When Bob Page told his friends and family he wanted to quit his auditing job to start his own business, they were less than encouraging to him. Well, that’s actually an understatement. Basically what they told him was he was crazy.
Fortunately he didn’t listen. Instead he figured that if he could devote time to doing what he loved, he could make money – even if it was less than what he was earning at a CPA. Bob was right on the first count. When you love what you do, it’s hard not to make money. What Bob didn’t realize at the time was that his “crazy” idea would wind up making him more money than he’d ever dreamed of.
You see, today Bob’s company, Replacements Ltd. is the world’s largest supplier of discontinued china, glassware, flatware, and collectibles. It all started when Bob bought a part interest in a Greensboro, North Carolina antique store. A customer asked if he could find some missing pieces for her china set. He did. And then an interesting thing started to happen. According to his website:
“As friends learned of his interest in china and crystal, they asked him to be on the lookout for particular dinnerware patterns they needed as well as pieces they had lost or broken. Bob quickly found himself devoting more and more time to his hobby, often staying up until the early morning hours to fill orders. Bob stored the china and crystal in his attic, while his bedroom served as his office.”
When the Small Business Administration (SBA) refused him a loan saying his idea would never work, Bob convinced the owner of a commercial building to rent him retail space. He got the word out by placing small ads in magazines.
His crazy idea worked! In his first year he grossed more than $150,000 in sales. In 2002, sales exceeded $69 million and in 2008 (the latest figures available) sales exceeded $85 million.
Now, the company’s 455,800 square foot facilities house an inventory of nearly 13million pieces from over 340,000 patterns, employs some 500 people, and serves more than ten million customers worldwide.
So much for the wisdom of friends, family, and the even the experts at the SBA!
Speaking of finding support, try to imagine what Katie Wainwright’s family and friends had to say when she told them she wanted to pick up dog poop for a living.
You read right. In 2003 Katie started Doggy Doody Disposal in my home town of Agawam, Massachusetts. The company provides “doody scooping” or bagged doody removal for clients in western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut.
In addition to residential clients, they also service commercial property owners, pet related businesses, golf courses, parks, realtors and more. The company credo is “We do doody so you won’t have to.” And as a dog owner myself I appreciate the added touch of keeping their client’s informed of any changes in their dog’s doody. I mean who does that?!
These are just a couple of the countless other “crazy” ideas that have proved the nay sayers wrong and helped catapult the idea maker out of a job they hate into a life they love. The next time you get a crazy idea for a small business do two things:
First, get a notebook and label it Crazy Business Ideas. In one section, collect examples of crazy idea that have worked. In another keep a running list of your own crazy money making ideas.
Next, seek out people who will support your idea. Unless you come from a family of entrepreneurs, chances your supporters aren’t in your family or immediate circle of friends. Where will you find them? You don’t have to own a business to join an organization inhabited by entrepreneurs. Although I have zero interest in inventing a product, I once joined a local inventors group because I love the energy of being around can-do, make-it-happen type people.
Similarly, you don’t have to be a business owner to join your local Chamber of Commerce. Many communities also have some sort of association of small business owners that meet on monthly basis.
As the great actor Katherine Hepburn once said, “Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting.”
Some of the most interesting means of support begin as a crazy idea. The key is to keep coming up with them, then when you find one you love, recognize that the only sane response is to go for it.