced by Loom Works, which is still operating today. Additionally, it makes engines for Toyota automobiles.

5 Wrigley

Founded in 1909 by William Wrigley Jr., Wrigley is well-known for its chewing gum. He had previously been employed by his father’s soap company as a salesperson. Free umbrellas were given by Wrigley Jr. to anyone who purchased his soap, but they discoloured in the rain, so he changed to giving away free baking powder. Since baking powder was more well-liked than soap, he stopped selling soap in favour of baking powder.In lieu of giving free soap to every customer who purchased his baking powder, he distributed chewing gums, which, like the baking powder, proved to be more well-liked than the soap. Wrigley recognised there was a market for chewing gum, so in 1909 he acquired Zeno Manufacturing, the chewing gum supplier, and renamed it the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company.

4 Peugeots


To make saw blades, coffee makers, and pepper mills, brothers Jean-Pierre and Jean-Federic Peugeot transformed their flour mill into a steel mill in 1810. Their unique emblem, a lion with gaping jaws, was inspired by these goods and was meant to represent the power of their grinders. Soon after, they began producing crinolines, which are horrifying gowns supported by steel frames. Later, they also produced umbrella frames, wheels, bicycles, and eventually automobiles.Peugeot produced its first automobile, a three-wheeler, in 1889 and its first bicycle, the Le Grand Bi, in 1882. Peugeot was divided into two sections throughout time. One concentrated on producing tools, and the other on producing bicycles and cars. In the 20th century, the two combined and focused on producing bicycles and automobiles

3 Suzuki

Michio Suzuki founded Suzuki in 1909. Similar to Toyota, it was known as Suzuki Loom Works and concentrated on manufacturing weaving equipment. In 1920, it changed its name to Suzuki Loom Manufacturing Company and began producing cars as a side business after its weaving machinery proved successful.In 1937, Suzuki produced its first automobile prototype, and four years later, it made its debut. The Japanese government repurposed it to manufacture war materiel during World War II, and it didn’t resume manufacturing its weaving machines until after the conflict.In 1951, the market for weaving machines collapsed, and Suzuki, on the verge of bankruptcy, swiftly resumed producing cars. When it introduced a motorised bicycle in 1952, it became so popular that the Japanese government gave it incentives to increase the number of bicycles and motorcycles it produced. This served as the foundation for the 1954 split of the Suzuki Loom Manufacturing Company and the Suzuki Motor Corporation.

2 Hasbro Inc

The Hassenfled brothers created Hasbro, the second-largest toy manufacturer in the world, in 1923, after Mattel Inc. The brothers sold excess fabric under the company name Hassenfeld Brothers Incorporated. They later began making pencil box coverings out of the remnants, which they sold in addition to pencils.Their suppliers started producing pencil boxes in 1930 and raised the price of the pencils they supplied, which they then sold for less. The Hassenfeld brothers began producing their own toys and pencils, which they saw as school supplies, since they didn’t want to go out of business.They split up the business and renamed it Hasbro Industries by 1968. One concentrated on creating toys, and the other on creating pencils. The toy sector received more funding than the pencil division, which generated higher earnings, which is why the two were constantly at odds. Hasbro also ventured into other businesses, such as managing nurseries and producing kitchenware, although neither proved successful. They decided to focus on producing toys instead of pencils and sold off the pencil division.

1 3M10


In Two Harbours, Minnesota, five businesspeople established the American giant 3M today in 1902. The company was not founded to manufacture the more than 50,000 items it does now. Instead, they established it in order to extract corundum, which they intended to purify and market as sandpaper. Its initial name, the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, which was abbreviated to 3M in 2002, makes this clear.The businesspeople soon discovered that the purported material was actually a worthless rock rather than corundum. Unfazed, they continued importing minerals and ended up with a lower-quality product. When the company was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1905, investors Lucius Pond Ordway and St. Paul contributed $25,000 in exchange for a 60% stake.As a result, the business owners were able to enhance and grow their sandpaper enterprise, and they quickly started making floppy discs, masking tape, cellophane tape, and post-it notes. Due to the success of the new ventures, 3M is now involved in a number of sectors, including security, office supplies, communications, healthcare, and transportation.

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One thought on “Top 10 Well-Known Businesses With Strange Beginnings”
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