Business Enterprise: 5 Companies That Started Life In A Garden Shed

Every oak starts from a humble acorn, and this is true of business as well. Whether you use your garden shed to hide from your family or for actual gardening, some truly remarkable people have started successful companies in a mere garden shed. Here are just 5 world-renowned businesses with origins that may surprise you.


Harley Davidson

In 1901, William S.Harley came up with the idea of a small engine to power a bicycle. Then at 21 years old, he spent the next two years with his childhood friend Arthur Davidson building the idea from his plans in their friend’s 10 by 15 ft garden shed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They completed the engine and officially founded Harley Davidson in 1903.

Harley Davidson is now the most well know motorcycle brand in the world, with 5,800 staff and a turnover in excess of US$1billion a year.


In 1999, Mark Radcliffe decided that being a trainee manager at Tesco’s was not what he wanted in life. Aged 20, he used the £200 he had saved from his wages to set up his first eBay store from his parent’s garden shed, selling mobile phone accessories. In 2003 he moved to a 10,000 sq.ft. warehouse in Merseyside and registered his company First2Save in 2005.

Radcliffe is now a multimillionaire and the first UK eBay millionaire. He has 19 staff and the highest orders on eBay in the UK, selling over 3000 products.

In 1997, Rupert Hunt returned to his parents’ home in Cheshire after the breakup of his relationship. Stacking shelves at Tesco, he used the money to invest in some computer equipment and set up in his parent’s garden shed. In 2004 he bought the domain name for US$2000, so people could advertise their spare rooms to rent.

Spare room now has a turnover of £2.8m per annum and 3 million registered users, and accounts for 64% of the UK flat share market.


In 1923, Walt Disney and his brother Roy moved in with their uncle Robert and set up “The First Disney Studio” in their uncle’s shed out back. There, they started making and filming the Alice Comedies which would later become part of the original Alice in Wonderland. Walt Disney had been rejected from many animation studios being told his ideas were ‘rubbish’ and would never work.

Today, Disney Studios is the highest grossing media conglomerate in the world. In 2012, it recorded a turnover of $10.8bn and has over 133,000 staff in the US alone.


Louis Renault was fascinated by engineering and mechanics. He would tinker with old Panhard engines in his families shed in Billancourt, France. In 1898, aged 21, he built his first car with a revolutionary joined drive shaft and three speed gear box in order to win a bet with friends that his car would beat one with a bicycle chain drive. He won the bet and received 13 offers for his new car.

The Renault Group today has an annual turnover of $50bn and over 127,000 staff

All great things start from humble beginnings, by men and women who took a chance. Can you think of any more great businesses that started from a garden shed?

Michael Muttiah is a professional writer and entrepreneur. He can be found sitting in the back of coffee shops hiding behind his laptop pretending to write. He writes for Dunster House.

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