Young Millionaires and The Flawed Logic of a Million Dollar Idea

by Alexander Heyne · 2 comments

This must be the era of the Entrepreneur with a capital E.Entrepreneur Magazine Young Millionaires

It seems like every day the news is filled with stories of people under 25 selling companies for 1 million + dollars.

What’s the deal here? Most of these companies or projects I have never even heard of it.  There’s obviously a ton of money out there, but I wondered what traits these kids shared other than the obvious ones.

We usually associate the success of these entrepreneurial ideas to the ideas themselves.

“Oh man I just got the sickest idea..”

“The Million dollar idea that comes to you in the shower..”

Or the entire show called What’s the Big Idea.

But honestly I don’t think it’s the ideas that make the million.

In fact this is a post inviting you to think about the real attributes of success, and to move your thinking away from the “million dollar idea” kind of thinking.

Because the idea is not what makes you a million dollars.  Decent ideas with a million times the work, testing, and tweaking make you a million dollars.


Myyearbook young millionaires

Just this morning there was a news report on two siblings that created (another) social network called myYearbook.

In the interview, Catherine Cook said that she and her brother were at a new school and realized that they didn’t have very many friends, so they wanted to establish a network for friends at their new school.

Long story short, they ended up expanding to their friends and eventually schools – selling the company for $100 million.

New idea? Not really, but it caught on.


Modcloth Young Millionaires

Modcloth was started by a girl named Susan Gregg at age 17 who had a stuffed closet of vintage clothes and was taking off to college, so she opened an online boutique to sell them.

In august 2010 when the article was posted on  Modcloth was predicting $50 million in annual sales.

Not bad, right?

Bear Naked

Bear Naked Young Millionaires

Bear Naked was actually started by two young in-betweeners right in the area where I live.

The story goes that Kelly Flatley and Brendan Synnott were making healthy granola in their kitchen because they were tired of all the chemically-infested ones already in existence.

So they came up with a plan, began small selling at fairs, and eventually got into larger stores like Stew Leonard’s.

2007’s projected sales were $25 million.

On Million-Dollar Ideas

The above three companies are just examples of little-known money makers that didn’t take on extremely new ideas.

myYearbook? Facebook, Myspace.

Modcloth? Zappos

Bear Naked? Clif bars ($150 million annually)

One thing worth noting is that my comparison companies above do not occupy the same niche.

They occupy similar niches, but are positioned importantly.

Nonetheless, these three companies above are making a ton of money.

Not revolutionary ideas. Not entirely new. But definitely million + dollar ideas.

Cease the Incessant Dependence on Ideas; Do Something.

You may hate me or disagree here: but ideas aren’t the key feature of million-dollar projects. Not even close.

Sometimes there’s a new invention that comes on tv that made someone a near-instant millionaire. But those are the exceptions – we only assume they are common because we are a get rich quick obsessed society that fawns over that kind of information and circulates it widely.

Stop assuming that it just takes your “million-dollar idea” and start something small and get to work. Immediately.

An awesome guide I can recommend regarding getting a project started immediately is via a recent post on Tim Ferris’ Site: how to create a million dollar business.

But the truth is that there is a shit ton of money out there and you don’t need a million-dollar idea to make  a million dollars.

Very few people I know that started successful businesses started off with “genius ideas” – their product, service, or offering morphed and developed over time.

Like Instagram, the beginning was much different from the end, and the entire million dollar story was in the story – the execution – itself.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lauren November 8, 2011 at 9:46 pm

I just discovered this site and love it! I’m 23 and still trying to figure out how to do what I love and not starve/have to run around naked, etc. I love reading about people who started something small and eventually developed it into a successful business. I think your point about not needing a “million dollar idea” to make a million dollars is so true, and people often forget about that. Million dollar ideas are great and you’re lucky if you come up with one. But it’s also possible to grow a successful business with a good, useful idea that starts small and keeps growing. Thanks for this post. Really inspirational.


afheyne November 8, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Lauren, I literally just was checking out your site 5 minutes ago on twitter! I have a hunch we will definitely be crossing paths more often in the future.

And yeah, this is one of those ideas I keep close to me – with stuff like entrepreneur magazine laying around, talking about this kid sold a business for 25 million or that kid sold a business for 30 million, your mind gets distorted. You get these visions of grandeur which prevent you from actually working *now* on something.

And I know a lot of people with just plain “good” ideas making more money than they know what to do with.

Here’s a cheers to you and I cashing in, doing something enjoyable ;). Oh, and before the world ends in 2012. Haha




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