6 Companies Started by Immigrants

Sun, Jan 03, 2016 at 12:30PM

Did you know that more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies today were founded by immigrants or their children? With foreign-born leadership working to provide such a large percentage of the products and services we use every day, we think it’s worth taking some time to learn about who’s behind our favorite companies.

In today’s blog, we are looking at just a few of the most prominent companies founded by immigrants—and, of course, the leadership behind them.

Sergey Brin, Google

For internet users all across the country, Google provides a way to find information, connect with one another, and even enjoy futuristic technologies like Google Glass—and it was all started by a young immigrant from Russia, Sergey Brin. Brin came to the United States with his parents at the age of 6 and met Google’s co-founder, Larry Page, while studying computer science at Stanford University.

Maxwell Kohl, Kohl’s

When Polish-born Maxwell Kohl was 26 years old, he opened his first grocery store, which soon became a chain of modern supermarkets unlike stores previously seen in the Milwaukee area. His experience, drive and know-how from the supermarket business led him to begin a department store, Kohl’s, in 1962. Since then, Kohl’s has been a popular go-to spot for shoppers all across the country.

John Nordstrom, Nordstrom

Today, Nordstrom is many Americans’ favorite upscale department store, renowned for its customer service and wealth of products for sale. It was started by John—or Johan—Nordstrom, an immigrant from Sweden. After coming to America with only $5 to his name, Nordstrom and friend Carl Wallin opened their first shoe store that gradually evolved into the chain of department stores we know and love.

James Kraft, Kraft

After arriving in the United States in 1903, James Kraft began a wholesale cheese business in Chicago. Despite a disappointing first year, the business soon went on to achieve success. In 1909, James Kraft and his four brothers created the J.L. Kraft and Bros Company—today, their original company has gone on to produce cheese, chips, meats, drinks and much more of the foods you probably have in your own kitchen today!

William Colgate, Colgate

English immigrant William Colgate apprenticed under a soap-boiler and learned the tricks of the trade before opening William Colgate & Company, a soap, starch and candle factory. William himself never actually sold a tube of toothpaste, however—it was his son, Samuel Colgate, who went on to shape the company into what it is today.

Alexander Graham Bell, AT&T

Scottish-born inventor Alexander Graham Bell was interested by art, music, speech and the natural world as a young child. His curiosity contributed to his invention and patenting of the telephone, and, eventually, the creation of the Bell Telephone Company by his father-in-law. The company later evolved into the American Telephone & Telegraph Company, what we now know as AT&T, one of America’s leading phone and television companies in the country.

How many of these leading companies did you know were founded by immigrants?


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