I got my ticket to heaven
the strangest start-up ideas I came across
Remember when we last talked about big companies beginning as humble start-ups? Their ideas were either very plain or truly unique, highly inspired of already existing businesses or really innovative. What they all had in common is that all of them fulfilled customers’ needs, answered their questions, filled the niche on the market. Of course, the world probably wouldn’t stop turning if we didn’t have Dropbox or Groupon — but still, these were great ideas for a product.
But deep inside, at the very bottom of our hearts, we are all just big kids. So it was more than certain that sooner or later someone will try to sell potatoes instead of birthday cards. What if I told you that they did, and what’s more, they still do? What if I told you that they make sweet, sweet money out of it?
If you found this introduction a-peeling and are hungry for more s-mash-ing facts, feel invited to read about the weirdest start-up ideas people saw potato-tential in.
That was the last one. I promise.
Drop it like it’s hot
Nothing says “I love you” more than a beautiful, shapely potato. At least that’s what Alex Craig thought, a 24-year-old mobile app developer from Dallas. The idea was to allow people to send short messages written down on a lovely little bulb. Despite Craig’s girlfriend’s skepticism, the website allowing people to order their customizable potato has risen in May 2015. Moreover, it has brought in $2,000 in revenue within the first two days.
In October, the website — called Potato Parcel — was sold to Bay Area entrepreneur named Riad Bekhit for $40,000, and the business moved to California. Currently, the owner buys potatoes from a local Walmart and uses Pilot G2 roller pens to write messages on them. He also offers some new services, such as Potato Pal (a potato with a picture of someone’s face) or Potato Postcard (a postcard pasted onto a potato). Moreover, you are allowed to add some extras to your order to customize the parcel to an even larger extend — some candies or birthday balloons. Recently, Potato Parcel expanded their influence onto Canada, United Kingdom, Europe and Australia. And they are doing great.
One of their most popular ideas for a message written on a bulb reads as follows “Got drunk and found this website. Sorry!”. Guess that sums up the Potato Parcel business perfectly.
Oh, you shouldn’t have…
One of the most classic gifts you can give to someone you care about is a bouquet of freshly cut flowers. It can be a very personal present, as they come in different shapes, sizes, colors, smell differently and are also said to have different meanings when it comes to giver’s intentions. The most popular would be, of course, a crimson rose which means love and passion, but we also have peony for happy marriage, lavender for devotion, daisy for joyfulness or lily for innocence and purity. Running down that angle, you can also be highly classy and sophisticated when displaying your hatred and bitterness towards someone — and send them flowers that are dead, decomposed and rotting.
Sounds almost too sassy to be true? Well, Dirty Rotten Flowers is a business based on a need of being sassy and revengeful. What they offer is basically sending your not-so-beloved ones bouquets of not-so-freshly cut flowers in order to tell them how not-really-precious they are. As the website’s description states, those charming signs of attention will be perfect for the ones that betrayed you, dumped or stabbed directly onto heart in any other way. Or if you just have a twisted sense of humor and nothing to lose.
Dirty Rotten Flowers offers you beautiful compositions, for example a dozen of red roses with decapitated heads, romantically named Morticia. All orders are processed within 24 hours or the following business day and are beautifully packed, for an even better effect. Oh, and you can read a few depressing testimonials of people who used their services, as owners encourages their customers to share their stories. As for the stories — for a promotion, a few days before Valentine’s Day business founders attended the local radio station and funded the rotten bouquet for everyone who cared to tell the story of their broken relationship. And I prefer to believe that the old lady who wanted flowers to be sent to the man who broke her heart over forty years ago was just a joke.
Ugly as sin(k)
We are the Ikea generation, there’s no doubt. Ikea’s furniture is known to be minimalistic, rather simple in design, functional and pleasant to look at. What we appreciate the most in this company is that their products, while affordable, look good and work well. Nobody’s surprised that Ikea’s things are so popular. Overall, we all know Swedish people whose goal is to make pretty furniture. Now it’s time to meet some Hungarians who dedicated their lives to make ugly ones.
Business owners, three handsome Hungarian guys, launched their website in 2015. Kovács Szabolcs, Szántó M. Zsolt and Gyarmati Kristóf were tired of affordable, good-looking furniture everybody enjoyed. Their dream was to make something extremely ugly and highly overpriced. Why being cheap and good when you can be expensive and horrendous?
As they explained, they wanted to start a company for a long time, yet:
a.) they didn’t have enough money, and
b.) they lacked skills in creating things.
They had to start making products with large target audience because, what can be inferred from the point a, they couldn’t afford a failure. They came to the conclusion that everybody needs furniture. The only type of furniture they could make was really ugly, because, well, go to point b. Now connect the dots and there you have it — a perfect idea for a start-up.
