In recognition of Spring’s arrival last weekend, Hoover’s Editors are honoring the season of youth by looking at a few companies founded by the young ‘uns. Most of us know about Facebook, co-founded by 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, and Apple, founded by twentysomethings Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, to name a few famous examples of youthful business acumen. But there are quite a few other large companies that were founded by entrepreneurs in their salad days. Here are a few.
Wal-Mart Stores isn’t that well known as a giant retailer spawned by youthful ambition. The chain traces its roots to a Ben Franklin-franchised dime store in Arkansas that was leased by Sam Walton in 1945, when he was in his late 20s. The franchise would prime him for opening his first Walton 5 & 10 in 1950, when he was 32. That store would multiply into the 7,870-plus outlets that Wal-Mart boasts today.
2. Pulte Homes
Pulte Homes was started by recent high-school graduate William Pulte in 1950 when he built a house in Detroit. Six years later the twenty-something Pulte incorporated his homebuilding business as William J. Pulte, Inc. Today Pulte is the largest homebuilder in the US.
Publix Super Markets was founded by 22-year-old George Jenkins after he quit as a manager at a Piggly Wiggly store in Winter Haven, Florida. He had been saving to buy a car but instead used the money to open a store next door to his former boss. Founded in the inauspicious year of 1930 – the first full year of the Great Depression – that one store went on to become the 1,000-store chain that is the largest privately-owned supermarket operator in the US.
It was 1971, the tail end of the era of youthful rebellion. One of those youths, 17-year-old Barbara Jaffe, didn’t let the street protests and rock fests distract her from founding a company that makes and distribute cookies, crackers, cereal, and other foods. Her eponymous company, Barbara’s Bakery, is now owned by UK breakfast giant Weetabix.
5. Zachry Holdings
Zachry Holdings was founded by Henry Zachry in 1949 at age 22. Zachry had just graduated from Texas A&M University when he won a contract with the Texas Highway Department to build a bridge in Laredo. He and his workers completed the job with help of dirt-moving mules. Today the company builds and maintains major facilities in the power, cement, and nuclear sectors.
This seed supplier was founded in 1876 by 18-year-old W. Atlee Burpee. He borrowed $1,000 from his mother to start the seed company that today ships more than 100 million packets of seeds a year. Though its owned today by another family, the company honors its youthful founder by retaining his full name as the company’s legal moniker.