For those who constantly dream of making it big, of being an entrepreneur, of becoming a self-made millionaire, take heart. The next time some crazy idea pops into your head consider the notion that it may not be so crazy after all. Despite what your friends, loved ones, and significant others may tell you, sometimes a seemingly ridiculous notion can turn into the proverbial goldmine. Here are just four examples of entrepreneurs who were told that their ideas would never fly, would never amount to anything, because they were so bizarre that they could never possibly work never mind become a profitable business venture.
The Navy SEAL and his exercise cards
In 2005 Phil Black was playing a push up game with a deck of cards and ended up with a hand that required him to do 78 pushups! Soon after, he invented FitDecks which are a series of 50 playing cards with individual exercises portrayed on each of them. You simply shuffle the deck, pick a card, and begin a brand new workout. Your workouts are different every time.
Black graduated from Yale and then went to work on Wall Street for Goldman Sachs. Despite the great money he was making there, he soon became disenchanted and left for Florida and went to Naval officer candidate school. He graduated as an officer and immediately applied for, and was accepted to, SEAL training at the Basic Underwater Demotion School (BUD/S).
After spenting six years as a Navy SEAL he then went on to Harvard Business School. After Harvard, he traveled out to San Diego and became a firefighter and budding entrepreneur. He wanted to start his own business and began to fall back on all of his SEAL training for ideas and inspiration. The FitDeck cards rely solely on a person’s bodyweight as opposed to gym like machines.
Black recalls how, as a SEAL, they had to depend on their own bodies to keep themselves in shape. He never knew where he would be and access to a gym was impossible. He developed 50 exercises that can be combined in any manner of rotation, and put them on playing cards.
His company has since realized sales of nearly 300,000 decks to the tune of $18.95 per deck. That’s over $ 5 million in sales.
A personalized letter from Santa becomes more than viable
Byron Reese developed the idea for his company, SantaMail.org as a kind of memorial to his deceased mother. When he was growing up, Reece’s mom always made certain that her children received a letter from Santa Clause during the Christmas season. He wanted to somehow make that a reality for as many other children as possible.
Parents can go out to his website and buy personally written letters from Santa Clause for their children. The letters the children receive are postmarked from North Pole, Alaska as Reece explained that the letters should be as authentic looking as possible. Of course, many considered his entrepreneurial vision to be crazy but he sold ten thousand letters in his first year.
Though the first year in business was encouraging, and profitable, Reece decided that he had to become more organized and to begin working far before the Christmas season hit. He and his elves did that their first year and ended up working grueling 36 hour shifts just to fill his orders. Now, Reece has outsourced some functions and SantaMail begins work in February. He is, also, a complete maniac with regard to quality control as every letter is checked and re-checked to insure that everything is accurate according to which child it is being sent to.
Reece and his company have, to date, sold over 325,000 letters from Santa at a cool $9.95 each, reaching sales of over $ 3 million.
A dating site idea that has become much more than a business
The two young twenty-something friends from Ohio had dreamed of developing a business together. But for Paul Graves and Brandon Koechlin, it took some time for inspiration to strike. They investigated several ideas, but it wasn’t until Keochlin enrolled in a sociology class at a nearby community college that inspiration finally evolved into a viable idea.
Young Brandon recalls chatting with his professor one day after class and somehow the conversation turned toward those who were HIV positive and how their social lives became so difficult because those with HIV were considered social pariahs by most. He discussed the idea of putting together a dating service for HIV positive people with his best friend Paul. The two agreed that it was a viable business idea and a way to possibly help HIV positive people to be more optimistic with regard to their social lives.
Though their idea was looked upon with skeptical eyes, they managed to hit up friends and relatives to the tune of $50,000 to get Positivesdating.com up and running. They ran it as a free membership site for the first few months and advertised extensively all over the country. They sent our informational packets to every HIV support group they could find and also actively sought feedback from members with regard to how to make the site better.
They signed up 2500 members in their first year and are generating revenues well into the six figures. Their site has been enthusiastically received as the two young entrepreneurs continue to try to stay focused on building something that is more than just a business. The two truly believe in their mission to improving people’s quality of life and their website declares that “every human being deserves passionate love”.
A projected million dollar homepage became just that
In 2005, a young man from England by the name of Alex Tew had a brainstorm. At the tender age of 21 he was attending Nottingham College in search of a business degree. His major concern, however, was the fear of coming out of school so debt ridden that it would take him forever to pay back all of his college loans.
His vision to try and raise some money was that he would throw up a webpage comprised of one million pixels and the buyers could display anything they wanted to. Pixels, however, are so tiny that Tew decided to sell them in blocks of 100 pixels for $100 for each block. The news of his idea exploded around the World Wide Web and Tew’s pixel blocks began selling at such a pace that all but 1000 pixels had been sold in about four months.
Tew discovered that since there was such a huge demand for his remaining 1000 pixels, he thought he would auction them off on eBay. It was then, just three days before the auction on eBay was to close, that the unthinkable happened. Three days before the end of the auction, Tew received an ominous email from a group that identified themselves as The Dark Group. This group informed Tew that they would crash his site if he did not pay a ransom of $5000. He had, they wrote, three days in which to pay the ransom. Tew, believing it was a joke, ignored it. About a week later, the Dark Group emailed him informing him that his website was, now, under attack but the attack would cease if he immediately sent them the ransom money.
Tew, again, paid no attention still believing it to be some sort of joke. The Dark Group did, indeed, crash his site and it was down for about a week until his ISP got it up and running again with some security upgrade strategies. Law enforcement agencies from England, as well as the American FBI, investigated and, though no one was tracked down, they believed the attacks came from inside of Russia.
Eventually, the final 1000 pixels were sold on eBay with the winning bid being $38,100. That put Alex’s total take for the Million Dollar Homepage at $1,037,100. So, the next time people, and it is generally people who have never taken a risk in their lives, tell you that your idea for a business is ridiculous, just keep in mind these four entrepreneurs who simply laughed in their faces and turned their visions into reality.
Article by Kevin Sawyer