2013-11-01 / Columnists


By Rick Horan

These Ideas were considered a bit wacky, until they began making money…

Toy robotic balls controlled by smartphones.

Friends Adam Wilson and Ian Bernstein wanted to create a new toy. "We can make a remote-control car that we could sell that day, but I've never seen a robotic ball," says Bernstein, who founded the company along with Wilson. With an initial investment from Bernstein's father, they got started. In May, Wilson and Bernstein were accepted into TechStars, a mentoring and seed-capital program in Boulder, Colo. Recently, they closed their first round of financing with an injection from Boulder, Colo., venture capital firm the Foundry Group LLC.

Faux fur hats that resemble skinned stuffed animals.

Alexander Mendeluk was looking to do something special. The result was a bobcat hood that stunned the crowd at a Hollywood party. So Mendeluk teamed up with friends Ashley Haber, Marley Morotta and Chase Hamilton, who ponied up the first $10,000 of seed capital. Since launching their brand at the Pooltradeshow in Las Vegas, Spirit Hoods have become a hot commodity among celebrities such as Ke$ha, members of the Black Eyed Peas and Kanye West. Between the 40-plus accounts in the U.S., Canada and Japan, Mendeluk says, "we are moving thousands of units" and expect sales to top $1 million for 2010.

A cupcakery with a macho aesthetic.

David Arrick was a laid-off real estate attorney trying to figure out what to do with his life. Then one day, walking past a line of people waiting outside Magnolia Bakery in Manhattan, he wondered "where's the boy bakery?" He decided to get in on the cupcake craze, cashed out his 401(k) and maxed out his credit card to get started. Soon came the "B-52," a Kahlua-soaked cupcake sporting a camouflage topping and the "Beer Run," a chocolate-beer cupcake with beer-infused buttercream and crushed pretzel sprinkles. He began with just a website and deliveries to Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, N.Y., and has plans to open a storefront. He recently inked a sponsorship deal with the Breville stand mixer and has a forthcoming cookbook with John Wiley & Sons.

Online vintage clothing boutique where every garment has a "past life."

A former fashion editor for OK! Magazine and fashion assistant at Vogue, Brenna Egan launched an online vintage clothing boutique, which includes a lovingly written "past life" description for each article of clothing. Suede shorts, for example, get this treatment: "Tawny had spent the winter crosscountry skiing across Idaho and was more than ready to ditch her cold weather garb." Egan, who says her biggest challenge is getting fresh merchandise posted fast enough, is being courted by reality TV producers and working on a novel based on her website.

Dig This, Steamboat Springs, Colorado. A construction playground where people can play with heavy equipment such as bulldozers and excavators.

While building his Steamboat Springs, Colo., home, Ed Mumm rented some construction equipment to clear the land. The experience -- which he calls an "extensive earth moving operation" -- sparked the idea for "heavyequipment adventures," and Dig This was born. Three years after launching, Mumm has six hundred clients a year paying to play in his five-acre "sandbox." He is finalizing a deal to open a new location in Las Vegas. "If I get a tenth of 1 percent of the city's 20 [million] or 30 million visitors, I'll be a very happy man," says Mumm.

Watch for Part 2 next week.

So what’s your not-so-wacky idea? RickHoran@IdeasImprov.com

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