Chuck Williams at Williams-Sonoma

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As a little boy, Chuck Williams loved cooking with his grandma. Little did he know, his childhood pastime would one day inspire a multibillion dollar enterprise. Anyone who's ever been in the market for a spatula or a soufflé dish is familiar with Chuck's store...Williams-Sonoma!

Chuck says he was inspired to open his first kitchen shop after a trip to Paris in the 1950s. While in France, he says he took note of the kitchenware French cooks used to whip up culinary delights. "It was fascinating seeing all the cooking equipment—the heavy pots and pans and all the professional tools and bakeware," he says. "I couldn't get it out of my mind when I came home."

At the time, Chuck says heavy pots and pans, especially those made with copper, were not available in the United States. That's when he came up with a business plan that proved to be a recipe for success.