Received wisdom suggests that there’s nothing new under the sun, yet people continue to profit from what are admittedly incredibly simple ideas. After a bit of hard work on the production, marketing and sale of the product, some of the most profitable inventions come down to, basically, obvious ideas that make most of us wonder why we didn’t think of it first.
There are few stories around these days more inspirational than that of Sara Blakely. Mid way through her life, Blakely managed to become the youngest ever self-made female billionaire according to Forbes. How? She was the woman behind the wildly successful underwear brand Spanx – control pants for women. Blakely had spent her life doing mundane jobs. For seven years she worked as a door-to-door fax machine saleswoman. However, Blakely’s life would change forever one night when she was getting ready to go out and couldn’t find underwear that she could wear with white jeans. After some DIY on a pair of control pantyhose, she had the idea to create a comfortable, slim-fitting, figure-shaping pants for women. Blakely saved $5,000 and invested it into a company that manufactured just that. In just a few short years, her idea had resulted in a $500 million dollar turnover annually.
This is just one example of how a simple idea can be turned into a multimillion dollar industry. Often, people make millions by offering simple solutions to common problems, or by marketing a product or service in a completely unique way. Get inspired by the following five people who made a career out of just such fantastically simple ideas.
Slankets are blankets that have been specially developed to have sleeves and/or pockets. This bizarre idea was dreamed up by Gary Clegg in his college dorm. One cold night, Clegg was watching TV in a sleeping bag. The low temperature meant that Clegg was desperate to stay warm, so it annoyed him to have to take his hand out from the sleeping bag to grab the remote and change the channel. Clegg soon designed an idea for a blanket with sleeves, getting his mother to sew the first couple of prototypes.
Clegg dabbled in various other careers, acting being one of them, but finally in 2004 he decided to launch his business idea with the help of his brother. Clegg’s idea soon met unprecedented success. Soon after the success of the Slanket, a new company selling Snuggies came about. Snuggies are basically the same thing, but they retail for a cheaper price. However, despite this competitor, Slankets have made Clegg a very wealthy man. In 2009 alone, just five years after setting up his business, Clegg was turning over profits of $7 million! Clegg, however, remains modest about his success. “This was never about making tons of money and being famous. It was about finding a way to be creative in my career, and to do the things I love — meet people and travel. And I’ve gotten to do that.”
4. Red Shoe Soles
This simple yet brilliant idea was dreamed up by a 16 year old Irish teenager. Tara Haughton was a fashion enthusiast from Ireland, but like so many other fashion lovers, she lacked the funds to splurge on designer clothing and shoes. When Haughton attended a family wedding in Spain, she had bought new shoes for the event. She peeled off a sticker at the bottom of her shoe, but the residue caused red confetti to stick to the bottom of her heels. A relative asked her whether she was wearing Louboutins, and Haughton’s idea was born.
Haughton set to work designing a red sticker that could be stuck to the bottom of heeled shoes. She soon set up her company, which she named Rosso Solini. Just a couple of years later, Haughton was shipping the sole stickers to people in over 23 countries, and she recently signed a deal with a distributor in the UK and in Australia.
3. Pet Rocks
The Pet Rock was a concept created by a man named Gary Dahl in the 1970s. Dahl was an advertising executive who had begun to contemplate the concept of keeping pets, and developed a hypothesis on the psychology involved. Dahl concluded that the sort of pet you have and what it can do isn’t what makes the pet special. Rather, he believed, simply the having of a pet is what matters. With this in mind, Dahl constructed a marketing plan for pet rocks.
Dahl’s main marketing ploy was that the pet rock was easier to care for than any other pet. You didn’t have to feed it, clean it or take it for walks. However, Dahl knew that because the rock was labelled a “pet”, children would love it and play with it the same as any other thing with that label. The result was a phenomenal success. Dahl sold over 5 million pet rocks in 6 months. At just under $4 each, this made Dahl a millionaire almost instantly.
2. Wearing T-Shirts
If somebody told you that you could make money from wearing a t shirt, what would you say? You’d probably guess it was impossible, because people wear branded t shirts all the time. However, Jason Sadler is a man who managed to make the idea of being paid to wear t-shirts a reality when he set up a website called Iwearyourshirt.com back in 2009.
The idea behind it is that on every day of the year, Sadler would wear a different t-shirt emblazoned with a company logo. As well as this, Sadler would promote the company in conversation and online via social media. On the first day of the year, Jason charged one dollar for a t-shirt ad. As each day went by, Jason increased the price by $1, until finally on December 31st, he charged $365. At the time, Jason easily managed to persuade a few companies to work with him – after all, a couple of dollars is nothing to a large business. Amazingly, Sadler’s business was a massive success. According to Sadler, word of his business spread like wildfire. More and more people were turning to Sadler’s social media channels, resulting in his ad content going viral. When this became a reality, almost every company was dying to work with Sadler. This has also allowed Sadler to raise prices and hire some extra employees. At the moment, it is estimated that Sadler is raking in over half a million dollars a year.
1. Buying Domain Names
This is definitely one of the greatest ideas ever, and infuriatingly easy. Back in the early 1990s, the internet was only a baby, not the fully-fledged global phenomenon that we know today. Back then, a few techies and entrepreneurs started buying cheap domain names in the hope of selling them off to businesses in the future, or even striking up a deal with some companies. They bought generic domain names that would be in high demand if the internet took off.
As we all know, the internet did more than take off. The internet has proved to be the most important invention in modern history, and has changed the world we live in forever. Nobody knows this better than Chris Clark. Clark bought the domain name pizza.com in the early 1990s for a mere $20. Then, he waited. As the internet went mainstream, generic domain names were very much in demand for big brands. Recently, Clark managed to sell pizza.com for a staggering $2.6 million. Truly genius!