Crazy business ideas that worked

What Makes A Good Idea?
There’s no such thing as a good or bad idea. Most of the time, it comes down to a couple of factors:

  1. Timing
  2. Luck
  3. Execution

Instagram, for example, took off not because it was a brilliant idea but because it arrived just as people were looking for a way to share and create amazing looking photos without expensive equipment.

I’ve listened to hundreds of podcasts and read countless interviews with and biopics of entrepreneurs from different background with wildly different business models. The one trend that flows through them all is that they got “lucky” thanks to a serendipitous meeting, or a call from someone unexpected, or a post on Reddit, or something else. It doesn’t matter. The point is that little moments of luck are what drives one business to success and others to failure. 

Luck Isn't A Strategy But It's Important

Of course, relying on luck as a strategy is a fool’s game. Luck only enters the equation one way: the more you try, the luckier you get. People that sit at home watching TV instead of creating businesses will never be lucky. The guy who repeat-fails at business might appear to be the unlucky one, but the more he puts himself out there, the easier it will be for something to happen. 

If you flip a coin 99 times and every time you get heads, I would bet the farm that the 100th time the result will be tails. That’s despite the fact that there’s only a 50% chance of the coin landing on tails this time (as with every other time).

Don't Forget Your ABCs – Always Be Creating

Keep trying. Test out new ideas! Crazy ideas are even better – nobody else has tried them. Starting a social media agency, creating a new CRM, or starting a travel blog are all noble ideas. Except that it’s been done. Of course, you can create a new slant on each of these ideas and that’s where you might have success. The money will be at the intersection of what people want and what you offer. The crazier the idea or the more left-of-centre your idea, the less chance you’ll have of finding a profitable idea, but when you get it right, you’ll be sitting on a goldmine. The most successful businesspeople are the ones that create their own categories.

The money will be at the intersection of what people want and what you offer

Start a new business model that nobody else has done before. Create a category of product or service that nobody else has created. The key is to create something that people want. 

In my book that’s the only rule of business: create something of value that people are willing to pay for. Just do that one thing, and you’ve got yourself a business. 

Crazy Business Idea: Mailing Potatoes With Inscriptions

My favourite crazy business idea by far is one that I would have dismissed as a complete waste of time and energy. But how wrong I would have been. It’s been a roaring success with many copycat sites. 

Potato Parcel lacks even a great brand name. But the owner appeared on Shark Tank and the business makes somewhere in the region of $30,000 a month

The idea is simple and unique. And that’s probably why it’s been such a success. Easy to set up and execute and easy to beat the competition (when there is none). I’d even go as far as saying that the business model follows the Steve Jobs line of “give people what they didn’t know they wanted”.

Who’d have thought people around the world would pay $10 to send a potato in the mail? Well, there was a need. A desire to have a message on a potato sent to a friend.

The most successful businesspeople are the ones that create their own categories

Lessons learned:

  1. Test wacky business ideas to see what works. Thanks to the internet it doesn’t cost much to set up a landing page, facebook page, or website and test out ideas. Leave the testing of expensive hardware ideas to Apple. This business shows that all you need is a dumb-sounding idea that resonates with people. And access to a supply of potatoes and a good postal service. 
  2. Raw materials for your business don’t have to be expensive. Look around to see what easily sourced products can be modified to get attention.
  3. Personalizing products is a great way to win sales with people that are looking for unique and meaningful gifts. Potatoes might not be the most profound gift in the world, but the inscription can be. Focus on the part that engages people.

Unconventional Business Idea: A Service That Ships Snow Around The World

In a similar vein to Potato Parcel, Ship Snow, Yo takes a cheap (or free) and easily sourceable material and creates a product that people receive in the mail. In this case, the product is snow. But in fact, the product is actually something else.

When you buy snow from this company, you’re actually buying into the joke. You become part of a viral laugh fest that sees the owners sitting on a goldmine. Every year, when Boston receives a blanket of white stuff, the owners of the company literally see money falling from the sky.

