How to Make Money

7 Entrepreneurs Who Turned Fun Ideas Into Innovative Businesses

Updated July 8, 2015
by Kyle Taylor
Founder
skype business

This post brought to you by HP Matter. The content and opinions expressed below are that of The Penny Hoarder.

What’s the Idea Economy? And more importantly, how can you use it to make a buck?

Well, every business starts with an idea. Sometimes, this idea comes as a way to solve a problem — the selfie stick, for example, solved the problem of how to take long-range selfies. Other times, the idea is just for fun. What if candles smelled like fresh pizza instead of fresh linen?

When you work in the Idea Economy, you take ideas, add innovation and create money-making opportunities.

These businesses are often disruptive, which is a fancy way of saying they change the way we do things, like how so many city-dwellers now use Uber instead of taxis. You surprise, delight and provide something people didn’t even know they wanted.

We write about a lot of interesting and fun ways to earn extra money, but today we’re going to take a closer look at the Idea Economy, and how to turn an idea into a business. HP Matter has a new video series, Welcome to the Idea Economy, that’s all about the path from idea to business, so use that — and this post — as your guide and inspiration.

As Meg Whitman, CEO at HP, put it, “[In the Idea Economy,] success is defined by the ability to turn ideas into value faster than your competition.”

Here’s our big question for you: what’s your idea, and how can you turn it into a money-making business?

Inspiring Example #1: Selfie Sticks

The words “selfie stick” are now part of everyone’s vocabulary, so it’s hard to remember that it was only 2014 when Good Morning America dubbed Selfie on a Stick the “hottest 2014 holiday gift.”

Selfie on a Stick was launched by Jacqueline Verdier and Dominic Suszanski after they saw a few tourists using a selfie stick while traveling in Asia. When the duo couldn’t find a selfie stick available for purchase, they decided to make their own — and the selfie stick business was born. They solved their own problem, and helped a lot of us solve ours.

Takeaway: What everyday problem do you think needs solving? Maybe that’s your idea.

Inspiring Example #2: Pet Detectives

What do you do when your dog gets lost? Put the pet detectives on the case! Pet detectives explore your neighborhood and use everything from trained dogs to forensic tools to find your pet and bring your furry friend home.

Takeaway: What special skills do you have that can help others solve problems? Maybe that’s your idea.

Inspiring Example #3: Man Cans

You don’t need to be a business genius to have a great idea. You don’t even need to be in high school. When Hart Main was 13, he launched Man Cans, which are — you guessed it — those pizza-scented candles we mentioned earlier. Some of them also smell like bacon.

Main’s idea was born when he got tired of his sister’s “girly-scented” candles. He wanted a candle that smelled like something he enjoyed, and so he began making candles out of the home kitchen and turned his pizza-scented candle idea into a business.

Takeaway: What everyday object do you wish were shaped/smelled/flavored the way you like? Maybe that’s your idea.

Inspiring Example #4: Renting Chickens

There are a lot of would-be urban farmers out there, dreaming of putting a flock of chickens in their backyard. Tyler Phillips and Diana Samata of Rent a Coop gives these people a chance to check out the chicken farming life without having to fully commit to a brood of their own.

Yes, Rent a Coop lets you rent chickens, to test out whether you want to make a full investment in backyard farming. This is only one of the multiple chicken rental services out there, by the way.

Takeaway: What hobby or life experience would you like to “rent before you buy?” Maybe that’s your idea.

Inspiring Example #5: Crossy Road

HP Matter Welcome to the Idea Economy notes that new technology is often a huge part of turning an ordinary idea into a successful business. When Matt Hall created the popular app Crossy Road, he used technology to create a game that delighted and entertained users — and earned the app developers $10 million in its first 90 days.

Hall modeled Crossy Road after other successful apps such as Flappy Bird. He and his development team studied other popular apps to figure out what features brought in the most users, and added similar features — like unlockable characters — to their own game. This focus on “what makes a game fun” helped make Crossy Bird a hit.

Takeaway: How can you entertain and delight people? Maybe that’s your idea.

Inspiring Example #6: Comic Book Reselling

Technology also helped Carl Forrest turn what would otherwise be an ordinary comic book reselling project into a business that brought in cash. Forrest used data analytics to identify the most valuable comic books — such as Avengers #55, which featured the first appearance of Ultron — and focused his comic reselling strategy on these high-profit issues.

Forrest also built his own relationship-management system to keep track of his best customers and let them know when he had added new comics to his collection. Without his data analytics and CRM system, Forrest’s comic reselling project might have been an ordinary side hustle. With technology, it became a business.

Takeaway: Can you use technology to improve an everyday side hustle? Maybe that’s your idea.

Inspiring Example #7: Hangover Helpers

When you think “hangover helper,” you probably think of drinking a bottle of Gatorade. But the Hangover Helpers took that idea a step further, creating a business that provides not only Gatorade, but also breakfast burritos and housecleaning services to hungover party hosts. They’re like your own Fairy Godmothers showing up the morning after the ball.

The Hangover Helpers business works because it provides a service that helps people — and, at $20 per person, keeps the service affordable to those who need it most.

Takeaway: How can you help people improve their lives? Maybe that’s your idea.

Are you inspired yet? Don’t forget to check out HP Matter Idea Economy and Disruption for more inspiration and ideas. We’ve got the trailer (Watch Now).

Your Turn: Have you ever thought about starting an Idea Economy business? Which of these examples most gets those gears turning in your head?

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by Kyle Taylor
Kyle is the founder of ThePennyHoarder.com

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