It isn’t easy to strike it rich, even when you put in a great deal of hard work and dedication. You also need to have talent and vision to be successful. But most of the time, you need a little bit more luck than the average person to actually make your dreams of hitting it big come true.
That’s just part of what makes the following entrepreneurs so remarkable. They all have unique talents, but nobody could have predicted they would become as wealthy as they did… and in such strange ways! These backstories aren’t just unconventional, they’re inspiring.
1. Hamdi Ulukaya: This immigrant from Turkey only had $3,000 to his name when he arrived in the United States in 1994. Eleven years later, he made a risky purchase that ultimately led to the founding of a wildly popular brand of Greek yogurt that you probably know by name…
Chobani! In 2005, he purchased an abandoned warehouse to begin testing recipes for what would become a leading brand in the market. Chobani yogurt got its start in a single kosher grocery store on Long Island, then became so popular that Ulukaya became a billionaire just five years later!
2. Dani Johnson: At 21, this former cocktail waitress was homeless and living out of her car when she made a handwritten flier that changed everything. She began a grassroots advertising campaign for a local weight loss program and discovered her passion for marketing. Eventually, her reputation grew and by 23 she built a million-dollar empire helping others find personal and financial success.
Dani Johnson / YouTube
3. Alan Shawn Feinstein: Collecting stamps might sound boring these days, but when this philanthropist started selling them through newsletters, he made a fortune! Since then, he’s written several books, become active in philanthropy, and collected a handful of awards, including the Longfellow Humanitarian Award from the American Red Cross.
4. Phil Robertson: Robertson once had a shot at a lucrative NFL career while playing football at Louisiana Tech as an undergrad. Despite his football scholarship, two years into his college career he saw a future in making handmade duck calls and hosting duck hunts instead…
Amazingly, Robertson’s Duck Commander duck call product took off, and it brought unbelievable wealth to the Robertson family. His strange business—and quirky antics—led to him becoming the most recognizable face of the cult-favorite A&E reality television series, Duck Dynasty.
5. Alex Tew: This British college student had an unconventional plan to try to help pay for his schooling in 2005, but amazingly, his plan to sell a million pixels as ad space (which he created for one dollar each) worked in just a matter of months! Not bad for a site riddled with an almost overwhelming collage of tiny, flashy images.
6. Gary Dahl: A conversation with a friend at a bar who was complaining about the responsibilities involved with taking care of a pet, gave him an idea to create $4 “Pet Rocks.” They can be painted and decorated to look like pals, but don’t need to be fed, walked, or cleaned up after!
To this day, the idea of an inanimate object that people not only pay for but treat like a real pet, might sound like a punchline to many folks. Yet Gary sold as many as 1.5 million of them in just one year, and since the materials were so cheap, there was barely any overhead to worry about!
7. Alice Alonzo: This seemingly-ordinary housekeeper from Manila saved some money and used it to kick-start her candle empire, even using a machine that turns recycled wax into unique candles. Her business now produces over 3,000 candles each day!
8. Trining Climaco: Not long after dropping out of grade school, she started sorting through other people’s trash and, well, turned it into treasure! She’s now the proud owner of a wildly successful junk shop that transforms scrap metal and other recyclable material into materials that can be re-sold, not to mention what she’s described as a “dream house.”
9. Sara Blakely: At 41 years old in 2012, she became the youngest female member of the World’s Billionaires list after starting Spanx, her highly successful hosiery company in 2000, specializing in garments that make people appear to have thinner figures.
Amazingly, unlike many other commercially successful businesses of a similar caliber, Spanx remains a private corporation. Blakely still owns 100% of the company she started herself. How do you like them apples?
10. JC and Mike Conrad: These two were unemployed (not to mention lacking college educations) when they started selling their specialty meats in an empty parking lot in the midst of the late-2000s recession. Now, “Zaycon Fresh” is a $70 billion meat operation. However, a lawsuit in 2018 forced them to suspend their business.
11. Ailin Graef: Also known as “Anshe Chung” in the massively successful online role-playing game Half Life, she became a real-life millionaire after accumulating a great deal of electronic wealth in the game! These kinds of games may seem to be part of another world, but they’re immersive enough that they can have real-life impact.
12. Or Arbel: This man created an app that simply says “yo”, which earned him a fortune. Literally, all this app does is say “yo” to users’ friends with the tap of a button, but its crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter raised over a million dollars! That’s pretty good for an idea that, hard as it may be to believe, consists of just a single gimmick.
13. Scott Stillinger: In an effort to create a fun, quirky ball that would be safe for his children to play with, he attached 2,000 rubber strings to a sphere in 1986, spawning the Koosh Ball, a massive toy success!
14. Rhys Davies: in 2006, one ambitious 14-year-old boy made over $100,000 from banner ad revenue alone due to the wildly popular and glittery graphics he provided for free on his website. These banners were designed specifically for people to incorporate into MySpace pages.
15. PewDiePie (Felix Kjellberg): To date, this Swedish YouTuber best known for his video game commentary, has amassed over 63 million subscribers, making him the most subscribed user in the site’s history.
Zennie Abraham / Flickr
YouTube eventually banned Pewdiepie, however, when he became embroiled in controversy surrounding racist and anti-Semitic language. However, he has continued to create content elsewhere since and retains a massive, loyal following regardless.
camknows / Wikimedia Commons
These entrepreneurs’ stories all just go to show that you can’t predict what might become a hit. No dream is too big or too small!
Share these incredible stories with your friends below.