When Jeff Bezoz started Amazon back in mid-1990s, people laughed at him, saying launching an ‘online shopping platform’ was a stupid idea. Today, these critics go to the very Amazon to buy stuff.

Entrepreneurs are a rare breed of ‘nuts’ with a different DNA. It takes a lot of mettle and determination to fight all the odds and brave the weather to become a successful entrepreneur. They find a big problem and try to solve it through the most unconventional way. They always question the status-quo. They think, act and execute differently.

However, having only different thinking and good execution will not guarantee success. Data suggests only two out of 10 startups hitting the market eventually taste success; the rest are pushed off the market to become a case study for others to research and learn.

Here we list a few entrepreneurs, whose ideas were once laughed and ridiculed at, but eventually hit the jackpot and became successful businesses:

Yihaodian: Supermarket chain without any single physical store

Four years ago, YU Gang launched 1,000 grocery stores overnight, at some of China’s most iconic landmark locations as well as in front of leading offline supermarket stores. Yihaodian, as these stores are called, are not the traditional brick-and-mortar ones but virtual 3D stores, where consumers can only see, visit and shop by using its virtual store app while being physically at one of these locations. Each of the stores is packed with promotional discount coupons and high-value, free gift vouchers.

It is not just cost-effective but is a direct home delivery service that’s free from the restrictions of store location, shelf space and operating hours through its mobile and e-commerce capabilities. Consumers can enjoy the convenience of online shopping while still having fun purchasing from these virtual stores that are set up in residential communities, offices, parks, and even on the Great Wall.

This project became really successful despite the strange idea. Yihaodian was later acquired by Wallmart and then JD.com bough this from Wallmart in 2016.

“Hi, this is Mike Lindell, founder of MyPillow”

“Hi, this is Mike Lindell, founder of MyPillow.” If you have ever lived in the US, these words might be ringing the bell with you.

Mike Lindell abused heavy drugs much of his life, starting with cocaine in 1982. He switched to crack cocaine in the late 1990s. He began developing the pillow in the early 2000s. However, by spring 2008, his drug use had gotten so bad that his three crack dealers got together and did something that defies logic: They attempted an intervention.

“They were three of the biggest dealers in the cities,” recalled Lindell, who at the time was living in a bad part of Minneapolis. “They said I had been awake for 19 days straight. They refused to sell to me again. One of them tried babysitting me until I fell asleep.”

Lindell’s drug abuse finally ended in early 2009. He started sewing pillows on his own, and started selling ‘My Pillow’ on the road at trade shows and state fairs. He first began developing the pillow in the early 2000s; when people tried the pillow and loved it, he knew he was on to something.

From 2009, My Pillow began experiencing one success after another. A few years later, he managed to rope in a few investors who provided him US$30,000 funding. Lindell went on to grow My Pillow through a successful print-ad campaign that culminated in newspaper advertisements in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Then, in late 2011, Lindell, his friends and family pooled US$300,000 more. Today, the company boasts 400 employees manufacturing 25,000 pillows a day at the My Pillow factory in Shakopee.

“Hello, My name is Scott”

What happens when you wear a nametag 24×7? Even to bed?

Just ask Scott Ginsberg. In the beginning, it was just a gimmick to make friends. But soon, his crazy idea didn’t seem so crazy.

Also Read: These weird Indian startup names will make you laugh (and think)

Scott’s social experiment has now evolved into an urban legend, world record, cultural phenomenon, and a profitable enterprise. Simply google the word “nametag”, and you’ll see his work benchmarked as a case study on human interaction, revolutionising the way people look at approachability, identity and commitment.

Since 1999, Scott has authored 30 books, published an award winning blog, created NametagTV.com, released seven albums on his own record label, done 500+ interviews with every news outlet in the country, created a suite of creativity based software apps, given a TEDx talk and delivered hundreds of presentations and corporate training programs worldwide.

He also wrote, produced, directed and scored two concert documentaries.

And he was also inducted into Ripley’s Believe It Or Not as the world record holder of wearing nametags. He lives in Brooklyn, where he often talks to strangers.

Canned oxygen. Anyone?

A Canadian company called Vitality Air is selling canned air to people in China, which has been battling haze and pollution problems in the past few years. A can with 10L of oxygen costs US$23. In December 2015, the company shipped 4,000 bottles worth of oxygen to China in one week.

Founded in 2014, Vitality Air strives to provide a premium quality fresh, clean air. The company is committed to finding the best possible air, capturing it in an unsurpassed method, and supplying it to customers in a never-before-seen approach.

