These days, it seems that everyone is looking for the next “get rich quick” tactic to stuff their pockets. People are into Pyramid schemes, weight loss resales, and seemingly everything short of selling their very souls to the devil himself. Shockingly enough, these tactics rarely work to provide a stable income, let alone bring in the big bucks. Once in awhile you’ll hear stories of individuals becoming millionaires overnight – usually by way of stocks or lottery winnings. Those stories rarely end well, often winding up with someone filing for bankruptcy, or quickly blowing their easy-earned money on drugs and booze.
The most successful millionaires seem to be those who earn their riches the good old-fashioned way by solid entrepreneurship and hard work. On the other hand, sometimes pure dumb luck plays the biggest part in the success of some unlikely million-dollar businesses.
While it is easy to envy those who find themselves in these positions, many of the following stories provide inspiration to follow our own dreams. These folks are living proof that sometimes a small seed in the back of your mind can potentially be the next million dollar idea if you have the courage to pursue it. Whether you love these ideas or hate them, all of these people are doing something right and following their dreams, no matter how outlandish they initially seem. While they may not be “get rich quick” schemes, they certainly will make you think twice about dreams you may have tucked away for fear of failure. You just never know!
10. Cameron Johnson – The Child Entrepreneur
Johnson’s entrepreneurial skills developed in 1994 when he began an invitation and greeting card “company” when he was just nine years old. From there, the boy genius bought Beanie Babies from his sister, turning them into a profit by selling them on eBay for a higher price than he originally paid his sister for the fad toys. By the time he sold each Beanie Baby, Johnson had himself a small business venture. After earning tens of thousands of dollars reselling those Beanie Babies, Johnson invested in creating an email forwarding website, which ended up pulling in a solid $3,000 a month for the young teen. Moving on from project to project, this self-made teen entrepreneur racked up a cool $1 million before his high school graduation.
9. Jenna Marbles – YouTube Videos
Does anyone else daydream about earning several million dollars by sitting on your bed talking to yourself? Well, Jenna Mourey (aka “Jenna Marbles”) did just that. Back in 2010, while she was getting herself ready to head off to her job as a Go-Go dancer, Ms. Mourey filmed a silly video titled “How to Trick People Into Thinking You’re Good Looking,” and the rest is history. The once financially troubled woman in her early twenties had suddenly found herself with an explosive amount of hits on the video filmed in her apartment in Boston. Taking this idea and running with it, Mourey began uploading random, and often quirky clips of herself impersonating celebrities, getting drunk and rambling, and dancing around or “working out” in her underwear – thus leading to her current Internet status of over 14 billion views on her YouTube channel. We must hand it to her, Jenna Marbles is doing exactly what most of us could only dream of doing for a living. Call it dumb luck on her original claim to fame, but judging by her enormous and loyal fan base, Mourey is clearly doing something right even to this day, years after her infamous upload.
8. Noel Biderman – AshleyMadison.com
Husband and father of two, Noel Biderman founded AshleyMadison.com in 2001, despite the fact that he was “happily married” to his wife. He disputes claims that his site promotes extramarital affairs, stating that “affairs are going to happen,” and that his site offers “safe alternatives” to fooling around at work or being involved with prostitution. Although the mention of this site will get plenty of chuckles and eye-rolls, he is obviously doing something right. The site has accumulated millions of users, and in turn has generated quite a profit. Although AshleyMadison.com grew to be wildly popular, with upwards of 37 million users, the recent database hack has caused the site to see a significant drop in users. Either way, who would have guessed that a site aimed towards arranging extramarital affairs would become so widely used.
7. The Robertson Family – Selling Duck Calls
If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few years, chances are you’ve heard of the Robertson family. The duck hunting clan-extraordinaire rose to fame on A&E’s Duck Dynasty, a television show chronicling their family business, Duck Commander, where they’ve made millions selling duck calls. Formerly a football coach, Phil Robertson decided to start up his own business in 1973 after realizing that he could make by hand a better duck call than he could find anywhere on the market. Phil and his family are widely known and admired by many for their unfaltering faith, strong family bond, and dedication to their craft and outdoor lifestyle. These traits, coupled with hard work and persistence, skyrocketed the family from dirt poor to wildly successful and wealthy.
