People of any age have amazing imaginations, and whether or not we realize it, we find inspiration in our everyday lives. It's amazing how some people are able to translate abstract ideas into tangible realities. One day, we have a dream to open a coffee shop, and several years later, that vision becomes a profitable enterprise, generating millions in profit each quarter.
TUTORIAL: Business Plan
This is the quintessential American dream, and some might say that our current economic times have destroyed and buried it. Taking another look, however, we find examples of unparalleled success in the form of everyday small business leaders who have made ideas real. These founders exemplify the vision that so few have the willpower, determination and opportunity to pursue. Literally speaking, these businesses are one in a million, and we can't help but cheer them on. (For related reading, check out Starting A Small Business.)
While students at Harvard, Yifan Zhang and Geoff Oberhofer came across an idea in their behavioral economics class. In 2011, they transformed that idea into something that people could actually use. Now, their product is on the market as an up-and-coming high-demand app. The vision came from the following question: "what if we pay people to go to the gym and exercise and take money away from them if they don't?" As the app's name suggests, people make a pact to work out, choosing a routine that fits with their lifestyles and habits. To receive compensation, you need to stay at the gym for at least 30 minutes. They'll use the GPS on your iPhone to double check that you're actually there.
Based in San Francisco, BAMM.tv has a vision to build out a new business model in the recording industry. At no cost to the artist, musicians can record and upload HD music videos. BAMM will then circulate that video within its own network across 150 countries and approximately 20 million people. They are even working on launching an app. According to Chris Hansen, the company's CEO, the goal is to add new structure to a recording industry that is "out of balance."
In 2009, seven years after graduating from Harvard, Matt MacInnis founded a company that specializes in educational materials for the iPad. As of right now, the company's talent base is roughly 60-strong with marketers, recruiters and engineers. They're also backed by Sequoia Capital and have relationships with McGraw-Hill and Pearson. So what exactly do they do? Their specialty is interactive textbooks that cater to a variety of learning styles by generating "content that responds to the user."
It's no secret that the bridal market is a powerful force with tremendous profit-potential. Between bridesmaid dress sales, flowers and jewelry, men can get lost in a sea of extremely feminine items. In a wedding market that caters to women, what if there was a destination for men? Well, it exists, and it's called TheManRegistry. Here, people can browse gifts, content and wedding vendor listings for grooms. Named a Top 30 Entrepreneur under the Age of 30 by Inc. Magazine, Chris Easter & Bob Horner launched this site in 2007. (Also, check out Are You An Entrepreneur?)
Based in Los Angeles, Demeter is a web marketing firm that specializes in social strategy, interactive media branding, online PR, socially integrated web design and web-optimized video production. Spearheaded by Gaia Dempsey and Jesse Bouman, the firm is grounded in their shared vision of quality in high-tech. Beginning as a spur of the moment idea, Demeter now works with consumer brands, tech startups and companies with a focus on sustainability. While they're still young and small, they're mighty and growing.
The Bottom Line
With five examples of different young companies in five thriving markets, we see amazing sources for inspiration. While it's true that successful businesses don't happen overnight, you can't help but support the founders, teams, and organizations that manage to persevere through the tough "next steps." (For related reading, see Starting A Small Business In Tough Economic Times.)