“Snow is 100% guaranteed to arrive as snow anywhere in the United States”. What are you waiting for?

Lessons learned:

  1. Media exposure is a huge part of selling a product that nobody is actually looking for. Businesses that are newsworthy thanks to their innovative or crazy concepts will get a lot more press than traditional businesses. Coverage on national tv and newspapers will get your business so much interest and traffic that you’d have to try hard not to monetise it. The weirder the idea, the more likely it is to get covered. The opening of a new hardware store, for example, despite having a business plan, employees and stock, isn’t newsworthy. The creation of a business model that seems too weird for most people, will get you free publicity. And this might be enough to spark a real business. A real business is something that generates income and profit. It really doesn’t matter how you get there.
  2. You can start a business with almost no money. All you need is the resolve to test a concept completely.
  3. Trends are lucrative. Pitching a product connected with trending events can make people take notice. 

Wierd Business Idea: Rocks As “Pets”

This is an oldie. But as they say, it's a goldie. 

The Pet Rock craze started way back in 1975. Owner Gary Dahl died in 2015 and he had stopped selling the rocks soon after the craze died down. But not before he pocketed plenty of cash. Millions in fact. The rock craze started up again in 2012 with a website called petrock.com but there appears to have been limited success. The website is currently just a landing page with no way to buy your own pet.

The concept was simple. Dahl sold people a rock (like any rock you can find almost anywhere) in a box for a few dollars (a lot of money at the time). The owners of these rocks would treat them like pets and care for them. Well, that's the idea. In reality, people just loved the fun idea of owning a part of the new craze.

The key to the marketing genius of the Pet Rock was the care manual that came with ownership of the product. The manual explained how to care for and train your rock. What this manual really delivered was a slice of comedy. And people loved it. They weren’t buying the rock, they were buying the joke. It became a party piece, a conversation starter, and a geeky in-joke for those in the know. 

Marketing played a huge part in the success of the Pet Rock. As with most ideas, if you can’t get your product or service in front of people, you won’t get buyers. Dahl was a marketing executive, so he knew how to generate a buzz around products. The rocks made Dahl a millionaire.

Think about that. Imagine pitching the idea of selling rocks that anyone could find in any random field anywhere in the world, in the mail to consumers around the world! Sound stupid? In the end, there are no stupid ideas, only bad execution of the ideas. Ridiculous products with great marketing beat awesome products with poor marketing every time.

Lessons learned:

  1. Unique products, no matter how crazy they sound, generate buzz and vitality. 
  2. Marketing plays a huge part in a product’s reach. The Pet Rock training manual was a stroke of genius. Try to include some element in your marketing that will make people laugh or make people tell their friends.
  3. Even the most mundane things can be transformed into trending crazes with the right approach. 

Wacky Business Idea: Tee Shirts With Tweets

The business model behind the success of Tee Tweets is selling custom t-shirts with print graphics of real tweets. Simple.

When Kanye West says something incomprehensible, crazy, or plain dumb on Twitter, the Twitterverse responds. His fans retweet it because whatever Kanye says is cool. Everyone else retweets because it’s just so bizarre. Whatever side of the fence they’re on, many people engage with the man’s tweets. Some might even wear a t-shirt with his twitter feed emblazoned on the chest. At least, that’s what Hiram of Tee Tweets thought. And he was right.

But it’s not just the Kanye superfans and ironic followers that want twitter t-shirts. People pay good money for a shirt with the latest Trump gibberish, thoughts of ex-president tweets by Obama, Ricky Gervais musings, and 280 character monologues by Jimmy Fallon.

It’s a crazy business idea that is also profitable.

The website currently ranks very well in Google for some keywords from tweets, song lyrics, and interviews. Examples are “thank you Kanye very cool” by Donald Trump, “sorry losers and haters” by President Trump again, “look both ways before you cross my mind” lyrics by Kendrick Lamar, and “I don't wanna be here” by Eric Bledsoe (who is a basketball player, apparently).

