Not everyone comes up with the best ideas for a new business. In fact, some business ideas are downright awful or they’re poorly executed.
There’s been an ongoing discussion about some of the worst business ideas people have ever seen executed and the answers should serve as great reminders and lessons to current small business owners or people considering opening their own business.
The Worst Business Ideas Ever?
Reddit user u/Imaginary_Trainer654 posed this question a few months ago and responses are still streaming in: What’s the worst business idea you’ve seen someone try to execute?
Apparently, there are a lot of really bad business ideas. Here are some of our favorite responses:
“Vats of banana pudding …”
The first example teaches us that even if we want to specialize in one product or service, we should really consider diversifying our options.
There were vats of banana pudding in the display cases and I thought, “Well, surely they must also sell other flavors,” so I asked if I could have a chocolate pudding and the guy politely informed me that they didn’t have chocolate pudding. So I asked if they had maybe butterscotch or something else. “No ma’am, just banana pudding here.”
I mean, it wasn’t false advertising. But surely he couldn’t be selling just one single flavor in that whole shop, could he? As expected, the next time we strolled down that street a month or two later, the store was shuttered.
I feel bad for him. I’m sure that the guy made great banana pudding that all of his friends and family would compliment him on and tell him that he should probably open a banana pudding shop ‘cuz it was so good. But I don’t think they literally meant that.
” … Potato lasagna, potato cheesecake … “
Here’s another tale of going all-in on a concept but maybe going a little too far.
There was a Russian potato restaurant below my previous apartment. I ate there a couple of times, but their menu changed so often I never had a favorite potato. Also had potato lasagna, potato cheesecake and potato drinks. It wasn’t successful.
“He still got his basement full of butter.”
In this example, we learn to anticipate changing market conditions.
In 2011 we had «the norwegian butter crisis» in Norway. The shortage caused soaring prices and stores’ stocks of butter ran out within minutes of deliveries. A pack of butter would sell for between 40-200 dollars on the «black market».
A friend got the idea to drive over to the neighboring country, Sweden to buy butter and sell it here in Norway. The problem was that you could “only” carry 100 packets of butter across the norwegian border. So he made a deal with our local nursing home. He rented a bus and took 20 elderly people on a road trip to Sweden in exchange for receiving the butter quota.
The next day, the butter crisis suddenly resolved and he was left with 2000 packets of butter he could not sell.
He still got his basement full of butter.
“His bright idea was to make our company’s ink weaker.”
Apparently, there’s a right way and a wrong way to boost consumer demand…
At a place I used to work, we supplied printing companies with their ink. Being that digital printing is well and truly established at the point, there wasn’t a whole lot of business for this type of ink anymore, so there was a lot of competition between suppliers.
One of the technicians somehow weaseled his way to the top despite no business experience. When he was told to very simply make more money, rather than go out and find new customers, his bright idea was to make our company’s ink weaker, with the intention that our customers will just have to buy more product to complete their jobs.
Surprise, the customers didn’t like that and went to competitors. Business was closed within a year.
“A hot dog at an old funeral home… also ghosts”
According to this failed business example, it’s a good idea to consider customers’ preferences… and fears.
We had a dude who bought an old funeral home and wanted to turn it into a bar/”restaurant” that served hot dogs and booze called… Frank ‘n Stein.
First, the last place I would ever want to eat a hot dog is at an old funeral home.
Second thing is he bought the building before testing the idea with the aldermen who would have to approve his license. Since he swore up and down that his hot dog idea, in a funeral home, would take off, the aldermen gave him a beer and wine license until he could show food sales were the majority of his take…
Then he decided to be a karaoke bar and fired all his staff.
Very weird experience drinking (bad) tap beer with no shots while eating nachos and hotdogs to the one weirdo belting karaoke in the one place he hasn’t been banned from. Also ghosts.
“He didn’t even wear a bikini.”
