Rich inventors have used their resources to create some of the best products of all time, but others took common-sense ideas and turned them into something functional. You might be surprised at how much (or how little) they earned from their inventions.
Click through to see how rich you could become with the right idea.
K-Cups are single-serve coffee packages manufactured and sold for use in Keurig coffee makers. Despite the popularity of K-Cups, inventor John Sylvan never got rich off his idea.
In 1997, he sold his stake in the company he founded for only $50,000. After Sylvan parted ways with the company, Keurig machines spread to office kitchens and home counters rapidly. In the 2015 fiscal year, Keurig sold 10.5 billion K-Cups and earned $4.52 billion in revenue.
Sara Blakely’s story of how she got rich is legendary. In 1998, she cut the feet out of a pair of pantyhose to create a smooth look for her underwear, and the idea for Spanx was born.
Blakely hit the ground running — calling manufacturers and creating prototypes to patent her idea. But her business really took off when Oprah named Spanx her “product of the year.”
Today, Blakely still owns 100 percent of the company she launched with only $5,000. Forbes puts Blakely’s net worth at $1.1 billion as of May 2017. And, by the way, she has pledged to give at least half of her wealth to charity.
If you start a brilliant company like Red Bull, you could someday have a fortune of over $34 billion.
Red Bull was created by two inventors, Chaleo Yoovidhya and Dietrich Mateschitz. Yoovidhya’s heirs’ fortune is estimated to be worth approximately $22 billion and Mateschitz’s interest in the company is estimated to be worth $12.3 billion, according to a 2016 report from Bloomberg reported in 2016.
One of the most profitable “As Seen on TV” products, the official Snuggie is a full-length blanket with holes for your arms and head. Though it has several similar competitors, the rapid media blitz after the product launched in 2008 made it a very popular item.
In the first five years, sales topped $500 million, according to founder and president Scott Boilen. His net worth is estimated at $200 million, though it’s not clear how much of that is due only to his creation of the Snuggie.
Valve Technology for Ketchup Bottles
If you’re old enough to remember ketchup bottles before Paul Brown’s invention, you know how difficult and frustrating it could be to try to get the ketchup out. Brown invented a valve that releases the ketchup when the bottle is squeezed and closes when the bottle isn’t being squeezed anymore.
Paul Brown sold his company, Liquid Molding Systems Inc. for $13 million in 1995. If you had invested the money in the S&P 500, it would have grown to just over $77 million by now. In Brown’s case, after the sale, he paid back all the people who lent him money and acquired some real estate.
Lonnie Johnson didn’t have the cash to get his invention to market, so he licensed his patent to Larami Corp., which was later purchased by the toy company Hasbro. The details aren’t public, but Johnson did tell Forbes he received royalties on Super Soaker sales, and that sales topped $1 billion between 1992 and 1995.
The royalties paid over the lifetime of the deal isn’t publicly available. In 2016, however, Johnson was awarded $72.9 million in a dispute over Super Soaker royalties from 2007 to 2012.
In 2004, Nick Woodman began selling the Hero, a waterproof, 35mm film camera that mounted on a user’s wrist. He started out with $30,000 in savings and $235,000 in loans from his parents. Since then, GoPro has taken off as one of the most popular cameras for taking pictures during extreme activity.
Today, Woodman’s net worth is estimated at $800 million, actually much lower than his peak valuation of $4.5 billion. Layoffs and disappointing earnings have caused GoPro’s stock price to drop in recent years, reducing his net worth.
Ty Warner created Beanie Babies, a plush toy that took off in the 1990s. Each Beanie Baby had its own name, poem and birthday. The simple toy sold for a very low price of just $5.
Today, Warner’s net worth is estimated at $2.7 billion. The exact amount of money that Beanie Babies generated is hard to quantify because Warner has expanded his wealth through real estate investments, such as the $120 million he invested in the Four Seasons Hotel in New York.
His net worth also took a hit from almost $70 million in back taxes and penalties for tax evasion.
