When Focused on Mundane Problems, Entrepreneurs Find Opportunity
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
In 1923, Leo Gerstenzang invented and created a company that sells what are now known as Q-tips after seeing his wife applying wads of cotton to toothpicks. His product wasn’t, and still isn't, sexy but I'll bet you have Q-tips or an off-brand of Q-tips in your house. That’s what I call success. It’s the ability to recognize a problem, come up with a solution, build a company, market and sell a product that's make people’s lives easier or better.
A common misconception exists in business that, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to come up with “sexy” business ideas. It’s the absurd belief that if you want to make it in today’s fast-paced, super-connected, ultra-viral world of entrepreneurship, you better come up with a flashy idea or product that falls under the category of "cool", has never been thought of before and is sure to wow the masses overnight.
It’s a misconception that too often prevents would-be entrepreneurs from ever getting any idea, product or company off the ground. People lack the confidence to move on good ideas because they’re busy waiting for that one phenomenal, earth-shattering idea that they think they need in order to be successful as an entrepreneur.
But, as long as your idea or product solves someone’s problem, you’re on the right track. You have the potential to do great things, even if the people around you don’t find your idea or industry to be awesomely exciting at first. Here are six entrepreneurs making waves in enterprises a lot of people might think are boring.
Vanessa Green is working to solve a computer equipment problem that annoys us all. Green is the CEO and co-founder of FINsix, a company that has developed a solution for a problem that annoys us all: clunky laptop power adaptors. Green started the company after teaming up with three MIT electrical engineers who had been working on developing high-frequency power conversion technology that could significantly reduce the size of electronics inside something like a laptop charger.
Together, the group founded the company, pitched their idea to investors, landed $5 million in Series A funding and launched a Kickstarter campaign. They've begun work on a small, stylish and lightweight laptop power adapter called the Dart that the company will start shipping this fall.
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Raad Mobrem is making inventory management and fulfillment better for businesses around the world. Raad Mobrem is the CEO at Lettuce, a company that has developed a better and easier way for businesses of all sizes to manage and fulfill inventory and order requests.
Here’s the back story: Mobrem and two college buddies started an eco-friendly dog toy company called Dura Doggie as a class project. As business ramped up and orders flooded in, they struggled to keep up. When they couldn’t find an affordable solution for their inventory management problems, they decided to build their own cloud-based inventory software, now known as Lettuce. It didn’t take long for other businesses to take notice when they heard about or saw the app in action. The rest is history.
Brittany Hodak and Kim Kaupe are making CDs cool again. Hodak and Kaupe are co-founders at ZinePak, a company that has developed a way for musicians, sports teams and other brands to connect with fans on a unique and new level.
The two founders created ZinePak in the beginning as a way to help musicians grow their fanbase. Their magazine-style packages include everything from limited edition CDs and exclusive story booklets to temporary tattoos and other items geared toward specific audiences. Thanks to Hodak’s background in the music industry and Kaupe’s background in the publishing industry, the two were able to successfully launch a business that puts a new spin on media production and public relations.
Joshua Tetrick and Joshua Balk are saving chickens and making food healthier and more affordable in the process. Tetrick and Balk are co-founders at Hampton Creek Foods, a company that has developed a way to make healthier food more affordable and more environmentally-friendly by eliminating the need for high-cost ingredients like eggs in recipes and food products.
They started by creating a mayo that uses a plant-based product in place of eggs. Tetrick co-founded his company, Hampton Creek, and developed their first product after spending a number of years working for nonprofits that addressed food supply issues around the world. He teamed up with Balk, who was working with the Humane Society, to reduce the country’s dependence on factory-farmed chickens and eggs. Together, the two came up with a solution that eventually allowed them to create products like mayo without the need for eggs.
Once they had a working product and business model, they pitched investors and raised $30 million in funding and landed contracts that put their first product on the shelves.
Your business idea, company, or industry doesn’t have to be revolutionary, the first-of-its-kind or “trendy” for you to succeed. Don’t be afraid to move on your ideas. Chances are, they’re worth moving on. It just comes down to whether or not you have the guts to move on them.
Related: Look Before You Leap