There are a few “classic” dumb ideas that have made millions that appear again, and again, and again in lists like this one. Pet Rocks, the Million Dollar Home Page, a fish that sings “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and Plastic Wishbones, have been making dumbest idea lists forever. Forget all of that. This stuff is really crazy. Really, really dumb. We have toilet themed restaurants, bikini airlines, dining in the dark, Billy-Bob Teeth, a couple who makes a million a year on YouTube posting (not what you would think) totally wholesome videos, and a guy who sells used cardboard boxes. And there’s more.
You only need one really good idea, the problem is coming up with it. So, have a look at this list and think laterally, horizontally, vertically, any which way. Some are as simple as message tee-shirts or posting videos on YouTube. These really bizarre ideas have made one or two people a cool billion. The unlucky ones? Heck, they are only millionaires. But, it’s nice work if you can get it. We would certainly “settle” for an extra million or two. Who wouldn’t? So, read on and start thinking a little differently.
12. Bikini Airlines
Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao is a forty-something Vietnamese entrepreneur, who just happens to be a billionaire. Her idea was a simple one: Start an airline and hire beautiful girls and give them a uniform with a difference. Namely, a bikini. She started small, making her first million at twenty-one. Then came VietJet Air. The privately-owned Vietnamese airline is going public and Thao’s fortune will top $1.37 billion. The airline’s motto: “Enjoy Flying”. Her airline has cornered nearly 30 percent of Vietnamese airline business, and she sells girlie calendars to boost profit. We wonder about her customer reward program.
11. Toilet Themed Restaurants – Taiwan
Calling its restaurants “Modern Toilet Themed” (as opposed to?), this restaurant chain features toilet decor, food in mock toilet bowls, and toilet replica seating. Don’t miss the colorful urinal cups. It calls itself “fun”. Well, we suppose that is one way of looking at it. Reports vary, but Trip Advisor reviewers recommend going for the experience, not the food. Indeed, most thought the “idea” fun, but the food disappointing. We’re not going to wade in, but just imagine what these people call chocolate ice cream.
10. Billy-Bob Teeth
Apparently, it’s a done thing among dental students to make fake, costume teeth. A dental in joke. Back in the 1990s, one such student sporting a Billy-Bob prototype, was spotted by Jonah White at a football game. He had a “aha” moment and Billy-Bob was up and running. According to Bloomberg, twenty years and 15 million fake teeth later, Jonah White is a bona fide millionaire. He markets to the Duck Dynasty crowd and has even had his own show on Discovery: Billy-Bob’s Gag to Riches. He looks at new, crazy ideas. He turned down “the smell of death” in a spray bottle, but backed a sippy cup made to look like a Mason jar.
9. Cryo Weight Loss – Freeze Tried
We are serious when we say, don’t try this at home. Cryo is a Dubai company that specializes in Cryotherapy. Chambers use freezing nitrogen gas (-141C) for sessions that last minutes. They claim to treat pain, promote weight loss, and on and on. Cryotherapy centers are popping up all over the place and the industry rakes in billions. The Cryo website offers franchise opportunities. They invite you to “Experience the best three minutes of your life.” Apparently, users report an adrenaline rush. We’ll stick to caffeine. The weight loss thing? Seems part of it is that you burn calories when the body tries to warm itself up again and then, there is something about brown fat cells.
8. Dans le Noir – Dining in the Blackout
Dans Le Noir’s idea is simple: Eat in total blackout darkness, served by blind or visually impaired waiting staff. They even got into shops and spas. It started in Paris by Edouard de Broglie and has been a huge success, with locations in London, Barcelona, St. Petersburg and Narobi. Dans Le Noir claims that by limiting sight, you heighten senses of smell, taste and touch, and even intensify the relationship between the diners. Diners don’t have a clue what they are eating, which sounds like an exercise in trust. But whatever it is, it is a big success. Keep an eye on Japan’s latest weird idea: A vampire restaurant.
7. YouTube Millionaires
No, no. It’s not a geek going on about games or tech. This is a couple who have two kids, named Maya and Hulyan, and they make a million a year posting videos on YouTube featuring their kids playing. Thomas the Tank Engine features large on this channel. Are we missing something here? Hulyan Maya channel is relatively big business on YouTube and Mark and Rhea are the parents behind the idea. Don’t turn your nose up at this one. It has been in the top 50 of YouTube channels, with a staggering 26 million views in only seven days.
6. Life is Good
Like the Hulyan Maya channel, this idea is pretty low cost. Think up a neat idea, a neat slogan, and slap it on a tee-shirt. That’s just what Bert and John Jacobs did. The founders of the Boston-based clothing concern, started very small. Inspired by their mother, they wanted to put out an upbeat, simple message. And so “Life is Good” was born. Just out of college, they sold their “Life is Good” tee to a single retailer. Sales were brisk and the business soon reached multi-million dollar turnover. As their website says: “Three simple words can change your life forever.” Like, “I am rich”?
Pay attention please. According to Forbes, in 2012, 41 year old Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, became the youngest self-made billionaire. If you are a girl or have a girlfriend, you will know that girls worry about “lines” showing when they are wearing pants. So, her idea? Cut the feet out of some pantyhose and replace those pesky undergarments with a smooth line. This idea kind of grew and now Spanx makes a lucrative range in “shape (hide the bulge) wear”. Tug it on and shrink your waist or perk up the backside. A billion dollars later, Sarah is one happy entrepreneur.
This is a classic, but it’s so dumb we just couldn’t overlook it. Idea: Take a website and dedicate it to cute pictures of cats with funny sayings. The prototype was the grimacing cat saying “I can has cheezburger.” People went crazy posting on the site. It was founded by Eric Nakagawa and Kari Unebesami and in 2007, the site was sold to a syndicate of investors for some $2 million. They have now expanded to “I can has a hot dog” doggie pictures, but the idea is still the same, with most of the profits coming from advertising. And according to Alexa, it is in the top 100 sites in the US.
3. Selling Used Boxes
This is a rags to riches to rags to riches story. Marty Mayo’s first idea was to sell used boxes from retail outlets. It didn’t quite work and so he went back to the drawing board and Used Cardboard Boxes was born. He now operates an online operation and focuses on dealing with companies and not individuals. He buys boxes in bulk from manufacturers and companies and then sells them on his website. He claims to have “saved” a million and a half trees. You can buy a stack of medium boxes for $41. He admits his first idea failed, but he made it work very big time in the end.
What kind of business idea would a financial systems designer and a nursing student come up with? Well, they came up with DoodyCalls, a business that cleans up pet waste. The business’ founder Jacob D’Aniello, and his girlfriend Susan, thought of the idea of making a business out of a mess in 2000. DoodyCalls cleans up for businesses and homeowners alike and have tapped into the multi-billion dollar pet market in the US. D’Aniello now heads up a business with some 35 franchise locations that operate in 57 locations. Its biggest is in the Washington, D.C. area.
Joel Glickman was at a wedding and bored. So, he started building things out of plastic straws. He thought of a construction kit for kids consisting of rods and connectors. You can add wheels, pulleys, gears and motors and, as the video shows, it’s an action toy. In the 1990s, Glickman approached Hasbro, Mattel, Lego and Tyco, and they all turned him down flat. Then, he struck a deal with Toys R Us, who loved the toy. K’Nex is now distributed in 25 countries, including the US. In 2012, sales neared $100 million. Not bad.