This business owner apparently never learned the value of delivering on his promises… or preparing for a snowy day.
There is an old gas station a couple doors down from me, not sure what year it was built but you could consider it vintage… The pumps were removed a long time ago and… it changed hands a few times without ever re-opening as anything else. The best/ worst iteration was the “BIKINI CAR WASH.”
Surfboard-shaped sign went up over the office door, new owner full of bluster showed up a few times to tell the neighbors what a wheeler and dealer he was. Thing is, we live in the Midwest and have four distinct seasons, summer is hot but only lasts a few months.
The real nail in the coffin was he never had the water turned on to the property so he just threw a garden hose over the fence and stole water from his neighbor. So one fat dude with a gray crew cut wielding one garden hose with regular house-type water pressure. He didn’t even wear a bikini.
“He tried to blame the landlord…”
Uh-oh! Can a business owner succeed without personal accountability for a bad idea?
There was a guy in my town that opened a business that was the equivalent of a brick-and-mortar version of Craigslist or newspaper classified ads. It was a unit in a strip mall with bulletin boards. You paid to put an ad up and other people came to look at the ads with a small picture.
This was AFTER Craigslist existed, not some pre-internet thing. There was no actual merchandise in the store, just crappy pictures of stuff with the contact info. It wasn’t even a high foot traffic location, you had to maneuver through a busy intersection, park and go inside to look at a bulletin board.
It went under, and he tried to blame the landlord because he couldn’t get a sign permit for the end of the building even though he had two other signs.
“Free hugs for anyone”
This business example teaches us that even the best idea won’t get off the ground without a cooperative team.
When I was in high school, one of my friends wanted to start a little coffee shop/hot chocolate stand with a “cuddle corner” and “free hugs for anyone who wants them.” She offered jobs to our other friends – the idea was that this little business would be operated and staffed by high schoolers.
She failed to see the issue with having 16-year-old girls required to give free hugs to customers or having to staff the cuddle corner.
“Using all the tools I don’t own…”
This prospective business owner had a solid idea, but he didn’t learn the value of investing in his plan.
One of the younger dudes in my karate class was going to start a handyman business. 24h, anything needing to be done, anywhere in our district.
Sounds good. You gonna get a loan and buy a used truck and get some tools? And you never have talk time on your phone, so will you get a landline (2006, so not super outlandish)?
“No, I’ll go on my bicycle. And I’ll just use the tools they have. And they can email me when they need service.”
Right because when I have water spraying out of my geyser through the ceiling at 3 am I’m going to email a dude on a bicycle to come fix it using all the tools and the ladder I don’t own…
“Dude bought 150k fidget spinners …”
Another example of failing to anticipate market conditions, this business owner had his own supply chain issues.
Dude bought 150k fidget spinners at the height of the craze…
It took months to ship out from China and by the time all his (stuff) arrived, the mania had ended and the retail price was already near his original wholesale price.
Guy still has fidget spinners today. I guess he may eventually do OK on it. but (dang)…
” … their entrance was hidden.”
This proves it’s really hard to get your business established if you don’t tell anyone where it is.
There was a bar that opened up in my city and their entrance was hidden. They did a news story and they refused to tell the paper where it was actually located. To everyone’s complete surprise, they only stayed open for a couple of weeks.
” … There was a guy who used to sell wood … “
If you’re going to sell products to customers, do we need to mention that you actually need to have access to the products you’re selling?
In my country there was a guy who used to sell wood. The problem was he did not have any of it. So he would ask for payment and then not give the product afterwards, hoping that procrastination and time will make the problem go away.
He did 4 years in jail.
Yeah, well he thought he was very smart. And in addition, he would make web lectures on marketing and how to be a successful businessman. He soon became a meme in the whole country.
These are some pretty terrible business ideas. But that shouldn’t discourage you from trying to start your own business. Just learn the lessons now that others needed to experience first-hand to avoid similar spectacular fails.