Everyone starts somewhere – even industry giants like Avon, Nike, and Nintendo. Some companies had a home run on the first try, catapulting them into instant success. Others, as you’ll see, had a few trial and errors before finally hitting it big. Go ahead and see some of the most interesting first products of these major companies! You might be surprised at what you find!
Nintendo: Hanafuda Playing Cards
You may know Nintendo as the video game brand that launched world-famous franchises like Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Pokémon. However, the company didn’t start off with video games. In fact, they didn’t start in 1980… they actually got their start about a hundred years ago, in 1889. They were a playing card company based out of Kyoto, Japan. The card game that started it all was called Hanafuda, which translates to “flower cards.” The game was popular in gambling halls used by organized crime gangs. Fun fact – when separated into three Japanese characters, Nin-ten-do roughly translates to “leave luck to heaven.”
L’Oreal: Hair Dye
The first product of L’Oreal was a hair dye that was released in 1909. Safe hair dye was hard to come by in the early 1900s. French chemist, Eugène Schueller, saw an opportunity to fill a hole in the market and he knew just how to make it happen. Well… sort of. He spent years working on hair colorant formulas in his own home. He caused several small explosions and had several visits from the police while he was working on his product. Finally, in 1907, Schueller had the perfect recipe and he launched L’Oreal two years later.
Nike: Onitsuka Tiger Running Shoes
While it’s not surprising that the first product of Nike was a shoe, the origins of the company sure are interesting! It all started with a school paper for a small business class at Stanford. Phil Knight wrote a paper titled, “Can Japanese Sports Shoes Do to German Sports Shoes What Japanese Cameras Have Done to German Cameras?” The paper inspired him to actually try out his theory in 1964. Nike – then Blue Ribbon Sports – began as a distributor of Onitsuka Tiger Running Shoes. Phil Knight sold the shoes from the back of his station wagon at Oregon University track meets.
Started in 1886 by David H. McConnell, Avon wasn’t originally about beauty products at all – although the door-to-door aspect was there from the beginning. David was a door-to-door book salesman. He offered little gifts of perfume to his female customers. Soon, David realized the perfume was more popular than the books he sold, so he switched gears and founded the California based perfume company that would later be known as Avon.