Surprising Ideas that Made Millions

By Michelle Fox, CNBC.com

Unique Million Dollar Ideas That May Surprise You

Have you ever seen a product or business and thought, "Why didn't I think of that?" While people daydream every day about striking it rich, only some have been lucky enough to come up with a million dollar idea.

Some entrepreneurs have found success with everyday products, like clothing and food. Others have dreamed up creations that are a bit more astounding. It may be a simple concept or one that is utterly unique. Either way, they may surprise you and will probably make you jealous.
Here we take a look at 10 surprising ideas that have earned more than a million in sales, and how the entrepreneurs behind the creations made it happen.

Check out these ideas that will make you say, "Why didn't I think of that?"


See the Slideshow: 9 Surprising Ideas That Made Millions


ClockyClockyClocky

Gauri Nanda liked her sleep, and liked to hit the snooze button … a lot. So when it came time to design a product for a class project at MIT Graduate School, a moving alarm clock came to mind. Outfitted with two wheels, the clock rolled off the nightstand and across the floor when the snooze button was hit - forcing its groggy owner to get out of bed to turn it off.

Once Nanda graduated, she dusted off her prototype, got funding from family and started selling the clock commercially. Now, Clocky is sold by thousands of retailers in over 45 countries, earning nearly $10 million in sales since its inception. It has also spawned Tocky, a wheel-less version of Clocky that rolls off the nightstand using its own momentum.


KnorkKnorkKnork

If you're tired of using both a fork and a knife while eating, the Knork may be just what you're looking for … it's a fork AND a knife all in one.

Mike Miller first got this "cutting edge" idea in the eighth grade while trying to eat pizza with a fork. While he was struggling, he noticed how an employee was easily cutting a pizza with a beveled pizza cutter. He thought a fork that had a beveled edge would do the same.
However, Miller didn't think to turn his idea into an actual product until he was in college in 2001. He borrowed $10,000 from his grandfather, established his company and developed a prototype using one his mother's forks and car modeling compound.

A few years later, the Knork hit store shelves and mail order catalogues. These days, the Knork has company at the dinner table - the line has been expanded into a full place setting. Knork Flatware saw nearly $2 million in sales in 2011.


UglydollUglydollUglydoll

The Uglydoll may not look pretty, but it has resulted in some good looking sales receipts - it's raked in over $100 million in retail sales since its debut.

Uglydoll is not only a success story, it's a love story. It began in 1996, when Sun-Min Kim and David Horvath met as students at Parsons School of Design. They were separated a few years later when Kim moved to Korea, but they stayed in touch by writing letters. In one of those letters, Horvath drew a little orange character, named Wage, at the bottom. Kim surprised him by sewing a handmade doll of Wage as a gift. When Horvath took the doll to an Asian pop culture store in L.A., the owner asked for more. The new dolls, which Kim sewed by hand, took months to make but sold out in one day.

Kim and Horvath haven't looked back - not only did they start their company, Pretty Ugly, in 2002, they have since married.


FitDeckFitDeckFitDeck

This card game isn't meant to be played sitting around a table - it's designed to get its players in shape. The deck contains over 50 exercises that require no equipment. It is the brainchild of Phil Black, who got the idea when a card game in college turned into a push-up contest.

Black didn't start his company right away. First, he went into the Navy SEALs and then attended business school. After graduation, he took a desk job at Goldman Sachs but quit after six months to follow his passion. He used his life savings and incorporated his Navy SEAL training to create his first FitDeck. Now, there are 37 different card decks.

While the company won't release exact sales figures, Black says he's sold "hundreds of thousands of decks" that have earned "several million dollars" since FitDeck started.


DogglesDogglesDoggles

These goggles for dogs are the brainchild of Roni Di Lullo, who stumbled upon the bright idea one day in 1997 at the local dog park. Her border collie, MidKnight, was sensitive to the light and was having a hard time catching a Frisbee. "I had on my sunglasses and was like, why didn't he have something on his eyes," she said.

So Di Lullo set out to try to make her dog his own pair of sunglasses. At first, she tried adjusting regular goggles with various straps. Then she dug into her personal savings, designed a different model that would fit a dog's face, and Doggles was born. Now, dogs can hang their heads out of car windows with abandon - not only do Doggles offer 100 percent UV protection, they also protect against dust and debris.

Di Lullo's company, MidKnight Creations, has since branched out to include backpacks, floatation jackets and cat toys. It's pulling in about $3 million a year in sales.


SENDaBALLSENDaBALLSENDaBALL

Think of SENDaBALL as a different type of greeting card. It started when Michele Sipolt Kapustka saw a bin of bouncy balls in a store, wrote "Have a BALL with your new baby" on it, stuck postage to it and mailed it to a friend.

Over the next few years, Kapustka and her sister Melisa Sipolt Moroko sent them to other friends for various occasions. One day at the post office, a man in line asked Kapustka if she would send one for him. That's when the sisters realized they were onto something. In 2003, they created a website, and opened up shop in Kapustka's garage, where the office is still located. So far, SENDaBALL has racked up $1 million in gross sales.


HeadBladeHeadBladeHeadBlade

Todd Greene used his head to come up with HeadBlade. After he started losing his hair in his 20s, he decided to shave his head. That's when he realized there had to be a better shaver to do the job. "If I could just take a blade and put it in my hand, it would be a much easier, more intuitive way to shave," he said.

So in 1998, he made a prototype that would fit comfortably in his hand and found a designer to help him perfect it. Greene dug into his savings and borrowed money from family and friends to launch his company. He found a manufacturer, designed his own website and learned e-commerce and marketing.

Things really took off for Greene after Time magazine named HeadBlade one of the best designs in 2000. Now, it's in 15,000 to 20,000 stores across the country and has annual revenues $7 million to $10 million.


See the Full Slideshow: 9 Surprising Ideas That Made Millions


More from CNBC:
Inventions That Killed Businesses
Successes That Almost Weren't
People Who Quit Their Jobs and Made Millions
Video: Entrepreneurship on the Rise


For more show information, visit "How I Made My Millions"

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