Founder Moses felt the need to provide fresh clean air to everyone who couldn’t access it, but had no idea where to start on capturing the air. He made several phone calls to his friends and acquaintances and surely enough, he was able to find another person who shared the same vision as Moses. The phone call was to Troy, who as a former commercial diver, possesses all the knowledge and qualities needed to enhance vitality.

One week later, Vitality Air took its first breath.

Moses says existing products used canned and bagged air and wasted so much, whereas Vitality Air has built innovative technology that gives the customer far more air and far more value. The firm captures the freshest mountain air to give the best quality breathing.

Pet Rocks rocking!

Pet Rock was introduced in 1970 as an alternative to pets in Southern California. Dubbed virtual pets, Pet Rocks quickly became popular around the world for decades.

Essentially, Pet Rock is the answer to how to be happy with your pet without breaking your apartment’s rules. You do not need to have a real live pet to have fun. You can have fun and build owner-pet relations with such an object like a rock. It is more than a passing fad.

Pet Rock was marketed by Gary Dahl, an advertising executive from California. So, here is the crazy idea. He bought ordinary stones from a building depot and stuffed them in boxes with holes. He then distributed them as real pets. At that time, people considered this a completely crazy and weird idea.

The production cost was less than a buck, and Dahl managed to sell each rock for $3.95. Five years later, Pet Rocks started attracting huge demand for Christmas gift. And the owners apparently did not consider this crazy at all. Instead, they were having fun with their pets which could sit and stay there without making any noise. Instead of barking dogs, meowing cats, or tweeting birds, they were in love with their silent “Pet Rocks”.

Also Read: 6 tech startups that made it big without venture capital

Now it is sold for US$19.95, still less expensive than the conventional pets you can get from pet stores. Not to mention that this has sold like hotcakes.

NoPhone, an alternative to your constant hand-to-phone contact

It is the least advanced phone, ever. The NoPhone is a technology-free alternative to constant hand-to-phone contact. With a thin, light and completely wireless design, the NoPhone acts as a surrogate to any smart mobile device. 

The NoPhone is specifically designed without a battery, screen or phone. You’ll simply adore never having to frantically look for a place to charge your phone or carrying the emotional burden of a cracked screen. NoPhone’s features include No Screen, No Battery, and No Camera.

For founder Van Gould, the NoPhone is a satirical comment on our device-obsessed culture. The firm sells three variations of the NoPhone on its website and also through Amazon Prime. NoPhone recently launched a new product, NoPhone Air — air in a package.

Get your bed warmed up by this Russian beauty!

Meet Viktoria Ivachyova, a human hot water bottle. You can pay this 21-year-old Russian to warm up your cold bed before getting to bed.

Ivachyova has now put together a team of girls, and charges £65 (US$73) per night [£1,350 (US$1,510)] per month to lay in strangers’ beds for an hour to ensure they are nice and warm when they turn in. After booking a slot, one of the staff members arrives before their bedtime, puts on her pyjamas and lays on their bed for an hour. The client is allowed to talk to her during this time, if they want to.

But here’s the catch: No physical contact is allowed. To enforce these rules, she carries a panic button to call for a security team in case anyone decides they want more than they paid for.

“I Do, Now I Don’t”

Josh Opperman had been engaged for three months. On a fine day, when he came back home he found that his fiancée and all her belongings — except the beautiful diamond engagement ring he gave her — was gone. He was devastated, but he had to move on.

He thought a great way to move on was to sell the diamond engagement ring that he had scrimped and saved for. So he took it back to the retailer he had bought it from assuming it would still fetch a decent offer.

But to his utter disappointment, the ring received a staggeringly low price. Rather than get mad, he decided to break even—and that’s when he launched I Do Now I Don’t.

I Do, Now I Don’t is a website that allows people to sell their engagement rings (or any other fancy jewellery) to other users for way less than going to a jewellery store. It is simply a Craigslist for fine jewellery.

I Do Now I Don’t has now grown to become a stunning business worth hundreds of thousands in revenues.

Send a message with potato

His girlfriend ridiculed Alex Craig when he started a business in Dallas in 2015 to send potatoes etched with personalised messages for US$8 to US$10 apiece. “The stupidest idea ever,” she told him. But a confident Craig was hell-bent and went ahead with the idea. And Potato Parcel amassed US$2,000 in revenue to his girlfriend’s utter astonishment.

A few months later, Bay Area entrepreneur Riad Bekhit bought the startup from him for US$40,000. Today, Potato Parcel buys Idaho Russet potatoes from local grocery stores in the region and uses Pilot G2 gel roller pens to write the message. People can pay US$10-US$15 per potato to send an inscribed message to their friends or relatives on a potato. The business is now making US$25,000 a month.

Image Credit: marcogarrincha / 123RF Stock Photo

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