Regardless of unemployment rates, reports of mass business failure or a global recession, entrepreneurs have managed to stay creative over the years, fueled by the consumers’ need for new, better and more innovative ideas. Some of these ideas have been downright dumb and useless, some like the wheel, have been a necessity, while others are just plain stupid, but very intelligent when you think about them.
So, how do entrepreneurs come up with these crazy ideas? As you will find out, most of these people had their “aha” moment after they listened to friends complain, realized that they needed a product that would solve a particular problem, noticed product/service gaps in their locality or were just so desperate for money that any doable crazy idea would work. As you will find out, it doesn’t matter how the idea comes about, only your commitment to actualize it, even if it means approaching investors. For example, a lady thought about toilet training her cat, created a product and boldly walked into the Shark Tank to ask for an investment. Crazy, right?
Read on to see dumb products that the public fell in love with and paid for, increasing demand to warrant some businesses to franchise.
As the name suggests, doggles are goggles for dogs. The idea came about after Roni and Ken Di Lullo noticed that their dog, Midknight, was missing the Frisbee when playing fetch. A closer look at their dog revealed that he was squinting, as result of sunlight sensitivity. Roni fitted sports googles on her dog’s collar and the results were instant – the Frisbee performance improved and people around the park were amused by a dog in goggles.
As a result, Roni created a website to showcase her dog in goggles and surprisingly, she received requests from other dog owners. That’s when she had her Eureka moment and decided to create doggles. Currently, the business earns $5,000,000 annually.
14. Excused Absence Network
Feeling like going for a swim or hanging out with friends, but you don’t have a perfect excuse to skip work? Fear not, and let the Excused Absence Network handle it for you. This business came about after some guy got fired for faking funeral programs on fictional deaths in his family to get a few days off work.
This loss presented a crazy business opportunity, where the guy opted to offer well-executed, authentic-looking excuses to fellow Americans at a fee. In his argument, people are going to lie just to get a day off work. So, for just $25, students and employees can buy a perfect excuse. You can imagine how much he makes with monthly traffic of 15,000 hits.
13. Pet rocks
While sitting in bar and listening to his friends complain about their pets, Gary Dahl joked about his perfect pet, which happened to be a rock. This pet was unique because it didn’t need to be fed, bathed, groomed or walked. Additionally, owners would not experience the occasional vet visits that could get expensive.
This small joke translated into a business idea and Dahl proceeded to sell pet rocks, with an instruction book. Actually, the guide, full of puns and gags, was the real product. Although this business lasted for only 6 months, it earned Dahl $15,000,000.
12. Santa Mail
It all started in 1949 when Con Miller decided to live close to a trading post in Alaska, surprisingly called the North Pole. After a few instances of Miller being mistaken for Santa, he had a business idea and called his house the Santa house.
Miller’s house became a Christmas shop, whose products included Santa Mail – a service that helps ‘Santa’ send personalized letters from the ‘North Pole’ to children around the world. Since 2002, the business has sent over 315,000 letters and from my calculation, it is raking in millions. An original letter from Santa and genuine North Pole deed cost $9.95, each, while the combo costs $14.95.
After realizing that corn sewed in cloth, then microwaved, would create a soft and soothing pillow, Kim Lavine’s business, Wuvit, was born. This kitchen table business idea needed to work, especially because her husband had lost his job.
Lavine started small, selling to local parents who loved these specific pillows because they helped put their kids to sleep. A market was created and Wuvit decided to go large and sell in retail stores. Within just 8 weeks in 2002, the business had made $225,000 in sales. Consequently, this great success, turned the owner into a millionaire and an inspiration to many Americans.
There is nothing crazy about a dating site, but AshelyMadison has a crazy twist. Instead of targeting singles, the site was initially created for those in a committed relationship. The site’s slogan “Life is short. Have an affair” made the dating site go viral, attracting both criticism and heavy traffic of about 1,800,000 visitors per month.
While an account was free, getting all data deleted and an account closed would cost $19, a claim that was proved to be a lie after hackers hacked into the site in 2015 and released details of these accounts. Due to public outcry, the business has since rebranded, but is facing some challenges. Singapore’s Media Development Authority (MDA), for example, restricted entry of the business into the Singapore market citing “disregard for family values and promotion of adultery.”
After moving into a small apartment in New York City, Rebecca Rescate realized that she had no place to hide her cat’s litter box, and opted to toilet train her cat. She found countless toilet training success stories but none was cost-effective or easy to use.
