Think Like A Kid, Make Millions: Success Stories of Ordinary People Who Became Millionaires

We had to put off our long weekend travel by two weeks because of some last minute changes in plans. Anyway, so there I was, sitting at home on a Friday evening before a long weekend, watching TV! While I was flipping through the channels, I came across this fascinating program about regular everyday parents, who noticed what their children needed/liked and saw opportunities to build some really great business! The program was titled "Think like a kid, make millions" and was part of a CNBC program called Big Idea with Donny Deutsch. Here are the inspiring stories that were featured in this episode.

Soapworks: Sold for $10 million

The first story, which was also the most touching and insiping one for me, was about Amilya Antonetti, a new mom whose baby kept getting sick. She was in and out of hospitals with her new born, but the doctors couldn’t find what the problem was. Every time she brought the baby home, the infant would get rashes all over the body. Things went from bad to worse and when the babies’ respiratory system started to fail, the doctors asked her to prepare for the worst. But Amilya did not want to give up and started trying alternate medications. A homeopathic doctor recommended that she start keeping a journal. After a few weeks, Amilya noticed that her child’s symptoms were always the worst on Tuesdays. Tracing back her steps she realized that Sundays were laundry days and Mondays were her cleaning days. So she stopped all cleaning and laundry for a few months and her kid did not get sick.

So Amilya went to the local library and did a lot of research to find out the list of allergens in the detergents. Unfortunately though, when she went to the store to find products without these allergens she could not find any. During a hysterical phone call with her grandmother she found out that her grandma used to make her own soap. They dug up the recipe and made soap at home and her son stopped being sick. So she started making more of the soap and distributing it in Ziploc bags to some of the other parents she had met at the hospitals, and they loved it too. Soon there were people seeing her on weekends to see if they can buy her soap. This encouraged her to start her own business making hypo-allergenic soaps. But first when she approached companies to sponsor her business they laughed at her and tried telling her that she would never be able to go against the likes of P&G. But she did not give up. She finally went to the Bayer home office, sneaked her way to the rest rooms and accosted a senior person at the rest room and pitched her story. Over the next three years, Soap Works grew into a $10 Million business.

Click here for an interview with Amilya that I found on the Internet, if you are interested in reading more about her, and her success with Soap Works.

Taggies: Revenue for 2005 was $5 Million

While watching the TV, I went to their website and here is their story in their own words – "Julie, a young mother, recognised that her infant was often more interested in the satin tags on toys and clothing than the object itself. An early childhood teacher, she took the idea to a new level by creating a soft security blanket with assorted tags adorning all four sides. It was the first Taggie! Julie found that she had touched a nerve when mums from her child’s playgroup were clamouring for a Taggie. Danielle went even further, suggesting that they go into business together. Their first “commercial” venture, a craft show, sold out in two hours! And Taggies, Inc. was born!”

On the show, one of the founders mentioned that when they decided to go into business, one of the first things they did was to check if there were any similar products by vising a patent attorney. The patent attorney saw potential in their idea and suggested that they should patent the functionality and not just the way they used the taggies. The patent was approved as a US utility patent. That means that nobody else can add additional satin tags intentionally in children’s toys, apparel etc in a way the children love to rub and play with them. Neat, huh?

Click here for a USA Today article chronicling the success story of taggies.

Team Baby Entertainment: Sold for an undisclosed sum to Former Disney chief Michael Eisner's Tornante Co.

Greg Scheinman had two passions - sports and his kid. Soon, he noticed that the gifts for his son usually fell in one of the two categories - sports logo outfits, soft toys, etc; and kid DVDs. A bulb went off for him, and he decided to put the two together in the form of educational DVD for kids with the theme of a particular sports team. And a millionaire was born. Well not quite yet. Greg had to first get licenses to use the logos. He started out first with the University of Texas Long Horn themed DVD. Since the university had never been approached before with an idea like this, they readily agreed. The DVD was made by casting friends and family and sold very quickly. So Greg approached other universities. He went door to door to sell the DVDs. Eventually, he got featured in a LA newspaper/magazine which led to a phone call from former Disney chief Michael Eisner. Team Baby Entertainment is now a multi-million dollar company that sells DVDs customized for a specific team and/or university and utilizes officially licensed footage of all team sports, mascot, marching band, traditions and landmarks and attractions. The DVDs also include officially licensed music from the universities marching band and team theme songs to expose children to each team in an exciting and playful manner. Team Baby has also signed deals with NBA, Major League Baseball, and NASCAR.

Click here for a New York Times article about Team Baby Entertainment, if you are interested in reading some more.

Jibbitz: Sold to Crocs for $10 Million

If you are like me, you probably have never heard of Jibbitz. Well, Jibbitz are embellishments to personalize the plastic Crocs shoes that kids wear (see picture!). It started out as a kid craft project between Sheri Schmelzer and her kids at the kitchen counter. Her husband Rich soon saw business potential. They contacted a friend and started a website and also filed for patents and copy rights. First they sold a few Jibbits per month. But one of their customer contacted local TV station and they got featured and the business just took off. They now sell $2 million dollars worth of Jibbitz per month.

Click here for a CNN Money article on Jibbitz success story if would like to read some more.

Club Libby Lu: $52 million revenue last year

Mary Drolet was a veteran in the retail industry and was looking to start her own retail business. She wanted a unique business idea. Just then she noticed how much her daughter loved playing dress up with friends. So she spent the next 9 months to write a business plan, approaching businesses etc., and finally Club Libby Lu was born. This club is a place where girls go to become “princess”. For $22.50 per session, the kids have a complete makeover to look like their favorite celebrity figure or a princess with their own tiara.

Click here for a USA Today story about Club Lizzy Lu, if you are interested in more details.

DadGear: Revenue unknown

Started by John Brosseau, DadGear is a company that makes diaper bags for dads. But masculine macho ones. From their website "The concept behind the DadGear style is simple - a masculine look combined with high quality materials and thoughtful design. These basic elements allowed us to achieve the next evolution of diaper bag for dads. Our goal for our products is not just neutral or unfeminine, but style that reflects who we are - guys. Guys who take pride in caring for their kids." Bravo! John came up with the idea when he saw his brother-in-law's fishing vest and wanted to do something similar for parenting. John and his business partner Scott Shoemaker then searched for 100s of hours on the Internet to see if there were similar products on the market already. They then went to trade shows to scope it out. When they were assured that they had a unique product idea, they bought some vests from the store and cut it open to add a lot of cargo pockets and experimented with different ideas. Finally, they launched their product at the same trade show next year, where they were likely to be noticed by several potential buyers. Now the DadGear line of products includes vests (which, by the way, have diaper pockets, bottle pockets, baby wipe pockets and even a changing pad!), jackets and cool bags. They are even introducing a line of products for women!

Click here for a link to their site for a detailed story if you are interested.

One common thread in all these stories is that, every single one of these millionaires, at some point were ordinary people - just like you and me. However, they were observant and when they did notice an idea with the potential for success, they ran with it. So what can we learn from all these success stories? I will talk about it in Part2.

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