Brands such as Calvin Klein, Walmart, and Ben & Jerry’s may seem like just part of the vernacular, but there are real people behind these big names. While these brands are now recognizable around the world, it’s highly unlikely that consumers would recognize these successful entrepreneurs from a picture. These are the men and women who created some of today’s most powerful brands.
Boeing – William Boeing
One of the most influential aerospace brands to come from the United States is Boeing. It was founded in Seattle, Washington on July 15, 1916, by William Boeing and was originally called the Pacific Airplane Company.
His first plane was the Boeing Model 1, which was produced and flown during World War I.
Ferrari – Enzo Ferrari
Italian luxury sports cars are one of the most sought-after items in the world and Ferrari is a popular choice.
It was all started by an Italian motor racing driver named Enzo Ferrari. He was skeptical to create the brand in 1939 but did so after Alfa Romero withdrew its in-house racing team.
Ford Motor Company – Henry Ford
There’s a lot of history behind the Ford Motor Company. It was founded by Henry Ford in 1903 with only a few cars being made per day.
Within 10 years, the Ford Motor Company expanded exponentially due to the assembly line concept. The brand is still in Ford’s family and is one of the most profitable companies of all time.
Chanel – Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel
Chanel is a French luxury fashion brand that has made a huge impact on the fashion industry for over a century.
The House of Chanel originated when Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel opened her own millinery shop in 1909. After establishing a high-end client base, she soon became a household name and expanded the Chanel brand beyond clothing, to include jewelry, perfume, and more.
The Hershey Company – Milton Hershey
Most chocolate lovers have likely indulged in a candy bar or a kiss from The Hershey Company. After all, they are one of the largest and most iconic chocolate manufacturers in the world!
After completing an apprenticeship as a confectioner in 1873, Milton Hershey opened his own candy store in Philadelphia. Seeing a chocolate-making machine at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition led him to create The Hershey Company a year later.
Hilton Hotels – Conrad Hilton
Hilton Hotels, now known as Hilton Hotels & Resorts, is one of the largest hospitality brands in the United States.
Conrad Hilton developed entrepreneurial skills by working at his father’s general store and hotel. He later planned to buy a bank, but went with a hotel instead and kept building. The Hilton family fortune is now worth an estimated $4.5 billion.
Disney – Walt Disney
Disney is practically everywhere since it’s one of the most powerful companies around the world. From theme parks, movies, merchandise, and more, there aren’t many brands that are as versatile.
It may be easy to forget that it was all started by Walt Disney. He and his brother Roy created the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in Kansas City, Missouri in 1923.
Chevrolet – Louis Chevrolet
One of the oldest car companies in America is Chevrolet, which was founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1911. The brand was created by Swiss race car driver and automotive engineer Louis Chevrolet, his brother Arthur Chevrolet, and a few other investors.
Chevrolet’s logo includes a modified Swiss cross to pay homage to Louis and Arthur’s homeland.
Goodyear Tire And Rubber Company – Charles Goodyear
One of the most popular tire manufacturing companies in America is Goodyear and consumers have Charles Goodyear to thank.
His first factory opened in Akron, Ohio in 1898 and originally made tires for bicycles and carriages. Charles is also credited for inventing the chemical process for rubber, which helped him earn a spot in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Levi Strauss & Co. – Levi Strauss
One of the oldest and most iconic American clothing companies still in existence is Levi Strauss & Co. It was founded in May of 1853 by a German immigrant named Levi Strauss.
He moved to San Francisco to sell goods for his brother during the height of the Gold Rush, which included denim cloth. Blue jeans haven’t gone out of style since.
Armani – Giorgio Armani
One of the most famous Italian luxury fashion companies is Armani. It was founded by its namesake Giorgio Armani and his partner, architect Sergio Galeotti, in 1975.
Armani was able to start the fashion house after using the money he got from selling his Volkswagen. Now, Armani is expanding by creating a chain of luxury hotels and resorts around the world.
Ben & Jerry’s – Ben Cohen And Jerry Greenfield
The two men behind one of America’s most popular ice cream brands are Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. They launched Ben & Jerry’s in Burlington, Vermont on May 5, 1978.
Ben and Jerry were childhood friends who grew up in Merrick, New York, and decided to get into the ice cream business after taking a correspondence course at Penn State.
Calvin Klein – Calvin Klein
A fashion brand known around the world is Calvin Klein. It was founded by its namesake and his childhood friend Barry K. Schwartz in 1968.
Calvin was a protégé of Baron de Gunzburg who also helped the careers of Robert Denning and Ralph Lauren. The company started to get mainstream success after the launch of its jeans line, which was modeled by many famous celebrities.
Walmart – Sam Walton
Sam Walton is the founder of one of America’s biggest retail stores. He created Walmart in Rogers, Arkansas in 1962 after working as an employee for JCPenney.
His main focus for starting Walmart was to have a store where he could sell the products at low prices to get a higher volume of sales at a lower profit margin.
Dell – Michael Dell
One of the largest and most profitable computer and technology companies worldwide is Dell. Michael Dell founded Dell Computer Corporation in 1984 while he was still a student at the University of Texas at Austin.
Similar to many famous companies, he ran the business from his dorm room. It’s now the third-largest personal computer vendor in the world.
Dyson – James Dyson
Many households across the globe likely have at least one Dyson product such as a vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, fan, or heater.
The household appliance company was created by James Dyson in 1991. He got the idea to create appliances as early as 1974 when he bought a Hoover vacuum cleaner that lost its suction.
Estée Lauder Companies – Estée Lauder
When it comes to cosmetics, one of the top brands is The Estée Lauder Companies, which was created by Estée Lauder herself.
She started the company in 1946 with her husband Joseph and they originally only made four products; cleansing oil, skin lotion, super-rich all-purpose crème, and crème pack.
JCPenney – James Cash Penney
A department store likely seen at most malls across America is JCPenney. While the company did have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2020, they were bought for $800 million in cash and debt.
James Cash Penney spent his life after high school working at a local retail store. After moving to Wyoming, he set up his own store and kept adding new locations. JCPenney was officially founded in 1902.
Bose Corporation – Amar Bose
One of the leading companies when it comes to audio equipment is the Bose Corporation. Amar Bose used angel investor funding to start the business in 1964 in Massachusetts.
Amar first got into speaker systems in 1956 after being disappointed with the quality of his stereo system. He later donated the majority of the company to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Angie’s List – Angie Hicks
Angi, which was formerly known as Angie’s List, is a website that allows its users to search for contractors to do work on their houses.
The company was founded by Angie Hicks and William S. Oesterle in 1995. Hicks got the idea to create the website after searching for a reliable construction contractor in Columbus, Ohio.