What’s amazing is that not only do people actively search for these terms, but they have a good chance of landing on Hiram’s site, thanks to a well-designed website with good SEO. People also search for Twitter Tee on Google, which shows that the concept of the twitter t-shirt is spreading.

Hiram creates all of his shirts in-house and focuses on quality. He recommends that anyone with a wacky idea for a website like his should just go ahead and try it. Overthinking something leads to procrastination and ultimately a lack of progress

Lessons learned: 

  1. No idea is too simple.
  2. Try out your idea before dismissing it. You never know what will resonate with people.
  3. Focus on quality and authenticity. If everyone else is drop shipping products, try making your own. 

Validate And Execute Business Ideas

If you have an idea but you’re not sure if it’s good enough to make money, take simple steps to validate your idea.

Step 1

Set up a landing page or website to send people too. Carrd or a WordPress website on SiteGround is perfect for this. Carrd is free but if you want your own domain name (which looks more professional) there’s a fee of $9/month. 

SiteGround hosting isn’t free but you can run as many sites as you like so it’s a great place to create and launch ideas. This is my preferred choice for an experimentation platform. WordPress is free and easy to maintain.

MailerLite is a great option for simple landing pages. The software’s main function is as an email marketing tool so you can combine email marketing and a landing page in one. You can also use MailChimp. If you want to build incredibly beautiful landing pages, try Elementor.

Finally, Paperform’s landing pages and beautiful forms are easy to set up. The backend is super easy to manage and link to other software and apps. 

Step 2

Create an email list to capture leads. If you’ve gone with the MailerLite option in step 1, you already have a mailing list solution. Alternatives include MailChimp (free), and Active Campaign (paid).

An email list is valuable and you should try to build one as soon as possible. If someone goes to the trouble of putting their name and email down on a form, you know you’ve got a very warm lead. Your mailing list subscribers are probably the people most likely to buy from you

Step 3

Post your idea on forums like Reddit and Quora. Facebook groups can also be great for exposure. The thing to keep in mind is that if you’re not giving value along with a link to your website or landing page, you might get some resistance or downright hostility from other forum members.

Redditors, especially, have a particular distaste for self-promotion. It’s all well and good offering a service that might help people but learn the etiquette for the forum before posting. Try to interact, ask a few questions, and contribute some value before promoting your business.

Step 4

Test headlines and calls-to-action with Google and Facebook ads. Depending on your product, you could get clicks for as low as 10c. It might seem like a lot of money to spend on potentially zero clients but the information you can glean from a well-run ads campaign can be very valuable. 

You can run ads to different sections of society, different age levels, interests, genders, and lots more. Test a couple of different segments against different messaging on your landing page. 

Swap out the text on a headline or a call to action for something else and see which one gets better results. You might even find out what your audience really wants just by seeing what makes them click.

Step 5

Create content that will drive traffic to your website. If your business is so far out that nobody has even heard of it, writing content for parallel industries or similar niches can do the trick. 

An example article for the Potato Parcel website might be a post about unusual gifts for the comedian in the family. “Unusual gifts” might not be something you’d use in the copy of the website but several hundred people search for this keyword every month. “Personalised gifts” is searched for over 300,000 times a month. Yes, that’s three hundred thousand. If you can rank a blog post for that keyword you will make money even if 99.99% of traffic doesn’t convert. 

To give another example, The Ship Snow Yo website could feature a blog post about all the businesses that need real snow every year. Indoor ski fields, outdoor fields in unseasonably warm weather periods, movies, and tv shows all need snow from time to time. It’s a great way to rank for more keywords and push the main site to the top of Google search for that niche. To be honest, they cover the niche pretty well (being one of the few players) but that’s not to say they will be there forever.

Content marketing has a great return on investment. It’s slow to get going but once it does, it can help take your website into the big leagues. 

Crazy business ideas that worked and how you can copy them

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *