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The UnCollege Blog

Could You Be The Next Big Innovator?

When I say innovators, what names come to mind? Steve Jobs. Steve Wozniak. Maybe even that guy behind the Magic Bullet. Today we immediately jump to these names because their contributions have drastically changed the way we live our daily lives. But not all innovators are given such popular recognition. In reality, innovation happens every day. The creative-minded are all around us, constantly changing the game in both loud and subtle ways. Check out some of these amazing innovators and the incredible impact their work has had on the world. Maybe one day we’ll add your name to this list of creative thinkers.

Thinking Outside Of The Box

Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna co-founded the beauty box subscription company, Birchbox, in 2010. The women met at Harvard Business School and were guided by a friend, beauty editor Mollie Chen, to the concept of helping consumers find personal products in a more direct manner. Subscribers to Birchbox receive a package mailed to their home address once a month. Inside each Birchbox is a collection of samples, mini travel sized products, and other beauty treats. For a monthly fee subscribers can have automatically charged to their credit card, everyone can find new beauty discoveries in the comfort of their own homes. Today more than a million users are subscribed to the service.

Prior to creating Birchbox, these three ladies were pursuing careers in business and beauty. Katia Beauchamp calculated corporate real estate deals. Hayley Barna worked as a Bain consultant and an amateur behavioral economist. Mollie Chen’s resume included titles such as a luxury hotel and spa reviewer and Condé Nast Traveler editor. All of them showed interests in social activities that involved pampering from hoarding beauty products (Katia) to attending costume parties (Hayley) to guarding the beauty closet at work (Mollie). It wasn’t until 2010 that these three women decided to combine their collective interests (and their brains!) to launch the pioneer monthly box subscription service.

Today, Birchbox is regarded as the number one beauty subscription service. It has inspired other popular subscription boxes including graze.com, Barkbox, and Ipsy.

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If You Build It, They Will Come

Ingvar Kamprad is the mastermind behind the Swedish design retailer, IKEA, which he founded in 1943. Kamprad was born in Smaland, Sweden. Despite growing up on a farm next to a small village, he knew from a young age that he was destined for the business world. Sure enough, the first IKEA store opened up in Almhult displaying the largest furniture selection in all of Scandinavia. At IKEA customers are introduced to “a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products” at affordable prices. Today IKEA has a major consumer presence with 328 stores worldwide.

The Scandinavian juggernaut didn’t start out making modular furniture. Kamprad started his business venture buying common items such as matches, flower seeds, and greeting cards in bulk and re-selling them locally to make a small profit. When IKEA was founded, the company continued in this vein originally selling a wide range of common items from wallets to nylon stockings. It wasn’t until 1953 when Kamprad opened up a showroom to display the furniture pieces he was starting to make a profit on in order to out sell his competitors that everything changed. When Kamprad was able to adopt the showroom layout and get customers through the door to see his furniture in person, he was able to convince them that his products were the best quality in the market.

Today IKEA is among the best home goods retailers alongside corporations such as Bed Bath & Beyond and Williams-Sonoma.

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Give The People What They Want (To Hear)

Daniel Ek is the genius behind Spotify, the music-streaming website service that launched in 2009. Along with his business partner, Martin Lorentzon, Ek was well aware of how much mainstream and independent music was being illegally downloaded off of the Internet. Striving to provide a solution to the problem, Ek co-designed a database of music accessible by users through free or paid accounts. Users of the site can listen to music for free if they put up with advertisements. Those who pay for a subscription can listen to all of the music on Spotify without ads or Internet access. Today, Spotify has 15 million artists contributed songs for its users. That number is growing everyday.

Daniel Ek was born and raised in Sweden. He was already an entrepreneur at the age of 14 when he launched his first company, developing websites for friends and family. His resume includes founding the digital advertising company, Advertigo, as well as holding high positions at Tradera, a Nordic auction organization, and Stardoll, a teen-centric fashion and entertainment community. He always had a love of music. Eventually, Ek realized piracy was undercutting the most prominent legal source of digital music, iTunes. His goal with the company was to reinvigorate the declining music industry by creating a third, middle option. He and Martin Lorentzon launched Spotify in 2006.

Today, Spotify is the second biggest music sharing business in Europe, coming in right after iTunes, and music piracy in Sweden has dropped by 25%.

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These are just three stunning people who have made huge changes in their respective fields. The truth is, innovators are all around us, just waiting for the opportunity and conditions to rise to the challenge and create something truly memorable.

Who know, the next one could be you.


To get started on your path to becoming the next innovator, check out UnCollege’s Free Entrepreneurship Guide.
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