Ten Unexpected Products That Made Millions in Profit

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If you have a product idea to present to a company or manufacturer, you might be holding onto a million-dollar concept. Admittedly, such ideas aren’t the most common occurrences, and they certainly don’t manifest for everyone. However, there are instances where seemingly unlikely products turned into massive successes, raking in seven figures and beyond. In this list, we’ll explore ten products that defied expectations, generating substantial profits for their inventors and/or manufacturers. These unexpected ideas became lucrative ventures, surprising everyone from the initial pitch to the final shipment.

10 Crocs

Crocs, the distinctive slip-on shoes, tend to evoke strong reactions from people—they either adore the comfortable footwear or despise its appearance and wouldn’t consider owning a pair. The opinions on these brightly colored, plastic clogs are polarized, with little middle ground.

In 2002, the Colorado-based shoe company introduced its unique product, gradually expanding its reach nationwide. Soon, Crocs became a sensation, prompting the company to scale up production for global distribution. Over the ensuing decades, hundreds of millions of Crocs have been sold, reaching availability in approximately one hundred countries worldwide. Notably, the company’s stock now trades at over $100 per share, and its annual sales have comfortably surpassed the billion-dollar milestone. Undoubtedly, Crocs has emerged as a massive success story.

Yet, could anyone have predicted this success 21 years ago when Crocs first hit the market? Regardless of opinions on the product’s comfort and durability, it didn’t exactly make a fashion statement—though surprisingly, fashion magazines now recognize them among the most stylish and trend-setting products on earth. What a transformation from just a few decades ago!

9 Koosh Balls

Koosh Balls made their debut in the late 1980s courtesy of a small toy company named OddzOn. Despite the odds, these peculiar rubbery balls became a sensation among kids in the ’80s and carried their popularity into the ’90s. Parents appreciated them for being softer than baseballs and softballs, minimizing the risk of injuries or household damage during playtime. Priced at around $5 by the mid-1990s, Koosh balls were affordable for most families, earning them a place in virtually every American household throughout the decade. Hasbro, impressed by OddzOn’s success in dominating the Koosh ball market, decided to join the game. In 1997, the toy giant acquired the balls from the small company for a whopping $100 million. Concurrently, the OddzOn brand was also acquired after the Koosh sale, with Russ Berrie and Co., a New Jersey-based firm, securing OddzOn and its remaining products for a cool $30 million a year after Hasbro’s acquisition of the Koosh vertical. Quite a lucrative deal for a seemingly simple rubber-stringed ball!

8 The Slinky

The Slinky stands out as a prime example of a product that not only achieved unexpected success with the public but also had an entirely unexpected origin. In the 1940s, engineer Richard James embarked on a project to enhance the security of sensitive war-related shipping contents on ocean-traveling ships. His aim was to contribute to the war effort and streamline transportation for military and international business purposes. In a twist of fate, he accidentally created the springy and entertaining Slinky that has become a beloved childhood toy for many.As the story goes, the Slinky reportedly sold out within an hour of its first release at a Philadelphia department store just before Christmas in 1945. Subsequently, the toy became a massive hit nationwide, with hundreds of millions of Slinkys sold in the seven decades since its debut. The product even earned a spot in the Toy Hall of Fame in 2000—an impressive feat for an unintentional invention. Unsurprisingly, the profits have been substantial, with the Slinky generating around $3 billion for its manufacturers over its lifetime. In recent years, the company behind the toy, aptly named POOF-Slinky, has intensified its manufacturing efforts, experiencing significant growth once again in the fiercely competitive children’s toy sector.

7 Furby

Furby, a memorable phenomenon from the late 1990s, remains etched in our memories. In 1998, Hasbro witnessed an impressive sales figure of approximately two million plush and somewhat peculiar-looking Furbies with their intense, seemingly ever-watchful eyes. These creatures captivated the imagination of kids across America, becoming a massive hit at the onset of the internet age. Just a year after their debut, Hasbro unleashed another wave of mass appeal, selling over 14 million additional Furby dolls—translating into significant profit and continued success.The distinct appearance of the dolls puzzled many, including skeptical executives at Hasbro, who questioned the appeal to kids and teenagers nationwide. To their surprise, Furby fans quickly depleted the company’s stock of these beloved plush collectibles. Predictably, Furby dolls evolved into coveted collector’s items. Originally retailing for over $25 during their late ’90s peak, savvy enthusiasts often resold them on the secondary market, contributing to their collectible status. While the second-hand sales didn’t directly benefit Hasbro’s finances, the initial surge in popularity proved sufficient. During those initial peak years of high demand, Hasbro’s annual revenue soared to over half a billion dollars, with Furby’s popularity playing a substantial role in the company’s profitability.

6 Billy Bob Teeth

Among the humorous items on this list, none is more perplexing than Billy Bob Teeth. Initially conceived as a modest venture specializing in gag gifts, these teeth, created by a company sharing the same name, are essentially a set of fake teeth with a rotten and missing appearance that you wear over your real teeth. The idea is to surprise unsuspecting friends or acquaintances with a disturbing smile, creating a humorous effect. Surprisingly, this simple concept blossomed into massive success.

The mastermind behind these gag teeth is Jonah White, and his brainchild has sold tens of millions of units to people worldwide. The company has amassed a staggering profit exceeding $50 million. It’s remarkable that a business revolving around selling fake teeth with a redneck aesthetic could achieve such financial success, reflecting the quirky nature of the 21st century.

To Jonah White’s credit, he seems fully aware of the absurdity of the situation. In a 2012 interview with St. Louis Magazine, he confirmed the substantial profit numbers while acknowledging the initial skepticism surrounding the idea. Despite facing doubts from many, White expressed confidence in the concept, stating, “Ninety-nine percent of people told me I was a fool, and I’d be out of business in no time. I had no doubt it would be huge.” Now, he’s reaping the rewards, enjoying the success of his fake teeth enterprise.