6. Matthew Osborn – PooperScooper.com
Never in my life would I ever believe someone if they told me that they made millions of dollars by collecting dog waste, until now. Matthew Osborn decided that he would take up a side gig cleaning up after the dogs in his neighborhood to provide a more solid income for his family. As popularity for his services grew, Osborn found himself in a position where he needed some help; employing half a dozen people and buying some company trucks. It turned out that this very simple side hustle turned out to be quite a booming business. Gaining hundreds and hundreds of customers, it seems that Osborn did relatively well for himself, creating a million dollar business out of a pretty easy (albeit gross) community service.
5. Jason Sadler – I Wear Your Shirt
In 2009, entrepreneur Jason Sadler founded the I Wear Your Shirt company. It is just as basic as it sounds: a business would reach out to Sadler, and for a price, he would display the company’s logo on his shirt, and be a walking, talking advertisement. In addition to the shirts, Sadler would also use social media to his advantage to gain more attention toward the businesses he was promoting. Although I Wear Your Shirt is no longer an active company, Sadler managed to keep up the gig for about four years – probably a lot longer than anyone ever expected. These days, Sadler has moved on to new projects, and travels the country speaking about becoming an entrepreneur and making a living using one’s creative skills.
4. Phil Ozersky – Auctioning Off a Baseball
Back in the summer of 1998, lucky fan Phil Ozersky caught the ball that was blasted into the stands after Mark McGwire‘s 70th home run of the year. Officials at the game heavily suggested that Phil return the ball to them, in exchange for some autographed memorabilia; although Ozersky requested to meet McGwire instead. When Ozersky’s request was denied, he decided to keep the ball and take it home with him. A few months after the infamous catch, the baseball was auctioned off for a whopping $3.05 million! Ever the noble man, Ozersky donated large portions of his fortune to charity, some went to care for his ailing father, and another portion went towards a nice engagement ring for his girlfriend. These days, Ozersky is a husband and father of two, still working at his job as a research scientist.
3. Johnny Earle – Johnny Cupcakes T-Shirts
Johnny Earle is certainly an inspiring story of an entrepreneur who began his career creating tiny businesses as a child – magic shows, lemonade stands, eventually making his way up to selling clothing. From selling shirts out of the trunk of his car, to launching an online store, Earle moved his way up and opened the most unique retail clothing store we’ve ever seen. Earle took his food-related clothing designs and began selling them out of an awesome store that was set up like a vintage bakery. Shirts are displayed in decorative ovens, the shop smells like vanilla frosting, and the products are packaged up in wraps and pastry boxes. Over the years, his business has continued to grow and has developed a very loyal group of customers – some even going so far as to get the iconic cupcake and crossbones logo tattooed on their bodies! We can safely say that Johnny Earle is living out the American dream.
2. Frank Warren – PostSecret
Who would’ve thought that posting strangers’ secrets online, and then turning them into best-selling books would have a million dollar payout? Well, that’s exactly what Frank Warren did. For the past seven years, Warren has had people from all around the world mail anonymous postcards to his house, and in turn he would post the “secrets” scrawled onto the postcards on his blog. What started as a community project has turned into a phenomenon, with Warren having collected upwards of a million colorful and personal postcards. Five best-selling books and millions of dollars later, Warren has won awards for his work and has even been invited to the White House.
1. Blake Mycoskie – TOMS Shoes
Founded in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie, TOMS shoes has thus far given upward of fifty million pairs of shoes to children in need. How, you may ask? Well, Mycoskie created a business model, called “One for One”, that says for every product sold, one is given away. The business began when Mycoskie was travelling in Argentina and was troubled by the fact that so many children in the area were without shoes – and so TOMS shoe company was born. TOMS has since expanded to include eyeglasses and bags in their collection. Each product sold is included in the “One for One” deal, allowing Mycoskie and his company to earn a profit, all while giving products away to children in need. Mycoskie has stated that he hopes that in the future more businesses will incorporate giving back into their business model, hopefully helping to make a better world for everyone.