British inventor James Dyson used his industrial design background to substantially improve home vacuum technology. Dyson opened its first plant in 1993, and the company has since expanded into a range of other technologies, including bladeless fans.
Though it took him over 5,000 prototypes of his first vacuum before he finally created one he was satisfied with, his net worth of about $5.6 billion suggests the hard work was worth it.
Haribo Gummy Bears
Hans Reigel first began making gummy bears in Germany in 1922, which were inspired by the dancing bears that were common sights at German festivals. He named his company Haribo, which he came up with by combining the letters of his first name, last name and the city he lived in, Bonn, Germany.
Hans died in 1945, but his sons, Hans, Jr. and his brother, Paul, took over the Haribo company, according to Forbes. When Hans Jr. died in 2014, his net worth was about $3 billion.
Prior to Gatorade, many coaches and trainers advised athletes against hydrating during athletic events. When scientists at the University of Florida began studying the issue, they created a new drink for athletes that would become Gatorade.
Royalties, 20 percent of which belong to the University of Florida, surpassed $1 billion in October of 2015, ESPN reported.
Though you might not be familiar with Boston Beer, you’ve probably at least heard of Sam Adams beers, which are made by Boston Beer. Sam Adams was started by Jim Koch in 1984 based on a beer recipe from Koch’s great-grandfather over a century earlier.
When Koch started the company, there were only 40 to 50 breweries in America. Forbes estimates that Koch’s net worth is approximately $1 billion.
In 1986, an engineer named Scott Stillinger was having trouble teaching his kids to catch a ball, so he created the iconic Koosh ball. A “Koosh” is made of 2,000 thin rubbery strings tied together. It wasn’t just Stillinger’s kids who loved it, however.
Stillinger co-founded OddzOn Products, Inc., and sold the company to Russ Berrie and Co. seven years later on terms that weren’t disclosed. The company was estimated to bring in $30 million of revenue per year. In 1997, OddzOn was sold, along with Cap Toys Inc., to Hasbro for a total of $166 million.
Mario Moretti Polegato was born in Italy to parents that were winemakers. After university, he went to work in the family business. However, on a trip to Nevada, he cut holes in his shoes to avoid the heat and was inspired to invent a shoe membrane that allowed air to pass through, but stopped dust and water, Forbes reported.
When he took his invention to Nike, they turned down his business idea. So, Polegato founded his own company, Geox Shoes, and got the last laugh as business boomed around the world. According to Forbes, he’s worth about $2 billion today.
There’s no patent on having a facility that the general public can rent out space to store excess stuff, but Public Storage took the idea and made it mainstream. Co-founder Wayne Hughes and Ken Volk teamed up to start the company in the 1970s and planned to only keep building locations until the demand slowed. But, that hasn’t happened.
Originally, the company was called “Private Storage,” but potential customers thought that meant the company wasn’t open to the public so they changed the name, according to Forbes. Today, Hughes is worth $2.6 billion, and both of his children are also billionaires.
John Paul DeJoria was living out of his car when he partnered with Paul Mitchell to create the iconic line of hair care products with just $700. Paul Mitchell died shortly after starting the company, leaving DeJoria in charge of building the brand.
Today, DeJoria is worth about $3.3 billion. However, a portion of his net worth comes from other investments, including an early investment in a high-end tequila company.
Inventor Gary Dahl came up with this idea and sold the rocks in carrying cases. He also created a 20-page manual for how to care for the rock.
Dahl claimed to have sold about 1.5 million pet rocks before the fad faded. That said, the crazy genius was making 95 cents per rock or roughly $1,425,000 in profits. Today, the trademark for Pet Rocks is owned by Rosebud Entertainment, which continues to sell them.
Wham-O, Inc. was founded by Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin. The company’s portfolio of toys included Silly String, the Slip ‘N Slide, Hula Hoops and Frisbees.
Ironically, the durability of the hula hoop proved a hindrance on sales because they rarely broke or needed to be replaced. In 1982, Knerr and Melin sold Wham-O, Inc. for $12 million.
Click through to see 15 items invented by celebrities.