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Top 10 Companies Who Started Off In Very Different Industries

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Zach Collier

What if, 20 years from now, Little Caesars manufactured solar panels? Hey, stranger things have happened. For this list, we’re looking at companies that, in their early days, made or sold products that would surprise you. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Companies Who Started Off In Very Different Industries.

Special thanks to our user MikeyP for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Companies+Who+Started+Off+In+Very+Different+Industries.

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Script written by Zach Collier

Top 10 Companies Who Started Off In Very Different Industries


What if, 20 years from now, Little Caesars manufactured solar panels? Hey, stranger things have happened. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Companies That Started Off in Very Different Industries.

For this list, we’re looking at companies that, in their early days, made or sold products that would surprise you. These items don’t necessarily have be the very FIRST things they produced, but they should part of their beginnings and fairly different from what they do now.

#10: Sears

Before becoming a retail giant, Sears sold watches by mail order, with Richard Warren Sears laying the company’s foundations in 1886. After Alvah Curtis Roebuck joined the team, they rebranded as Sears, Roebuck & Company and replicated the business model by selling all kinds of merchandise at low prices. Following the success of their legendary Sears Catalog and ownership changes, Sears opened its first store in 1925, eventually becoming America’s largest retailer. However, the changes started when the catalog was discontinued in 1993 to focus on their department stores. Due to declining sales in the 2010s, the company shut down many stores and became involved in real estate holdings instead.

#9: Abercrombie & Fitch

Long before all the advertising controversy and sexy shirtless models at store openings, Abercrombie & Fitch was a sporting goods store. Between 1892-1977, the outfitter was known for its pricey shotguns, tents, fishing gear and other sporting goods. After the company filed for bankruptcy in the late ‘70s, the brand name was purchased and resurrected as another sporting goods retailer before being sold again in the late ‘80s, eventually becoming the preppy, apparel store we know today.

#8: Hasbro, Inc.

In 1923, the Hassenfeld Brothers began selling textile remnants in Rhode Island; they eventually started making their own pencils and selling school supplies. While this is not what they’re famous for today, it did help the brothers fund their future jump into toy manufacturing. The launch of Mr. Potato Head in 1952 was an incredible success. By 1964, the company had coined the term “action figure” thanks to the creation of G.I. Joe, and since then – under the name Hasbro – they’ve gone on to create popular toys and games like Transformers and Guess Who? What’s more, in 2015, Hasbro teamed up with Paramount Pictures to begin developing a Cinematic Universe based on their toy properties.

#7: 3M

Command Adhesive Strips, Scotch Tape, Post-it Notes: products so simple and yet so useful. They’re all manufactured by 3M; a company that specializes in manufacturing office supplies and especially adhesive products. But, the company that invented Scotch Tape was once known as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing. Founded in 1902, it was a mining company that initially intended to sell corundum for the production of grinding wheels, but they soon discovered that the mineral was worthless. After encouraging employees to branch out, 3M realized they had a knack for innovation and soon developed a number of incredibly simple and useful goods. In addition to adhesives, 3M has also manufactured everything from pharmaceuticals to traffic signals to board games.

#6: Twitter

Twitter grew out of 2004’s Odeo, which was a site where people could create, find, and subscribe to podcasts. When Apple’s iTunes began to take over the podcast market, Odeo gave employees some time to come up with new ideas for the company. Twitter was born after a daylong brainstorming session between Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Odeo founders Noah Glass and Evan Williams, and pretty soon, Odeo was sold off. The new site really started to take off when its microblogging platform took South By Southwest by storm in 2007 and the rest is – as they say – history.

#5: Yamaha

Way back in 1887, Torakusu Yamaha founded the Nippon Gakki Company – a piano and reed organ manufacturer – in Hamamatsu, Japan. Political tensions between China and Japan in the 1900s eventually climaxed in World War II, forcing Yamaha to take on the production of wartime machinery. But after the war, they used what was left to make their first motorcycles. The company has grown significantly over the last century, producing everything from their signature musical instruments and motorcycles to sporting goods, appliances, robots, and more.

#4: Avon
What do cosmetics and books have in common? More than you might think. In the 1800s, David H. McConnell was a struggling door-to-door book salesman in New York. In 1886, he decided to give perfumes a shot and had way more success. Initially called the California Perfume Company, the company was officially registered as Avon in 1932 and since then it’s become the fifth largest beauty company in the world. With 6.4 million sales representatives, the company is known especially for its creams, makeup, washes, jewelry, accessories and their unique direct-selling technique.

#3: Lysol

You use their products to wipe your counters, scrub your toilets, and… prevent pregnancy? While the company introduced its first disinfectant in 1889 to help end a German cholera epidemic, Lysol decided to market it as a feminine hygiene product in the 1920s. Advertising claimed that washing with a diluted Lysol solution prevented vaginal infections and odor, “preserved youth and marital bliss,” and could even be used as a form of birth control. However, the product was incredibly dangerous, as it had killed 5 people and poisoned 193 others by that time. Thankfully, the company’s no longer in the birth control game and today focuses exclusively on household cleaners.

#2: Nokia

This Finnish information technology company sold its widely known mobile phones division to Microsoft in 2014. But the company’s no stranger to dramatic business changes: y’see, Nokia began as a pulp mill in 1865. During its 90 years as a forest and power industry company, Nokia also manufactured galoshes and other rubber products. After a 1967 merger, it expanded to include telephone and electrical cables, gas masks and later, electronics. However, it was only in the early ‘90s that Nokia began focusing exclusively on communications. Despite the Microsoft deal, the Nokia name is still involved in cellphones: released in January 2017, HMD Global’s first Android smartphone was called the Nokia 6.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Wrigley Company
William Wrigley Initially Sold Baking Powder Packaged with Chewing Gum

- Old Spice
First Old Spice Product Sold Was a Woman’s Scent Named Early American Old Spice

- BMW
The Business Originally Produced Aircraft Engines

#1: Nintendo

Fusajiro Yamauchi founded Nintendo in 1889 as a playing card company. By 1953, the company realized there was limited potential for big profits with cards and so the ‘60s brought a wave of experimentation. After changing its name from the Nintendo Playing Card Co. to the Nintendo Co., Yamauchi’s grandson Hiroshi explored other ventures, including a taxi service, a hotel chain, a TV station, and instant rice. Their foray into toys during the mid-’60s proved wildly successful, however, and their light gun games paved the way for their entrance into the videogame market. When the NES came to North America in 1985, it changed the world when, and today Nintendo characters like Link, Mario and Pikachu are loved by millions.

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