Photo (cc) by Digital Magic Photography
From time to time, I enjoy reading some of the interesting and often inspiring stories in Dmitry Davydov’s blog Uncommon Business. It features people who make money online selling unusual, strange, and sometimes bizarre things or providing curious services.
For example, in the past, Dmitry has featured stories on businesses that cater to neo-survivalists looking to outlast the end of the civilized world, as well as a relatively new company out of Norwell, Mass., that’s in the business of only financing weddings.
Don’t laugh. Sometimes, these odd businesses end up earning their owners millions of dollars in a short time. In fact, at a companion site of his called MadConomist, Dmitry has highlighted 10 particularly nutty – but very profitable – business ideas that resulted in million-dollar paydays for the proprietors. Here are five of my favorites from that list…
Back in the summer of 2005, 21-year-old Alex Tew had a really crazy business idea: establish a website homepage and sell 1 million pixels at one dollar a pop. I mean, who would pay somebody a buck to own one tiny pixel on Tew’s website homepage? Answer: Enough people to make Tew a millionaire in less than five months.
How did he come up with the idea? According to Tew: “After an hour or two of jotting random things on paper, the idea seemingly popped out of nowhere. Almost like my subconscious mind had been ticking over in the background, working it all out. So it just kind of happened. That’s about it. I scribbled it down and within about 10 minutes a picture of what needed to be done had emerged.”
I hate you, Alex.
Back in the summer of 1997, Jason Wall saw a Jack In The Box fast-food commercial that said the company had sold more than 3 million antenna balls. That’s when Wall decided to try and come up with a few designs of his own. His designs quickly caught on and before he knew it he had penetrated the auto accessory and novelty industries.
Wall originally used gas stations to sell more than 4 million of his creations. Today, his antenna balls are sold nationwide at retail stores, including Walmart, 7-Eleven, Circle-K, Walgreens, and Hot Topic. You can also get them online at a website called – what else? – HappyBalls.
In retrospect, it all seems so obvious. After all, who doesn’t like happy balls?
Former Navy SEAL and fitness instructor Phil Black had a rather wacky idea: create a unique deck of 56 playing cards containing illustrations and instructions describing more than 50 different exercises, stretches, and movements without the need for special equipment – and then sell them for $19 a pop.
Laugh all you want, but Black reported sales of $4.7 million in 2006. The cards are reportedly still selling like hotcakes, albeit at the reduced price of $14.95.
“Why, at traditional Thanksgiving meals, when there is a bounty of food, is there but one lonely wishbone?” asks Ken Ahroni, president and founder of the Lucky Break Wishbone Company. According to Ken, “There had to be a better way!”
Not long after the start of the new millennium, Ken invented a mass-producible plastic wishbone so “everybody, including vegetarians, could have a chance to make a wish” during Thanksgiving.
A pack of 10 plastic bones runs $8.49.
I bet you wish you thought of that idea before Ken did. I know I do.
Who would have ever guessed that making and selling protective goggles for dogs would be a money-making venture? I still ain’t buying it, but it doesn’t matter what I think. Just ask the millionaire-next-door owners who were smart enough to think of the idea.
The dog glasses can be found for under $20. No word on whether their research and development department is currently working on doggie contact lenses. Heh.
Hmm. Hey, do ya think maybe, just maybe…
I know. That’s just plain crazy.
Forget I even brought it up.