5 Chia Pet

The Chia Pet, despite its unassuming appearance, has been a lucrative venture for its inventor, Joseph Pedott, and his company, Joseph Enterprises, spanning five decades. Introduced in the 1970s, the DIY grow-your-own Chia Pet found success not only due to its quirky nature but also through Pedott’s ingenious marketing strategies. Capitalizing on late-night television infomercials, alongside other products like the Clapper, Pedott propelled the Chia Pet and its memorable counterparts into the spotlight, achieving significant profitability.

Although Pedott passed away in 2023 at the age of 91, his legacy endures through the enduring popularity of the Chia Pet. At its zenith, Joseph Enterprises was annually dispatching approximately 500,000 Chia Pet units to customers. This translated into substantial revenue. By the time of Pedott’s demise, the company estimated sales of over 25 million Chia Pets worldwide. Presently, Chia Pets are priced around $20 each, varying based on the product. The financial calculations may involve quite a few zeros, emphasizing the enduring success of this quirky product.

4 The Snuggie

The Snuggie made its debut during a challenging period for many Americans, right in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis. Despite the circumstances, this blanket-slash-sweatshirt captured public interest and has continued to ride the wave of popularity ever since. Recent global events may have even contributed to its further success, given the increased time spent at home due to stay-at-home orders and prolonged lockdowns.

Even from its inception, the Snuggie has been an intriguing product. Initially introduced through memorable and humorous infomercials, the New York Times Magazine famously dubbed it “the Pet Rock of the Depression 2.0 era.” However, regardless of perceptions about promoting laziness or relaxation, the Snuggie performed exceptionally well in the market. By the mid-2010s, over 30 million of these body blankets had been purchased and shipped to presumably satisfied customers. The company behind the Snuggie, Allstar Products Group, has reaped over $500 million in profit, demonstrating its effectiveness in providing comfort to people during binge-watching sessions. Cha-ching!

3 Tamagotchi

Who needs a real pet when you can have a digital companion? Tamagotchis, a couple of decades old, might seem a bit dated in comparison to current fads like the Metaverse. However, back in the day, Tamagotchis were a sensation among kids who wanted to care for a virtual creature.

Encased in a little egg-shaped toy, the “animal” hatched out of an on-screen egg. Subsequently, you had to nurture, feed, and raise it, mimicking the responsibilities of a real pet—albeit in a entirely simulated manner. After a few days of dedicated care, the virtual creature would grow wings and return to its “home planet” to live in presumed harmony. With your mission accomplished, you could go on living the rest of your days knowing you saved a digital life. Or something like that.

While the concept of a “virtual pet” may sound amusing or even silly, it proved to be a lucrative venture for the toy brand behind it. Bandai America, the parent company of the Tamagotchi, made a fortune from this product. Since the initial release of Tamagotchis, they have sold over 80 million units to virtual pet enthusiasts worldwide. The cumulative sales figures are now approaching the billion-dollar mark. Additionally, they’ve adapted their product line for the modern era, offering a fully digital miniature pet that resides in the cloud—evolving with the times!

2 The Pet Rock

The Pet Rock emerged as a completely unforeseen cultural phenomenon almost overnight in 1975. Gary Ross Dahl, a marketing genius, “invented” this bizarre (and admittedly useless) product and swiftly introduced it to the masses. Innovative television ads and other cutting-edge marketing strategies made it the talk of the nation in what felt like an instant. Nobody could fathom the origin or special appeal of the Pet Rock. While many Americans recognized its inherent absurdity, they were simultaneously entertained by its originality and peculiar narrative.

The fact that Dahl sold the pet rocks for a mere $4 each further fueled their popularity. This affordability made them accessible for people to purchase and offer as gag gifts to friends and family. Americans enthusiastically embraced the concept, and Dahl capitalized on this by procuring rocks and their cardboard packaging at minimal costs, subsequently selling millions throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. To enhance the experience, each rock came with an inventive 36-page (!) manual on caring for the newfound “pet.” Was it nonsensical? Absolutely. Did it capture people’s humor and imagination? You bet!

In total, Dahl managed to sell nearly two million Pet Rocks to individuals who appreciated the eccentric idea and had a few dollars to spare. In a 2004 interview with the New York Times, the marketing whiz and, well, “inventor” claimed to have pocketed a substantial sum for his efforts. “I put about $5 million of today’s money in my pocket,” he revealed. Not a bad outcome at all!

1 Beanie Babies

You didn’t expect us to get through this list without mentioning Beanie Babies, did you? These little toys enjoyed immense popularity in the 1990s, causing their values to soar throughout the decade. The rarest Beanie Babies were fetching hundreds of dollars, and sometimes even more, with the belief that their prices would continue to rise as people coveted these unique versions of the adorable toys.

Of course, we all know how that story concluded. The Beanie Baby bubble eventually burst, leaving many individuals stuck with bags (of… toys) and no one to sell to, nowhere to unload these now seemingly worthless products. The trend faded away, the toy market evolved, and today, we reminisce about Beanie Babies as a bygone fad and chuckle at the memory. Well, most of us find it amusing. Those who spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on individual Beanie Baby dolls might not be laughing quite as heartily.

However, there’s one individual who undoubtedly finds this situation amusing: Ty Warner. As the billionaire behind the toy company that owned and manufactured Beanie Babies, he raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in profit every year during that bustling era. And yes, he’s currently worth a cool nine figures. That’s a substantial amount of wealth for a small stuffed animal!

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