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How we got started

2 of 8
From $0 to $1 billion
From $0 to $1 billion
Sinegal and Brotman, with Costco's board of directors
"The original business plan called for eventual growth to about 12 Costcos, primarily in the Northwest, and maybe $80 million in sales per store," Sinegal says. "We thought we'd become a $1 billion company and make a nice return for our shareholders. We hit the $1 billion mark in our third year of operation."

Costco's cost-saving ethos extends to its corporate overhead. "Even once we had money, Jim and I drew a relatively modest salary -- $75,000 per year -- for a long time," Brotman says. In 2008 each drew a salary of $350,000, plus an $80,000 bonus. Each also received stock and option awards in excess of $4 million.

Even amid a recession, Coscto has stayed relatively unscathed. "U.S. sales are flat, which is better than what most retailers can say, and international sales are down 9% when converted to U.S. dollars," Sinegal says. "Our attitude has always been that the best companies thrive and build market share during tough times. If they offer a great product and great value, they become even more important to the consumer."

Read all of Costco's startup story.

NEXT: The naturals: Kiss My Face

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LAST UPDATE: Sep 09 2009 | 12:52 PM ET
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