Archive for Great Ideas – Page 2

Willow Tufano: Entrepreneurial Foresight

Willow Tufano is a fourteen year old girl living in Florida with her mother who works in real estate. When the recession hit a few years ago, Florida was hit very hard and houses that were initial being sold at $100,000 were now being sold for only $12,000. Because of the low price of homes, Willow got the idea to purchase a house of her own! She had saved up some money by clearing houses and selling the included possessions online. When her mother found out that she wanted to buy a house at 14, unlike most parents, she was in full support (also in support of the rest of the needed funds). Knowing that the housing market would pick up in the future, Willow and her mother rented out the purchased house and charged $700 a month. They have already earned back their initial investment on the house and have even made a profit. In the future, Willow plans to buy her mother out and own the house alone. When the housing market picks up in the future, Willow is likely to see an amazing increase in her already impressive amount of profits.

Starting Young – Blake Ross and Mozilla Firefox

Blake Ross cannot visualize things in his mind. If asked to imagine a beach, he instead thinks about the concepts that make up a beach. Ross was unaware that most people could visualize things until last year, and he is 30. Although afflicted by this rare inability, he still managed to create Mozilla Firefox, a breakthrough web browser that salvaged the less successful open source program Netscape.

Ross was born in Florida. At age 15, he moved to California to pursue an internship with Netscape, even though Internet Explorer at the time dominated the industry. After gaining experience, Ross decided to make a more streamlined browser, and the Mozilla Project was born. The first software in the suite and in many ways the flagship development, Firefox, was immensely popular, and became the first real competitor to Internet Explorer. Other popular software developed by Ross include Thunderbird, the mail program in the Mozilla suite, and Parakey, a separate program that he sold to Facebook for a large profit.

Along with the acquisition of Parakey came Ross himself, who worked for Facebook as Director of Product. He worked for them until 2013, and in August he was hired by Uber to help them develop their product. Evident in Ross’s work is an ambition to stay at the forefront of development and technology. He started at age 15, jumped into a field he was interested and good at, found a product that was underdeveloped, worked on that until it gained attention, then switched to another big name in another sphere. After tackling the challenge of social media under Facebook, he has now switched to innovating in transportation.

Ross innovates by finding what is currently redefining the way Americans live their lives. His biggest project, Firefox, was inspired by the struggles his mother had with the current web browsers. He also has the ambition to back up this relentless pursuit of advancement, as evidenced by the early age at which he started pursuing his career. Ross is smart enough to be part of the largest innovations of the twenty-first century, and motivated enough to work on three of them so far.

Natalie Webb: A True GCC Entrepreneur

Last May, Natalie Webb graduated from Grove City College with a degree in entrepreneurship. After she graduated, she began working on launching her own business and app, which she designed for her elevator pitch her senior year. Her business model was born out of a problem which she had experienced in her grade school days, and she knew many other people experienced as well.

          As a homeschooler, Natalie and her family had to buy all of their books themselves, and as there was no curated or organized way to buy used book, they usually ended up buying these books new from publishers, which got very expensive. However, Natalie noticed that after he finished with a book, it just stayed on her bookshelf until it either was given away to a family friend or sold at a significantly reduced price at a yard sale. Natalie considered how wasteful this was, both on the buying end and the reselling end because there was no organized platform for homeschoolers to interact with each other in this manner. Out of this pain came her idea of Hoot Book Revival, which is an app and website on which homeschoolers can resell their books and buy used books from other homeschooling families at a reduced cost. This benefits both the buyer and the seller, because people looking to buy books can get them much cheaper than they can new books, and people looking to sell books can sell them for more than they could at a yard sale.

Since her graduation last May, Natalie has been working to get this web platform active. She hired a company to design her website and has gotten guest writers to post on her blog. She has spent the last few months spreading the word about her company to homeschooling families and educators and talking to different publishers and co-ops about her business. While the cite is currently active, it is pretty light on content, so Natalie is focusing her attention on adding content and marketing for her business to possible clients.

