Ingvar Kamprad, a Swedish entrepreneur, founded IKEA. Kamprad used his initials to make the name IKEA. He added the letter E, for Elmtaryd, the farm where he grew up, and A for Agunnaryd, the small town where he was born in the south of Sweden. Kamprad was born on March 30, 1926. He always had a good sense for business. As a young man, he earned cash by re-selling matches and pens he’d bought in Stockholm at bargain rates. At 17, his father gave him cash as a graduation gift, which he used to found IKEA. The store sold mainly low-cost household products for daily use.
In 1947, he began focusing on furniture. To cut costs, he turned to local carpenters. His approach was simple but ingenious. Each piece of IKEA furniture was made for easy assembly and transport. He kept costs low by using cheaper materials. His simple and striking designs were marketed to a younger audience. In 1958 Kamprad opened his first major store, which got good reviews from the public. Customers could see and touch furniture and accessories in the store. It was laid out like a home with model bathrooms, living rooms, and kitchens. This was a new kind of buying experience, designed to win over customers directly, and it worked.
But Kamprad began drinking heavily. Despite several stints in rehabilitation, the problem persisted, and would remain a constant factor in his life. In the 1960s and 1970s, IKEA expanded, opening outlets in Europe, North America and Australia. In 1976, Kamprad published his manifesto, Testament of a Furniture Dealer, in which he outlined his work ethic.
In 1986, now 60, he gave up leadership of IKEA, maintaining a role as senior consultant, and putting his children in key positions.
In 1994 a Swedish newspaper revealed Kamprad’s wartime ties with Swedish neo-Nazi leader Per Engdahl. Kamprad apologized to his employees and called the experience a part of his life that he regrets.
Today, IKEA has more than 270 stores in 36 nations. The magazine Forbes lists Kamprad as one of the world’s richest men.
In 1976, he moved to Switzerland with his second wife. There, he lives a simple, almost monastic life.
IKEA has enjoyed widespread success in recent years, becoming a household name. The IKEA catalogue is reputedly one of the most widely distributed books after the Bible.