A quarterback for the Washington Redskins graduates from school and, spotting a gap in the market when out hunting one day, invents a duck-caller making him absurdly wealthy. If it wasn’t true it’d sound bizarre, but on account of his creation Phil Robertson became a multi-millionaire. And he’s not the only guy whose simple invention generated millions, in some cases, billions. Indeed, some these inventions make the humble duck-caller seem almost ethereal.
Take the Plastic wishbone, invented by Ken Ahroni in 1999 after a Thanksgiving meal. Ken figured that, as the turkey only had one wishbone, why not make more? After a few plastics experiments Ken founded Lucky Break Wishbones. Sold in packets of four for $3.99 to four hundred for $195.99 these animal friendly charms and have made Ken a fortune.
You got goggles, you got a dog, then you’ve got Doggles! On the one hand, a bit of harmless fun for you and your favourite buddy but Doggles have a very practical side to them too. In addition to protecting dogs’ from harmful UV rays they were used by rescue dogs in Iran to protect their eyes from dust and debris. They also netted their inventor, Roni di Lullo, millions.
From natty dogs to stupid cats, I Can Has Cheezburger was the brainchild (if you can call it that) of a pair of students, Eric Nakagawa and his pal Kari Unebasemi who created a website in order to showcase lolcats, that is, amusing pictures of cats with accompanying witty text. At its peak in May 2007 ICHC was receiving as many as 1,500,000 hit a day, a couple of months later a group of investors acquired the site for two million dollars.
So far so good but if you really want to make it big, you’ve got to get into toys, and by that I meant ludicrously simple toys that have netted their inventors millions, and in the case of Beanie Babies, between three and six billion US dollars. Created by Ty Warner in 1993, these pellet-stuffed toys were never advertised, or sold in chain stores, and the toys manufactured in limited runs making them highly collectible. Deals with the likes of Disney and Nickelodeon have ensured their continuing appeal and, of course, profits.
The Koosh Ball was Scott Stilliger’s idea, in 1986 he made an easy-catch ball out of rubber bands for his kids and the idea caught on, big time. After making a fortune in sales he sold the company to Hasbro for $100 million. Simple and effective but none of the above compare to the must-have toy of 1975.
Gary Dahl, an advertising executive, purchased a pile of grey stones from a builders merchants, placed them on a little ring of straw and popped them in a cardboard box (with ‘air holes’) and tongue-in-cheek care and training instructions. After he sold a load he added eyes, either painted or stuck on, and his creation went on to sell 1.5 million making Gary millions in the process.
By 1976 the Pet Rock novelty had worn off but it we’re not done quite yet. In September 2012 a new version of Pet Rock was launched, and guess what? It’s a rock in a box, just like Gary’s original.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, Pet Rock says otherwise.