          When I asked Natalie about how this business came about and what need it was filling, she said, “I suppose the core of the business idea was identifying an underrepresented group, and how their market needs weren’t being addressed, because the business pitch itself is pretty simple.” Natalie’s website allows the customer to buy and sell books, as well as collaborate with other homeschoolers on which lesson plans and books are best. Hoot Book Revival also has an option where people can post their books and let Hoot do all the work in finding people to sell them to, making the customer experience more enjoyable and less labor intensive.

Ultimately, Natalie’s business is incredibly innovative not because she came up with the idea of reselling books, but rather because she found a niche market and is catering to them in a new, technologically advanced way, and allowing them to simply post their books and have her company do the rest of the work for them. It is pretty neat to see such awesome innovation coming out of our own Grove City College.

Mo’s Bows: Youngest Entrepreneur on Shark Tank

Moziah Bridges: Mo’s Bows

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“I’m living proof that you can be anything you want – at any age”, said Moziah Bridges, the youngest entrepreneur to ever appear on “Shark Tank” and the President and Creative Director of Mo’s Bows. 

Moziah Bridges was just 13 years old when he appeared on the well known TV show, “Shark Tank” and became the youngest entrepreneur to do so. Moziah created this company in his grandmother’s kitchen table located in South Memphis, when he came to the conclusion that there just weren’t enough bow ties in the world to match is outgoing personality and style. He was dissatisfied with the lack of the selection of bow ties for kids his age. To solve this problem, he decided to make his own handmade bow ties, and thus started the internationally recognized Mo’s Bows company.

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Mo’s Bows mission is to make you look and feel your best while catering to the sometimes conservative, fun-loving lady or gentleman.” Moziah has truly lived up to the mission of his company. Not only is he an inspiration for aspiring young entrepreneurs, but he is also a living example of what a dream and some hard work can get you. In three years Moziah created a $150,000 business that has quite the following and he is not done yet. Moziah has “donated $1,600 to send 10 children from his hometown of Memphis to Glenview Summer Camp”. He hopes to go to college for fashion and start a full clothing line by the time he is 20.


If this kid can do it all while still getting to bed at 8:30 every night, why shouldn’t we? Let Moziah’s creativity and drive inspire you to follow your entrepreneurial dreams.


Teenage Ingenuity

Links to his past Kickstarter campaigns:

My brother, Joey Cafaro, is an entrepreneur on a small scale with a unique story. At the age of 14 (2 years ago), he and his friend were bored during the summer and felt the need to make a new product. If you would have asked them frankly they would have told you it was a way to beef up their college applications, but they truly enjoyed ideating. Joey sat around the house toying with ideas and thinking about everyday problems. Then one day an idea came to him. He saw the need for a phone stand that you could use to prop up your phone to watch videos, but also wrap your headphones around so they did not become completely entangled when you weren’t using them, and thus the Smile Stand was born ( at this time there were no equivalents on the market). Next, they manufactured prototypes at TechShop Pittsburgh and decided to hire a photographer to pitch the idea on the website “Kickstarter” to raise capital to manufacture more product. Moreover, to spread their product they attended craft shows to get their product into the pockets of consumers and applied for a patent to protect their idea, with legal help from my Dad. They had a very successful campaign and went on to raise over $5,000 on Kickstarter. After this project, they really wanted to revolutionize the wallet after analyzing other successful wallet Kickstarter campaigns. They created what they pitched as, “An elegant wallet crafted from eco-friendly hardwoods featuring a uniquely convenient design to protect your valuables.” In this project, even my brother would admit that they got overconfident in their creative ability and were overconsumed by their desire to create an eco-friendly revolutionized wallet. The design and idea was never a real hit.  None the less, they ended up raising over $2,000 on Kickstarter. At the current moment, they aren’t creating any new ideas, but my brother continually mentions problems that could have a feasible solution. He is always thinking! He inspires me because of his creativity and resilience. Moreover, he wasn’t afraid to fail, even though he was only 14. He learned a lot from creating these products and will take these lessons into the rest of his life.


