As an entrepreneur, it is not uncommon – in the face of a typically large variety of obstacles and adversity – to feel the need to throw in the towel on your business idea or, at the very least, take pause. In these moments, think about the number of businesses that “could have been” had they continued their pursuit towards success. Let’s face it, if launching a business was easy, everyone would be doing it. It’s important to keep your head in the game so you, too, can be one of the lucky few who survive the process and come out on top.
Some of the most successful businesses today began as simple, crazy ideas. Mark Zuckerberg launched Facesmash as a way to rate the most attractive students living in the Harvard dorms. The website crashed the university’s servers and prompted a public apology. Who knew that this idea would make for the beginnings of a billion dollar corporation, now known as Facebook?
Craigslist, Google, Twitter, Paypal – all wacky ideas that are now billion-dollar businesses and household names for us all.
What can we learn from these great entrepreneurial feats?
- Take the Risk. There are always going to be excuses not to do something. Don’t let that stop you. None of these businesses would have made it as far as they did without some fearlessness and heavy risk-taking.
- Have Patience. Building business takes time. Taking the long view first, in lieu of focusing on short-term rewards, will allow for proper planning and investment in the right decisions, in addition to producing greater financial success.
- Follow Your Gut. All successful entrepreneurs say the same thing – trust your instincts. Your intuition is everything. In fact, it’s what got you here. No matter what the critics send your way, follow your gut.
- Be Persistent. You will be tired. You will be frustrated. You will have a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. PUSH THROUGH IT. So many people have decided to withdraw from the entrepreneurial game at this stage. They didn’t have the will to keep going and wait out the reward. You do. Keep going!
- Find Support. Ensure you have a positive and trustworthy support system. Whether it includes family, friends, an entrepreneurs group, or an accountability partner, you need encouragement to get through the trials and tribulations of being a growing business owner. Carefully handpick those in your life who are positive, supportive influences and hold them near.
To keep you inspired, we compiled a short list of wacky business ideas that actually made millions:
- iRobot Roomba Vacuum: iRobot, makers of the Roomba, came to life in 1990 by MIT students, Colin Angle, Helen Greiner, and Rodney Brooks. In 2002, the company launched the Roomba, a robotic vacuum system (you remember the infomercials, don’t you?). Within two years, the group sold two million units. Their annual revenue last year was reported to be over 400 million dollars.
- Santa Mail: In 2002, Byron Reese launched Santa Mail in response to the millions of children vying for a letter back from the big man at the North Pole. The service allows children to send letters to Santa (in North Pole, Alaska) and receive a personalized letter back for a small fee. By January 2013, Reese made over $3 million in sales from the project.
- Hollywood Fashion Tape: Minneapolis-based Marni Bumsted and Jane Dailey launched their company, Hollywood Fashion Secrets, in 2001. After struggling to hide a gap between buttons on a sweater, Bumsted was offered a strip of double-sided tape, which helped to solve the problem. Taking this idea to the next level, the duo went into production — out of Bumsted’s basement — on a clear, hypoallergenic, two-sided adhesive tape designed specifically for fabrics and wearable without irritating the skin. The product is now sold in over 24,000 stores worldwide, with a plethora of other product lines alongside.
- The Pet Loo: As a couple who lived in a high rise apartment with their dogs, Simone and Tobi Skovron grew sick of the inconvenient midnight strolls and carpet stains that having a young, indoor dog caused. In 2003, they decided that there had to be a better way and created a permanent, hygienic, “backyard in a box” solution. After taking out a $20,000 loan and securing a patent, the Skovrons produced their final design. The company ultimately grew out of its Australian territory and went global in 2006, now with headquarters in Los Angeles. During the economic downturn, they saw a 53% increase in sales – much attributed to Tobi hitting the streets of NYC with their first Pet Loo prototype in tow.
What is your crazy business idea, and what do you do to persevere when times are tough?