In today's startup scene, the phrase "fail fast" is thrown around a lot.
We're constantly reminded of the importance of creating a minimum viable product, market testing it, and throwing it away if no one buys it. However, the "fail fast" philosophy goes against what created some of the world's largest and most successful companies. As you'll see below, these companies weren't born in a tech incubator, but rather as passionate side projects, by founders with a strong desire to succeed.
1. Papa John's
In 1972, John Schnatter, better known as "Papa John," was working at his father's tavern. Upon hearing that it was on the verge of going under, Schnatter sold his prized Camaro to keep the business afloat. Needing to quickly increase sales, he decided to knock down the broom closet and turn it into a small pizzeria. What started as a small tavern that sold pizza evolved into the world's first Papa John's.
Steve Ells, the founder or Chipotle, had just finished culinary school in 1993. His goal was to open a fine-dining restaurant, but he didn't have the funds to do so. With a small loan from his father, he opened the very first Chipotle to raise money for his dream restaurant. Within the first month, Chipotle sold more than 1,000 burritos, and the rest, as they say, is history.
In 1995, Craig Newmark moved from Detroit to San Francisco for a new job as a programmer. Being new to the Bay Area, he created a small message board where he could regularly post social events occurring around the city that he thought other programmers would like. The site surged in popularity after Newmark added a section where people could post job offerings. Eventually, the site expanded to all major cities, fueling its growth as one of the largest sites on the internet.
As one of the most recognizable motorcycle names in the world, Harley-Davidson has become a brand with cult-like popularity. However, many don't know that the famous bike started out as an experiment between two friends after they saw the first "horseless carriage." As the story has been told, Arthur Davidson and William Harley began experiments to take the work out of bicycling. They quickly realized that their invention had a wide appeal and started making consumer versions of their motorized bicycles--what we now know as Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
5. Yankee Candles
In the 1960s, Yankee Candle founder Michael J. Kittredge was a broke teenager. Penniless, and with his mother's birthday coming up, he decided to make her something. He gathered all the old crayons he had, melted them, and made a candle. Proud of his work, he showed his neighbor, who offered to buy the candle for $2. Kittredge's entrepreneurial spirit got the best of him, and he decided to sell it. This led him to realize he might have a great business idea on his hands. A few years later, while in college, Kittredge made candles in his parents' house as a side business. It wasn't until his parents told him they couldn't handle the boxes of candles everywhere that he finally decided to expand. In 1998, Kittredge ended up selling Yankee Candle for more than $500 million.