Smile Stand



Urbn Wallet

The Success of Tipsy Elves




In 2011, Tipsy Elves was founded by Evan Mendelsohn and Nick Morton. It started as a seasonal business for goofy and ugly Christmas Sweaters. In the first year of business they had $370,000 in website sales and the next year proceeded to reach almost $1 million in sales. With a booming business and bright plans for the future the two young founders took their idea to Shark Tank in 2013 where they received an investment from Robert Herjavec for 10% of their company. It has since become the most profitable investment that Robert has made in his history on Shark Tank. In 2014, their revenue was close to $12 million. The success of this funky company is mostly on their Christmas season sales of the ugly Christmas sweaters, however they have also introduced Halloween wear, beach wear, and ski wear.

A strange idea for a business turned into a multi-million dollar one because Evan and Nick found a demand for ugly Christmas sweaters that no one else saw. If they can stay focused on the Christmas sweaters and not overt a lot of energy on the other less important products they feature, they will continue to grow until Tipsy Elves is at every Christmas party in the world.


One of the Most Popular Products

High School Philanthropy – Jack Kim, Benelab

Entrepreneurial development: At this point, Jack is in his early twenties and has used his skills in creating computer software to create a number of successful online programs. The first of these which was profitable for him came at the age of 14: he called it Twigoogle, a search engine specifically targeting fans of the well-known Twilight series which made money through advertising. More notably however, was his development of a program know as Benelab a few years later at the age of seventeen. Benelab focused on the problem of the inaccessibility or lack of ease of philanthropy in modern day life. This software sought to solve this problem. Benelab is a search engine which generates donations from online traffic. Anyone who uses the search engine is therefore being philanthropic because all of the revenue generated from people using it goes directly to charity.

Among Kim’s most notable characteristics is his ambition: he started off his Benelab project with a budget of only $1,500 dollars and a goal of raising $100,000. He was also unique in his implementation of his adult policy- stating that only kids could work on the program along with him. He started off with a number of failed search engines, and eventually he refined his craft and was successful. I respect greatly the fact that someone so young can be focused on philanthropy as well. It was a successful idea because many people would like to be philanthropic, but often wont go out of their way. With this solution, people can conveniently be so without any money coming out of their pockets, they lose only the convenience of using a different search engine. Jack has really shown the importance of finding a niche in which you work best and enjoy working, and one in which there exists room for continued innovation- Jack has since founded a number of similar programs whether for profit or charity. He is also insightful in his revelations that,all he is doing is putting a bunch of small parts [or ideas] together to make one big product nothing is from scratch He goes on to say that this is no different from any other product in the world, even a search engine is the result of a number of small parts coming together to create a whole.

Here is a link to the video where Jack gives a Ted Talk on his discovery of what he calls the incredible world of entrepreneurship –

The Genius of Groupon

How does a 29 year-old become worth more than 600 million dollars in just ten years? One word: innovation. Andrew Mason founded Groupon in 2008 with the simple idea to use the internet to both promote local businesses and find amazing discounts with the click of a mouse. Every quarter Groupon has more than 42 million unique customers, and remains on top of the coupon hunting competition. However, this did not happen overnight. Before Groupon, Mason started in the entrepreneurial field with ‘The Point’. The Point was a “social initiatives platform” dedicated to bringing local people together to accomplish a goal. It was decided that the website was simply too abstract to market, but it was far from a failure. Mason took the imperfected idea, stripped it down, built it up, and the following year revealed Groupon.

Groupon both aids the community and everyday people by promoting limited time offers for local businesses. The company prides itself on building communities, making life less boring, and starting and ending with the customer. Groupon collects 50% of every transaction plus a small credit card fee. By 2010 it was reported the company’s annual income was in excess of 800 million. The site has remained relevant today by living the same ideal Andrew Mason did when creating it originally: innovating. They have continued to transform to fit the technology curve, putting more emphasis on simplicity, and revamping their app to meet consumer needs.