Those lovely pals document their artwork on high-quality photos, run a good-looking website and Instagram account, have a fancy logo and surely know how to draw attention. They proudly display their handmade, organic, fully natural wooden pieces of… furniture, incessantly making the impression of a creative, Indie and hipster-ish brand. It stays uncovered if their activity is some kind of a satire, social experiment or if the boys are deadly serious, yet if interested — you can still buy your ugly armchair and get the most expensive splinter you’ve ever had.
Well, it’s something
You know the drill — your husband’s birthday is getting closer, and when you ask him what kind of gift he would want to receive, you hear that famous “something cool” phrase. Well, been there, done that. To be completely honest, most of us have this issue at least from time to time. We just want to receive something cool, something pretty or something useful. And now we have the opportunity to get exactly what we want — the so called Something.
Basically, you pay $10 (shipping is free, unfortunately only within the US) and receive a random gift worth at least as much as you paid. The coolest part of the experience being, of course, the fact that you have no idea what are you going to get. It may be a pricey watch, a handmade necklace or a set of kitchen knives — but, of course, there is also a long list of forbidden products you shouldn’t expect, such as alcohol, drugs, guns or anything gambling-related. The content isn’t visible until you unpack the shipment, so the surprise factor is even stronger.
SomethingStore — because that’s how the shop is called — launched in October 2007 on Long Island. Its owner, Sami Bayrakci, having previously worked for an online catalogue gift retail store, was intrigued by the formation of other sites like Woot, MillionDollarHomepage and One Red Paperclip. The idea was also inspired by Japanese New Year’s Day custom called Fukubukuro, where merchants make little packages filled with random selection of their products, and sell them for a substantial discount.
The research made by business owners showed that there are basically three types of the most faithful customers — firstly, ones who find the idea of a random gift selection as the best way to avoid responsibility of making an unfortunate present choice. Secondly, those who treat it like it’s some kind of a lottery, trying to score most valuable prize. And lastly, people who just need some fun and an element of surprise in their lives, as simple as that.
One way ticket to the Blue
I left my personal favourite for the very end. Have you ever wondered if you are good enough to enter the gate of Heaven? And I’m not talking about believing in the existence of heavenly meadows, because, well, apparently this makes no difference. You can reserve a spot in the Paradise. Right now. Via Internet. Even if you are an Atheist. For $12 plus shipping costs. And if it won’t work, you will get a complete refund.
Okay, I lost it a bit at the last one.
But for real — Reserve a Spot in Heaven (I appreciate how specific and spot-on that business’ name is!) sells certificated spots in the afterworld, confirmed by documents and licenses. They are not associated with any religious organisations, groups or churches, so anyone, even a non-believer, may use their services. Moreover, you can take care of your beloved ones, too! Need service for your family member? Sure! Want a reservation in heaven for a friend? No problem! Are pets allowed? Why not! Maybe a larger order, for an organised group? Mostly welcomed, we offer discounts! And for the best experience it is recommended to buy the Exclusive Travel Kit, including Official Reserve-a-Spot-in-Heaven reservation certificate, Official Reserve-a-Spot-in-Heaven identification card, informational guide to help you navigate your way (no GPS required!) and a full refund if your reservation is not accepted. Oh, and even more of the heavenly products will be available soon.
Lord knows I didn’t make anything of the above up. You can find it all on their website.
It’s hard to find any information about the business genesis (pun not intended). Yet I was able to find out that the website was meant to be more of a joke, and the founders, Nathan Davis and Edgar Kim, wanted as much as the idea going viral. Well, they might not be serious about selling tickets to paradise, however it turned out that some people are super serious about buying them. So, as any start-up, they had to start thinking about things like marketing, packaging or shipping. Their activity aroused some controversy, as almost everything religion-related, and even won the glorious title of The Wackiest Home-based Business in 2009, granted by StartupNation.
As Davis explained, they were inspired by numerous gift websites selling things such as properties on the moon or stars. Choosing heaven as their influence zone was purely random.
Praise of weirdness
Is there a method in’t, though this be madness? Well, apparently none of those became an overwhelming success, but you can’t deny that in most of the cases the business still goes on, not to mention that the marketing took care of itself. However, you have to remember that starting a business isn’t just fun and games, and if you are investing in something, it would better be an idea you thought through deeply and really believe in. Spontaneity is not always desired and hilarious ideas might seem totally decent for a second, yet later you are left with something you no longer find funny, lose enthusiasm towards and lose money because of.
What works best in most of the cases is a subtle touch of abstraction — expression of your creativity done in a right way and with a right dose. Yet of course, if you feel like doing something absolutely crazy for your start-up, you can totally nail it, as long as you remember to have a solid logical and technical background, do your research and be honest with yourself. It’s easy to do something absolutely stupid, but doing something absolutely stupid and making profit out of it requires having an absolutely brilliant mind.
And now excuse me, I have to book my spot in heaven — after so many terrible puns that’s the only chance to save my broken soul!