Startups Among the Ruins: How 10 Companies Launched During the Great Depression | Company Activities & Management > Company Structures & Ownership from AllBusiness.com
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Startups Among the Ruins: How 10 Companies Launched During the Great Depression

A battered economy can sometimes provide just the right circumstances for a new business. Here's how 10 companies found success during the Great Depression.

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Startup. It’s a word we don’t hear much during today’s tough economic times. One wonders if there is anyone brave or foolhardy enough - or both - to risk starting a new business when more and more people are losing their jobs and tightening their belts.

 

Yet there was a time that was even tougher than today. A downturn so bad it’s now capitalized and had the adjective “Great” appended to it. If today’s environment is bad for starting a business, it must have been madness to even think about the idea during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

 

Businesses established during the Depression come from a variety of industries, but for this list, Hoover’s Editors concentrated only on those that may owe some of their success to the conditions of the time.

 

1. Ada Feed & Seed: Farms had a real need for Ada Feed & Seed when crop prices were falling. This company helps farmers field tough economic conditions by offering assistance with fertilizing, seeding, and other tasks.

 

2. SESAC: Woody Guthrie, the Dust Bowl Troubadour, Huddie Ledbetter, the Singing Convict, and many others sang the pangs of the Depression. SESAC, established as a licensor of music, made sure they didn’t get ripped off by unauthorized recordings or performances.

 

3. Publix Super Markets: Twenty-two-year-old George Jenkins quit his job as manager of a Florida Piggly Wiggly and started his own grocery store next door. The store not only survived next door to its competitor, but eventually became the 1,000-store chain of today.

 

4. Hy-Vee: Hy-Vee began as a small general store in Iowa that offered what people really need during tough times - low prices. That and good service helped grow the general store into a chain of some 225 supermarkets.

 

5. King Kullen Grocery: The company claims that Michael Cullen invented the supermarket format when he turned a Queens warehouse into a grocery store. No doubt the downscale setting allowed him to keep prices low for families with unemployed breadwinners.

 

6. Harp’s Food Stores: Floy and Harvard Harp opened an eponymous food store that would grow into a chain that includes outlets with “Price Cutter” on the banner. Those two words were no doubt key to Harp’s emergence as a major regional player during tough times.

 

7. Ocean Spray Cranberries: When the going gets tough, the tough get cooperative. Instead of seeing who could make the tastiest cranberry sauce when consumers were pinching pennies, three cranberry companies pooled their bogs and found success.

 

8. Pendleton Grain Growers:  On a December night in 1929 a group of struggling wheat farmers gathered in Pendleton, Oregon, and decided to form a cooperative that would help them withstand falling crop prices.

 

9. Yellow Book USA: The Yellow Pages gave struggling consumers an efficient opportunity for comparison shopping. Instead of wasting gas or - more often - shoe leather, they could let their fingers do the walking in search of the best deals.

 

10. Wipfli: Wipfli focused not on consumers but stepped up to help businesses stay in business. This company provides such services as tax preparation, business planning, and corporate finance.

 

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