Why Didn’t I Think of That? 5 Too-Simple-To-Work Ideas That Did Anyway

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Have you ever found yourself looking at a piece of modern art, that’s just like a blank canvas with one hastily-drawn red square in the corner?

And you think to yourself, I could have done that!

And you’re right. You could have.

But you didn’t. (I didn’t either.)

Just like you or I didn’t come up with any number of simple ideas that ended up taking off.

A business, especially a side hustle business, doesn’t need to be exceedingly complex to work. In fact, it’s sometimes the stupid-simple ideas that seem to work out the best.

Let’s explore.

1. Pet Rock

The pet rock was a brief fad in the mid 1970s. It was a real rock, marketed as a living pet, and came in a box complete with a straw, breathing holes, and a punny instruction manual on how to care for it.

pet rock

 (image credit)

“Inventor” Gary Dahl, an advertising executive, sold 1.5 million of these critters for $3.95 apiece, making himself an instant millionaire.

At the height of the craze, he was shipping more 10,000 pet rocks a day.

Think this is a relic of a bygone era? Is it really that different from the Tamagotchis of the late 1990s or the Farmvilles of just a couple years ago?

2. The Red Paperclip Guy

Although we’ve already covered this story, it’s worth mentioning again. In 2005, an out-of-work Kyle MacDonald started with a single red paperclip and traded his way up to a house in Kipling, Saskatchewan.

That’s right, he started with a paperclip and ended up with a house!

red paperclip house
Kyle, in front of his house.

Sometimes it’s the craziest ideas that attract the most attention. That’s kind of a common theme on this list.

3. The Million Dollar Homepage

In 2005, Alex Tew, a 21-year old university student from England created MillionDollarHomepage.com. The premise was to take a 1000×1000 pixel website, and sell each pixel as advertising space for $1.

Since each pixel is too small for any coherent logo or message, the minimum purchase was a 10×10 square for $100.

In less than 6 months, Tew sold every pixel for a grand total of $1,037,100. (The final pixels sold for a premium in an eBay auction.)

As you might imagine, the end result is a pretty serious eyesore:

million dollar homepage

Don’t stare at that too long; it will give you a headache.

4. I Wear Your Shirt

In 2009, Jason Sadler embarked on a mission to wear a different company’s t-shirt every day of the year. In return, he would promote and advertise the company that sent him the shirt across his website (IWearYourShirt.com) and on social media.

The gimmick was the price went up each day. On January 1st, the advertising and exposure only cost $1, but on the 2nd it was $2, all the way up to $365 on December 31st.

In total, the business earned $66,795 in 2009, plus some extra income from sponsorships and contests. Rates doubled in 2010.

Fun fact #1: Jason cites the Million Dollar Homepage as inspiration.

Fun fact #2: Jason’s legal last name is now Headsets.com, after auctioning off the rights to it for $45,000 in 2012.

Fun fact #3: In 2016, I sat down with Jason (now legally Jason Zook) to discuss how to get sponsorships for anything.

5. The iFart App

In 2008, Internet entrepreneur and author Joel Comm introduced the iFart app for iPhone. The $0.99 app, which — you guessed it — makes farting noises, is one of Apple’s top-selling apps of all-time.


According to one source, the app has been downloaded more than 600,000 times, netting Joel’s company around $400,000.

Why Didn’t I Think of That?

I share these as a reminder to myself and to Side Hustle Nation that even if an idea seems stupid, you never really know until you give it a shot.

I mean, a blanket with arm holes has generated a half a billion dollars in sales. (This could easily turn into an essay on the ridiculous stuff people will buy, but for entrepreneurs, that ridiculousness is opportunity, right?)

How does the saying go? “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication?”

Don’t overthink it. Let’s make something happen.

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6 thoughts on “Why Didn’t I Think of That? 5 Too-Simple-To-Work Ideas That Did Anyway”

  1. It’s funny how people try to explain the meaning behind some art work. I wonder if the artist looked at the canvas, drew a bunch of shapes, then tried to come up with the meaning after it was all done.

    I think I remember even watching a dog rub paint on a canvas and then the owner was giving meaning to it and selling the painting for a high price… Why didn’t I think of that?


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