How I Built This with Guy Raz Host Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world's best known companies. How I Built This weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs, idealists, and the movements they built.
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How I Built This with Guy Raz

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Host Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world's best known companies. How I Built This weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs, idealists, and the movements they built.More from How I Built This with Guy Raz »

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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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Angie Wang for NPR

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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Andrew Holder for NPR

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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Connor Heckert for NPR

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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Phuong Nguyen for NPR

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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Connor Heckert for NPR

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
Andrew Holder for NPR

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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Andrew Holder for NPR

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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Connor Heckert for NPR

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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Andrew Holder for NPR

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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Angie Wang for NPR

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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