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12 companies which originally sold entirely different products

What did Tiffany & Co, Avon and Nokia sell before they became household brands? Not jewellery, cosmetics nor phones…

SOME COMPANIES FIND their niche and stick to it.

Others, though, have to adapt to changing markets in order to thrive. Here’s a look at some companies that switched industries at some point in their histories, usually for the better.

(Just in case you’re thinking of a brand new start yourself this year…)

12 companies which originally sold entirely different products
1 / 12
  • Tiffany & Co... stationery

    Before it was in the jewellery business, it originally sold stationery. (Pic: Ali_ayers/Flickr)
  • Avon... books

    David H. McConnell started Avon in 1886 without really meaning to. McConnell sold books door-to-door, but to lure in female customers he offered little gifts of perfume. Before long, the perfume McConnell was giving away had become more popular than the books he was selling, so he shifted focus and founded the California Perfume Company, which later became Avon. (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)
  • Nokia... paper

    The telecom giant got its start in Finland in 1865, when Fredrik Idestam opened a pulp mill and started making paper on the banks of Tammerkoski. The company later bounced around a number of industries before getting serious about phones in the 1960s. (Pic: Seven Hotel)
  • 3m... minerals

    When the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company’s founders opened their business in Two Harbors, Minnesota in 1902, they weren’t selling Post-It Notes. The partners originally planned to sell the mineral corundum, an important ingredient in building grinding wheels, directly to manufacturers. (Pic: 3M)
  • Wrigley... soap

    Like Avon, the chewing gum company got its start with a popular freebie. William Wrigley, Jr. founded the company in 1891 with the goal of selling soap and baking powder. He offered chewing gum as an enticement to his customers, and eventually the customers didn’t care about the baking powder. They only wanted the gum. (Pic: gtorelly/Flickr)
  • Dupont... gunpowder

    E.I. du Pont started the company that eventually became one of the world’s largest chemical concerns in 1802 as a gunpowder business. Eventually the French immigrant expanded his business to include dynamite and other explosives before going into more diversified chemicals. (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)
  • Colgate... candles

    The hygienic products company got its start in 1806, but it didn’t make its first toothpaste until 1873. Founder William Colgate initially manufactured soap, candles, and starch.
  • Xerox... photo paper

    When Xerox got off the ground in 1906, it was as a maker of photographic paper and photography equipment called the Haloid Company. The company didn’t introduce what we would think of as a copier until the Xerox 914 made its debut in 1959. (Pic: Xerox once made photo paper. (Pic: revolution-21.blogspot.com)
  • John Deere... blacksmith

    The man behind the giant fleet of green tractors got his start as a blacksmith in Grand Detour, Illinois. After struggling to make plows that could cut through the area’s tough clay, Deere hit on the idea of building plows out of cast steel, and his blacksmith gig gave way to a booming farm-supply business. (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)
  • Hasbro... old bits of carpet

    The company behind Transformers and G.I. Joes began in 1923 as Hassenfeld Brothers. The titular brothers didn’t make toys, though; they sold textile remnants. Their business gradually shifted into school supplies before making the leap to toys after the 1952 introduction of Mr. Potato Head. (Pic: CNN Money)
  • Abercrombie and Fitch... serious sports wear

    When David Abercrombie founded the clothing store in 1892 in New York City, he wasn’t dreaming of clothing students everywhere. The store was originally a sporting goods shop and outfitter. Abercrombie even outfitted Charles Lindbergh for his famous flight across the Atlantic. The version Abercrombie & Fitch you see now started to come about after Limited Brands bought the company in 1988. (Pic: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)
  • Nintendo... playing cards

    When Fusajiro Yamauchi started Nintendo in Japan in 1889, it first sold playing cards. The name 'Nintendo' still indicates the card-game legacy - it means "leave luck to heaven". (Pic: AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

This story was originally published by mental_floss.

- Ethan Trex

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Business Insider
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