Thomas Stemberg, MBA 1973


Interview conducted in April 2001

Tom Stemberg, HBS 1973, started his career in the supermarket industry. By the mid-1980s, out of work and looking for an entrepreneurial opportunity, he stumbled on an idea for a new business — a supermarket for office supplies. At the time, a boom in entrepreneurship was driving demand for office supplies yet small businesses had to rely on expensive and inconvenient “mom and pop” stores for these. Thus Stemberg’s Staples was born: a new kind of supermarket specializing in office supplies, where customers wheeled their own carts through aisles of discounted office offerings from faxes and computer printers to pens and paper products, and, yes, staples. Staples launched in 1986 and not only created but also became the leader in its thriving retail sector, with online services from as well as more than 1,400 Staples stores in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany. In April 2001, Stemberg talked about his groundbreaking entrepreneurship. Interviewer: Amy Blitz, HBS Director of Media Development for Entrepreneurial Management. Tom Stemberg died in 2015.

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