So, Rebecca decided to create her own kitty toilet training kit, and Citikitty was born. She presented this business idea on Shark Tank in 2011, got an investment, then turned CitiKitty into one of the best-selling products from the show. Actually, the product became number one seller on Amazon, the night it aired on ABC’s Shark Tank.
8. iFart App
Created just for fun, iFart was Joel Comm’s crazy idea in 2008. What was crazier was his assumption that Apple would accept the app despite its policy towards humorous apps. Luckily, Apple had a change of heart and listed the app, selling at $0.99 per download.
Characterized by flatulence sounds such as Howard the Duck, Jack the Ripper and Bubbler, the app, which was launched in December 2008, gained so much popularity that by Christmas it was topping the apps chart, making over $30,000. By mid-January 2009, more than 350,000 copies had been sold, VentureBeat reporting $10,000 in sales per day.
7. Pet Butler
Frustrated by working two jobs making a scanty $6 per hour, and desperate to make some extra cash, Matthew Osborn had an idea. Extensive research on the area revealed that there were 100,000 dogs within 15 miles of his house. This was Matthew’s eureka moment, and as a result, Pet Butler was born.
This pet waste cleanup disposal service became so popular that Osborn had to buy a fleet of 6 trucks and hire 7 people. The business grew and in 2006, it started franchising. An increase in market became too much to handle and the owner opted to sell the original Dallas-Ft. Worth area territories, for $1.2 million, in order to concentrate on the growing North American franchises.
6. Positives Dating
This was another dating site which deviated from the usual reasons behind dating sites. HIV positive people sometimes have a hard time finding love, and dating an HIV-negative person could be complicated. So, in light of this, Paul Graves and Brandon Koechlin started PositivesDating, a dating site with only HIV-positive members.
The site actually allows members to declare their health baggage during the registration process, by indicating contracted STDs as well. For example, from the list, you can indicate whether you are suffering from gonorrhea, syphilis, Herpes and HPV, and also get specific if your infection has not been listed.
5. Yellow Smiley Faces
We all love using emoticons in our texts, but have hardly ever stopped to think where they came from, or what their value is, if any. In 1963, Harvey ball drew a yellow smiley face for State Mutual Life Insurance, which was his PR Company’s client. Ignorantly, Harvey never trademarked the icon and sold it for a meager $45.
It didn’t take too long before two brothers, Bernard and Murray Spain saw the opportunity this small emoticon presented. Within one and a half years, the two were multimillionaires, making $50 million, and later made $500 million after selling the business to Dollar Tree.
4. Holy Ink
It is okay to assume that this is an ink business started by the Pope, sold to people as a source of blessing. Well, while it is not, it is something close to that. After finding his printer dry one day, Father Bernard McCoy looked around for cheap alternatives, but sadly found none.
The Father talked to 7 other monks in the monastery of Cisterian Abbey in Monroe, MO, with whom he began an ink-refilling business. They filled used plastic cartridges with black powder, making $2000 in sales at the beginning. The sales escalated to $2.5 million in 3 years.
3. Plastic Wishbone
Every Thanksgiving, two people in a home, usually the young, would break a Turkey wishbone to make a wish. It was not until the next year that the losers had a chance to try and make a wish. This ‘wishbone shortage’ led Ken Ahroni to start selling plastic wishbones through his company, Lucky Break Wishbone Corp.
In addition to reducing Thanksgiving squabbles over who should get the wishbone, Ahroni made it possible for vegans to take part in this interesting tradition. The business is now selling millions of bones at a rate of four for $3.99 or 400 for $195.99.
2. The Million Dollar Homepage
To advertise on a billboard, a business is usually charged per square meter. Based on this understanding, an enterprising student decided to sell website ads per pixel. Using a typical LCD screen, which displays 1024 pixels, the student was set to make lots of money.
While a small space the size of an avator would seem expensive, the idea took off, and the founder, Alex Tew, sold advertising space for one dollar per pixel. In less than a year, the million dollar website earned a gross income of $1,037,100. Although the business is mostly dormant, it sure earned hefty income in its hey days.
1. Flatulence Deodorizer
Have a high-level meeting but you ate some beans and broccoli? Are you scared that you might unleash the ‘dragon’ amidst a hearty laughter with your associates? Well, this is a problem of the past. Sold under the brand name ‘Flat-D’, flatulence deodorizer is actually a charcoal underpad that is placed against the wearer’s buttocks, to help absorb odor when in public.
Although it is not clear how many times you can fart into the pad before disposing of it, it is a sure helper when you don’t want to publicly embarrass yourself, or pretend that you don’t know where the odor came from.
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