Strange Online Business Ideas That Made Millions…Or Not!

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2007-02-1141

Is one of your financial goals to become a millionaire and make big money online, but all you have is a chockful of weird small business ideas? Well, don’t be discouraged as all may not be lost.

Do you recall Simon Cowell’s brainchild called The American Inventor which was a television series that aired some time ago? If you don’t know about this show, it was a take on American Idol except the contestants were inventors or innovators and the audience was supposed to vote for the winning concept, which would then receive a huge $1 million prize. The prize money was intended to take the winning prototype to implementation and production. Boy, did they showcase some nutty inventions there.

I’ve had many harebrained designs before, each one shot down handily by people I’ve confessed them to. But there’s a part of me that sometimes wonders, well… What if? Could my ideas have a shot?

Could I be nurturing a misplaced optimism from some of the success stories I’ve come across? You see, there are those who had strange or even bizarre ideas that made them tons of money anyway. Some of these ideas are actually clever and out of the box. And this kind of thinking often gets rewarded mainly because nobody’s thought of them before! Do remember though, that not all such ideas will “stick” since the more offbeat something is, the less likely you may find a market for it. Check out the following unusual business ideas that have done well, and be inspired. I have seen this list floating around the web and wanted to share them here:

Top 10 Strange Online Business Ideas That Made It Big

1. Million Dollar Homepage
You may have heard about this odd online business idea. But pure and simple, it was a novelty idea that went viral back in the day. The entrepreneur here is Alex Tew, who was 21 years old at the time when he set this page up. He charged for advertising at a rate of $1 per pixel on a page that had a million pixels. You can still see his site at milliondollarhomepage.com. Because of the success of this endeavor, the expected copycats have popped out of the woodwork.

2. SantaMail
Byron Reese pretended he was Santa Claus and made a killing. All he did was set up a mailing address in the North Pole (Alaska) and charge people $10 per letter they ask to be addressed to a child of their choice. So if you wanted to go for a unique gift for your kid, you could have asked “Santa” to send one to your child. Byron was able to send out at least 200,000 notes since 2001. Work out the figures and you get a few million dollars! Check out santamail.org for more info!

3. Doggles
Doggles.com offers eyewear for dogs: that is, they make and sell dog goggles. Kind of silly but given that they are still in business, they must be doing well!

4. LaserMonks
There was once a monastery that housed a few monks that were earning revenue by refilling cartridges. However, they are no longer doing business, unfortunately. They used to be known as LaserMonks.com, run by the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Spring Bank.

5. AntennaBalls
What are antenna balls? Are they those things you stick at the end of your antenna? Find out in antennaballs.com. This was a business that made Jason Wall earn millions. Funny huh?

6. FitDeck
Fitdeck.com is a site that sells cards that show off different exercise activities and routines. Seems like a weird idea, but it took off, earning its founder millions in the process.

7. PositivesDating.Com
I think this is an interesting idea that fills a need. This is a matchmaking site for HIV positive people that provides a well-meaning service. This dating site is called positivesdating.com, which is intended for a special group of people looking to find the loves of their lives.

8. Designer Diaper Bags
Custom diaper bags do sell. You can ask Christine Rein about this since she built a business around diaper bags that were well-designed and had both functionality and form. DiapeesAndWipees.com has been doing well with its own line of bags, which are selling in various online stores and boutiques.

9. TruGamerz
I am not sure if these things are for sale any longer, but at one point, game controller covers made out of fake suede and special thumb pads for joysticks that were made out of gel were all the rage. These were popular enough that even big stores like Target and Walmart decided to pick them up as part of their inventory.

10. Lucky Wishbone Co.
Have you heard of luckybreakwishbone.com? They make fake wishbones. I am not sure what the purpose is behind such things, but apparently, people buy this stuff. And according Ken Ahroni, its inventor, sales have hit $1 million (well, in 2006). I’d be curious to know if this site continued its winning streak.

Now that we’ve discussed some successful yet strange business ideas, what about those that fell flat? The reality is that the risk is higher when we pursue ventures that have had no precedence in the marketplace. But that is what innovation is all about. So let’s balance things out by discussing those odd ideas that didn’t get traction and that were quickly shelved because they couldn’t get funding (source: CNN Money):

