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7 bizarre ways millionaires got rich

Wolf of Wall Street is a biographical movie based on the life of Jordan Belfort, who scammed investors out of millions before getting caught and spending 22 months in prison. <em>Photo: AAP</em>
Wolf of Wall Street is a biographical movie based on the life of Jordan Belfort, who scammed investors out of millions before getting caught and spending 22 months in prison. Photo: AAP

Many everyday people who became millionaires actually do rather straightforward things to get rich.

But some people are a living testament to the fact that you can break all the rules, take (at times) a stupid idea and get rich along the way.

These are seven of the weirder things some people did to become millionaires:

1. Scoop dog poop

<em>Source: EMGN.com</em>
Source: EMGN.com

Matthew Osborn’s success story sounds like anyone else’s – find a niche in the market. His happened to be dog waste removal services. According to his website pooper-scooper.com, he spent the winter of 1987 researching demographics in his city, studying the pet industry, and practicing the quickest ways to to scoop large quantities of dog poop in the shortest amount of time, all while juggling two jobs and a young child.

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“I studied ways to scoop large quantities in the shortest time. I practiced with different tools, using ‘simulated dog waste’ to time how long it would take to clean a yard,” Osborn writes. He picked up a few customers straight off the bat, hired more people, and eventually sold the business.

People have peppered him with so many questions he’s written a book: ‘The Professional Pooper-Scooper’.

2. Sell pixels on your website

<em>Source: Million Dollar Homepage</em>
Source: Million Dollar Homepage

Back in 2005, UK-based Alex Tew was a 21-year old entrepreneur who needed a way to pay off his university education. In August 25 that year, he launched The Million Dollar Homepage, a website with a 1000 x 1000 pixel grid configuration in order to sell off the pixels as ad space in 10 x 10 blocks. The end goal was that the whole page would eventually rake in $1 million.

Needless to say, it rose to internet fame quickly, and the final 1,000 pixels were auctioned off on eBay, with a winning bid of $38,1000. The website milliondollarhomepage.com is still up and running.

3. Become a human billboard

<em>Source: lolwot.com</em>
Source: lolwot.com

In 2005, Jason Sadler was inspired by the Million Dollar Homepage and decided that he, too, wanted to make money without doing any work. So he set up a website and on the first day of 2009 began to wear other companies’ tshirts for money as a kind of walking human billboard.

He made $83,000 in his first year, and I Wear Your Shirt is now described on Wikipedia as an American advertising company.

Fun fact: Jason Sadler is no longer Jason Sadler but Jason SurfrApp after he sold rights to his last name to the surfing application for US $50,000.

4. Pretend to be Santa Claus

<em>Source: SantaMail.org</em>
Source: SantaMail.org

How do you keep a child’s belief that Santa Claus is alive and become a multi-millionaire along the way? In 2001, Byron Reese secured an address in the North Pole (a real location in Alaska, USA) and launched an online business SantaMail.org where parents can buy unsuspecting children a Christmas card addressed from ‘Santa’, complete with a stamp and an address from the ‘North Pole’.

To his credit, though, Reese’s multi-million-dollar business is heartwarmingly inspired by his late mother, who always gave him a letter from ‘Santa’ when he was a child.

5. Publish people’s secrets

PostSecret started as just a community art project by Frank Warren in 2005 where he handed out postcards and asked people to anonymously mail him a secret, which he would later publish on his website PostSecret.com. The response was enormous, and it’s since amassed more than 200 million visitors across the last decade.

Now, Warren receives over a thousand postcards a week, which he culls down to 20 and posts on the website every Sunday. While he’s staunchly against monetising the website, PostSecrets has been turned into a book, for which he receives royalties. He also earns income from fees he charges for talks he’s invited to give at colleges and universities.

6. Catch – and sell – a baseball

<em>Photo: Getty</em>
Photo: Getty

Twenty years ago, baseball fan Phil Ozersky caught Mark McGwire’s famous 70th home run. The Cardinals offered Ozersky a signed bat, ball and jersey for the ball back, but Ozersky wanted to meet McGwire – who wasn’t interested.

Three months later, the ball was sold and Ozersky was sitting on a cool $3.5 million.

7. Sell recycled paper

<em>Photo: Paul Hilton for the New York Times</em>
Photo: Paul Hilton for the New York Times

If there’s ever been a rags to riches story, this is it. Zhang Yin is now the fourth richest person from China and the founder and director of its largest paper making enterprise, Nine Dragons Paper Holdings.

However, the concept of the company is quite humble: in 1985, Zhang launched a paper trading company in Hong Kong. But seeing that the quality of recycled paper was poor in China, she moved to Los Angeles, bought American scrap paper and essentially sent it back to China to have it turned into cardboard boxes.

Zhang’s net worth is estimated at more than $3.4 billion, which is higher than that of Oprah and JK Rowling. Just for recycling paper!

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