5 Companies That Got Their Start Amid Economic Turmoil


The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic sparked lockdowns that required Americans to stay home – except for essential tasks. 

That resulted in the worst recession since the Great Depression as well as the worst GDP report ever. It is estimated that the 2020 lockdowns led to roughly 200,000 businesses permanently closing.

Now, more than two years since the virus was first detected in the country, economists are raising concerns that the country could be headed for another recession. And that might be leading some potential business owners to reconsider pursuing their dreams and launching that business.

But economic downturns are not necessarily a death blow for new companies.

Here are five businesses that got started as the economy was not doing so great:

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General Electric:

Thomas Edison started General Electric in 1892 before the Panic of 1893. The downturn lasted 16 months, and business activity declined roughly 40%.

One hundred and thirty years later and the company is still around, and revenues topped $74 billion in 2021.

Walt Disney Company:

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The Walt Disney Company launched in 1929, shortly before the Great Depression.

Despite the worst economic downturn in U.S. history, Disney survived and, nearly 100 years later, has become a juggernaut in the film industry, producing visually stunning and entertaining movies that set records for their box office sales.

In the 2021 fiscal year, Disney’s brought in over $67 billion in revenue.

General Motors:

In 1908, William Durant started General Motors in the midst of the Panic of 1907, which lasted 13 months. During that period, the country experienced a 30% decline in business activity.

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Durant bought Buick Motor Company in 1904, and General Motors was founded to acquire more automobile manufacturers.

General Motors brought in $127 billion in revenue in 2021.

Trader Joe’s:

During the 1958 recession, Joe Coulombe, inspired by a trip to the Caribbean, started the grocery chain under the name of Pronto Markets to offer international food.

He sold the company to German billionaire Theo Albrecht in 1979.

In 2020, the company had an estimated revenue of $16.5 billion. 


Starting in 1973, the U.S. entered a two-year recession. And in 1975, days after it was declared over, Bill Gates and Paul Allen launched the technology company Microsoft

In 2021, Microsoft brought in $168 billion in revenue. 

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