Warby Parker: Dave Gilboa & Neil Blumenthal

How the billion dollar company Warby Parker was born out of a simple frustration with eyewear. Andrew Holder for NPR hide caption

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Andrew Holder for NPR

Warby Parker: Dave Gilboa & Neil Blumenthal

In 2008, it was nearly impossible to buy a fashionable, affordable pair of glasses online. That simple frustration inspired the idea behind Warby Parker – and disrupted the eyewear industry. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That," an update on Bellyak, a kayak where you lie on your belly and paddle with your hands. (Original broadcast date: December 26, 2016)

Warby Parker: Dave Gilboa & Neil Blumenthal

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Dyson: James Dyson

Inventor and industrial designer James Dyson is the founder of Dyson company. Angie Wang for NPR hide caption

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Dyson: James Dyson

In 1979, James Dyson had an idea for a new vacuum cleaner — one that didn't use bags. It took him five years to perfect the design, building more than 5,000 prototypes in his backyard shed. He then tried to convince the big vacuum brands to license his invention, but most wouldn't even take his calls. Eventually, he started his own company. Today, Dyson is one of the best-selling vacuum brands in the world, and James Dyson is a billionaire. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That," how Theresa Stotesbury made a business out of fake blood — a synthetic material that helps create a realistic crime scene for police training.

Dyson: James Dyson

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Melissa & Doug: Melissa And Doug Bernstein

How Melissa and Doug Bernstein built a multi-million dollar toy company without screens, video games or apps. Andrew Holder for NPR hide caption

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Melissa & Doug: Melissa And Doug Bernstein

Melissa and Doug Bernstein's first success was a wooden 'fuzzy puzzle' of farm animals. Today, Melissa & Doug makes over 2,000 kinds of toys and serves as an antidote to the rise of digital toys. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That," an update on The Cut Buddy, a stencil device that helps you cut your own hair. (Original broadcast date: December 19, 2016)

Melissa & Doug: Melissa And Doug Bernstein

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Dell Computers: Michael Dell

Michael Dell founded Dell Computers in 1984 in his dorm room. Connor Heckert for NPR hide caption

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Dell Computers: Michael Dell

Before it became fashionable to start a tech company in your dorm room, Michael Dell did exactly that. In 1983, he began selling upgrade kits for PC's out of his dorm at UT Austin. A few months later he gave up his plan of being Pre-Med, and dropped out of school to focus on the PC business. At age of 27, he became the youngest CEO to head a Fortune 500 company. Today, Dell has sold more than 650 million computers. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That," how Hannah England turned a common parenting problem into Wash. It. Later. — a water-tight bag for soaking soiled baby clothes before they stain.

Dell Computers: Michael Dell

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Serial Entrepreneur: Marcia Kilgore

Serial entrepreneur Marcia Kilgore. Phuong Nguyen for NPR hide caption

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Serial Entrepreneur: Marcia Kilgore

After high school, Marcia Kilgore moved to New York City with $300 in her pocket and no real plan. One step at a time, she became a successful serial entrepreneur. First, she used her high school bodybuilding experience to find work as a personal trainer. Then she taught herself to give facials, and eventually started her own spa and skincare line, Bliss. The spa became so popular that it was booked months in advance with a list of celebrity clientele. After selling her shares in Bliss, Marcia went on to start four new successful companies: Soap & Glory, FitFlop, Soaper Duper, and Beauty Pie. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That," how Steve Kral has created a successful business fulfilling a very particular niche: selling TV remotes for outdated television sets.

Serial Entrepreneur: Marcia Kilgore

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LinkedIn: Reid Hoffman

Reid Hoffman co-founded LinkedIn in 2002. Connor Heckert for NPR hide caption

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LinkedIn: Reid Hoffman

In the early 1990s, Reid Hoffman had a vision for the future of the Internet: people would connect through social networks using their real names, and their online lives would be completely merged with their real ones. After several early attempts, he co-founded LinkedIn – a social network focused on jobs and careers. In 2016, the company sold to Microsoft for $26 billion dollars, helping make Hoffman one of the wealthiest and most influential figures in Silicon Valley. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That," how Danica Lause turned a knitting hobby into Peekaboos Ponytail hats, knit caps with strategically placed holes for a ponytail or bun.

