There are many times when we catch ourselves thinking, 'Why didn't I think of that?' when we see a cool invention - especially when said invention has made the inventor ridiculously rich. Sometimes it's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time in order to have that burst of an idea that will set us on the path to riches. The simplest item can become a multi-million dollar business, raking in incredible amounts of money every year.
Many people around the world have created gadgets that no one would believe could amass the fortune they have, but over the years these little items have made their creators very wealthy indeed. Here are 10 simple gadgets that made people millionaires.
10 Post-It Notes
Ah, the Post-It Note, a teacher's best friend. These colorful little sheets of paper, with their stripe of sticky backing on the reverse, have become a household item in many different countries. Due to its wide range of uses, delightful colors, and low cost, these little sheets have made their creator very wealthy.
The funny part about Post-It Notes is that they came around by accident. A scientist by the name of Spencer Silver invented an adhesive that wasn't permanent. Another scientist came along and used that adhesive to keep his bookmark in his book, and so was invented the Post-It note. In 2009 alone, the company spent a mere $2.8 million on advertising, and yet they brought in an incredible $3.47 billion in revenue.
9 Bendy Straws
While the world of plastic straws is quickly diminishing, thanks to increased awareness of the dangers they pose to the environment, bendy straws were a huge success when they first came on the market.
The design originated when the inventor, Joseph B. Friedman, was watching his daughter struggle to drink a milkshake from a straw. He later invented the straw that could bend, using a screw and dental floss to create the bendable ridges. His first sale was in 1940 to hospitals for patients to use who struggled to use regular straws. It later became a multi-million dollar industry.
8 Fidget Spinners
Fidget spinners have been one of the biggest toy crazes in recent years, with children all over wanting one in every color of the rainbow. There are light-up fidget spinners, multi-colored fidget spinners, and even lip gloss fidget spinners (yes, it's true).
The toys have been said to help those who struggle with fidgeting and attention issues, and they have been helpful in the classroom for those students who need help sitting still throughout the day, as it gives them something to fidget with. Fidget spinners are now a $500-million business, and although the trend has calmed somewhat in recent months, they have helped to create a whole new genre of toy - toys for fidgeters.
7 Beanie Babies
Ah, the Beanie Babies craze of the 1990s, where every kid tried to out-do the next kid with the most popular beanie at that time. The toys launched in 1993, and they were unique to other stuffed animals because they were stuffed with plastic pellets rather than stuffing, making them move and sit more realistically.
By 1996, Ty Inc. had partnered with McDonald's, producing miniature Beanie Babies to be included in the ever-popular children's Happy Meals. The original Beanie Babies have incredible resale value, and Ty Inc. is the first billion dollar stuffed animal industry.
6 Silly Putty
Silly Putty has quite a lengthy history, being invented during World War II when the United States was looking for a rubber substitute. In 1949, Peter C.L. Hodgson decided to invest in the funny goop because he saw that it could be a fun toy for kids. Was he ever right!
Hodgson managed to sell an incredible 250,000 eggs of the putty in the first three days after producing it! The company is now owned by Crayola, but it continues to be incredibly popular. More than 300 million Silly Putty items have been sold since 1950, and approximately 20,000 eggs are sold every day.
What could be cuter than a fuzzy little animal with big, loving eyes, a moving beak, and the ability to interact? Not a whole lot, which is why Furbie was incredibly popular when it came on the market in the 1990s. The hamster-like fuzzball with the owlish eyes won over the hearts of kids everywhere.
Despite the fact that the toy dropped rather quickly in popularity, after being accused of being a Chinese-manufactured spy and frequently glitching and turning on at random times, the company still managed to bring in $500 million annually at its peak.
4 Koosh Ball
The Koosh Ball was invented in the 1980s and quickly became one of the most sought after toys on the market. The balls were invented by Scott Stillinger and are made of stretchy elastic fibres that came in a wide variety of colors.
In 1997, Hasbro bought the toy from Stillinger for $100 million, and Time Magazine named the toy one of the greatest toys of all time. The balls are available in countless different color varieties as well as sizes, and they can still be found in toy stores today.
3 Chia Pet
Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia! Everyone remembers that catchy little jingle from years ago, as the television commercials for Chia Pet ran well into the 2010s. The inventor of the Chia Pet, Joe Pedott, credits the adorable plant structure to his home in San Fransisco, where the idea came to him. Chia seeds burst with green color when watered, making these items a great gift.
The clay figures come in a wide variety of shapes, including cats, dogs, bunnies, and even Homer Simpson. The clay is covered in chia seeds and watered, and the green sprouts begin to grow quickly. The figures remain a cultural icon today, and the company still sells approximately 500,000 every holiday season. At $16 a piece, that is quite a profit for the company every year.
In 2002, a new type of shoe was born - the plastics clogs lovingly knowns as Crocs. The Colorado-based shoe company released the shoes in 2002, yet it took some time before the popularity caught on. Despite being somewhat "unfashionable", according to some, their comfort and durability are second to none, and the shoe company has since sold 300 million pairs since 2002.
Fifteen years after their release, Vogue finally acknowledged Crocs as being a top fashion trend, and the company brings in over $1 billion every year. There are still some haters out there, with websites dedicated to the dislike of the plastic shoes, but despite that, the company's profits are showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
How can we have a list of gadgets that made millions without including the ever-loved slinky? In 1943, a naval engineer by the name of Richard T. James was working on tension springs when he accidentally dropped one. He happened to notice how it bounced, and from then on, the toy was born.
Richard's wife, Betty, came up with the name for the toy, and they convinced a toy store in Philadelphia to carry 400 Slinky's for Christmas. Within two hours, the store had sold out of them! Betty became CEO of James Industries, and they have sold over 300 million units since their invention. Talk about a lucky drop!