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BLOG: Entrepreneur in focus – IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad

IKEA sign against blue sky background
IKEA was founded by Swedish entrepreneur Ingvar Kamprad when he was just 17. [Image credit: Niloo / Shutterstock.com]
Ingvar Kamprad was a teenager when he launched IKEA, and he went on to become a billionaire after pioneering flat-pack furniture. Having assembled our share of Songesands, Bjurstas and Billys, Appco UK looks at what we can learn from this entrepreneur’s story – and ponders why there’s always one screw left over.

IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad died in late January, leaving behind a legacy as one of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 20th century.

He was born in Sweden in 1926 and launched the furniture chain at the age of just 17 with some money his father had given him as a gift for performing well at school, despite his dyslexia.

Right from the start, Kamprad’s story is one to which any entrepreneur can aspire. He first showed a flair for business at the age of five, when he found he could buy matches in bulk very cheaply, sell them individually at a low price and still make a good profit.

In the following years, Kamprad expanded to selling fish, Christmas tree decorations, seeds, and ballpoint pens and pencils before eventually establishing IKEA, initially as a mail-order company.

Fewer problems, more solutions

Kamprad showed that neither age nor disability need to be obstacles that stand in the way of success, and that determination and drive can win out over inevitable challenges.

His ability to think outside the box (pun intended) is another invaluable lesson for anyone in business.

He reportedly came up with the idea of flat-pack furniture after watching an employee remove the legs from a table in order to fit it into a customer’s car. Cue a light-bulb moment that radically changed the way we buy (and erect) furniture forever – and one we hope the problem-solving employee was duly recognised for too!

Being able to identify a problem is the easy part – a great entrepreneur comes up with the solution, and this is something Kamprad did consistently throughout his long and successful career.

Very few among us haven’t had the need for a nifty IKEA storage solution or budget-friendly furniture item. Why? Because they do the job and fulfil a need. We can only assume the inevitable leftover screw is an intentional ploy by Kamprad to keep us thinking (and nothing at all to do with our capacity to follow cryptic sketched instructions).

Following Kamprad’s death, IKEA released a statement describing him as a great entrepreneur and saying: “He worked until the very end of his life, staying true to his own motto that most things remain to be done.”

It wasn’t only that Kamprad had drive and a creative streak that enabled him to stay ahead of the (flat!) pack, perhaps even more importantly, he was constantly looking for solutions that met a collective need, made lives easier or simply caused us to get stuck following a yellow path in a superstore for hours on a Saturday.