When thinking of the word “Danish,” contemporary furniture, beer, and pastries stand out, but small toy bricks – the LEGO – are undoubtedly the country’s most recognized export. LEGO sold over 75 billion multicolored plastic bricks in 2016 alone, and the 85-year-old firm behind them is one of the world’s most renowned toy makers. But if it hadn’t been for a succession of fires and an inventive carpenter, LEGOS would have never existed.
Who Invented LEGO?
The LEGO story began even before electricity was invented. Yes, that’s how old these toys are. It originally started in the Danish carpentry business. Billund was a little village at the time, and Ole Kirk Christiansen was simply an ordinary carpenter with big dreams. Christiansen converted his passion for whittling and experimenting with wood into a business as a young man, opening his store in 1916.
The Never-Ending Loss
Christiansen’s business first made furniture such as ladders, stools, and ironing boards. However, just as he was about to expand his thriving company, his sons accidentally set fire to a pile of wood chips in the workplace in 1924. The ensuing fire destroyed the whole workshop—including the family’s house.
Others would have given up after suffering such a complete loss, but Christiansen viewed the fire as an opportunity to construct a more extensive workshop. However, tragedy continued to hit. The 1929 stock market collapse in the United States drove the globe into despair, and Christiansen’s wife died in 1932. Christiansen struggled to make ends meet after experiencing personal and financial devastation.
How Did the Tragedies Become Good Luck for LEGO?
Christiansen had no idea that those tragedies would create the groundwork for one of the business’s most remarkable comeback stories. Because things were tough, Christiansen made the difficult choice to utilize timber to make cheap products that could sell.
Initially, the decision did not pay off. Christiansen went bankrupt, but he refused to quit creating toys when his siblings sought to make it a condition of a rescue loan. His passion for toys propelled the firm forward, even when it stumbled. He even renamed the firm to reflect its new focus: leg godt, which translates to “play well,” which eventually became LEGO.
Christiansen was not only an excellent ironing-board constructor but also a fantastic toymaker. He refused to take shortcuts on the toys that his firm manufactured. As a result, his ideas for innovative models of automobiles and animals and his attractive pull toys quickly earned a national following. His best-seller, a wooden duck with a moving beak, is now a sought-after treasure.
As Germany conquered Denmark in 1942, another fire endangered Christiansen’s livelihood when his whole plant burnt down.
But by then, he had established himself enough to not only recover but to prosper and move forward. Many typical industrial items used to make consumer goods were just unavailable after World War II ended. Consequently, several firms resorted to improvements in plastics to develop low-cost substitutes. So, the companies started taking ideas from the LEGO firm owner Ole Kirk. This made LEGO a huge success, and eventually, the toys gained recognition all across the globe.
LEGO has gone through several hurdles and tragedies over the decades. However, one thing that didn’t let it sink – was commitment and dedication. This is one reason why LEGO is still thriving and has become an enormous success.