Ridiculous Businesses That Made People Millions

Updated: November 11, 2010

Sometimes, life isn't fair. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middling get rich off of their hare-brained business ideas. (If I sound envious, that's because I am.) The following seven businesses make their founders millionaires, and, well, the concepts behind some of them might make you scratch your head a bit:

The Million Dollar Homepage. Alex Tew, 21-year-old college student, founded the million dollar homepage as a way to pay for his college expenses. The premise? Businesses and individuals pay $1 per pixel in 10x10 blocks with which to advertise on the internet. Tew hoped to sell one million pixels. The site originally grew via word-of-mouth, and then, after it made $1000, a press release was given to the BBC. The website subsequently achieved massive media attention, and Tew auctioned off the last few pixels on eBay -- and the highest bid was $38,100, placed by MillionDollarWeightLoss.com. Postmodern monstrosity, or stroke of capitalist genius? You decide.

Ashley Madison. As it turns out, people cheat. People pay good money to cheat, in fact. AshleyMadison.com is a site that claims over 3.2 million members -- and only married or otherwise involved people can join. Sound morally ambiguous? Probably. But the married founder of the site is, likely at this very moment, laughing his merry way to the bank.

Laser Monks. Finally, a business for people who want their discounted printer cartridges manufactured by Cistercian monks! That's right: LaserMonks.com, which began in 2002 (with a $2,000 profit) now makes over $2.5 million a year in discounted printer cartridges. They have a variety of clients -- from Morgan Stanley to local schools and office supply centers -- and pride themselves in treating their customers with dignity, and "making e-commerce more human." Laser Monks has expanded into other areas as well, and now sells dog biscuits and coffee, among other goods.

Santa Mail. Now you have corporate help when it comes to lying to your kids! Since 2002, Santa Mail has sent over 300,000 letters to kids around the world from a North Pole, Alaska mailing address -- parents pay $10 per letter for the service. The business has at least brought in $3 million since its launch, and with its super low production costs (about .30 a letter), Santa Mail's business model will likely continue to thrive into the future.

Antenna Balls. Jason Wall, founder of AntennaBalls.com, has been selling customizable radio antenna balls since 1998. He got the idea from (where else?) Jack in the Box, and started off selling the balls at convenience stores and gas stations. The company now manufactures 500,000 antenna balls a month, and has made Wall, CEO of In-Concept, Inc., a multimillionaire.

Plastic Wishbones. This one almost takes the cake in the "Why didn't I think of this, stupid?" category. In 2004, a man who got tired of his family fighting at Thanksgiving over who got to break the turkey wishbone founded Lucky Break Wishbone Corp. in an effort to effectively solve similar disputes worldwide. It's also a great option for vegetarians who feel strangely compelled to break plastic during the holidays. With sales over $2.5 million annually, turns out Ken Ahroni tapped into some unconscious mass desire we didn't even knew we had. Kinda scary.

Blacksocks. Thanks to these guys for coining the term, "sockscription." Blacksocks, founded by a web marketing executive in Zurich, began in 1999 when a man had to take off his socks for a Japanese tea ceremony, and was embarrassed to discover that not only were they mismatched, but they had holes in them. Primarily a service for businessmen, Blacksocks allows its customers to choose the quantity and frequency with which they want their high-end socks to be delivered (they can also be purchased individually from the site.)

So, there you have it -- seven crazy businesses that have made people millions. Guess it's time to get cracking on that custom fake facial hair site, then?

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