In ten concise entrepreneurship case studies, CNBC profiles successful companies and product lines that began with nothing but a great idea.
Among the innovators featured are Lonnie Johnson, inventor of the Super Soaker water gun; Jim McCann, founder of 1-800-FLOWERS; Brian Scudamore, founder of 1-800-GOTJUNK; Roxanne Quimby, the struggling artist who cocreated the Burt’s Bees product line; Tom Garnier, whose obsession with industrial shredders led to SSI Shredding Systems; David and Shari Gold, the husband-and-wife team at the helm of the 99 Cents Only Stores retail chain; and Todd Greene, inventor of the user-friendly HeadBlade.
1. Millionaire Maker: Super Soaker Water Gun The idea for the Super Soaker came out of an accident in Lonnie Johnson's home. He turned from high tech science to toy design. After 7 years of rejection, the Super Soaker appears on the market to great acclaim and big profits.
2. Entrepreneurs: T-Shirt Kings Burt and John Jacobs got the message out to the American public that "Life is good," their logo for a product line that is now a multi-million dollar business. They do not spend any money on advertising. Proceeds benefit charities.
3. Corn Maze King: Agricultural Tourism Brett Herbst, the corn maze king, first started plowing his own fields of corn to make mazes for passersby. Now he sells his maze designs to hundreds of farmers. His company does $2 million in annual revenue.
4. Popcorn Entrepreneur A college student with a habit of snacking on popcorn develops a multi-million dollar business in popcorn seasonings called Kernel Season's. The product is available in over 16,000 stores in America, 14,000 theaters, and 5000 video stores.
5. Success of Burt's Bees The story of Burt's Bees' products is told through the eyes of the artistic developer who turned a roadside honey stand into a $50-milion business of over 150 skin care products.
6. Success of Flower Business Jim McCann, founder of 1-800-FLOWERS shares his success. The company takes 12 million calls per year for $900 million in sales. McCann is about to go into business with Martha Stewart.
7. Trash Into Cash: 1-800-GOTJUNK A pioneer in the industry of hauling junk, Brian Scudamore, high school dropout, saw a need a filled it. His fleet of trucks now picks up junk all over the country. Sixty percent of the junk is recycled. The company has gone international.
8. Success in Shredding Business Shredding machines shred everything from paper to bowling balls to automobiles. Tom Garnier designs custom machines to shred whatever his customers want.
9. Millions in Profit at 99 Cent Stores A $650 million business is built 99 cents at a time. David and Shari gold start the 99 Cent Only Stores retail chain. Manufacturers also use the stores to test new products and to dump old products.
10. Razor Designed for Head Shave An entrepreneur develops a razor for a head shave. His product, HeadBlade, has made Todd Greene a multimillionaire.
Grade: 6-8, 9-12
How I Made My Millions (DVD)
Time: 44 Minutes