Here are two examples of entrepreneurs who piggybacked their startup business on a bigger, popular product.

In this instance, the products are the trendy and fashionable Crocs shoes and the ubiquitous iPod.

This can make starting your business easier in that people already know the product and you have a ready-made customer base.

Business 2.0 Magazine

How did a stay-at-home mom start a business that she later sold to Crocs for $10 million? “It was an accident,” says Sheri Schmelzer of Boulder, Colorado.

One day in summer 2005, she decided to use clay and rhinestones to make charms that would fit snugly into the holes of her family’s 10 pairs of Crocs. When husband Rich came home, he saw the potential.

There are 26 million pairs of Crocs in the world, more than 80 percent of them speckled by holes, and many of those shoes are on the feet of accessory-friendly youth. Jibbitz, as the charms (and the company) came to be known, can be anything – peace signs, flowers, you name it – to please a demographic eager for variety.

In February, when the company sold its 250,000th piece, Jibbitz products were carried in 300 stores and pulled in $212,000 in sales; 6 million pieces of Jibbitz later, in August, the products were in 3,000 stores and garnered sales of $2.2 million.

In October the Schmelzers agreed to take $10 million from Crocs for the company, which will operate as a subsidiary, plus $10 million more if they hit earnings targets.


Christine Ingemi got tired of telling her four kids to stop blasting their iPods. So she did something about it.

The 38-year-old mother of four has a patent pending on
iHearSafe, the only low-decibel earbuds that she says solve the hearing-loss problem caused by high volume on mp3 players.“I know myself, as a parent, I had to do something,â€? she said. “Children have tender ears.â€?

So Ingemi and her husband, Rick, did some research, interviewed audiologists and came up with a product that can be used with iPods, stereos, televisions and other electronic gadgets.

IHearSafe earbud-style headphones are designed with a built-in volume control or audio limiter that doesn’t exceed 80 decibels, she said.

“Kids can’t turn it up, no matter what,â€? Ingemi said.

Photo by David Aaron Troy; iHearSafe.

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