10 Weird Business Ideas Pitched to Venture Capitalists

  1. Side-ejecting ejection seats. So popping out of the ceiling of an aircraft isn’t as effective?
  2. Online graveyard registries. I’ve seen a lot of these around, but most are free.
  3. An in-flight magazine detailing all the noises heard during air travel, with explanations for each buzz, rattle and click
  4. A site for used pet toys: eBay crossed with Pets.com. Wait a sec. What ever happened to that Pets.com sock puppet?
  5. An electronic thoroughbred horse to teach people how to become jockeys or just learn how to ride race horses for fun. I’m guessing it’s similar to a mechanical bull.
  6. Lifelike robot doll that would talk and interact with others. A shame that this never saw the light of day. Sounds like it would have been the best toy robot we’d ever come across. But they’re doing stuff like this in Japan already. But we’re talking androids here, not dolls! I actually went to school with this guy who’s an expert in this field.
  7. All about ME! Hmmm….an entrepreneur wanted $10 million to fund a movie and a book about himself. Well he could just start a blog….
  8. How about $30 million for an original animated film? Are you Pixar? Then maybe.
  9. Talking sneakers. I’d think this would be distracting at the very least and annoying at most.
  10. An airline with WiFi on every plane. I’d actually like this. But maybe it’s already available somewhere?

business ideaSo some ideas took off and some floundered. But no worries, entrepreneurs still keep trying…and creating….and inventing… Perhaps by just taking matters into their own hands and striking it out on their own with their own capital and elbow grease, they may still make it anyway! Dumb ideas have made money before, as we have just learned, so who knows — sometimes, it’s a surprise what clicks with the multitude out there.

If they can do it, so can I.

If I ever come up with an outrageous concept, I may give it a second thought and not just toss it asunder. What’s ridiculous to you may actually fly with some people and have a viable market somewhere. So if I were to pursue such a crazy thought (and yes, I’ll know if it sounds stupid…), I’ll first make sure it requires the lowest effort, risk and minimal investment so I won’t feel bad if it flops.

If anyone out there has had a weird idea that made it big… or not, how about sharing?

Essential Online Business Resources

What this piece shows is that while a lot of online ideas may seem like a long shot, a percentage of them actually do work out and succeed. What’s interesting is that ALL online businesses, whether funny or not, need certain services and tools to get started. To help you out, here are some great resources to help you launch your venture:

You’ll need a web hosting provider.
To get your idea off the ground, you’ll need a cheap and reliable web hosting provider to host your web site or blog. Some great options? Check out these cheap web hosting services for some options. Along with great customer service, these services also provide you with good deals on all-in-one tools and services including site design, templates and domain registration.

You’ll need domain registration.
There are a few ways to make money with internet domains. One is to trade them: there are people who get into the business of buying and selling domains and have made good money doing so. Or if you’re a serious entrepreneur, getting your own domain should be a top consideration in order to establish your credibility in your online space. Again, some low cost options can be found in this article on the best web hosts for your business.

Best of luck on your venture!

Copyright © 2007 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

JODI.. Top Finalist on AMERICAN INVENTOR by ABC. February 11, 2007 at 7:34 pm

KUDOS to all those who still use their minds.. and GO USA for showing the we still have talent right here in the USA!
I never thought that I would audition for ABC’S AMERICAN INVENTOR SHOW and make it past 10,000 other ideas and make it into the top 12.
I think, if you believe in your idea and show how the product has a real NEED in the world, then GO FOR IT!
The CHIA PET and PET ROCK were huge hits… I HAD BOTH.. how about you?
My HEADLINE IT! will revolutionize the HAT, HELMET and WIG INDUSTRY no doubt! At first many of the judges didn’t “GET IT” until I was given the opportunity to show the NEED and the BENEFITS of wearing a light, disposable liner under your hat, helmet, or wig, to stop the perspiration for running into your eyes or from saturating the item!
My idea is SIMPLE…. yet, I was using tissue under my hats and wigs to do what my invention does WONDERFULLY…. and now, my idea is going to hit the shelves in JUNE of this year with a BANG.
If I didn’t pursue my dream and follow my heart… other would still be using pantiliners under their helmets… like they do in the military. Now, they have a HIP, COOL… HIGH TECH WICK WEAR product that will give them better benefits and more comfort!

It took a bald woman from Wisconsin to come up with this idea… go figure!
My new book is coming out in a few months…with BACK SCENES info from the AMERICAN INVENTOR TV SHOW….. and how anyone can be successful.. the book is BALD IS BEAUTIFUL, MY Journey to Becoming!

Hope that you can all read and be motivated to be your best…and succeed with your GOD given talents!

KEEP THINKING and KEEP INVENTING EVERYONE… GOD BLESS US ALL!
Smiles!

JODI…. ABC’S AMERICAN INVENTOR TOP FINALIST!

Silicon Valley Blogger February 11, 2007 at 7:45 pm

Jodi! Amazing — I remember you so well in the American Inventor! Wow. I was impressed with your head liner and saw how sincerely you wanted to help cancer survivors and people with alopecia(?) with your invention. I also saw how it would be well used by firemen and construction workers.

