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Businesses That Started in a Garage: Dell

Every month, I give you the lowdown on a famous business that got its start in a garage. If you own a laptop or desktop computer, there’s an excellent chance it bears the name of the entrepreneur we’re looking at today: Dell. Sound familiar? Well, it should! For the tenth edition in this series, I’m going to focus the spotlight on entrepreneur Michael Dell.

The Beginning of Dell

The history of Dell Computer Corporation began in a dormitory room at the University of Texas at Austin. In 1984, 19-year old college freshman Michael Dell had a strong interest in both math and technology. He enjoyed working with old computers, giving them an extra supply of memory and additional disk drives. In fact, he made some extra cash by selling these computers to fellow students. This sparked an idea.

He began to research the computer industry and saw the need for more efficiency in the process of making and selling computers. He decided that custom-building computers and selling them directly to the people who wanted them would streamline the process. And so, with a startup fund of $1,000, Dell decided to start his own computer business.

Dell Leaves College Behind

You know the old saying, “Do what you love, and the money will follow”? Well, that was certainly true for Dell. He began constructing and selling computers using stock parts from IBM. As his list of orders expanded, he realized that his business, known at that time as PC’s Limited, was getting too big for his dorm room. So he left his dormitory behind, along with his days as a college student. He moved his business operations to a garage. Setting up his business in a garage gave him the space he needed to perform his work with efficiency. Plus, he had storage space for parts as well as privacy and a quiet atmosphere.

Success Comes Quickly

In 1985, Dell designed and constructed his first computer, called the Turbo PC. The Turbo PC was a big hit with business owners. It was a fast, powerful computer perfect for use at businesses of all types. In its first year of operation, Dell’s company sold more than $1 million in products, providing the company’s young founder with a profit of $134,000.

Dell Continues to Grow and Flourish

In 1987, Dell changed the name of his company from PC’s Limited to Dell Computer Corporation. By 1988, the company was growing at a rate of 80 percent each year. In 1996, the company launched the website, making $1 million worth of sales each day during its first six months.

Dell Goes International

In 2000, Dell Computer Corporation had more than 35,000 employees and offices in 34 different countries. Sales made on the Dell website topped out at $40 million per day. Michael Dell was officially a billionaire. In 2001, Dell earned recognition for being the number one provider of computer systems throughout the world. In 2015, the rate of customer satisfaction with Dell products reached its highest level to date.

Michael Dell’s Company Today

Today, the company, now known as Dell Inc., sells laptops, desktop computers, televisions, printers, scanners, and other technology through its website as well as in large stores such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy. This company is still well-known for its strong customer support. And Michael Dell is now a billionaire many times over.

Whether it’s making computers, building motorcycles, making candles, or creating cartoon characters, all of the entrepreneurs I’ve written about in this series possess an inexhaustible curiosity. They’re driven to push the boundaries in their industry and continually learn more. Does this sound like you? With a creative idea (and a spacious garage), who knows what business ventures are in your future? Thanks for reading! – Alan

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