From selling pet rocks to renting out chickens, some entrepreneurs have come up with the most bizarre business ideas imaginable. But against all odds, many of these ideas have turned into wildly successful ventures.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most ludicrous business ideas that have ever made money. We’ll explore the stories behind the entrepreneurs who came up with these ideas, and we’ll see how they managed to turn them into successful businesses.
The Million Dollar Homepage
Alex Tew, a 21-year-old college student, came up with The Million Dollar Homepage idea. He sold 1 million pixels of ad space for $1 each, making a profit. The website sold out in just 4 months, gaining media attention. Tew dropped out of college and became a serial entrepreneur. He co-founded the meditation app Calm, now a billion-dollar unicorn startup.
The Slinky, a beloved toy, was created by accident by Richard James. While working with a tension spring, James accidentally dropped it, and he observed it gracefully slink across the floor. This serendipitous moment gave birth to the Slinky. However, it took James over two years to perfect the toy’s length and characteristics, experimenting with different formulas. James’ wife, Betty, took charge of the Slinky business when he later joined a cult in Bolivia.
Big Mouth Billy Bass
Gemmy Industries introduced the iconic Big Mouth Billy Bass in 2000, captivating audiences with its talking and singing abilities. The popular novelty item, often found adorning garages and living rooms, proved to be a lucrative venture, although specific revenue figures were never disclosed. Nonetheless, it is estimated that this gag gift sensation generated around $100 million in sales during the decade. Joe Pellettieri, the creator, devoted two years to perfecting Billy Bass, ensuring the synchronized movements of its head, motorized tail, and mouth, harmonizing flawlessly while serenading with songs
Doggles, sunglasses designed for dogs, became a successful business venture for Roni Di Lullo, who invested $25,000 of her own money into the idea. After sending an unsolicited sample to PetSmart in 2002, the company decided to stock Doggles in all of its stores. By 2015, Di Lullo had sold $3 million worth of Doggles. These canine sunglasses not only provide UV protection but also serve as eye protection for dogs riding motorcycles and post-surgery. What initially may seem like a humorous concept has proven to be a lucrative venture.
The Whoopee Cushion
The whoopee cushion, a classic and enduring practical joke item, has brought laughter to people since its mass-market introduction in the 1930s. This simple inflatable device, producing a flatulence-like sound when sat upon, has made millions of dollars in sales. Its popularity spans generations, with its ability to surprise and amuse, making it a genius invention that continues to bring joy to people worldwide.
Scott Boilen, president of Allstar Products, came up with the idea for the Snuggie, a wearable blanket. Since its launch in 2008, over 30 million Snuggies have been sold, generating over $500 million in revenue. The clever commercials and affordable pricing contributed to its success, making it a popular choice for millions seeking cozy comfort.
In 1975, Gary Dahl, an imaginative advertising executive, tapped into the humor of everyday life and created the Pet Rock. By selling rocks as low-maintenance pets, complete with a mock pet training manual and a cleverly designed cardboard box resembling a pet carrier, Dahl struck a chord with the public and unleashed one of the most remarkable fads in history. The Pet Rock became an instant sensation, accumulating Dahl an astonishing fortune of nearly $6 million.
In the 1980s, Scott Stillinger invented the Koosh Ball, a rubbery ball with colorful fibers, as a middle ground between foam balls and bean bags. Hasbro bought the Koosh Ball for $100 million in 1997, and it was named one of the greatest toys of all time by Time magazine. Millions of Koosh balls have been sold since its introduction in 1995, with over a dozen varieties available today.
Wacky Wall Walker
Ken Hakuta became a millionaire in 1985 with his Wacky Wall Walker toy—a slimy, eight-armed octopus-like toy that appeared to walk on walls. After acquiring the rights to the original Chinese version for $100,000, Hakuta marketed it in the DC area. The toy gained widespread attention when it was featured in The Washington Post, leading to an incredible marketing frenzy. Over 240 million units were sold within months, earning Hakuta around $80 million. Although once found in cereal boxes, Wacky Wall Walkers can now be purchased on platforms like Amazon and select toy stores.
In 1963, Harvey Ball created the iconic smiley face design with a yellow-filled circle and a cheerful expression, selling it for a mere $45 to adorn buttons and badges. However, Ball did not pursue a trademark for the design. Today, SmileyWorld owns the rights to the smiley face and reaps remarkable profits, generating over $250 million annually. The smiley face’s journey took a significant turn when brothers Bernard and Murray Spain recognized its untapped potential. They obtained the legal rights to the design, along with the memorable slogan “Have a nice day,” and boldly emblazoned it on various items, including the now-famous to-go plastic bag. This simple yet powerful symbol of happiness has become an enduring icon that brings joy to millions around the world.
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