Businesses that thrived during recessions?

Working on a little list for inspiration. Do you know stories of companies that started, or thrived, during economic down times?

Here is the list Ive found so far. Looking for more please! You can find a history of U.S. recessions here to help sort things out. Here’s a partial list of world economic crises. If you have better lists, leave a comment.

  • Toro lawnmowers. Formed late in WW I right before the post war recession.
  • Trader Joes. Formed in 1957, during the recession of 1957 and 1958.
  • Target. It’s on the borderline. Wikipedia claims Target formed, seeded by the Dayton department store, in 1962. The 1960/61 recession officially ended about a year before.
  • 3M. Started in 1902, and despite major setbacks, survived the panic of 1907, eventually gaining new investors around 1910.
  • Google. This is also a technicality. Google first got funding in 1998, before the 2001-2003 dot com bubble burst. And had it’s IPO in 2004. But belongs on the list for having it’s major growth at the same time period the rest of the tech sector fell apart.

6 Responses to “Businesses that thrived during recessions?”

  1. Mark Gould

    Not quite the same, but Bruce MacEwen points to some McKinsey research tracking R&D spending during recessions on his blog at

    Among the companies that increased investment in R&D during recessions were:

    DuPont, which invented neoprene (synthetic rubber) in 1931 and nylon in 1934;
    Hewlett Packard; and
    RCA, which turned its research from radio to the new market, television, returning to profitability in 1934.

  2. Srinivasa

    Allstate – It was the Great Depression when it started in 1930s – “With a name borrowed from an automobile tire sold in the Sears catalog, and the backing of Sears, the great adventure of Allstate Insurance Company begins on April 17, 1931.”

  3. Ashley lee

    D.G.Yuengling & Son Brewers

    As the oldest brewery in the U.S., they survived the Great Depression by broadening their business through other outlets such as dairy farming and Broadways. Amazingly enough, they also survived 17 years of Prohibition by making “near beer”.

    I’m in the process of writing an article on the economic downturn, the effects it has on small businesses, and how methodology engineering can assist in workflow and stakeholder satisfaction during such times. Keep an eye out on Slaughter Development’s website,, for the full story.

  4. Adele Malley

    An American dream started at the height of the Great Depression. In 1935 on borrowed money of $500.00 our founder Mike Malley starting manufacturing and selling quality boxed chocolates, roasted nutmeats and ice cream. Today we own and operate 22 stores with four old fashioned ice cream parlours, and enjoy a large corporate,fundraising and internet business. Only 13% of U.S. business families survive into the third generation. Our children(3rd generation)now operate the business. The youngest lives in CA and is a head set designer while the other five develop funds for growth of Malley’s Chocolates by providing the finest services to the delight of our customers.


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