Mixing business with friendship: 4 duos who made it big

They say it takes a village to rear a child. Ask any entrepreneur and they would agree. You need people with the same vision and passion for the job — and who better than your bestie!

To celebrate International Friendship Day, we’ve put together a list of businesses led by friends that make for amazing success stories. You can thank us for the inspiration later!

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Ben and Jerry’s

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Ben and Jerry’s

Who hasn’t heard of this popular American ice cream brand. But, we bet that you didn’t know that Ben and Jerry’s takes its name from its founders and childhood friends, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. Yep, actual people!

As kids growing up in New York, Ben and Jerry were super fond of ice cream. Well, who isn’t? No surprise that they went on to attend a correspondence course on ice cream from the Pennsylvania State University Creamery.

Finally in 1978, they took the proverbial plunge into a tub of ice cream, coughed up $12,000, and launched a brand that’s cherished by people of all ages. They opened their first franchise store in Vermont in 1981.

Here’s a fun fact: In 1983, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was used to build ‘the world’s largest ice cream sundae’, which weighed 12,293 kg. So much ice-cream!

Much later, in April 2000, the duo sold the company to multinational food giant, Unilever. Till date, the product sells under the founders’ names and continues to bring smiles and excitement to the world.

William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson, Harley-Davidson

William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson, Harley-Davidson

Here’s another story of success that goes back a long time. In the early 19th century when motorcycles were a dream, two boyhood friends dreamt of “taking the work out of bicycling.”

21-year-old draftsman William S. Harley and 20-year-old pattern-maker Arthur Davidson wanted to build a machine that let users travel reliably and reach places faster. Enter the world’s most iconic motorcycle brand — Harley-Davidson.

While the duo set up Harley-Davidson Inc in Wisconsin in 1903, they were later joined by Arthur’s brother Walter Davidson, a railroad machinist, and the eldest Davidson brother, William, a toolroom foreman at a railroad shop.

By 1903, they had set up their first factory and saw immense growth and success in their initial years of business.

Interestingly, while World War II spelt disaster for many businesses, it led to an increase in Harley production and sales. Harley built more than 90,000 of its military-version motorcycles overseas for use by the Allies. The brand has just vroomed away to success since then.

Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, Rent the Runway

Jennifer Hyman & Jennifer Fleiss, Rent The Runway

Who doesn’t love high fashion at affordable prices? That’s exactly what Jennifer Hyman thought when she noticed that her sister spent so much money on a wedding dress, in spite of owning many designer dresses. All because she didn’t want to be seen in the same clothes on social media.

How about a business that provided high-end clothes on rent? Hyman and her Harvard Business School classmate, Jennifer Fleiss, knew the idea had potential.

They decided to test the concept and launched their own brand, Rent the Runway, in November 2009. Rent the Runway allows users to simply rent designer dresses and accessories via a website.

And here’s the interesting thing — From June this year, Rent the Runway delivers orders received by noon by 5 pm on the same day! This makes it much more practical for customers to use the service.

Clearly, the company is going places — it has received VC funding worth $126 million from Bain Capital Ventures, Highland Capital, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. As of October 2016, the company had over 6 million members, 975 employees, and over 400 designer partners.

Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, AirBnB

Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, Airbnb

Most of us are familiar with Airbnb — a website where you can find and book a place to stay. It’s really a godsend for budget or offbeat travellers looking for places to stay.

You may also know that the founders, former schoolmates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia came up with the idea for the business when they were living in San Francisco in 2007 and could not afford the rent in the expensive city.

It was then that they came up with the idea of adding an air mattress to their living room and turning it into a bed and breakfast. Not surprisingly, Brian Chesky has been living in Airbnbs on and off since 2010.

Did you know that there are so many celebrity houses listed on Airbnb? Yes, that’s true! A-list celebs like Donna Karan, Julie Andrews, Elizabeth Taylor, Charlie Chaplin, and Denzel Washington have listed their homes on Airbnb. So the next time you’re travelling, why not stay at one of these exotic houses and drink in the celebrity air!


These are just some examples of how friends can become great business partners and ring in the moolah together. Time to call your bestie and dig out that stash of spare cash!

Happy Friendship Day, everyone!