Kudos to you! :)

I’m glad you have moved forward with your idea and I am pleased you found my site to show us what you’ve accomplished since the show.

Good luck with your product and wish you much success.

Stephanie February 13, 2007 at 3:06 pm

It’s amazing the things that can take off. Sometimes you just have to take a chance that other people will like the odd ideas you have and just go for it.

Sure know I’d like to have a strange idea that took off.

ES February 14, 2007 at 6:03 pm

santamail.org??? what a brilliant concept!

thanks for a great post.

sJ February 16, 2007 at 5:25 pm

Doggles just beats me…!! Eye opener !!

Rick Kehs February 21, 2007 at 9:38 am

Here’s one for you… Cow Pie Clocks, for the ones you love. I haven’t personally checked out their earnings but I’ve been told that they rake in the manure. They can be found here: cowpieclocks.com

Silicon Valley Blogger February 21, 2007 at 9:57 am

Rick, well that’s rich! Hahaha!

Business Email March 7, 2007 at 10:40 am

I love top ten lists like these. I remember seeing that Santa Mail idea in action years ago and wishing, just like everyone else, that I’d been there first. I wonder if there’s a modern version that sends a “genuine” e-mail from Santa for (sucker) parents who don’t know how to go get their own e-mail account somewhere and fake it on their own? I don’t know, but there’s a place where you can e-mail santa if you want… emailsanta.com. I wonder how they make money on that site?

Dave Prouhet March 9, 2007 at 8:44 am

Awesome post!

I love reading about crazy ideas that make it big. But I would venture to guess that these are a small percentage of those ideas that tried and never quite made it. I have a super cool idea (or so I thought) where with all this legislation a constituent could contact their Representative or Senator in email, via mail, and fax about an issue they supported or disliked – it was totally viral. Problem I ran into was I never found an organization that wanted to sponsor it. In retrospect I never thought of charging the customer. Lots of ideas, most depend upon execution and timing.

Dave

Idea Guy March 19, 2007 at 3:25 pm

hi everyone,

I love reading those top 10 Dumbest Online Business Ideas. It’s so funny.
Ideas are always in us but are some are undiscovered yet and some might don’t give it a try. There’s nothing wrong in trying though. Let our ideas be shared.
Thanks to you..

John Brewer April 17, 2007 at 6:32 am

Hi everyone
Like the site. Been searching for crazy ways to earn an internet income for awhile now. Have a crazy idea myself to share.

Now we all have heard of electric cars that run on gas/electricity stored in batteries and demand that you recharge them every so often.

Imagine if you had a car that contained a small windmill within your front fender that generated electricity and stored it within your batteries thereby never having to stop and recharge your car.

We’ve all seen how slowly these (cabin wind generators) units turn over to supply power. Imagine the power you would generate from a miniature windmill in your front grill moving at 80 km hour.

Not sure if this will ever work but why not create an automobile that is “self-supplying” of power as it moves down the highway. No more plugging your car in every night and once your hybrid car gets its initial shot of gas to get it rolling it can generate it’s on power and never need refuelling.

Just a thought and before people begin knocking it down remember I have no idea of hoe electricity works – do you??? LOL

John Brewer
Planning on living long
enough to reach Retirement Age???

Nick May 2, 2007 at 8:22 am

I heard that Alex Tew is a marketing specialist in fact.

hans May 17, 2007 at 8:35 am

i like your article. so there are many ways to be a millionaire.

Homebased Business Opportunity August 15, 2007 at 10:02 pm

Okay… I admit it. I went for the pixel idea – twice even!

I bought some pixels first for website promotion, and later I even bought a cheap knockoff of the pixel script on eBay.

I never put the script to use of course. It’s gathering dust with 1001 other scripts and programs I’ve bought over the years.

Maybe another dumb idea would be to set up a site where everyone can trade their unused programs for other peoples’ unused programs.

Di September 8, 2007 at 7:40 pm

You just have to be inspired after reading through those inventions….hmmmm??!!

Great post, thanks for sharing….di

Real Estate Rox September 12, 2007 at 5:13 am

Great Post. A good one to add to the list of dumb ideas making it big was the Pet Rock.

6 month fad generating over a million

Tezza December 2, 2007 at 10:32 pm

Fascinating collection. It just goes to show there isn’t one cookie cutter method for creating a successful enterprise.

Rob Lawrence April 7, 2008 at 3:38 pm

Classic list of ideas. Thank you for sharing them. Just goes to show that even the stupidest of ideas can make money.

Warm Regards,
Rob Lawrence

SVB: hoho, so true!

