Inspiration #1: The cat
Eight years ago, Rebecca Rescate, President and Founder of CitiKitty Inc., moved to a small New York City apartment with her husband and her cat. As she squeezed everything into the tiny abode, Rescate realized she had no place to put her cat's litter box-so she decided to toilet train her cat. "I read countless toilet training success stories, mostly using homemade devices, but could not find an easy-to-use cost-effective toilet training kit. I knew the process could be simplified," says Rescate. To save other cat owners time, she developed CitiKitty, the first complete cat toilet training kit. Available in more than 1,000 stores, her business has reached over $1 million in annual sales.
Inspiration #2: Your college study break hangout
Lee Zalben, Founder and President of Peanut Butter & Co., came up with the idea for his business in college...but not sitting in any classroom. As Lee and his friends studied for finals, they developed a fun competition to hold during those much-needed study breaks: who could create the "craziest but best-tasting peanut butter sandwich." Fast-forward to post-graduation when Lee saw an empty storefront in the Greenwich Village area of New York City and thought it would be an ideal locale for a peanut butter sandwich shop. In 1998, The Peanut Butter & Co. Sandwich shop opened. Offering gourmet peanut butter sandwiches as well as desserts, milkshakes, and smoothies, the company has grown quickly, selling its varieties of all-natural peanut butter in more than 15,000 supermarkets and specialty food stores.
Inspiration #3: Slippery seating
A nurse for 35 years, Barb Przybylowicz, President of SafetyBunns LLC, saw first-hand how some patients, especially those she worked with in independent and assisted-living homes, often need a more secure way of sitting in chairs. "The day came when a resident kept 'slip-sliding' from her chair," says Przybylowicz. That is when she came up with her idea: pants designed with a non-slip area on the buttocks to keep people safe from slipping or sliding regardless of where they sit. No longer in the nursing field, Przybylowicz continues to help others with her invention.
Inspiration #4: Sloppy kids
"My kids are slobs and when they come home, they throw their backpacks against the foyer wall, kick off their shoes into my white moldings, and generally destroy the place," says Debbie Wiener of Slobproof! PaintPen. "My oldest son Sam came home from college for Thanksgiving and saw me on my hands and knees, filling in the dings and dents on my baseboard molding with crusty cans of white paint. Without moving an inch from the TV, he asked, 'Hey Mom, isn't there a better way for you to do that?'" From that one statement, Wiener developed the Slobproof! PaintPen, a vacuum-sealed paint pen that can be filled with any color paint for touch-ups.
Inspiration #5: An annoyed father at a family BBQ
Big Hot Dog was the brainstorm of Dan Abbate, "da Boss" of Big Hot Dog, during a family BBQ. His dad, Denny, got annoyed when "regular" hot dogs would roll onto the ground - which gave Dan the idea to create a hot dog that wouldn't roll. Square hot dogs were too costly to manufacture, so the idea of a huge hot dog that could be sliced into patties was born. Not only do they not roll, the slices from a Big Hot Dog fit perfectly on hamburger buns. Abbate's Big Hot Dog was featured on The History Channel's "Modern Marvels:
Supersized Foods" and was recently named by 2013 Guinness World Records as
the "largest commercially available hot dog."
Read five more stories of crazy inspirations >