Ingvar Kamprad is not a household name, but his company is.

He founded IKEA 60 years ago. And he has dyslexia.

Ingvar_Kamprad_Haparanda_June_2010Kamprad was raised on a farm in a rural part of Sweden, and from an early age preferred business to farming. As a boy, he made money selling matches to neighbors on his bicycle, before expanding into other products. When he was still a teenager, he founded IKEA.

The name is a combination of his initials (IK) combined with the first letter of two towns near where he grew up.

He began the business as purely mail order, before expanding into the warehouse model.

His dyslexia is responsible for one of IKEA’s defining practices: the creative furniture names. When he first began, Kamprad found it challenging to remember the sequences of numbers that designated a certain piece of furniture. So he decided to use memorable names as a code instead. Chairs and desks would be men’s names. Materials and curtains would be women’s names. Beds and wardrobes would be Norwegian landmarks. Garden furniture – Swedish islands.

I wonder how many readers have a Billy bookcase in their house somewhere. I have three!

Sarah Forrest is a Reading Specialist for Morgan Learning, publishers of the Easyread System, an online course for struggling readers and spellers. Find out more at