The Beauty of Simplicity in Entrepreneurship: 5 Successful Businesses That Started with Simple Ideas
The idea of starting a business can be both exciting and daunting. On one hand, it offers the opportunity to pursue one’s passion and create a successful venture. On the other hand, there are numerous risks and challenges involved. Many aspiring entrepreneurs are dissuaded by the statistics that say most new businesses fail within three years. However, successful businesses do exist, and some of them started with a simple idea. Here are five new companies that have achieved success through the beauty of simplicity.
Lori Cheek was an architect with an itch for something different. Her dating app, Cheekd.com, makes missed connections obsolete by connecting people in real time instead of just virtually. It allows users to meet in person before continuing online. She was forced to get 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.
Her most significant opportunity came when she took her idea to the “Shark Tank” reality show. Though all five judges turned down her offer, Lori 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 labeled Cheekd, “the next generation of online dating.” She has been featured in The Huffington Post, Inc. Magazine, and TEDx. Cheekd has customers in 47 states and 28 countries.
Air Ad Promotions
Marty Buckholt started Air Ad Promotions in 1989. He found the idea in Entrepreneur magazine of advertising balloons. He pitched it to his roommate, agreeing that he would fund the work and his roommate would use his sales skills to start generating income. However, the 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 most significant challenge. In their startup days, credit cards and lines of credit were scarce. So, besides the company’s profits, bootstrapping was the only option. However, with patience and persistence, Air Ad Promotions was able to make $100,000 in revenue within their first year. Marty believed his success to anticipating the needs of his customers. He admits that he’s still not ideal after being in business for 25 years. However, the company now generates over 6 million dollars in yearly revenue.
Fundrise began with a simple question: “Why can’t everyone invest in real estate?” The founders, also real estate developers, purchased a debilitated building and converted it into a mixed-use retail and restaurant space. The hardest 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 community. They earned $12,000 in their first year of business and continued to grow each year. Last year, the business received $35 million from a Series A round led by Renren, a Chinese tech company. Fundrise now has over 50,000 members who have invested in 55 projects across the country and have received over 50 million dollars from investors to fund real estate projects. They are on target to make $3 million dollars this year.
Josh Goldstein is the co-founder of Underdog, a small technology startup that began with a simple concept. He created a form that took a minute for candidates to complete. He and his team of four went through a process of analyzing, tagging, and grading candidates. They then feature the top 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 it the curated marketplace for talent. From the beginning of his business until now, he remains a bootstrapper. He and his team run the company 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 incredible success, Josh admits that he and his team are overwhelmed with work. In the beginning, it was much worse since they were utilising a manual process rather than their current streamlined system. If there is one thing that Josh and the Underdog crew care about the most, it is their customer service.
Le Club Des Douze
Three and a half years ago, Alex Rizos started Le Club Des Douze, hoping to establish himself in menswear retail. “When I launched, the company was basically just an idea. I wasn’t anxious to move forward, but I wasn’t sure which direction it was going to take, so I decided to fund it all on my own to make sure that it wouldn’t cost more than I had.” In his first year on the market, Alex only made about $200 a month in the first few months, and almost $8,000 that year, but it only accounted for 10% of his income.
Within a year, he took a different path, adding content to make the company resemble a blog. Alex wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to invest his current income from the company to develop it further. He pushed harder and earned a full-time income in the second year. Le Club Des Douze now generates over $100,000 in annual revenue and has partnered with hundreds of independent brands.
For aspiring business owners, Alex shares a useful piece of advice. “Having a vision is not enough. You need to have the drive and an action plan to turn your idea into a profitable business.”
Finally, contrary to popular belief, starting a business can be simple, especially if you have a good idea. Success, however, is never easy. But by following the examples above, every entrepreneur’s journey, including yours, can be rewarding. Bootstrapping, persistence, hard work, identifying customer needs, etc., are common attributes found in these success stories. If coupled with patience and dedication, more simple ideas can spawn successful businesses.