Your Silly Business Idea Could Be Worth Millions

2009/03/08 at 11:02 am (Article)

Think your business idea is sillier than Silly Putty? These days, I think it’s safe to say David Ogilvy’s contention that “it only takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers” no longer applies. The proof, my friends, is in the seemingly silly ideas that have managed to make these entrepreneurs extremely wealthy. 

Christie Rein. In 2004, Christie Rein was over carrying her baby’s diapers around in a freezer bag. So, the 34-year-old mother decided to do something about it. She and her husband designed a custom diaper bag that was big enough to hold a travel pack of wipes and up to four diapers. Fast forward to two years later, Christie’s company, Diapees & Wipees, now has 120 boutiques across the globe selling bags in 22 different styles.

Gary Dahl. In 1975, Gary Dahl, a California advertising executive, wanted a pet, but didn’t want the expense, effort, and regular maintenance that came along with it. The pet rock was born! After Gary launched the idea into the marketplace, it didn’t take long (six months to be exact) for him to achieve multi-millionaire status. The pet rock sold for $3.95 a pop, and Dahl amazingly sold over 5 million of these little guys. Add to that, each rock was purchased for only a few pennies on the dollar, and the packaging cost him under 30 cents per rock. That means Dahl was profiting 3 dollars a rock–and I’m not talking about the kind of rock that is a girl’s best friend here.  

Xavier Roberts. Another phenomenon kicked off in 1983, when designer Xavier Roberts introduced the world to Cabbage Patch Kids. Rewind to 1976, a 21-year old art student, Xavier rediscovers “needle molding” – a German technique for fabric sculpture from the early 1800’s. While working his way through school as the manager of the Unicoi Craft Shop in Helen, Georgia, Xavier conceives the idea of “adoptable little people” with birth certificates. Xavier next wins a first place ribbon for his “little people” at the 1978 Osceola Art Show in Kissimmee, Florida.

When he returns to Georgia, he and five school friends create Original Appalachian Artworks, Inc., and renovate the L.G. Neal Clinic, a medical facility in Cleveland; where the fab five next opened “BabyLand General® Hospital” to the public. In 1982, Original Appalachian Artworks signs a long-term licensing agreement allowing a major toy manufacturer to produce a replica of “little people.” And the rest is Cabbage Patch history! The Cabbage Patch craze made Xavier a billionaire and it made America’s Mom’s go mad to get their hands on one. Time Magazine wrote an interesting article about one of the strangest crazes in American history.

Mario Lavandeira. Then we come to What can I say? Celebrity Gossip Queen and full-time blogger Mario Lavandeira is building his empire one celebrity mug shot at a time. Here’s how his blog works: he gets a flattering and sometimes, not so flattering pictures of celebrities, he posts those pictures to his website, and then writes nasty things about them. Quite a business model, don’t you think? Although his blog isn’t winning him any fans in Hollywood, it is winning him his own television show, countless media appearances, and tons more traffic than most blogs in the universe.

But wait–there is one more silly business idea to discuss–yours!   

Our history is filled with lots of business ideas that should have worked, and didn’t. On the flipside, there are plenty of ideas that shouldn’t have worked, but did. Now I’m not saying that every idea you scribble down is worth taking all the way to the mat–but what I am saying is–never underestimate the potential of your idea. If you feel:

  • Your idea fits a legitimate market need that you can prove through research
  • Your idea is unique and that you can bring it to life better than anyone else can (this includes your competition)
  • Has a target market that would eat your idea alive
  • Would require a fairly low overhead, making your return on investment high
  • You have a firm grasp on the financial metrics involved
  • You have welcomed all feedback on your idea and are dedicated to continually improving and refining it 

Then GO FOR IT, no matter how silly others might think it is–and don’t ever look back!

by Michael Sexton,

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