13 Oddest Ways People Have Made $1 Million
From viral memes to miracle mops, we rounded up the craziest ways people have made a fortune.
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Wealth can come from anywhere
While it may seem that the only way to become exceedingly wealthy is through hard work and ambition, sometimes you can just get lucky. Money is a fickle thing that comes and goes, but a great idea? That’s forever—or at least long enough to have you laughing all the way to the bank.
For the people on this list, they made their million in strange, unusual ways. Good ideas, amazing timing, and sheer luck have all led these “average joes” into the green. If you’re not working in one of these careers that could make you a millionaire, it’s time to think outside the box to make the big bucks. You don’t need to born with a silver spoon in your mouth to make it big—you just need a million-dollar idea!
Create a “bleeding” fake burger
Environmental activist, chemist, and committed vegan Pat Brown wanted to save the planet by changing the way people eat. Agriculture accounts for about 9 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and some estimates show that nearly half of the entire land area on Earth is actively in use to raise animals for food. Enter Brown’s Impossible Burger. Now carried by Burger King, the meatless burger is praised for looking, tasting, and “bleeding” like a normal burger, and consumers are loving it. The company is currently valued at over $2 billion, though Brown says on his website that his main motivation is to save the plant—one bloody burger at a time. Here’s what’s really in those “Impossible” meatless burgers.
Be a kid toy reviewer
The top-earning YouTuber of 2018 according to Forbes wasn’t a celebrity makeup artist or gamer. Instead, it was a seven-year-old boy who made a whopping $22 million reviewing kids toys like the new Toy Story 4 dolls on a channel called Ryan ToysReview. Ryan, whose last name hasn’t been made public to protect his privacy, started reviewing toys when he was just four years old and now boasts close to 20 million subscribers. In addition to money made on YouTube views, Ryan also has partnerships with Hardee’s burger chain and Wonderful Halo mandarins. The mini-mogul also boasts his own toy line, and a show on Nick Jr., Ryan’s Mystery Playdate, in which the seven-year-old stars with his parents.
Make really weird art
The British contemporary artist, Damien Hirst, is known for his obsession with death, seen in his high-priced, and macabre, styles of art. In 2004, he sold a tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde, titled “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living,” for $8 million. And in 2007 he sold a diamond-and-platinum encrusted skull, titled “For the love of God,” for an estimated $100 million, making him one of the world’s richest living artists. You can also spy his artwork up close in the world’s most expensive hotel room.
Invent a Miracle Mop
Joy Magano was a single mom of three when she made her big break selling her self-made, self-wringing mop in 1992. Magano never looked back, and today, the creator of the popular “Huggable Hangers” and “Forever Fragrant” has sold more than $3 billion in products globally. The “everywoman” from Long Island, New York had her life story told in 2015 hit movie Joy starring Jennifer Lawrence. Her advice to would-be inventors: “You don’t have to invent rocketships…if it makes someone’s life better, that’s it.”
Create a catchy jingle
The popular Chia Pet wasn’t a bonafide hit until marketing whiz Joseph Pedott created the popular jingle: “Ch-ch-ch-chia!” back in 1982. He actually credits the slogan to his friend stuttering the name after a night of drinking. “I was out drinking one night and a friend jokingly stuttered ch-ch-ch-chia. I grabbed his arm and said, ‘Hey, that is catchy. Let’s incorporate it.'” And a star was born! About 500,000 chia pets are still sold annually—and counting! If you thought that was a quick path to a million, check out these ways to make easy money in an hour or less.
Sell lesson plans online
From yoga classes to back to school activities, selling lesson plans online is turning into big business. On TeachersPayTeachers, some entrepreneurial teachers are making millions of dollars selling lesson plans about everything from dinosaurs to math to how to teach Of Mice and Men. According to Business Insider, just last year, Teachers Pay Teachers’ contributors earned more than $100 million, and at least a dozen have become millionaires. Those are some smart cookies! Students, heads up: you can also sell your notes online for cash.
Help people meditate
Apps like Calm and Headspace are free to download but have made their creators millions of dollars simply by reminding people to pause and breathe for five minutes. Meditation isn’t new, but the accessible apps and fun content—on Calm, the actor Matthew McConaughey will help tell you a soothing bedtime story for example—have made them millions and, in the case of Calm, billion-dollar businesses. And what’s more calming than saving money? Check out these tips from self-made millionaires.
Hunt for buried treasure
After searching for 16 years, avid diver and treasure hunter, Mel Fisher hit the jackpot when he, his son, and his crew discovered “stacks of silver bars, chests of silver coins, gold, jewels, and thousands of other unique artifacts” from the Spanish ship, the Nuestra Senora de Atocha worth a whopping $450 million dollars. After a court battle with the Florida State Department, Mel was awarded three-quarters of it, much of which you can find at his maritime museum. Don’t worry, there are still some hidden treasures out there for you to find and make your millions.
Create a kid’s toy
Created in 1986 by an engineer because his kids young couldn’t play catch with a regular ball, the Koosh ball was born. Made with 2,000 squishy, stringy, the Koosh ball was soon a hit toy; after just a few years selling tons of those brightly-colored balls, creator Scott Stillinger was a millionaire, The “kid-safe” soft ball sold to Hasbro in 1996 for $166 million. If you want your child to have a chance at million, consider a paper route—it sure worked for these now millionaires!
Ask strangers questions
Brandon Stanton founded the popular social media account Humans of NY after he lost his job as a bond trader. The fledgling photographer posted thousands of photos on social media before anyone noticed him. It wasn’t until he posted a compelling caption along with the photo that he was launched to popularity. Brandon’s Instagram handle @HumansofNY has over 9 million followers, his Facebook account Humans of New York has over 18 million followers, he has published two bestselling books, and has used his high profile to raise millions of dollars for charity. We love philanthropy, especially from these secret millionaires that no one ever knew were rich until they died and donated.
Play video games professionally
Don’t call your kid a slacker, he or she may be training for a million-dollar career! According to CNBC, kids are making millions in their teens and retiring by 30. Called “esports,” competitive video game competitions, between individuals and teams alike, are gaining popularity with prizes reaching into the millions. Particularly popular in Asia, the burgeoning industry is expected to reach 1.4 billion dollars in 2020. If you just can’t seem to hit the buttons quickly enough, maybe try the highest paying job in your state.
Sell your old clothes online
Before you head to the Goodwill to donate, think again! Mom of two, Suzanne Canon, started selling clothes on the side on the popular app Poshmark and unwittingly became the apps first million dollar maker. “I don’t understand how it happened,” she told Business Insider. “I went on the app to make a little money on extra clothes.” Well if she can do it, maybe so can you?
Create a crazy cat meme
Two friends, Eric Nakagawa and Kari Unebasami, nearly invented viral memes when they posted a picture of a chubby gray cat saying “I can has cheezburger?” This silly meme went viral and the duo sold their accompanying animal site, Icanhascheezburger.com for $2 million.
Need more cash? There are ways to make money fast, though no promises you’ll be an overnight millionaire. Unless, of course, you happened to be in this small town that unexpectedly became a town of millionaires overnight.