6 well-known Australian corporations began throughout recessions

Some of the best-known brands were founded during recessions. Read more about successful companies that were founded during recessions here.

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The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, trade tensions and a terrible bushfire season have plunged the Australian economy into its first recession in nearly 30 years. Undoubtedly, it is a time of uncertainty for many Australians, especially those looking to start their own business in 2021. However, the latest economic data gives cause for optimism. In fact, some of Australia’s most successful brands are companies that were founded during recessions. This shows that in economically difficult times there is still the opportunity to offer customers real added value and create a sustainable business launchpad. In this article we are going to talk about the companies that started during the recession and how they became the big brands we know today.

1. JB Hi Fi

Starting year: 1974
Sales 2019: $ 7.1 billion

In mid-1974 Australia was in economic recession and recovering from the 1973 oil crisis. During that recession, John Barbuto opened the first JB Hi Fi store in East Keilor, Victoria. Its mission was simple – to deliver a unique selection of music at the lowest possible price. It is now safe to say that it was successful. JB Hi Fi is Australia’s largest home entertainment retailer.

2. Billabong

Starting year: 1973
2017 sales: $ 917 million

In 1973 passionate surfer Gordon Merchant and his wife Rena founded Billabong. Billabong originally designed board shorts at home to be sold at the local surf shop. Today Billabong is represented in over 100 countries and has more than 11,000 stores worldwide. Billabong’s parent company, Quiksilver, sells over 2000 products under numerous brand names including RVCA and Roxy.

3. Harvey Norman

Starting year: 1982
Sales in 2019: $ 5.66 billion

The recession after the Vietnam War of 1982/83 did little to stop Gerry Harvey & Ian Norman from starting their retail chain Harvey Norman. Today the two have established nearly 200 franchises across Australia and over 100 businesses in offshore locations. Harvey Norman also employs over 5500 people and is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).

4th Priceline Pharmacy

Starting year: 1982
Sales 2019: $ 2.2 billion

Priceline started out in the Highpoint Shopping Center in Victoria as a simple pharmacy, health and beauty store for women. Since the 1982 recession, Priceline Pharmacy has grown to over 470 branches across the country and has Australia’s largest health and beauty loyalty program with over 7 million members.

5. Cotton on

Starting year: 1991
2019 sales: $ 2.08 billion

In the middle of the 1991 recession, Nigel Austin started Cotton On Clothing in East Geelong and quickly expanded to a second store in Victoria, all as a family affair. Austin had sold his first pair of jeans in a Geelong market at the age of 18 in 1988, which showed that a recession didn’t deter his entrepreneurial passion. Cotton On is now one of the largest privately held companies in Australia. At the time of writing, they have over 1,500 stores in 18 different countries and employ over 15,000 people.


Starting year: 1992
2018 revenue: $ 489 million

MYOB was originally founded by a group of software developers who worked at Teleware Co during the recession in the 1980s. The MYOB brand was founded in 1999 and is listed on the ASX. The company provides tax, accounting, and other business services software for small and medium-sized businesses.

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Global brands

It’s not just Australian companies emerging from bad economic times – here are three Silicon Valley companies that were born during recessions. All of this has grown into a billion dollar business with no signs of slowing down.


Starting year: 2009
2019 revenue: $ 4.7 billion

When America was still recovering from the GFC recession, serial entrepreneur Garrett Camp went into business with Travis Kalanick to start Uber Cabs. Since then, Uber Technologies has become a global phenomenon. Uber has over 100 million active monthly users worldwide and dominates the ridesharing and grocery delivery market. Of the companies started on this list during a recession, Uber sets the blueprint for ambitious entrepreneurs.


Starting year: 2008
2019 revenue: $ 4.7 billion

A visionary co-founder trio who were college students at the time of the GFC recession came up with the idea of ​​renting a mattress in their living room. Soon after, Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk founded Air Bed & Breakfast. Since then, the company has a private value of $ 31 billion and is ready to go public in mid-December 2020.


Starting year: 2008
Revenue 2019: $ 142 million

Asana holds its own as one of the world’s leading team-based work management tools. Asana was founded by Dustin Mokovitz & Justin Rosenstein in the midst of the 2008-09 recession and has almost doubled its annual sales in the past 3 years.

This list of companies started during a recession is just a brief summary of what is possible when starting a business and following a passion. There shouldn’t be anything stopping you from achieving your dreams, whether it’s a large multinational company or a small side business.

If you’ve been inspired to start a business but don’t have an idea, check out our comprehensive page of 204 business ideas. If you are already one step ahead of the game and want to make your business more formal, you can also register your business with us.

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