Sometimes the best ideas are also the simplest. Like Slinkys. Who would have thought a metal spring could make so much money as a toy for tots?

Every time you blow your nose, play fetch with your dog, serve your kid a bowl of cereal or slip on some Velcro sneakers, you’re reminded of the power of simple ideas.

Check out the infographic below to see what inspired the inventors behind some of the world’s most famous brands. In the comments, let us know what other simple ideas we left out, and which of these products are your favorites.

Infographic 10 simple product ideas

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10 Simple Product Ideas That Made Billions – An infographic by Grow America

10 Simple Product Ideas That Made Billions – An infographic by the team at Grow America

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Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
Invented: 1894
2012: Kellogg’s net revenue from Morning Foods was $ 2.8 billion in the U.S alone.
Today: It is the world’s #1 producer of cereal, snacks & frozen foods.
It is currently produced in 18 countries & marketed in over 180 countries.

Invented: Early 1920s
2011: Consumer Tissue (incl. Kleenex) generated close to $6 billion for Kimberly-Clarke.
By 2012: It was marketed in over 150 countries.

In its first year of production, Band-Aids generated a pitiful $3,000 in sales.
1961: At the time of the inventor’s death, Johnson & Johnson was selling over $30 million worth of Band-Aids per year.
2001: Over 100 billion had been sold worldwide.

1955: Sold to Wham-O, the disc was named after pie tins that New England  students played catch with on college campuses.
By 1970: It’s inventor had earned $500,000 in royalties.
By 2012: Over 300 million had been sold.

Invented: 1941
Velcro started out as a $60/week small business.
1988: It became an international company earning $93 million.
By 2012: It is sold in over 40 countries.

1945: First sold for $1/unit.
The first 400 Slinkies sold out within the first hour of hitting the shelves, on Christmas in a Gimbel’s Department Store.
By 2012: James Industries has produced & sold over 250 million worldwide.

Post-it Notes raked in over $2 million after the first year.
2012: They generated $1 billion.
They are sold in over 100 countries.

Under Armour
The inventor started the company in his grandmother’s basement .
Start up capital came from maxing out credits cards to the tune of $40,000.
By 2012: The new company`s net revenues were approximately $1.82 billion

Invented: 1998
The company started with just $5,000.
2012: The company was worth $1 billion.
Spanx can now be found in over 40 countries.

Invented: 2002
2008: Crocs made $900 million.
2011: The brand reached $1 billion in annual sales.
By 2012: 200 million pairs of shoes had been sold in over 90 countries.


“Inventing is a combination of brains & materials.

The more brains you use, the less material you need.”

- Charles Kettering:

American inventor, businessman, & the holder of 186 patents.

Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
Inventor – The Kellogg brothers, John & Will.
Inspiration – After a pot of boiled grain was accidentally left on the stove for several days, the mixture turned moldy but the product that emerged was dry & thick. The brothers eliminated the mold part, creating corn flakes.

Inventor – Kimberly-Clark Company
Inspiration – Developing creped wadding for its first ever consumer product, Kotex, the manufacturer changed the ingredient blends & using different pulps, were able to make a softer crepe. From this, the idea of Kleenex facial tissue was born.

Inventor – Cotton buyer for Johnson & Johnson, Earle Dickson
Inspiration – His wife Josephine Dickson was always cutting her fingers in the kitchen while preparing food. Earle decided to invent something that would stay in place & protect small wounds better.

Inventor – Walter Frederick Morrison
Inspiration – He & his girlfriend tossed the circular lid of a popcorn tin around in the backyard to pass time before Thanksgiving dinner.

Inventor – George de Mestral
Inspiration – Fed up with removing cocklebur seeds from his dog & jacket, he put one under a microscope to discover the secret of its stickiness. He found velours (French for loops, in clothing) & crochets (hooks) on the burs. Taking the first syllables of the words, he replicated the fastening phenomenon synthetically to create Velcro.

Inventor – Naval engineer, Richard Jones.
Inspiration – He was working with tension springs when one fell to the ground. That spring kept bouncing from place to place after it hit the ground, & the slinky was born.

Inventor – 3M designer,  Art Fry
Inspiration – Frustrated by errant hymnbook page markers at choir practice, he realized the need for a low-tack sticky note. Applying 3M’s weak glue invention to yellow paper, the Post-It was born.

Under Armour
Inventor: Kevin Plank, football player for U of Maryland
Inspiration: Noticing that the cotton T-shirts he & his teammates wore underneath their pads were always soaked & heavy with sweat, he felt that there must be some better material out there for their specific needs.

Inventor: Sara Blakely
Inspiration: One night before going out, to eliminate “grid butt” created by regular underwear, she cut the feet off of her pantyhose to wear under tight fitting white slacks.

Inventor – Scott Seamans, George B. Boedecker Jr., Lyndon “Duke” Hanson
Inspiration – Finproject N.A. created a waterproof & bacteria resistant, proprietary plastic known as “croslite”.  Made into clogs for use in European day spas, Seamans saw its potential for boating shoes.


1. Validate your product concept.

2. Study your competition.

3. Target the ideal customer.

4. Create a unique value proposition.

5. Define your marketing strategy & tactics.

6. Test your concept & marketing approach.

7. Roll out your campaign.

8. Know your product’s lifecycle.


Entrepreneur: Robert Greenberg
1st Brand Launched: L.A. Gear Shoes
Founded: 1983
1990: Grossed over $900 million
2nd Brand Launched: Skechers U.S.A. Inc.
Founded: 1992
1998: Annual sales hit $400 million

A Blanket with Sleeves
Entrepreneur: Gary Clegg
Brand Launched:The Slanket (unpatentable)
Founded: 2006
2008: Annual sales of this blanket with sleeves reached $4.2 million.

Entrepreneur: Scott Boilen
Brand Launched:The Snuggie
Founded: 2008
2008: With stronger marketing this blanket with sleeves generated close to $40 million in the first 3 months.

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