Although a multi-hundred-million dollar business they continue to operate as the entrepreneurially driven project they started as in 2008.

From Cereal to Success: How Airbnb Became Normal

In the late 2000’s, Airbnb founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia moved to San Francisco with no friends, no money and no idea on what they were going to do. These former art students had just graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and decided to take the plunge and become entrepreneurs. Originally, they had no interest in the hospitality business but they needed a way to pay their expensive rent. Realizing that all the hotels in their area were booked when a design conference came to town, they opened up their apartment as a place to crash. For only $80, a guest would receive a room complete with an air mattress and breakfast. Airbnb was born!

This success story was painful in the beginning. The company tried to launch at the SXSW festival, a design conference in Texas, but they received only two customers. Even worse, the feedback they received about their idea was brutal. The first comment ever posted to their website suggested that “The whole thing will come crashing down” and “the kind of people that rob, abuse, rape, and murder will start using these systems.” However, that did not deter them so they tried again when the DNC came to Denver. This time was different, but not because they had more customers. In fact, the company was deeply in debt, could not secure investors, and needed cash badly. With Senator Barack Obama growing in popularity at the time, the team had a crazy idea. They redesigned a classic box of Cheerios into a satirical recreation called Obama O’s and sold them on the street. They made them limited edition, only 500 were produced, so they could charge $40 each. They sold out and the haul of cash paid off their credit card debt, but more importantly, it made a venture capitalist take notice.

Y Combinator, founded by Paul Graham, is a company that helps make start-ups a reality in exchange for an equity stake in the company. In early 2009, Chesky and Gebbia are out of options. They decided to apply to the program last minute. Miraculously, they passed the difficult selection process and were granted an interview. Graham sat them down in front of a panel and asked a series of rapid-fire questions in a ten-minute interview. For the Airbnb team, the interview did not go well. Graham’s comment, “People are actually doing this? Why? What’s wrong with them?” (Gallagher) reasoned that people must crazy to sleep on a stranger’s air mattress. Before they left the interview, Gebbia handed a box of Obama O’s to Graham as a thank you gift. Confused, Gebbia explained the story behind how they funded the company through selling Obama O’s. Later that day they received a phone call saying they had been accepted into the program. Graham later told them, “If you can convince people to pay $40 for a $4 box of cereal, you can probably convince people to sleep on other people’s air beds.”

What inspires me with their company is that they made sleeping in strangers’ houses normal. They flipped an entire industry upside down and made headlines. They could have given up but they didn’t. Much can be learned from studying their success. The process they used was simple. They saw a problem and came up with a solution. They were able to find a way to increase convenience while reducing costs of hotel rooms. Combined with a passion for what they were doing and Airbnb had a recipe for success.



Airbnb’s Brian Chesky revolutionizes a Sleepy Industry

Brian Chesky, the co-founder of Airbnb, found a way to change an industry that hasn’t seen changes in decades. After graduating from the Rhode Island School of design school, he moved to San Francisco with his college friend Joe Gebbia. At the time, San Francisco was having a design conference and hotel rooms were in high demand and the whole area was booked, so the pair came up with the idea to rent out a room in their apartment and give their guests breakfast too in order to make a few extra bucks to afford their rent.  After years of ideation and innovating they slowly scaled the idea into what is now Airbnb. Airbnb is an online marketplace and hospitality service, that enables people to lease or rent short-term lodging all over the world. Chesky is driven by innovation and constant improvement. Currently, he is working on revamping Airbnb into a full-service travel company. Chesky is an inspiring millennial entrepreneur because of his ability to see an opportunity in the market and scale it into an international business that changed the future of travel as well as the hospitality/ hotel industry. I recently stayed at an Airbnb in Manhatten and it was a simple way to feel like a real New Yorker. Additionally, I think that Airbnb is a particularly inspiring company because it allows its hosts to also be entrepreneurs in their own space by renting out their space to other travelers. From Chesky’s story, others can be more aware of problems and freely imagine solutions even if it seems like there are insurmountable barriers because Chesky and his team were able to do so.