start as

start (life) as (something)

Of a project or product, to begin from some particular, and usually markedly different, status, condition, type, etc. My first novel originally started life as short story, but over the years I just kept adding characters and plot details to it. The soft drink originally started life as a medicine used to treat headaches and anxiety.
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start as (something)

To begin some journey or development from a particular status, condition, rank, etc. I started as a QA tester, but I was eventually given the chance to be one of the company's software developers. It started as short story, but I kept adding characters and plot developments until I eventually made it into a full-fledged novel. Hey, don't feel bad—everyone has to start as a beginner. It's only through practice and experience that we get better!
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Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

start as something

to begin in some original condition or status. Every forest fire starts as a small spark. The argument started as a small disagreement.
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McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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References in periodicals archive ?
While some parents undoubtedly use Head Start as an opportunity to watch more television, few get off scot-free.
Community action staff members viewed Head Start as a competitor for OEO funds.
From the beginning a central tenet of Head Start has been "up and out"-meaning that a parent might start as a volunteer, then become a paid teacher's aide, a teacher, or even return to college, and ultimately enter the middle class.
Many have also forgotten how the program began, calling Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty a complete failure and Head Start a success in the same breath.