Now that I’ve interviewed over 50 millionaires on how to become a millionaire, I can see what has worked for successful entrepreneurs. One pattern I have seen, which I want to share with you, is that you can start a million-dollar business on the side. If you already have a job, or are self-employed and you see an opportunity, don’t discount it just because you already are busy doing something else. Here are three stories and quotes from self-made millionaires themselves on their journey.
Nad’s Hair Removal ($7 million company)
Sue was a medical records keeper and a mom of three girls from Australia. In her early 30s she sat at her kitchen table to create the formula that became Nad’s. She has an awesome story of going to local flea markets and not selling anything at first, to creating an international brand. Sue said:
My middle daughter, Natalie, unfortunately inherited the worst part of her father – his thick dark hair – and it was quite noticeable on her arms and she would go to school obviously feeling embarrassed. That just didn’t sit right with me. I never wanted my daughter to feel embarrassed in any way at all. So I decided to solve her problem by using all the products that were available on the supermarket shelf, but not being happy with them. Then I became this mad scientist and I just knew that there was a solution, but lacking scientific knowledge and experience, I dragged the process out for 12 months. At the end of the 12 months I came up with this magic green goo that I was so proud of I started telling the whole world about it.
She turned it into an international sensation by using an infomercial. She even continued to manufacture it in her backyard until she grew out of the outbuilding!
CD Baby ($22 million company)
Derek was a musician. He had always planned to be a musician. Then he noticed a problem. Back in the earlier days of the Internet it was hard to sell goods online. He decided to solve his own problem by getting a merchant account and figuring out how to program a website so he could sell his CD. It turns out other musicians wanted the same thing. That’s how CD Baby was born.
A year after I started CD Baby, I still had no employees, it was still just me doing it part time. I still was only getting a few orders a week. I had a couple hundred musicians and a few hundred customers and that was it. But every single day I was talking with those musicians, asking them, How can I improve? What else can I help you with? How can I make this better? How could it serve you better? I got to just slowly build and improve, and build and improve, and so by the second year I had two employees and a couple thousand artists. Now, in my third year, I have five employees and 10,000 artists. It grew organically.
Derek never intended to own a million-dollar business, but the need was so great that it turned into one. If Derek had discounted that one idea, the business never would have been born.
Postcard Mania ($19 million company)
Joy had a little graphic design company in the late 90s and felt like she was working all the time. She had small children and felt like she never saw them, but she was paying the bills. She decided that she had to figure out something different. She wanted a business with a product which she could sell it in larger quantities so she didn’t have to do everything herself. She got the idea for Postcard Mania because she ordered postcards from a company that seemed cheap, but they put their 800 number on HER design. She was upset and they said they would charge her $50 to remove it. Postcard Mania started from her frustration with another company.
I didn’t just close out my little design company and start PostcardMania because I still had to eat. So I had to pilot it. I had to check it out, see if it was going to be viable, figure out how much I would have to sell to be viable, and how much it would cost me to sell that much. That was the game — in the first few years I was really juggling those numbers and I didn’t make as much as my salespeople did. One time I had someone come in and he didn’t have his checkbook with him, so I said, ‘Are you on your way to your office? We’ll just follow you there to pick up the check.’ I mean, I’ve driven an hour to pick up a check for $329, back in the day!
Now a millionaire, Joy doesn’t have to drive to pick up checks anymore. She is able to enjoy the fruits of her labor. Imagine if she never did anything with the opportunity?
It Can Be Possible for You Too
I want you to hear these stories so you know it can be possible for you, too. Just because it seems like you might be stuck where you are, or it would be too hard to change your situation, you are wrong. There are examples after examples of people stepping out of their comfort zone to change their situation and create the situation they always dreamed of. If you feel that itch to get out there and do something about it, then don’t let your excuses stop you.
Action Item: Start writing down the opportunities that come up. We miss or disregard amazing opportunities every day. So instead of letting them slip by, write them down in a notebook. Then when you feel ready to start stepping out of your comfort zone a bit more you can start to evaluate those ideas. It’s just a series of small steps.
Jaime Tardy is a business coach and speaker and has been featured on CNN, MSNMoney, Success Magazine, Fortune.com, Yahoo’s homepage and more. Each week she interviews self-made millionaires for their business tips, advice and stories. Check out her site, Eventual Millionaire, to learn more about how to become a millionaire.