I love bizarre and interesting stories of people who create crazy and unbelievable businesses.
You know, people who just sort of “fall” into success.
One of my favorite stories is the story of Linda Katz an “Accidental Internet Entrepreneur.”
Back in 1994 Linda wanted to learn how-to set up a website so she could share photos with her family members who lived all over the country.
Linda herself lived on a farm in rural Kansas. Not many people lived around her…ever fewer came to visit.
So a website seemed like the best way to keep in touch.
Linda enrolled in a local community college course for basic HTML and website construction. It was more of a business course, so many of the lessons included E-commerce.
Her final exam was to build a simple online store with a product and a shopping cart and everything businesses need to do take orders online.
Well, poor Linda didn’t have a product or a business. She just wanted to share photos with her family members. She wasn’t looking totter a profit. But she wanted to pass her class. So she had to come up with something.
Just then, Linda looked up from her computer. She peered out her kitchen window and into the Kansas prairie. There wasn’t much to see, just grass, and sky, and the occasional tumbleweed rolling by.
That was it.
Linda spent the next few days working on a REAL site for her FAKE business “Prarie Tumbleweed Farms.” It was a truly basic website with just two or three photos and an order page.
She offered two sizes: Small for $15 and Large for $25. She set-up her cart, her payment processor, submitted it to her professor and went to bed.
The next day something ridiculous happened.
She got an order.
At first, she thought it was a mistake, but soon she realized somebody actually visited her website, saw her tumbleweeds, and ordered one.
Linda wasn’t sure what to do, but feeling obligated to deliver on her promise she walked outside, grabbed a tumbleweed, boxed it up, and took it to the post office.
By the time she returned, more orders were waiting for her. People were clamoring for tumbleweeds! Talk about a niche product!
Soon she was shipping all over the world. Hollywood came calling and Linda’s tumbleweeds showed up in blockbuster action movies and TV shows.
Ralph Lauren ordered tumbleweeds from Linda for a fashion show and photo shoot.
Even NASA became a customer when they were building the Mars Rover. They needed tumbleweeds to study rolling pattern and trajectories.
It wasn’t long before Linda’s fake business was making REAL money. $50,000 worth of tumbleweeds sold in her first year.
$50,000 selling dry, dead, crusty old tumbleweeds online.
Think about this: If a woman from Kansas can accidentally sell $50,000 worth of tumbleweeds, imagine what you could do if you actually tried!