Most successful businesses don’t start off with aplomb. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Despite having great product ideas, a good business plan, and even an online store, it sometimes takes a while before you figure out the keys to a successful business.

The entrepreneurial journey is not for the weak of faith, and you will have to overcome numerous obstacles by thinking outside the box.

Fortunately, most successful ideas are actually quite simple in principle.

So, if you think your new product ideas are too simple to be transformed into a profitable business model, then think again. Note down your ideas, no matter how rudimentary they seem, and do the proper research required to test their validity.

We can list countless great entrepreneurs who took a simple idea and built an empire around it.

In this blog, we’ll explore a few successful businesses that started small, and then took the market by storm.

Prepare yourself for some pleasant surprises as you scroll down, because we have covered different types of businesses.

Table of Contents

  1. Groupon
  2. Etsy
  3. Houzz
  4. Udemy
  5. HubSpot
  6. Instagram
  7. Under Armour

1. Groupon

Now, who among us isn’t familiar with Groupon?

At some point or the other in life, you and your friends must have asked for a group discount, maybe at your favourite go-karting track. This is what the multi-billion dollar business Groupon does. It connects local merchants to parties of subscribers and everyone stands to benefit.

The retailer gets more customers at one go, and the end users get discounted rates on the goods or services they avail. Win-win for all parties involved!

Andrew Mason, the founder of Groupon, started out with a pretty simple concept. He wanted to help people save money, and all they had to do was work together. Here’s how it all started.

In 2006, Mason came up with The Point, a web tool that helped people collaborate to reach a certain goal. It was a moderately successful effort, and Mason started noticing that more often than not, the goal that groups of people worked towards was saving money. He put two and two together and Groupon was launched in 2008.

We know what happened next!  

2. Etsy

When you need a home decor makeover, and you’re stuck at home, where do you head first?

Oh, and IKEA is not an option. You’re looking for one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted artsy products that cannot be found elsewhere. And while you’re at it, why not also promote local artists?

The majority of online shoppers head over to Etsy, a wildly popular marketplace that houses some of the best and most unique hand-made products in the world.

It acts as a fair platform where individual artisans can peddle their goods and collectors of irreplaceable items can take their pick from among the wares offered.

Etsy did not start off as a global brand, of course. It was a small marketplace in 2005 that had a niche audience. As the number of buyers and sellers expanded, Etsy’s ratings shot up and it became the go-to place for anyone looking for exclusive hand-crafted products online.

Despite the rises and falls in the profit graphs of Etsy, it has continued to flourish and is a household name these days.

Want to take your business online? Read the 15 easy steps to build a successful e-commerce mobile app.

3. Houzz

Husband and wife duo Alon Cohen and Adi Tatarko decided to refurbish their home back in 2009. It wasn’t easy, of course, so they built a small website to help them find contractors that were the right fit for their project’s requirements.  

Fast forward a year and their little home project became a fully functioning business, complete with a mobile phone application. By the time 2016 rolled around, Houzz had a global network and over 40 million users every month.

Houzz grew into a hub that was a one-stop shop for anyone looking to amp up their residential or commercial interiors and exteriors. It also has additional features like directory listings of home decorators, an e-commerce portal, and even a user forum where people could engage with like-minded individuals.  

Going to build an Ecommerce website? Read the 12 step actionable guide to Ecommerce web development to have a clear understanding of branding, web design, content strategy, etc. to make it successful.

4. Udemy

If you’re wondering how to start a successful business, you need to stop.

You should be focusing your attention on starting a business. Success will follow when you put your heart and soul into your passion for your product idea.

Let’s take a look at yet another example where a startup started with a humble origin story.

Remember those days when we had to work our way around lots of books in the library before we could get our hands on the educational information that we were looking for? Days spent pouring over books for scraps of information that we then pieced together bit by bit for our project submissions?

Then the internet came along and made our lives easy. Wikipedia had relevant information on pretty much anything under the sun. But, it still wasn’t enough to ensure proper accessibility to good education material.

Enter Udemy.

Eren Bali, Oktay Caglar, and Gagan Biyani announced Udemy to the world in 2010. Although it was just a small business at first, it soon became one among successful startups.

This was because students and educational professionals instantly understood the advantages of getting online courses, even when investors could not.  

Now, everyone from graphic designers to the business owners who employ them, and everyone in between can find online courses curated to their needs on Udemy.  

Thinking of setting up your own business? Check out the 50+ most successful business ideas and pick one that you are passionate about.

5. HubSpot

HubSpot has very humble roots. Now, you  might find it hard to believe that one of the largest service providers for SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) inbound marketing tools was conceived by two MIT grad students who just wanted to make some quick pocket money by collating and sharing the marketing knowledge they possessed.

HubSpot was founded by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, who started their careers independently. Both of them had the same full time job: they helped startups develop innovative marketing strategies. In 2006, while Andrew Mason was conceiving The Point, Halligan and Shah came together to launch HubSpot.

They started working with small companies, and their success soon paved the way for them to work with bigger names in the business world. Shah also had a blog that was quite popular, which they developed into one of the most referenced blogs in the sales and marketing circles.

HubSpot is not one of the most widely known digital marketing services providers in the world, but who would have guessed it over a decade ago?

6. Instagram

You might be thinking:

“Instagram? The Instagram that I scroll through first thing in the morning?”

Yes, the very same Instagram that you use to stay connected to the lives of your friends and family and gives you sleepless nights.

Did you know that Instagram was launched only in 2010, that is, a little over a decade ago? Hard to believe, isn’t it, seeing as how it’s a deeply ingrained part of our lives now?

And, here’s another shocker! Instagram started as a side hustle when founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger put aside their free hours to build a check-in app like Foursquare. And they named it Burbn, sipping coffees (probably) behind rented desks in a shared office.

As soon as the two founders changed the focus of the app to mobile photography and changed the name to something with a little more flair (Instagram), the social media platform took off! Fast forward two years and Facebook acquired Instagram for one billion dollars.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Ever had a headache to find a great tech startup idea? See the complete list of promising tech startup ideas which will have immense potential in the future.

7. Under Armour

There are no small business ideas.

And, you can get hit by inspiration pretty much anywhere. Including a football ground.

You read that right! Kevin Plant, a University of Maryland football player, had enough of the heavy, sweaty shirts that he had to wear under his football jersey during games. So, in 2006, he came up with an undershirt for his personal use that stayed dry no matter how much he sweated it out on the field.

It was a great product, so he decided to sell it. Starting his business with his own life savings and five different credit cards, he managed to move his business out of his car trunk and into legitimate warehouses in just two years.

Now, we know that Under Armour is used by professional athletes all over the world, in addition to over a million other users.

Takeaway

Maybe day jobs aren’t your cup of tea and you want to get into the entrepreneurial world. And, you feel that the only thing standing between you and your very own unicorn startup is a great product idea.

Here’s the thing, though.

You don’t need complicated product ideas to ensure business success. The world is full of entrepreneurs who built successful businesses by starting with simple business product ideas.

If you’re still doubtful about your new product ideas, why don’t you test them against the criteria we’ve created to determine if your idea is indeed a million-dollar one?

When all is said and done, it’s about how passionate you are about your product ideas that make for successful business ideas. Without the right frame of mind and a can-do attitude, your business will be hard-pressed to flourish even if you have the best idea in the world in your corner.

Having a good idea is not enough. We can tell you how to transform your idea into a marketable product in a few simple steps.

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