If you have kids, you’ve probably already seen the Lego Ninjago Movie, the second Lego-themed movie this year. LEGO has dominated the toy industry for years. In 2016 alone, over 75 billion of the colorful plastic bricks were sold, which translates to a lot of kids all over the world leaving them lying around for their parents to step on. But I bet you don’t know that the company’s rise to fame was not a smooth one – in fact, its history is peppered with setbacks.

Ole Kirk Christiansen started producing wooden furniture from a shop in Billund, Denmark in 1916. By 1924, he had grown a very successful business. However, when his son accidently started a fire in his workshop, it burned down the whole building, as well as the family’s home.

Christiansen wasn’t deterred from rebuilding his business; in fact, he used the opportunity to build an even bigger workshop.

With the crash of the American stock market in 1929 and the death of his wife in 1932, hard times again fell on Ole. Forced to cut back the scale of his business, he laid off workers and began making wooden toys in hopes that customers would be willing to purchase smaller items even if they could not afford big ones. Renamed “Leg Godt” (Danish for “play well,”) the company struggled at first, but soon, Leg Godt toys became known for their quality craftsmanship.

Christiansen’s factory again burned to the ground in 1942 as the Germans occupied Denmark, but he again recovered and began making plans for the future of the company. He started experimenting with plastic-injection molding technology, and in 1949 began distributing the “Automatic Binding Brick” – the grandpa of the modern LEGO.

Christiansen died in 1952, but his son continued to build on his legacy, creating the “System of Play,” which standardized the size of all LEGOs, and surviving yet another fire, which was the impetus for discontinuing the production of wooden toys and investing all the company’s energy into plastic toys, a decision that made them the company they are today.

We encourage small business owners and entrepreneurs to be inspired by the perseverance of the Christiansen family against the major setbacks that they overcame to give us the toy that we all know and love!