LinkedIn: Reid Hoffman

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Kate Spade: Kate & Andy Spade
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Kate Spade: Kate & Andy Spade

We're hard at work planning our next live show, so we bring you this favorite from the last year: Kate Spade. A 1991 conversation at a Mexican restaurant led Kate & Andy Spade to ask, "What's missing in designer handbags?" Kate's answer was a simple modern-shaped handbag that launched the iconic fashion brand. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That", we check back with Dennis Darnell and his line of garbage can fly traps.

Kate Spade: Kate & Andy Spade

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Clif Bar: Gary Erickson

The story of how Gary Erickson transformed an entire industry with his mother's cookie recipe. Andrew Holder for NPR hide caption

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Clif Bar: Gary Erickson

We're taking a break for the holidays, so we bring you this favorite from the last year: Clif Bar. Gary Erickson asked his mom, "Can you make a cookie without butter, sugar or oil?" The result was an energy bar named after his dad — now one of the most popular energy bars in the U.S. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That", we check back with Alec Avedessian about Rareform, his line of bags made out of old highway billboards.

Clif Bar: Gary Erickson

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Live Episode! The Home Depot: Arthur Blank

Arthur Blank is the founder of The Home Depot and the Atlanta Falcons. Connor Heckert for NPR hide caption

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Live Episode! The Home Depot: Arthur Blank

In 1978, Arthur Blank and his business partner Bernie Marcus were running a successful chain of hardware stores called Handy Dan – but then, they were unexpectedly fired. The next year, they conceived and launched a new kind of home improvement store that flopped on opening day, but went on to become one of the biggest private employers in the U.S. The Home Depot now earns annual revenue of almost $100 billion. Recorded live in Atlanta.

Live Episode! The Home Depot: Arthur Blank

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Patagonia: Yvon Chouinard

Why Yvon Chouinard doesn't want you to buy Patagonia — and doesn't want your money. Andrew Holder for NPR hide caption

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Patagonia: Yvon Chouinard

We're taking a break for the holidays, so we bring you this favorite from the last year: Patagonia. In 1973, Yvon Chouinard started the company to make climbing gear he couldn't find elsewhere. Over decades of growth, he has implemented a unique philosophy about business, leadership and profit. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That", we check back with Brett Johnson of Firedrops — cayenne pepper lozenges.

Patagonia: Yvon Chouinard

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LearnVest: Alexa von Tobel

LearnVest CEO Alexa von Tobel Angie Wang for NPR hide caption

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LearnVest: Alexa von Tobel

When Alexa von Tobel was just 14, her father passed away unexpectedly, leaving her mother to manage the family's finances. The tragedy made Alexa determined to understand money – and help others plan for periods of uncertainty. In her mid-twenties, she founded LearnVest, a tool that simplifies financial planning and investing. Within three years, the company was providing support to millions of customers. In 2015, she sold LearnVest for a rumored $250 million. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That," how Dillon Hill built Gamers Gift to help bed-bound and disabled patients enjoy a wide range of places and experiences —through virtual reality.

LearnVest: Alexa von Tobel

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Live Episode! Black Entertainment Television: Robert Johnson
Marcus Marritt for NPR

Live Episode! Black Entertainment Television: Robert Johnson

In 1979, Robert Johnson was a lobbyist for the burgeoning cable industry. That's when he got an idea for a channel called Black Entertainment Television. He started small, just a few hours of programming a week. But by the 1990s BET had become a cultural touchstone. In 2001, he sold BET to Viacom for $2.3 billion, making him the first African-American billionaire in US history. Recorded live in Washington, D.C.

