Organizational/Product Origins Continue

We recently introduced another category, Where Did That Come From?, to our growing blog content. Thus far, we’ve shared some interesting data on the origin of organization and product names such as 7-11, Adidas, Caterpillar, Pepsi, Skype, Coca-Cola, Cadillac, Haagen-Dazs and Apple Computer.

Today, we continue that journey by exploring the origins of the following companies: Arby’s, Lego, Starbucks, Toyota, and REO.


Arby’s is a fast food restaurant chain in the U.S. and Canada that is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Wendy’s/Arby’s Group. It is primarily known for selling roast beef sandwiches and curly fries. There are currently 3,688 Arby’s restaurants … 1,106 stores-owned by corporate and 2,582 Arby’s restaurants owned by 462 franchisees. T.J. Cinnamons and Pasta Connections are also part of this subsidiary.

Arby’s evolved from the enunciation of the initials of its founders, the Raffel Brothers. The partners wanted to use the name Big Tex but were unsuccessful in negotiating with the Akron businessman who was already using the name. So they came up with Arby’s, which stands for R.B., the initials of Raffel Brothers, although many customers think the initials stand for roast beef.


Lego is a line of construction toys manufactured by the Lego Group based in Billund, Denmark. The company’s flagship product, Lego, consists of colorful interlocking plastic bricks and an accompanying array of gears, mini-figures and various other parts. The toys were originally designed in the 1940s in Europe and have achieved an international appeal, which has led to the development of an extensive subculture that supports Lego movies, games, competitions, and four Lego-themed amusement parks around the world.

The word “Lego” comes from the Danish “leg godt”, which means to “play well.” Lego also means “I put together” in Latin, but Lego Group claims this is only a coincidence. Years before the little plastic brick was invented, Lego manufactured wooden toys.

Starbucks Corporation

Starbucks Corporation is an international coffee and coffeehouse chain based in Seattle, Washington. Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse company in the world with 16,635 stores in 49 countries. Starbucks also sells snacks, and items such as mugs and coffee beans and also markets books, music, and film. Starbucks-brand ice cream and coffee are also offered at grocery stores.

Starbucks was named after Starbuck, a character in Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick.

Toyota Motor Corporation

Toyota Motor Corporation commonly known simply as Toyota, is a multinational corporation headquartered in Japan and the world’s largest automaker by sales. Toyota employs approximately 320,808 people worldwide.

The company was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937 as a spinoff from his father’s company Toyota Industries to create automobiles. The company includes 522 subsidiaries. In addition to manufacturing automobiles, Toyota provides financial services and also builds robots and is one of the largest conglomerates in the world.

Toyota was initially called Toyeda but was changed after a contest for a better-sounding name. The new name was written in katakana with eight strokes, a number that is considered lucky in Japan.

REO Motor Car Company

The REO Motor Car Company, initiated by Ransom E. Olds, was a Lansing, Michigan, based company that produced automobiles and trucks from 1905 to 1975. At one point the company also manufactured buses on its truck platforms.

Originally, the company was to be called “R. E. Olds Motor Car Company but later was shortened to REO and was pronounced “rio.” (Note: The band REO Speedwagon took its name from the REO manufactured REO Speed Wagon light delivery truck, an ancestor of pickup trucks.

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

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