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5 Successful Businesses That Started With Simple Ideas

5 Successful Businesses That Started With Simple Ideas

Many of us have heard that small business is the backbone of our economy. Mega-corporations like Walmart and Apple started off as small businesses. Some people are dissuaded to start one. They turn to statistics that say “most new businesses will fail within three years” to justify their reason for not starting one.

Starting a business is simple. It begins with an idea, some paperwork, and a storefront and/or website. However, creating a successful company is not as easy, but it can be easier when the business model is based on a simple idea. Here are five successful businesses that started with a simple idea.

1. Cheekd

Lori Cheek, the founder and CEO of Cheekd.com, started as an architect. After working 15 years in the industry, Lori abandoned the career to immerse herself in the tech world.

She was forced to get extremely creative about funding the business since she was living on her savings.

To offset her expenses, Lori managed to make $75,000 by selling designer clothes on eBay, walking dogs, doing focus groups, secret shopping, and selling her stuff on Craigslist.

She no longer wanted to build structures but rather build relationships. So, Cheekd was born. It is a dating app that makes missed connections obsolete. The app connects people in real time rather than virtual time, which allows people to begin meeting in person before continuing online.

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Her biggest break came when she got accepted to be a contestant on ABC’s Shark Tank. While her idea was shot down by all five Sharks, she left them with a message. “Trust that you will all see me again,” she said. Within 48 hours after the episode, about 50 investors wanted to invest in her business.

The New York Times has called Cheekd, “the next generation of online dating.” She has been featured in The Huffington Post, Inc Magazine, and TEDx. Cheek’d has customers in 47 states and 28 countries.

2. Air Ad Promotions

Marty Buckholt started Air Ad Promotions in 1989.

One day, he was looking through Entrepreneur magazine and came across an ad of an advertising balloon. He pitched the idea to his roommate, agreeing that he would fund the venture and his roommate would use his sales skills to start generating income.

A couple of weeks later, his roommate found a job and opted out of the partnership, leaving Marty with an advertising balloon and $3,000 less in his bank account.

When Air Ad Promotions started, cash flow was the biggest challenge. In their startup days, credit cards and lines of credit were scarce. So, besides the profits of the business, bootstrapping was the only option. However, with patience and relentlessness, Air Ad Promotions was able to make $100,000 in revenue within their first year.

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Marty attributes his success to anticipating the needs of his customers. He admits that he is still figuring things out after being in business for 25 years. However, the company now generates over 6 million dollars in yearly revenue.

3. Fundrise

Fundrise started with a simple question: “Why can’t everyone invest in real estate?” The founders, who were also real estate developers, had an idea to buy a debilitated building and convert it to a mixed-use retail and restaurant space.

Their most difficult challenge was raising capital. When they went out to search for funding sources, their prospective banks did not see the opportunity in the project. Fortunately, the founders were able to bootstrap the business for the first three years.

Despite being denied by banks, they persisted after receiving validation from the local people in nearby communities.

They earned $12,000 in their first year of business and it has continued to grow each year thereafter. Last year, the business received $35 million from a Series A round led by Renren, a Chinese tech company.

Fundrise has now over 50,000 members who have invested in 55 projects across the country and has received over 50 million from investors to fund real estate projects. They are on target to make $3 million dollars this year.

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4. Underdog

Josh Goldstein is the co-founder of Underdog, a small technology startup that started with a simple idea.

He created a simple form that took a minute for candidates to complete. He and his team of four take that information through a process of analyzing, tagging, and grading candidates. Once that process is completed, they feature the best candidates to a network of startups who in turn pay them a subscription fee.

Josh started the business in April 2014 and was determined to make his business the curated marketplace for talent. He worked for startups in the past, which gave him the experience in dealing with the stress, inefficiencies, and lack of capital.

From the start of his business until now, he remains a bootstrapper. He and his team run the business at The Founder Collective in New York City.

Underdog is doing well over $500,000 a year and works with over 120 NYC startups.

Even with Underdog’s amazing success, Josh admits that he and his team are overwhelmed with work. In the beginning, it was much worse since they were utilizing a manual process rather than their current streamline system.

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If there is one thing that Josh and the Underdog crew care about the most, it is their customer service. “We love to hear from candidates that found new jobs through our platform. And it is nice to be charging such a small fee to our customers. You can be a customer on Underdog for four years and make one hire, and it is still cheaper than using most recruiters,” Josh said.

5. Le Club Des Douze

Three and a half years ago, Alex Rizos would feature a curated selection of 12 menswear products with hopes to eventually become an online clothing retailer. “When I launched, the business was basically just an idea. I was not anxious to launch, but I wasn’t sure which direction it was going to take. Therefore, I decided to fund it all on my own to make sure that it would not cost more than I had.”

Within a year in the business, Alex took a different route and started to add content to make it resemble a blog. While the business earned him about $200 a month in the first few months and almost $8,000 within his first year, it only accounted for 10% of his income.

Alex wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to invest his current income from the business to develop it further. He pushed even harder and was able to earn a full-time income in his second year of business.

Le Club Des Douze now generates over $100,000 in annual revenue and have partnered with hundreds of independent brands.

For the aspiring business owner, Alex shares a good nugget of wisdom. “Having a vision is not enough. You need to have the drive and an action plan to turn your idea into a profitable business.”

Featured photo credit: citirecruitment via imcreator.com

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Last Updated on April 22, 2021

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

Motivation Is Not the Answer

How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

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Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

1. Define What a Win Looks Like

In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

4 Steps to Define a Win
  • Know the outcome you desire.
  • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
  • Write the outcome down.
  • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

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Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

2. Evaluate Your Activity

Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

  • Do now
  • Plan to do it later
  • Delegate to someone else
  • Delete it

Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

  • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
  • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
  • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
  • Does this activity have to be done at all?

Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

3. Prioritize Your Calendar

If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

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It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

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Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

    But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

    “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

    Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

    Use these questions to reflect on your day:

    • What went well?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • What can I change?
    • What do I need to start doing?
    • What do I need to stop doing?

    The Bottom Line

    Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

    Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

    “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

    Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

    That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

    More on Creating Healthy Routines

    Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

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