If you look at corporate giants like Nintendo, The Gap and LG, is seems as if they've always been great and so sure of their corporate images. But would you believe that these companies started out selling something very different from their current lines of merchandise?
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- Nintendo (OTC:NTDOY)
Today, Nintendo is known for the Wii, Gameboy and other gaming systems, with billions in sales annually. This gaming giant wasn't always such a tech magnate, however. Nintendo didn't begin producing video games until the 1970s, when the company launched in the arcade industry. Donkey Kong came about in 1981, and the Super Mario Brothers in 1985, setting Nintendo up for decades of gaming success. The gaming giant may be known for the latest in gaming, but it all started with the old-school entertainment of playing cards.
- Tiffany's (NYSE:TIF)
When you think high-quality jewelry, you think Tiffany's, right? You may be surprised to find that this gem of a household name started its business as a New York stationery store. The first day's sales tallied at less than five dollars in 1837; the company began selling its first blue box not long after, and eventually expanded to fine silver and jewelry. Founder Charles Lewis Tiffany was called the King of Diamonds - an image that fits the Tiffany's we know and covet today.
- Xerox (NYSE:XRX)
Ever heard of the Haloid Company? You probably haven't, since Xerox ditched that name in 1961, but the company started with that name. Haloid sold photography paper, until it developed a photocopying machine that used xerography technology - Xerox for short. As the company grew and the Xerox machine became so popular, the company wisely changed its name to the Xerox Corporation we know today.
When you think of LG, you're probably thinking of that nice flat screen TV you saw at the electronics store the other day, or that shiny washing machine. But LG didn't start off as an electronics giant; it all started in 1947 and moved to hygiene and cosmetics products soon after. LG started as Lak-Hui Chemical Industrial Company in South Korea, and adopted the LG name to compete in Western countries, using the logo as its slogan: "Life's Good".
- The Gap (NYSE:GPS)
Some companies take a completely different direction when it comes to their products, and some just refine their focus - like The Gap. The company was founded by Donald and Doris Fisher in San Francisco in 1969, as a record store that also sold jeans. In the beginning, the jeans didn't sell at all, leaving the Fishers close to bankruptcy. Clever marketing turned the store around, allowing the couple to expand their business, turning it into the big franchise we know today. The Gap is now a billion-dollar business, with its stores selling jeans and apparel - and no records to be found. (To learn more, see The Industry Handbook: The Retailing Industry.)
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The Bottom Line
These companies have been around for decades - some more than a century. Most of them started off small and grew and adapted to the market as it changed. Whether it was a technological development, as in the case of Nintendo, or a simple growing into your niche, like The Gap and Tiffany's, these companies and their founders understood one thing: To grow as a company, you have to adjust with the times. (To learn more, check out Starting A Small Business In Tough Economic Times.)
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