small business owner

How these 5 Famous CEOs Started with a Small Business at Home

You can start a business in the comfort of your own home. Many entrepreneurs can tell you the same story. They were at home thinking about how to earn income as they bring their ideas to life.

Even founders and CEOs of big businesses have started a small business at home. Regardless of funding or situation, they were able to rise and make a name for themselves. As such, this shouldn’t stop you from launching your venture.

In this article, I list down the top five CEOs who launched their small businesses in their homes. Plus, learn how design made an impact on their success.


Steve Jobs (Apple)

apple emblem

We’ve heard their story told time and time again in movies or books. The Apple story has become one of the popular small business at home stories.

In 1976, founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple in a garage in Los Altos, California. They had one vision in mind. It’s to provide personal computers for individuals in homes or offices. By 1977, they sold circuit boards, allowing hobbyists to customize their computers.

As for the name, there were two reasons behind it.

  • Steve Jobs worked in orchards in Oregon that he thought the name Apple sounded “fun and spirited.”
  • In yellow pages, the name would appear first.

Even the garage where they first started Apple had become a historic landmark.

Of course, Apple did face its struggles over the years. Steve Jobs was forced to leave the company after the company experienced losses over its first line of Macintosh. Plus, without Steve Jobs at the helm, Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy. However, Steve Jobs returned to Apple and helped the company bounce back.

Ronald Wayne designed Apple’s first logo. It was a logo of Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree. It was a nod to a legend on how he discovered gravity. However, Rob Janoff redesigned the Apple logo on Steve Jobs’s insistence to modernize it. In 1977, the logo became the well-recognized Apple with a bite.

Even if Steve Jobs didn’t assume the CEO role before 1997, his design philosophy shaped how Apple moved forward in presenting their brand. As you can see in their ads, they went for simplicity and friendliness.

Up until today, Apple continues to “Think Different” and continue Steve Jobs’s legacy towards simplicity and craft.


Jeff Bezos (Amazon)

amazon logo

Jeff Bezos quit his Wall Street job to start Amazon, one of the world’s biggest eCommerce websites. He chose the name Amazon because A is the first letter in the alphabet, and he got the inspiration from one of the biggest rivers on the planet. He envisioned Amazon as one of the biggest websites on the internet. Cadabra was the original name of the company, but it sounded too “magicky.” It also sounded similar to the word cadaver.

Like many others, he started Amazon as a small business at home. He wanted to compete with a Silicon Valley bookstore, Computer Literacy. His main difference was that Amazon would deliver books to its customers.

Amazon did face some struggles in the early days because of its naysayers. The company experienced failures before 2001 because of underperformance in sales.

He eventually diversified their selections of products during the late ‘90s and early 2000s to become a tech company. Aside from selling items, Amazon has branched out to publishing and streaming services as well.

Jeff Bezos played a role in Amazon’s current logo. As CEO, he had the final decision regarding logo design. Before we were introduced to their current design, it was a letter A with the Amazon River flowing in it.

Turner Duckworth, the agency responsible for the current logo design, observed that market research didn’t matter to Jeff Bezos. Plus, the agency wanted to make sure to stay within its budget in designing the logo. The agency did propose the arrow/smile on the logo to deliver happiness to customers. It stayed, and the Amazon design is one of the most recognizable logos on the planet.


Sara Blakely (Spanx)

graphic design on boxes

Sara Blakely started the Spanx journey when she didn’t have the right undergarment to wear at a party. She used only a pair of scissors to cut the bottom part of her control top pantyhose. This sparked an idea that would eventually become a billion-dollar enterprise.

She launched this small business at home while still working for a fax machine company. She had only $5,000 in her savings but decided to take a chance at this venture.

Before Spanx skyrocketed, she received a lot of no’s from millers and attorneys who could help her realize her vision. But she continued to woo the right people so she could formally launch Spanx.

She realized during a talk with a miller that women weren’t part of the production of pantyhose. That’s when she knew she could make a difference in sizing Spanx products. Through materials provided by the miller, she ensured to be inclusive, so that any woman can wear her products.

As she started gaining traction, she branched out to other undergarments catering to different body sizes and shapes.

The packaging design had a huge role in developing her brand. She used her graphic designer friend’s computer to create a design that would catch women’s attention in stores. She noticed that packaging for pantyhose was either white or beige. So she wanted to stand out from the crowd. That’s why she used red for packaging.

Eventually to modernize, Sara and her team tapped branding agency, Player to redesign the Spanx packaging.

Sara Blakely attributes her success to word-of-mouth marketing and “The Oprah Effect.”


Larry Page (Google)


In 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google in Larry Page’s dorm. There, they wanted to create a search engine that will rank pages through “backing links.”

One of their struggles while creating Google was funding since they used up all their credit limit to buy technology and servers. However, they received funding immediately from investors, including Jeff Bezos, who was one of their angel investors.

Larry Page didn’t serve as a CEO until 2011, while co-founder Sergey Brin was the President. Both stepped down in their positions in 2019. Throughout their tenure in Google and Alphabet, the company expanded its services such as Gmail, Google Drive, Google Apps, and Android.

Even if Larry Page significantly influenced Google’s design, it’s co-founder Sergey Brin who designed Google’s logo. He used a graphic design software called Gimp. As the logo evolved to modernize, Sergey Brin’s design still serves as the inspiration.


They also designed the first-ever Google Doodle by paying homage to Burning Man.

Larry Page also has a significant contribution to Google’s aesthetics. Larry Page managed a team and listened to them on creating a redesign of all Google products. They worked on the ideals of cleanliness and simplicity to guide how the new Google apps would look like in 2011. The design team ensured that everything was consistent so people could identify Google anywhere.


Kevin Plank (Under Armour)

clothing brand

Kevin Plank started his small business at home. He started Under Armour in his grandma’s basement. As captain of a football team, he wanted to create sportswear that had moisture-wicking technology. In 1996, “The Shorty” was born. He had gotten success over his clothing. He even sold his products with a total of $17,000 by the end of the year.

As his sportswear technology became a hit, he expanded his product line to HeatGear and ColdGear by 1997. But it wasn’t until 1999 when Under Armour became a household name. His products appeared in the film, “Any Given Sunday.” By 2000, he increased sales by up to $750,000.

The sportswear apparel hit many highs during Kevin Plank’s tenure as CEO. However, the company faced a minor backlash from the US Speed Skating team because of the limitations of the apparel. In 2017, Under Armour had declining stocks due to Adidas’ reemergence and the stepping down of their Chief Financial Officer.

Kevin Plank is no longer the CEO of Under Armour, but his executive role helped propel Under Armour as a big brand.

In terms of graphic design contributing to the company’s success, advertising made an impact on their sales. They generated over $800,000 in sales for publishing a print ad. They also ran another print ad, but that didn’t make much of an impact compared to their first one.


Final Thoughts

Founders and CEOs of big companies may enjoy the fruits of their labor. However, they faced some challenges along the way but rose above it. Your small business may have a rough start because of naysayers or low sales. So long as you innovate or find other solutions, you can experience success in the long run.

If you have a small business at home and want to snazz it up with high-quality designs, leave it to the pros at Design Doctor. They’ll ensure you receive professional and compelling designs that will get people talking. Logo design, packaging, marketing collateral, you name it, Design Doctor can create it. Let the designers do the work as you run your startup or small business. Interested? Check out the plans that best suit your budget here.

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