Live Episode! Black Entertainment Television: Robert Johnson

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Tom's Of Maine: Tom Chappell
Connor Heckert for NPR

Tom's Of Maine: Tom Chappell

In 1970, Tom Chappell took out a $5000 loan to launch a natural products company called Tom's of Maine. Working out of a warehouse in Kennebunk, Maine, he created soaps, shampoos, and toothpaste free from added chemicals, and sustainable for the environment. When he sold the company three decades later, Tom's of Maine had become one of the largest natural products brands in the world. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That", we check back with Paul Kaster, who two years ago started a company that makes wooden bowties, and is now starting Carbon Cravat — which makes bowties out of carbon fiber.

Tom's Of Maine: Tom Chappell

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Zumba: Beto Perez & Alberto Perlman

The worldwide dance craze Zumba was built with sweat, sneakers and sweatpants. Andrew Holder hide caption

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Zumba: Beto Perez & Alberto Perlman

We're hard at work planning our upcoming live show, so we bring you this favorite from the last year: Zumba. Zumba began as a mistake: aerobics teacher Beto Perez brought the wrong music to class, then improvised a dance routine to go with it. For his students, it was more fun than work — and it eventually grew into one of the biggest fitness brands in the world. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That," how Alex McKenzie is hoping to upgrade the menu of your neighborhood ice cream truck by offering exotic flavors, high fat content, plus low-guilt options for the health-conscious.

Zumba: Beto Perez & Alberto Perlman

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Framebridge: Susan Tynan

Susan Tynan, founder of Framebridge Marcus Maritt for NPR hide caption

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Marcus Maritt for NPR

Framebridge: Susan Tynan

Susan Tynan's experience in the ephemeral e-market of LivingSocial made her want to start a business that she could touch and feel. She got her idea after experiencing sticker shock at her local framing store: she was charged $1600 to frame four cheap posters and figured there had to be a better way. So she created a mail-order framing company that offers fewer designs at much lower prices. Framebridge is now three years old and still feeling growing pains, but is slowly reshaping the rules of a rigid industry. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That," how Alexander Van Dewark created a portable mat that helps people mix cement without a wheelbarrow or a paddle.

Framebridge: Susan Tynan

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Ben & Jerry's: Ben Cohen And Jerry Greenfield
Angie Wang for NPR

Ben & Jerry's: Ben Cohen And Jerry Greenfield

In the mid-1970s two childhood friends, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield decided to open an ice cream shop in Burlington, Vermont. Their quirky little shop packaged and sold unusual flavors like Honey Coffee, Mocha Walnut, and Mint with Oreo Cookies. In 1981, the regional brand spread across the country after Time magazine called it the "best ice cream in America." Today, Ben & Jerry's is one of the top selling ice cream brands in the world. And, like the original founders, the company doesn't shy away from speaking out on social issues. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That", how David Stover and his team at Bureo turn fishing nets into skateboards.

Ben & Jerry's: Ben Cohen And Jerry Greenfield

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Instagram: Kevin Systrom & Mike Krieger

"This is it, we've built this great thing and we've totally messed it up." — Mike Krieger, co-founder of Instagram, about the night the company launched Andrew Holder for NPR hide caption

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Instagram: Kevin Systrom & Mike Krieger

We're hard at work planning our upcoming live shows, so we bring you this favorite from the last year: Instagram. Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger launched their photo-sharing app with a server that crashed every other hour. Despite a chaotic start, it became one of the most popular apps in the world. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," we check back with Dave Weiner of Priority Bicycles, a low-maintenance bicycle brand.

Instagram: Kevin Systrom & Mike Krieger

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Eileen Fisher: Eileen Fisher

Eileen Fisher, founder of Eileen Fisher. Marcus Marritt for NPR hide caption

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Eileen Fisher: Eileen Fisher

In 1983, Eileen Fisher signed up for a fashion trade show with no experience, no garments, no patterns or sketches – nothing but a few ideas for a women's clothing line focused on simplicity. Within three weeks, she came up with 12 pieces, a logo, and a name: Eileen Fisher. Today, the Eileen Fisher brand is still known for its elegant and minimalist designs, but it has grown to more than 60 locations and makes over $300 million in annual revenue. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That," how Louisiana butcher Charlie Munford is helping popularize wild boar meat.

