No Such Thing as a Bad Idea in your Startup

Now that you know what your options are and will be consulting with experts about your own situation, we will move onto ideas and inspiration, the next step on your path toward entrepreneurship.

We’ve all heard our teachers tell us that there is no such thing as a stupid ques­tion or a bad idea! Perhaps our teachers were right all along. Some of the wacki­est ideas have certainly made people a lot of money. Do you think this isn’t true?

Read on! The most unique or creative (some would say stupid) ideas have really made it big!

1. The Worst Business Ideas That Made It

We’ve all laughed at the Pet Rock right? How much money did that inventor make, exactly? We know it was well into the multimillions. Unimaginable now, but many people scoffed at the notion of eBay or Amazon, too. Look who’s laughing now!

Crazy business ideas can catch on. If they didn’t, why would people pay for expensive nighttime infomercials that make people millionaires in a matter of months? I had two really bad business ideas that, embarrassingly enough, I will share here. They didn’t take off, but it goes back to the “throwing mud at the wall until some of it sticks” theory. What were my two ideas? The headband holder, which was really a paper towel holder, fixed so that it couldn’t roll. And? The small pet food dispenser: a coffee dispenser made for pet food. Yes, brilliant. It is amazing how excited we can get about these crazy ideas! I got the products up on eBay within hours, showcasing how well the headbands really were held and the pet food organizer really stored food. Oh well—two down, two thousand to go!

This is the stuff entrepreneurs are made of. Do you find yourself sitting there saying, “Hey—I thought of that already!” or “Why not use this device to do this? And then remarket it?” Yep, entrepreneur material. If this doesn’t sound like you now, don’t worry, ideas will come to mind. Of course, I cannot take all the credit for my two wacko ideas—a good friend and I nearly simultaneously found these “solutions” at the Container Store and got them for sale available online to the public almost immediately.

The point is, you will have some great ideas that go nowhere—and that idea you think really stinks just might be the one that sticks. Just run with it! See where it takes you and what happens. One day, something will stick.

So what are some other worst business ideas that actually did make it? In no particular order, here are a few:

  1. Rescue Critters (rescuecritters.com). Want to practice K9 CPR? Rescue Critters sells animal rescue (CPR and First Aid) mannequins.
  2. FlexPetz (flexpetz.com). Want a few days with a well-trained dog, but don’t want to actually own one? FlexPetz offers animal rentals.
  3. Beach’n Billboard (beachnbillboard.com). If you want to advertise your business or event to the beach crowd, but don’t want a traditional billboard or plane-towed banner, contact Beach’n Billboard. They will sculpt your advertisement directly into the sand at the beach(s) of your choice. Talk about going green!
  4. Santa Mail (santamail.co.uk). Even if you don’t believe in Santa Claus, your child probably still does. Keep the tradition alive with a cus­tomized letter from Santa. Contact Santa Mail today!
  5. The Million Dollar Homepage (milliondollarhomepage.com). The genius Alex Tew came up with the idea for his million-dollar home page, which he allowed others to use for advertising, charging one dollar per pixel. He had one million pixels available … a million-dollar idea one buck at a time!
  6. Antenna Balls (antennaballs.com). Offering everything from basic shapes and designs to custom decorations for your vehicle’s antenna, AntennaBalls.com was grossing over $1.15 million after only two years of operation.
  7. Diapees and Wipees (diapeesandwipees.com). Tired of having to lug around diapers and baby wipes in a diaper bag that clashes with your outfit? Have no fear—Christina Leigh has the solution for you. Check out Diapees and Wipees for fashionable diaper bags created for fashion conscious moms-on-the-go!
  8. Doggles (doggles.com). That’s right, even your canine friend “needs protection from the sun’s UV rays. Contact Doggles for sunglasses (and other pet supplies) for your beloved K9 friend.
  9. Jewels et Jim (jewelsetjim.com). No more plain and unsightly medi­cal alert tags and bracelets. Now you can alert medical personnel of your medical history and issues without having to disregard the latest fashion trends.
  10. I Want NY Pizza (iwantnypizza.com). The idea behind this business is just as the title states: if you want a traditional NY pizza, no matter where you may be, contact I Want NY Pizza and they will arrange the delivery!

2. Testing the Waters

Before going full-board with your idea, you might want to test the waters a bit. How do you do this? Run the idea by family and friends. Try selling a few of your inventions on eBay, Craigslist, or other free or nearly free sites. Set up a simple website that allows basic PayPal or Google Checkout. If, with some adver­tising and word of mouth, your idea is resulting in zero sales (as my pet food holder did), it is time to put your energies into something else. I prefer to put my energies into numerous projects at one time, so if one fails I am already onto the next, but many people very successfully take the opposite approach and stick with one idea for a year or two and then make a decision whether to take it big or start again.

If you have the resources, you can of course hire focus groups, but this will cost you some money. You can also collect research using online surveys with tools like www.surveymonkey.com and post the link to online forums where people who would buy your product “hang out online.” However, this isn’t quite the same as an in-person focus group. If you are trying to decide whether your new perfume smells good, for instance, you may need to go this route no matter what.

So let’s assume you do need a focus group. What are some firms you should check out? A great website that I have found is www.GreenBook.org. GreenBook is a company that provides comprehensive information “to buyers of market research services” (their slogan, in fact). Offering online research, quantitative research, qualitative research, interviewing, and even international research, GreenBook provides a great starting point for your research needs. Note that GreenBook is a directory of research providers, not the provider of the research itself. Through GreenBook you can search for marketing research groups by cat­egory. Additionally, you can also search your local yellow pages or contact your local SBA for marketing research companies in your area.

Source: Babb Danielle (2009), The Accidental Startup: How to Realize Your True Potential by Becoming Your Own Boss. Alpha.

One thought on “No Such Thing as a Bad Idea in your Startup

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