Every year thousands of ideas are being turned into businesses. Some become a complete flop, others make enough to sustain themselves in the market, and there are few that turn their creators into millionaires. Surprisingly, not all these businesses are actually useful. Some of them even look too stupid to be true. But the creator’s confidence and marketing turned these useless creations into a money-making business. Here is a list of 10 such useless creations that actually made somebody rich.
1. A man named Dennis Hope filed a claim of ownership of the Moon in the 1980s through a loophole he found in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and has made more than $9 million since then by selling properties on Moon.
Can you own the Moon? Well if you are Denis Hope, then you can. Thanks to a loophole in the legal code of United Nations Outer Space Treaty, Denis Hope now owns the Moon. According to Article II of the 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty, no country could own the Moon. But there is nothing mentioned about individuals. So, during the early 1980s, Denis Hope sent a letter to the United Nations in which he stated that the Moon is his and explained how he wants to subdivide and then sell the Moon. He also asked them why an individual cannot claim ownership of the Moon. But the UN never replied.
So, believing that he is now the owner of the Moon, Hope began selling properties on the Moon at $19.95 per acre. Since then, more than 611 million acres have been sold. He even successfully sold plots to George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan, the three former presidents of United States.
2. Alex Craig, the man who launched the website Potato Parcel, earns $10,000 a month by shipping Russet potatoes with messages on them to people anonymously.
Of all the gifts you could receive, how would you feel if someone sent you a potato? But wait, this is not just a spud. It’s a spud with a hand-printed message on it. Sounds insanely hilarious, but that is what Potato Parcel does.
Potato Parcel was founded by 24-year-old Alex Craig after he graduated from the University of North Texas. Craig got the idea for his startup business while having lunch with his girlfriend. His girlfriend believed that the idea would flop and he wouldn’t be able to sell a single potato. Nonetheless, Craig started the business in May 2015. Within two days after the launch, Craig got $2,000 in orders. The average monthly income of Potato Parcel is now $10,000.(1,2)
3. During the Pet Rock fad of the 70s, people bought a rock in a box marketed like live pets, complete with straw and breathing holes for the “animal.” During its 6-month run, Pet Rock made Gary Dahl, the creator, a millionaire.
One night in the mid-70s, a man named Gary Dahl was having a drink with his friends. While talking with his friends, the conversation suddenly turned to pets. His friends began discussing the responsibility and hassle that comes while owning house pets. At that moment, Dahl said his pet doesn’t give him any trouble. The reason: his pet is a rock, a pet rock.
The words spoken to induce humor into the conversation turned out to be a great business idea. While two of his colleagues acted as investors, Dahl went to a building-supply store and bought smooth Mexican beach stones at a penny apiece. He then placed each rock in a bed of excelsior inside a cardboard carrying case. The masterstroke was the Pet Rock Training Manual. Each pet rock came along with a manual which contained tongue-in-cheek instructions about the caring, feeding, and house-training of the rock.
4. Doggles – goggles for dogs – was invented when a couple put sports goggles on their dog. Within a few years, it became a multi-million dollar industry selling in stores all over the world.
In 1997, a California couple Roni and Ken Di Lullo were playing with their pet dog, a border collie named Midknight, in San Jose park. While playing, they noticed that their dog was having trouble while catching the frisbee because it was squinting due to the bright sunlight. To remedy this, they fitted their dog with a tinted sports google, and the idea of Doggles was born.
When people in the area saw Midknight wearing the cool goggles, they wanted one for their dogs too. As the demand increased, the couple turned it into a business. In 2002, they ordered 30,000 Doggles from a Taiwanese firm, and then struck a deal with specialty pet supply retail chain, PetSmart, to sell it. The total revenue of Doggles is now more than $3 million.(1,2)
5. To raise money for his university education, Alex Tew decided to sell pixels of a website at $1 per pixel, the website became an Internet phenomenon, and within a year Tew became a millionaire.
In 2005 a college-bound student Alex Tew was trying to find ways to make money to pay for his three-year business management course at Nottingham University. With only one month left before the class started, he began thinking about ideas to avoid student debt. So, one night he took a notebook and pen and wrote” “How can I become a millionaire?” After some thinking, an idea came to him. He thought that if he can sell one million pixels of a website for advertising at the rate of $1 per pixel, he can easily get his tuition fees.
Within the next two days, Tew bought a domain name and a web hosting service for $100 and started his website, MillionDollarHomepage.com. The website sold 10×10 or larger blocks of advertising space at $1 per pixel. The business clicked, and within a few weeks, he earned enough money to complete his university education. In 2006, the final 1,000 pixels of the website were put at auction on eBay, and the winning bid was $38,100. The gross income of the website was $1,037,100 making Tew a millionaire.(1,2,3)
6. The business of oxygenated water is a booming, multi-billion dollar business, but in reality, the extra oxygen in the water does nothing for our body as we don’t have lungs in our stomach.