Eileen Fisher: Eileen Fisher

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Chipotle: Steve Ells

Steve Ells, founder of Chipotle. Connor Heckert for NPR hide caption

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Chipotle: Steve Ells

In 1992, Steve Ells was a classically trained chef working in a high-end restaurant in San Francisco. But after eating a burrito at a local taqueria, he got an idea: to sell burritos and earn enough money to open his own gourmet restaurant. The first Chipotle opened in Denver the following year. Bringing his culinary training to taqueria-style service, Steve Ells helped transform the way we eat fast food. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That," how Alexander Harik turned his mom's recipe for za'atar spread—a fragrant Middle Eastern condiment—into Zesty Z: The Za'atar Company.

Chipotle: Steve Ells

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Burton Snowboards: Jake Carpenter

Jake Carpenter, founder of Burton Snowboards. Angie Wang for NPR hide caption

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Burton Snowboards: Jake Carpenter

In 1977, 23-year-old Jake Carpenter set out to design a better version of the Snurfer, a stand-up sled he loved to ride as a teenager. Working by himself in a barn in Londonderry, Vermont, he sanded and whittled stacks of wood, trying to create the perfect ride. He eventually helped launch an entirely new sport, while building the largest snowboard brand in the world. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That," how Jane Och solved the problem of guacamole turning brown, with a container that removes air pockets, the Guac-Lock.

Burton Snowboards: Jake Carpenter

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Bumble: Whitney Wolfe

Whitney Wolfe, founder of Bumble. Angie Wang for NPR hide caption

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Bumble: Whitney Wolfe

At age 22, Whitney Wolfe helped launch Tinder, one of the world's most popular dating apps. But a few years later, she left Tinder and filed a lawsuit against the company alleging sexual harassment. The ensuing attention from the media – and cyberbullying from strangers – prompted her to launch Bumble, a new kind of dating app where women make the first move. Today, the Bumble app has been downloaded more than 20 million times. PLUS for our postscript "How You Built That," how Michelle Innis invented De-Fishing soap to freshen up her fisherman husband, and how it wound up in WalMart.

Bumble: Whitney Wolfe

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Teach For America: Wendy Kopp

Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach For America Connor Heckert for NPR hide caption

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Connor Heckert for NPR

Teach For America: Wendy Kopp

In 1989, college senior Wendy Kopp was trying to figure out how to improve American public schools. For her senior thesis, she proposed creating a national teaching corps that would recruit recent college grads to teach in underserved schools. One year later, she launched the nonprofit, Teach for America. Today, TFA has 50,000 alumni, a budget of nearly $300 million, and continues to place thousands of teachers across the country. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," how a game of Secret Santa led Chris Waters to create Constructed Adventures, elaborate scavenger hunts for all occasions.

Teach For America: Wendy Kopp

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Stonyfield Yogurt: Gary Hirshberg

Host Guy Raz speaks with Gary Hirshberg, founder of yogurt maker Stonyfield. Suharu Ogawa for NPR hide caption

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Stonyfield Yogurt: Gary Hirshberg

In 1983, two hippie farmers decided to sell homemade organic yogurt to help raise money for their educational farm in New Hampshire. As the enterprise grew into a business, it faced one near-death experience after another, but it never quite died. In fact it grew — into one of the most popular yogurt brands in the US. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," how Indiana Jones inspired Steve Humble to sell secret passageways for a living.

Stonyfield Yogurt: Gary Hirshberg

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Live Episode! Starbucks: Howard Schultz

Host Guy Raz speaks with Starbucks' Howard Shultz in a special live episode recorded in Seattle. Angie Wang for NPR hide caption

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Live Episode! Starbucks: Howard Schultz

During his first visit to Seattle in 1981, Howard Schultz walked into a little coffee bean shop called Starbucks and fell in love with it. A few years later, he bought the six-store chain for almost 4 million dollars, and began to transform it into a ubiquitous landmark, a "third place" between home and work. Today Starbucks is the third largest restaurant chain in the world, serving about 100 million people a week. Recorded live in Seattle.

Live Episode! Starbucks: Howard Schultz

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