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5 Successful Businesses That Started With Simple Ideas

5 Successful Businesses That Started With Simple Ideas
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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.”

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Featured photo credit: citirecruitment via imcreator.com

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Kallen Diggs

Bestselling Author / Magazine Editor / Syndicated Radio Show Host

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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