Every day we use products and services that improve our lives. However, we hardly ever think about how they were created. Most of the inventions are the result of years of planning, toil and trial and error, but some of them are just discovered by accident.
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The inventions on this list teach us that a mistake is not always something negative. Sometimes, they can lead to a great idea that will make millions. They all have something in common: the creators realized that they had something unique on their hands. Unfortunately, not all of them had an entrepreneur spirit and didn’t know how to make money with it.
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10 The Slinky
Richard James, a mechanical engineer, was trying to assure fragile ship equipment would not move while they were sailing. James had some prototypes done when he accidentally dropped them on the floor. When he saw them moving, he had an insight.
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James spent two years improving the slinky until he had the perfect prototype. His wife suggested the name, which means ‘graceful’ in Swedish. The couple produced 400 units, which all sold in less than two hours. Over 350 million pieces of the toy have been sold up to today. According to CNBC, the company has a $3 billion profit.
Beto Perez is a Colombian who gave aerobic classes in the US. Like everyone else, he used popular songs like Madonna or Michael Jackson. However, one day he forgot the music tape and had the use the only other one he had: a set list of Latin music.
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Perez pretended this was just the plan, improvised salsa moves, and the class was a hit. That was the moment Zumba was born. It has become a worldwide phenomenon and has expanded to much more than just classes; Zumba also has countless products like clothes and special cruise tours. Beto has a net worth estimated at $30 million.
8 Chocolate Chip Cookies
Toll House Inn was famous among guests for its desserts. The owner, Ruth Graves Wakefield, was a dietitian who liked to prepare all the food. One day she was making cookies and noticed that she was out of baker’s chocolate. Graves chopped up a bar of Nestlé chocolate and was disappointed when she noticed that the pieces didn’t melt and blend with the dough.
The chocolate cookies were a success among the guests and became famous all over America. She sold the rights of the recipe to Nestlé and they hired her as a recipe advisor.
Kristo Kaarmann was working in London when he received a $10,000 bonus and transferred it to his bank account in Estonia, his home country. The rates were lower than he expected and he also had to pay astronomical taxes. He lost approximately $600 in the process.
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“I started digging to find out what had happened and I realized that I had been incredibly stupid,” he told BBC. “I had foolishly expected that my UK bank would have given me the exchange rate I saw when I looked on Reuters and Bloomberg.” His mistake led him to create TransferWise, a tool that allows people to transfer money overseas for a 0.5% fee. The company is now worth $1.2 billion.
It is hard to think about a product for children that is as successful as Play-Doh. Surprisingly, it was not supposed to be a toy. In 1955, Joseph and Noah McVicker invented a wallpaper cleaner, which was very useful when homes were heated using coal. However, when natural gas became more popular than coal, the product lost its appeal.
Joseph heard from a teacher that children were using it as modeling clay. Suddenly, he saw a new purpose for the product. They sold the secret recipe and the rest is history.
5 Potato Chips
According to The Washington Post, Lay’s commercializes over 370 million bags of potato chips per year just in the US. That means a turnover of $1.6 billion for the company. However, potato chips were created by mistake… or, rather, by revenge.
George Crum was a chef working at Moon’s Lake House and had to deal with a client complaining that his fries were not thin enough. Crum decided to cut the potatoes into paper-thin slices to tease the customer. However, he loved it and the potato chips became one of the most popular dishes. Unfortunately, Crum didn’t register his idea, and many restaurants and companies started to sell it as well.
4 Silly Putty
During World War II, rubber was one of the most essential products available. James Wright, a chemist, tried to create a synthetic rubber combining boric acid and silicone oil. Quite by chance, he ended up with one of the most popular toys of the last century on his hands.
It took years to find a practical use for the putty. However, the product was a success at family parties and someone showed it to Ruth Fallgatter, a toy store owner. She started selling ‘Silly Putty’ for $2 and it was a success straight away.
3 Corn Flakes
Back in 1894, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his brother Will Keith Kellogg were trying to create a healthy and vegetarian meal to feed patients. Will left some wheat boiling and forgot about it. When he checked it out, he noticed it was stale.
The brothers, trying to find a way to avoid wasting the food, decided to use a roller to create a dough. It crumbled into small pieces and they decided to put it in the oven. It was a success among the patients! They launched a product called Granose and kept trying other ingredients, but got their best results using corn. In 1906, they launched Kellogg’s and their main product was corn flakes.
Frank Epperson was only 11-years-old when he accidentally invented popsicles in 1905. He mixed soda powder with others but forgot he’d left the stirrer on it when he put it on the fridge. Although he was surprised, he liked the idea and sold it in the neighborhood.
However, just in 1923, he started selling it to other clients in an amusement park and saw the potential of his insight. He applied for a patent for his popsicles, but he sold the rights to Joe Lowe Co. a few years later. The company made millions with the product.
1 Ice Cream Cone
The ice cream cone proves that the brightest ideas can be very simple. Ernest A. Hamwi was working at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 and saw an ice cream vendor run out of dishes to serve the dessert. He suggested shaping waffles as a cone and serving the ice cream on top.
Hamwi proved that a creative solution can solve unexpected problems. The ice cream cone changed his life. The idea was so good that, years later, he founded the Western Cone Company.
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