When you think about America's most iconic companies, you can separate their founders into two categories.

There are those who actually founded companies, like Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook and Jeff Bezos at Amazon.

Then there are those that didn't technically found companies, but it was their vision and effort that transformed certain well-known brands into what they are today.

Howard Schultz is one prominent example. He sold coffeemakers to a small chain of coffee shops in Seattle, where the owners eschewed further expansion out of fear it would dilute product quality. Schultz moved in, bought the company, then introduced the rest of the world to Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX).

Yet the most iconic of this founder type is Ray Kroc, who in the mid-1950s happened upon a popular hamburger stand in San Bernardino, California, in the course of selling multimixer milkshake machines.

The actual founders of the company, two brothers, had previously dabbled in expansion but swore it off. It was Kroc who convinced them otherwise, eventually bought the company, and through the use of franchising gave the wider world McDonald's (NYSE:MCD). Thanks to him, there are 37,011 McDonald's around the world today.

A pie chart showing the breakdown in McDonald's locations between franchised and company-owned restaurants.

Data source: McDonald's. Chart by author.

John Maxfield has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Facebook, and Starbucks. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.