Necessity is supposed to be the mother of invention. And it’s simple to trace the success of some businesses to their ability to satisfy a long-standing demand.
But this logic doesn’t hold true for every enterprise. The strength of some of today’s biggest businesses is a bit baffling.
So if you want to find a left field formula for entrepreneurial excellence, let’s take a look at 4 big businesses we once thought were weird.
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Bottled water had been available in one form or another for generations before Perrier came along. However, Perrier hit the US market in a major way in the late 1970’s.
Hotshot consultants McKinsey predicted that the gassy French water would be a flop. They were quite certain Americans would never part with their hard-earned cash for a product that was available from household taps for free.
US sales in 1975 reached a modest 2.5 million bottles. Moreover, there was nothing to suggest they’d ever rise significantly.
But a brilliant 1977 TV ad campaign featuring Orson Welles, combined with sponsorship of that year’s New York Marathon, changed the company’s fortunes. The following year, Perrier sold 75 million bottles. A decade later they were topping 300 million bottles annually.
Crocs polarize fashion fans. The brightly colored chunky shoes are loved by some and hated by others.
The firm was set up by friends Scott Seamans, Lyndon Hanson and George Boedecker. The trio based their design on a non-slip clog that Seaman had recently bought from a Canadian firm called Foam Creations.
The three friends applied their own styling tweaks and licensed the original design. However, by 2002 the shoe firm could declare only a meager $1,000 profit.
Nonetheless, things have certainly changed. A mix of comfortable design and eco-conscious credentials eventually converted cynics. To date, the firm has shifted 300 million pairs in 90 countries, all around the world.
When Amazon launched in 1995 as an online bookshop, no one could have predicted it was destined for sustained global success.
Most observers believed that people would stick to buying books from traditional shops or borrowing them for free from libraries.
But a simple initial offering allowed the company to gradually expand its services. In 2016 it was the fourth most valuable company in the world, a gigantic global marketplace.
Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg first conceived of Facebook as a tool for students in his art history class. He intended it only as a means to share insights and study tips.
It took 2 weeks to develop, and it quickly became popular on campus. However, although he recognized its potential for much larger communities, he didn’t think he’d personally adopt it for the outside world.
He believes that other entrepreneurs ignored the platform because they believed its appeal and possible applications were limited.
Nonetheless, he plowed ahead. This year, the firm passed the $500 billion milestone, with more than 2 billion monthly active users. Not bad at all for a nerdy college project.
So whether you specialize in catenary wire or cat cafes, a simple business offering, an eye for product potential and unwavering self-belief can carry you a long way. And these 4 big businesses we once thought were doomed for obscurity have proven it well.