Oxygenated water is usually the first choice of people who are into sports. It is greatly recommended by some athletes who claim that their performance has improved since they began drinking oxygenated water. Companies manufacturing oxygenated water claim that with each swallow, the water delivers more oxygen into our body.
It is believed that oxygenated water contains more oxygen than what is found in our usual drinking water. According to science, the only way to induce extra oxygen molecules into water is by using pressure. This process is similar to carbonated water which is filled with carbon dioxide under pressure. But as soon as the cap is removed from the bottle, the pressure is released and the carbon dioxide molecules escape. Similarly, without pressure, the oxygen molecules in oxygenated water can also escape.
Now let’s say someone discovered a genuine method to put additional oxygen molecules in water. That sounds good, but how will our gut absorb the extra oxygen molecules? The only way oxygen reaches our body is through the air that passes through our lungs. Since there is no lung in our gastrointestinal tract, it is not possible to absorb the oxygen molecules. Otherwise, our body would have been filled with carbon dioxide each time we drank carbonated water.(source)
7. There is a website in which if you pay a dollar you would be allowed to see who else has paid. The owner of this website earned so much that even Paypal became suspicious of its account activities.
What do you need to earn money? Most of us will answer something like money (to set up a business) or skill (to get a job). Software developer Johan McCubbin has found a unique answer to this question: a question. So, he just wrote a question on his website which piqued people’s curiosity. His question: “How many people paid a dollar to see how many people paid a dollar?” As absurd as it may seem, people actually started paying him $1 just to find out how many other people paid him.(1,2)
8. Frustrated with the squabble over the wishbones at Thanksgiving, a man created plastic wishbones. The Lucky Break Wishbone is now a million dollar business and makes about 30,000 wishbones a day.
Thanksgiving was a happy festival for Ken Ahroni, except for one thing – the quarrel over the wishbone after dinner. Suddenly one year, he got an idea which could end the squabble at Thanksgiving. He thought that instead of a real wishbone, why not create a plastic one? After trying and testing various types of plastics, he found the one that would snap in the same way as a real turkey bone. Ahroni then launched his Lucky Break Wishbone in 2004. Within two years, his product was selling at nearly 1,000 outlets in 40 states making him a millionaire. It’s also good news for vegetarians and vegans as they too can make a wish now without killing any turkeys.(1,2)
9. Beanie Babies, the toys stuffed with plastic pellets, were a 90s fad. At the height of their popularity, they accounted for 10% of eBay traffic, and the creator is now worth $ 2.4 billion.
In the late 1970s, Ty Warner was working as a salesman for Dakin, a company which marketed plush toys. After being fired from Dakin, Warner started his own toy company, Ty Warner Inc. later renamed as Ty Inc. The specialty of his toys was that it was stuffed with plastic pellets which made them a bit floppy and hence more cuddlier than any other toy in the market. But sales were a bit slow in the beginning.
In 1995, a toy lamb called Lovie was discontinued due to a problem at the supplier end. The retirement of Lovie suddenly increased the market value of Lovies. People were ready to pay more than the original cost. This gave Warner an idea. Soon he began intentionally retiring certain Beanies Babies. It put people in a frenzy as they rushed to the store to collect the specific Beanie Babies who were declared retired. Within a few months, the high demand would make the toys about a hundred times more expensive.
Soon, buying Beanie Babies became sort of an investment. People began buying them in lots and waited for their retirement. The sudden change in demand made Warner a multi-millionaire. In 1998, Ty’s sales were more than $1.3 billion, and Warner’s pretax income was over $700 million.(1,2,3)
10. Japanese farmers created square watermelon to fit better in a refrigerator. Now people pay thousands of dollars just to have a square watermelon instead of a round one.
Round watermelons take a lot of space during storage. It was a big problem for Japanese people who used compact refrigerators. As a solution, farmers began growing watermelon in a square-shaped mold. The square-shaped watermelons are labor intensive and hence more expensive. When these square watermelons reached the international market, they became a novelty due to their unique shape. People began paying $700 – $800 for a single watermelon. Soon, watermelons were being grown in a number of different shapes, such as in heart shape, pyramid shape, and others. These specially-shaped watermelons sometimes have a price a thousand times more than the naturally-grown watermelon.(1,2,3)
Note: Natural watermelons are better in taste than square or other artificially-shaped watermelons.