Ingvar Feodor Kamprad was born March 30, 1926 on his family’s farm (Elmtaryd) near the village of Agunnaryd in Sweden. His amazement that he could buy a product and resell it for a profit fueled his ambitions as a young boy to become a successful businessman. Although he suffered from Dyslexia, this did not hamper his desires and aspirations to succeed.
His very first venture into the business world started before he was even a teenager, when he found that he could buy matches in bulk from nearby Stockholm and sell them for a profit to his neighbors. He would use his spare time to mount his bicycle and peddle his wares, eventually adding other products to his ‘route’ of customers. These other products included fish, Christmas tree decorations, seeds and later ballpoint pens and pencils.
Even as a young boy, he understood the principles of business and reinvesting his profits to buy more bulk merchandise to resell. At age 17, his father bestowed on him a handsome reward for doing well in school. With his newly acquired ‘wealth’, he further invested in his business and took a serious step by naming his new venture IKEA. He came up with the name from his first and last initial (IK) and the family farm and village initials for the EA. It was his hope people would remember he was Ingvar Kamprad of Elmtaryd, Agunnaryd.
Establishing himself as a reliable business, he expanded his line of merchandise to include watches, jewelry, and other various goods. As he outgrew his ability to personally call on customers, he established a ‘mail-order’ business of sorts by hiring the local milk van to make deliveries to his customers.
By the time he was 21, Ingvar decided to add a new line to his already growing and successful business. In 1947, he introduced furniture into the IKEA product line. Since there were plenty of local manufacturers nearby, he was able to keep his costs down by negotiating a deal with these manufacturers. Soon, his furniture idea overwhelmingly took to the forefront of his business, and in 1951, he eliminated all other merchandise in an effort to concentrate on furniture alone.
Of course, this required a showroom, so in 1953, Ingvar opened the first IKEA showroom. Ingvar now had a suitable place to display for his customers, all his furniture. The showroom did well, however competition with other merchants started to make it difficult for Ingvar to work with the manufacturers. Nevertheless, he overcame these problems and continued to build the IKEA brand.
Ingvar has published a few notable works, in 1976 he wrote of his IKEA concept of frugality and enthusiasm entitled, ‘A Testament of a Furniture Dealer’. He also wrote an autobiography with help from Swedish journalist Bertil Torekull. This book, “Leading By Design: The IKEA Story” further describes his philosophies on business, his life and the trials and triumphs of IKEA.
Ingvar’s vision and ambition has been the driving force behind IKEA’s success, IKEA hires its own designers, who over the years, have received many rewards. Since childhood, Ingvar has always been frugal and a self-motivator, his stores reflect this in its ‘self service, assemble it yourself, and save money’ concept.
In 2004, Ingvar had grown to over 200 stores in more than 30 countries with 75,000 employees and sales of more than $12 billion. As of 2008, he is the wealthiest European-born person and the 7th wealthiest person in the world according to Forbes magazine, with an estimated net worth of around US$31 billion.