One Crazy Idea, One Huge Payout…Times 7

Have you ever had a seemingly crazy idea for a business? Well, it may not be so insane after all. Here are seven entrepreneurs who became millionaires or even billionaires thanks to their imaginations and persistence.

The Million Dollar Homepage

Everyone knows attending university in the UK is not cheap. While you could try for scholarships or take out a loan, British student Alex Tew turned to the internet to pay for his studies. He registered the domain in 2005. The page was divided into one million pixels in a 1000×1000 pixel grid. As one pixel is too tiny to see,

Tew sold them in 10×10 blocks at $1 per pixel ($100 per block). In under 5 months, all pixels were purchased and Tew was a millionaire. In the end he decided he didn’t need a degree to make money and became a serial entrepreneur. His company and app Calm, launched in 2012, has even reached unicorn status.

The Snuggie

Snuggling up in a blanket on your couch on a cold winter’s day is a lovely feeling – until you have to reach for your mug of hot cocoa. Suddenly your arms are no longer under the blanket and brrrr! Enter the Snuggie. Allstar Products, known for its “as seen on TV” items, began selling these wearable blankets in 2008. Basically a bathroom robe you wear backwards, the Snuggie has made Allstar Products and its CEO Scott Boilen at least half a million dollars.

The Slinky

Who didn’t have a Slinky as a child, setting it up to walk down the stairs all on its own? The beloved metal toy spring was invented entirely by accident by Richard James in the early 1940s. He was a naval engineer charged with designing springs to keep sensitive equipment steady on boats. One day he dropped one of his springs and watched it move around on the floor. He decided with some fine-tuning it would make a fun toy. After neighborhood kids approved his prototype, James went on to sell his Slinky toys for $1 each at a Philadelphia department store. Although the toy costs more today, it has remained relatively cheap, making it affordable for all families, no matter their income. James and his wife Betty made over $1 billion through their company James Industries before Betty sold it to Poof Products in 1998.

The Pet Rock

Want a pet but tired of all of the work that goes in to taking care of one? Gary Dahl understood this struggle in 1975 and marketed his Pet Rock. A hassle-free pet not requiring food, water, or being walked or groomed. And it would never die! The rocks came in a cardboard carrier box and included The Care and Training of Your Pet Rock, the official training manual. It was this pun – and joke-filled manual that was the true draw of the product. Dahl sold his Pet Rocks for $4 each and made $6 million in just 6 months!


Sunglasses help humans, so why not dogs? Roni Di Lullo was playing fetch with her border collie in a park in 1997 when she noticed he appeared to be squinting. She had the idea to make a pair of sports goggles to fit him. Soon everyone they passed or who saw a photo of Midknight online wanted a pair for their dog. Fast forward to 2012 and Di Lullo was making $3 million a year on sales of her Doggles. And don’t think they are just fashion accessories! Doggles have been used by service animals, including American military dogs in the Middle East, and by canine ophthalmologists to help dogs with eye problems.


Sara Blakely was fed up with wearing regular pantyhose in the hot summer heat of Florida. She decided to create her own footless shapewear at the age of 27, investing all of her $5,000 in savings in the project. She researched and developed a patent that was accepted. By 2000 she was selling to high-end department stores directly from her apartment. Today Blakely has a net worth of $1.09 billion and her Spanx are worn by people all over the world, including many celebrities.


Zhang Yin, also known as Cheung Yan, is currently the 4th richest woman in mainland China and the 24th richest in the entire country. Her net worth is estimated at $1.40 billion. How did this 62-year-old entrepreneur make all her money? By recycling. She began a wastepaper trading company in 1985 but quickly realized that the quality in China at the time was poor. Five years later she moved to Los Angeles, set up America Chung Nam to export the better-quality used American paper and cardboard across the Pacific. In 1995 she returned to Hong Kong to further develop her Chinese company which is now China’s largest paper maker. The recycled paper products it makes return to the US carrying Chinese goods. Who would have thought that sending paper products back and forth across the ocean would be such a money-maker?

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