The road to success as an entrepreneur is paved with passion. Without passion, most entrepreneurs wouldn’t pursue their ideas and wouldn’t have the energy to keep working toward their goals.
And when we say “success,” we’re not just talking about world domination. The great thing about entrepreneurship is that you get to define what success means to you. But we’re also constantly told that we need to think bigger. It’s even embedded in our lexicon: “Go big or go home.”
But that doesn’t mean you can’t pursue a small passion. True entrepreneurs know how to monetize anything. Don’t scoff at any idea, because plenty of seemingly ridiculous ideas actually become successful businesses.
To get everyone’s creative juices flowing and to inspire your inner entrepreneur, we have curated the following list of entrepreneurs who found success by thinking really small.
David Rees is a man that has found success by sharpening people’s pencils. For just $40, you can send your dull pencil to Rees, and he’ll sharpen your pencil using quality tools and send it back to you with the shavings included.
Rees clearly knows that his idea seems ridiculous. On his About page he answers his most commonly asked question: “Is this a joke?” But it’s not a joke. Not only is he in high demand–it takes 6 to 8 weeks for him to complete an order–but he’s published a book and was the subject of a National Geographic documentary.
But the reason why he has done so well is that you can tell he’s passionate about his craft. When watching his short film about pencil sharpening you can see that he’s not pranking us. He’s serious about his craft and loves it.
When a coworker challenged the importance of package design, Justin Gignac set out to prove him wrong. He took something that no one wanted–garbage–and packaged it in a way that would push people to buy it.
That was in 2001. Now his garbage cubes are sold all over the world, and organizations request that he make art out of their garbage.
Looking at Gignac’s work, you can see why he can charge $50 to $100 for each cube. He doesn’t just jam garbage in a cube and call it a day; he arranges the garbage in a way so that a story unfolds. The result is that each cube becomes a keepsake.
One of his notable collections comes via the garbage collected on the first day same-sex marriage was legalized in New York City. Beads, bubble makers, feathers, and all sorts of celebratory things are enclosed in the cubes. Alone, these pieces of garbage are just that, but together they express the jubilation that was felt on that particular day.
Vacation photos are the worst. All you end up with are selfies that focus on your pimples instead of historical monuments. That’s exactly what happened to former Microsoft employee Nicole Smith when she was traversing around Paris with a friend.
Luckily, another person joined Smith and her friend on the trip, capturing wonderful memories with a cellphone camera. Smith enjoyed these photos so much that she googled vacation photographers as soon as she got home.
“I could find vacation photographers in New York and Paris, but it was all very disconnected. There was not one service that could connect you with a photographer anywhere in the world,” Smith told the Huffington Post.
She started Flytographer so that travelers could be connected with photographers, giving them wonderful keepsakes of their time abroad. A flytographer will meet up with you at your vacation destination and make sure that your photos outshine all the other photos in your Facebook news feed. What used to be a luxury is now accessible at a cost of $250.
Having a dog is great . . . until you’re elbow deep in their poop. Scooby’s business model is simple: They clean up dog poop. Founded by two college students who saw a need and filled it, the team behind Scooby’s have been cleaning up dog waste for 23 years.
After reading their About page, it’s easy to see that their business is not as simple as it seems. They don’t just scoop up poop; they also keep families happy by taking care of an unwanted chore. The Scooby team allows those with disabilities to have a furry companion by taking care of a task they are physically unable to do. They don’t just remove dog waste; they improve people’s relationships and quality of life.
These guys prove that anyone can be an entrepreneur. Remember the Chia Pet, the Pet Rock, or the Snuggie? All niche ideas that most people probably wouldn’t have banked on, but they turned out to be million-dollar businesses.
And when your ideas are motivated by passion, you’ll keep going when things get tough, which they inevitably will. It’s your passion that will keep you from listening to the naysayers. And if others call you crazy, take comfort in the fact that you’re in good company.
—Shrad Rao is CEO of Wagepoint and has a business degree with a background in financial and business analysis. Shrad’s leadership style involves making Wagepoint’s employees giddy-happy and to that end, he is constantly engaging in new experiments to challenge existing workplace norms.