Remember the day you opened? That feeling you had for the first time – the rush, the excitement, the nerves? Remember the first day you had a customer? The first day you taught a class, had a client? A patient? A session?
Open for business.
Today, there’s a new challenge we’re faced with:
Will you remain open, even if the doors temporarily close?
Against All Odds
Is 2020 an actual recession? The verdict is still out, but label or not, it’s a sobering thought, and for many, it’s been a sobering reality. Without a doubt, recessions are hard on most businesses; and if you’re an entrepreneur, this downturn could be the final nail in your startup’s coffin. But recessions don’t automatically have to kill a businesses or even make them suffer; in fact, some companies actually thrive during recession.
If that sounds too good to be true, keep reading. We’ve collected a list of 9 different companies, all from varying times, that have succeeded or even begun right in the middle of a recession. Now, you can study these same recession-busting companies to learn key tips, tricks and transformations to emulate as we journey into the second half of a turbulent year.
Odds Be Damned
Six Companies Started During Economic Downturns and Four That Thrived Despite Them
1. GENERAL ELECTRIC
Year Launched: 1892
2019 Revenue: $95.2 Billion
Though officially getting its start years earlier (and survived several smaller recessions during the 1880s), Thomas Edison (and company) launched General Electric right as the nation was heading into the Panic of 1893, a stretch of 16 months when business activity dropped nearly 40% across the nation. Nevertheless, the company persisted and went on to be one of the original 12 companies listed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1896, where it has remained for well over a century.
Year Launched: 1911
2019 Revenue: $77.1 Billion
Launched as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) by Charles Flint in June of 1911, IBM got its start selling commercial and business machines right in the middle of a two-year-long panic. It wasn’t until 1944 that IBM co-developed its first computer, the Automated Sequence Controlled Calculator (aka Mark I), with Harvard University. It was used by the Navy to calculate gun trajectories and things only went up from there. While industries everywhere saw double-digit declines in activity, CTR was able to not only survive but thrive, eventually changing its name to International Business Machines, and becoming the leader in technology that would support the digital revolution, making billions along the way.
3. WALT DISNEY COMPANY
Year Launched: 1929
2019 Revenue: $69.6 Billion
In 1928, brothers Walt and Roy Disney introduced the world to Mickey Mouse via their short animated feature Steamboat Willie. A year later, in 1929, the duo incorporated Walt Disney Productions right as the nearly 4-year-long Great Depression was getting started. Troubling times be damned, the brothers knew that America needed a smile more than ever, and were able to navigate the challenges of the Depression, growing their business to the point where they could begin work on their first full-length animated feature right after the Depression ended.
Oh, and that feature? A little movie called Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
4. HYATT HOTELS
Year Launched: 1957
2019 Revenue: $5.0 Billion
Two months into the Recession of 1958, entrepreneur Jay Pritzker purchased the Hyatt House motel near Los Angeles International Airport. Even with business activity and travel slowing during the tough economic times, Pritzker pushed on, opening two additional hotels before the end of the decade. Eventually, this collection would grow to nearly 900 properties, and annual revenues exceeding $5 billion!
Year Launched: 1975
2019 Revenue: $125.8 Billion
In 1973, an oil crisis coupled with a stock market crash led to a 16-month recession during which the GDP took its worst hit in nearly 20 years. However, this decline did not stop Bill Gates and Paul Allen from developing their new computer software business Microsoft, which launched on April 4, 1975, literally just days after the recession was considered officially over. Within a decade, the company grew substantially and launched an IPO in 1986 that created 3 billionaires and 12,000 millionaires in the process.
Year launched: 2008
This multibillion-dollar business was born in August 2008, when tech entrepreneurs Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky launched a simple online platform to rent out an air mattress in their apartment in high-rent San Francisco. When the Great Recession hit later that same year, suddenly the need for short-term, low-commitment living quarters exploded exponentially. By March 2009, the site had over 10,000 users and 2,500 listings, and big-name investments started flying in not long after. The rest is history.
Though not started during an actual recession, Amazon was launched shortly before the dot-com bubble, which itself was soon to burst. Founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, Amazon made its online debut as a bookstore, eventually adding movies, music, electronics, computer software, and consumer goods. Amazon’s initial public offering took place in 1997 at a price of $18 per share, rising to more than $100 and subsequently dropping to less than $10 after the bubble burst. Like other dotcoms, Amazon’s business plan focused more on brand recognition and less on income, and it did not turn a profit until the fourth quarter of 2001. Today, Amazon trades at over $200 per share, and employs more than 37,000 people with reported net sales of $9.86 billion.
Getting its start in the middle of the Great Recession, Businessmen Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp founded Uber in 2009 after they couldn’t find a taxi ride on a cold night in Paris.
The rideshare giant has since expanded internationally across various platforms, including food delivery service, bike and scooter share service, and temporary work staffing service. Today they are valued at over $47 billion.
9. Harley Davidson
Harley-Davidson has been through a few cycles. It was founded in Milwaukee in 1903, and within a decade built itself into a global business. It survived the Great Depression by selling to police departments. In 1957, it introduced the Sportster, a sleeker, less expensive alternative to the company’s popular touring bikes and a response to a wave of British imports. The Sportster’s relatively small size made it appealing to women. Its renaissance came in the late 1980s, driven largely by baby boomers’ new affluence. From 1992 to 2007, new-bike sales soared from $278,000 to $1.1 million annually.
That’s Showbiz, Kid
What exactly makes a business a business?
Who starts it? And during economic hardship, who keeps it afloat?
Your business may be impacted, but it is not defined by the circumstances of the world. So what exactly is it that makes a business? Business is made up of the men and women who work tirelessly every single day to make an impact. Your business is you, the everyday entrepreneur with a vision to create, provide and serve. So to you, everyday entrepreneur, now perhaps more than ever, stay strong and remember this: there are people searching for you. Headed your digital direction. Looking for what only you can provide. Searching. Looking. Waiting. Wondering. About you.
Let’s remain open together. And together, we will pull or push – depending on the door before us. And we will thrive.
#AgainstAllOdds #RiseAndThrive #OpenWeStand