Ev Land June 24, 2008 at 7:11 pm

How about a smart business to start that could make you rich? Starting a carpet cleaning business?

Too boring, maybe? Too practical? Too obvious?

Ev

No one February 8, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Well, it’s a nice thought John, but what you are describing amounts to a perpetual motion machine. Won’t work given drag and resistance. Now, I suppose if you were driving into a hurricane, and had a big ass windmill attached to your car, it might be a different story.

:)

thefreelancer March 16, 2009 at 7:48 am

Yeah, one idea I had which I wish I had mentioned about 10 years ago is that little bra holder they have now. It slides onto a woman’s bra on the back of it and holds the straps together. It keeps the straps from being when an open dress is worn…damn, someone perfected it and now its all over t.v.

mike beckloff March 21, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Need help here. I have a couple products to market. I have one joke gift, patent will be done in a few days. It is a great idea for a dumb thing but it will make money. I am not greedy and my biggest need is the know-how of marketing it fast and effectively before the renegades start copying. I would really appreciate the help…meaning possibly a partner of sorts or if someone wants a percentage for marketing, etc. Somebody please contact me. Serious ones only. Thanks. Ohio project for the usa.

Editor: Sorry, we’re not a matchmaking service, so we don’t publish private information here.

vinayak August 30, 2009 at 8:08 am

Hi!

lovely post. Some of the ideas are really unique.
I have just started my blogging site and looking for some unique ideas. Thanks.

Vin

Christelyn D November 6, 2009 at 3:27 pm

This blog is totally getting bookmarked. Thanks for spelling thing out for the rest of us.

Mark Johnson March 29, 2010 at 2:26 pm

AntennaBalls is the most amazing one to me. I am just amazed how the idea of an Antenna and a Ball joined together since these are so totally unrelated! Kind of like some of those strange production company names on the movie credits. Weird!

tendai greg June 6, 2010 at 12:14 am

Every idea is valuable, when you understand the science of strings , all things networked create an infinity of possibilities; I am trying to fund raise money for my wedding and came up with the tenya.tk ,some are saying it’s a silly idea- visit and let me know what you think!

Jeremy September 10, 2010 at 6:07 pm

As they say, there is no such thing as a dumb idea.

emil November 29, 2010 at 3:51 am

Love this article :) Are you going to update it or do a part two? This is not only humorous but a great example of how some ideas can turn into big business. Just the other day I was pinging my network to try to find a windows programmer for an “idea” I had. And each person I talked to said they were surprised something like that hasn’t already made and that I should keep checking (nothing like it has been made yet, I’m still working on it, we’ll see). But just saying I think that is another type of comment that probably precedes great million dollar ideas: the friends saying “no no surely something like that is already out there”. One that comes to mind is the snuggie :D Anyway, great article!

Silicon Valley Blogger November 29, 2010 at 10:17 am

The “snuggie” is a backwards robe. It was literally giving an old idea a twist. IMO, I would much prefer a fleece robe with a hoodie on it. One as big as a snuggie. But because it’s not that unique, it may not fly. A snuggie is a combination of a robe and a blanket, made with a fleece fabric. Eh, what’s so great about that! :)

Ted December 31, 2010 at 6:09 pm

haha! great article! i came across another one just the other day that you missed: personalautograph.com.

People are knowingly purchasing fake celebrity autographs!

Emil January 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm

The “Eh, what’s so great about that” .. nice comment :) Seriously over the holidays my family was going between saying “what’s so great about that?” and “wow how come we didn’t think of that.” Another idea that is not so stupid but I’m sure many people are thinking “Why didn’t we think of that?” is the whole Groupon thing. Simple ideas with follow through can really make it big for sure.

banksnob August 1, 2011 at 5:19 pm

I’m still getting a kick out of santa mail hahaha :)

Most Loaded, Stupid Business February 14, 2012 at 3:22 am

There were many other attempts to succeed by creating a “stupid business idea” such as this one that I saw, where people are supposed to pay real money just to show that they are rich and they can afford it. There are some social networking sites and stuff integrated as well. The site is mostloaded.com.

Silicon Valley Blogger February 14, 2012 at 8:38 am

@Most Loaded,
You got to be kidding me. I thought up this idea sometime ago — around several months ago. I actually contemplated building / developing a social community where people can brag and show off their possessions, what they had and owned, and how loaded they were. This is hilarious! I would have called the site: Keep Up With The Joneses. Or Rich Out. Or something clever like that. Seriously, I even thought an award system or using badges based on how “rich” you were would spice things up — and while I realized it was a silly idea, I NEVER thought anything like this would actually exist. Well, I guess I was wrong!

Moral of the story: whatever weird or stupid idea you think you’ve got is probably being done by someone else already!

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