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You’ve spent weeks brainstorming business ideas. Or, maybe you have a small business and can’t find a way to grow.

Don’t fret, it’s not a sign of failure. You just need some inspiration.

Here’s how 12 entrepreneurs harnessed recent changes in technology, consumer behavior, and the growing influence of social media marketing to build million-dollar businesses.

By learning from their successes and adopting their strategies, you can propel your profits beyond the coveted million-dollar mark.

12 million-dollar business ideas

  1. Sell a golden trifecta product
  2. Iterate an existing product
  3. Launch a brand built for social media
  4. Build your business around a purpose
  5. Dropship trending products
  6. Start a home business, then scale
  7. Start an AI-powered business
  8. Sell private label products
  9. Package your skills into an online service
  10. Create an online course
  11. Start a YouTube channel
  12. Reach $1 million with subscription revenue

1. Sell a golden trifecta product

Two women model the Healthish water bottle, a product developed through a detailed pre-launch strategy.

Starting a million-dollar business isn’t about luck; it’s about developing a growth strategy.

Take the example of Emily Chong and Nathan Chan, founders of lifestyle brand Healthish. They created a sleek water bottle with time-stamped hydration reminders—a simple yet innovative product that’s generated thousands of sales and positive reviews.

As founders, Emily and Nathan advocate for a careful product selection process before starting your business. They recommend looking for a “golden trifecta” of product qualities that will set you up for fast growth. Here’s what the trifecta looks like:

First, find a lightweight product that’s easy to handle and inexpensive to ship. This reduces operational costs and makes the product accessible to a wider customer base. For Healthish, the choice of a water bottle fitted this criterion perfectly.

Second, choose productswith high perceived value but affordable production costs. This balance is key for maintaining healthy profit margins. After conducting customer and competitor research, Healthish found that many people are willing to pay a higher price for water bottles with design features that differentiate them from the average container.

Third, look for products that aretrending on social media. A visually striking product can significantly boost your online presence and sales. Healthish describes visual appeal as a “game-changer” for sales through social media platforms.

When these three factors align, you have a product that’s not just easy to ship and affordable to produce, but also trendy and appealing to customers.

2. Iterate an existing product

Two people cheers cans of seltzer before a graffitied wall.
City Seltzer

As Healthish’s water bottle shows, innovation doesn’t always mean creating something entirely new. Sometimes, it’s about taking an existing product and making it better. This could involve tweaking a design to suit a target audience or introducing a product to a new market segment.

For instance, City Seltzer began life as a promotional beverage, created to help festival-goers stay hydrated at a craft beer festival. After seeing how popular the non-alcoholic seltzers were, brewery owner Josh McJannett realized that creating a non-alcoholic product provided access to a “whole new world of customers.”

Alice Kim, on the other hand, used her personal experience to identify a gap in the underwear market. She founded PerfectDD, a specialist underwear brand, after failing to find a comfortable and flattering bra.

“Learning that the average bra size in the US is a 34DD and millions of women struggle with the same problem, I was inspired to create a solution,” she says.

3. Launch a brand built for social media

Direct marketing channels like social media, email, and SMS can fuel significant growth for your business at an affordable cost. Just look at how Vitaly Jewelry, a Toronto-based brand, used direct marketing to grow its reputation and get the attention of celebrities such as Grimes, Post Malone, and Billie Eilish.

After experimenting with paid ads, Vitaly redirected its budget to organic social media marketing campaigns, such as a giveaway contest that drove 55,000 email signups and half a million dollars in sales.

Joe Cornfield, president of Vitaly, attributes his direct marketing success to the use of conversational commerce tactics, as well as working with niche influencers: “[We] really go after a niche by finding the influencer or content creator who has a strong affinity in that world and collaborate with them directly.”

Vitaly asks qualitative questions to help judge the success of its direct marketing content:

  • Are customers tagging us on social media with the logo facing forward and representing the brand? 
  • What is the feedback from engaged social media community members?
  • What is the feedback from customers?

4. Build your business around a purpose

Cheerful soft toys sit on top of boxes that read “Someone loves you.”

A business can thrive when it’s built to serve something that people already care about. Could you harness the built-in demand for popular events such as sports games or family milestones?

The wedding industry, for example, is valued at more than $160 billion globally. Capitalize on consumer spending by opening an ecommerce website that sells trending wedding products. Capturing just a small fraction of the market can help you build a million-dollar business.

Soft toy brand SendAFriend documents its charitable mission with photographs and donation commitments.

It’s not just events that can anchor a successful business. Aligning your business with ethical or moral commitments can also resonate with consumers.

SendAFriend, for example, built its business to serve the purpose of spreading love and positivity.

Founder Tyler Macke began with the idea to create a business that would allow people to surprise loved ones, and from it developed his stuffed animal care package service. The brand’s bright blue boxes are specifically designed to create a moment of joy when received by customers.

5. Dropship trending products

A man on an off-road ebike surveys a dry meadow with a pair of binoculars.
eBike Generation

Dropshipping is a business model with the opportunity to turn a tiny investment into a million-dollar website. Instead of paying for inventory upfront, your dropshipping supplier charges you for products when they sell. Then it’s the supplier’s responsibility to pick, pack, and ship items to the customer.

When you’ve found a dropshipping supplier, the goal of your business is to connect with potential customers. You might do this through an online store or via social media.

Take the example of eBike Generation, a successful dropshipping business. Founder Jason Kraft capitalized on the rising trend of electric bikes and built a thriving online store in an ebike niche. He started by dropshipping products from various suppliers but, as the business grew, decided to focus on high-ticket items. This allowed him to create a multimillion-dollar business with a relatively low number of sales.

The low overhead costs associated with dropshipping mean that, once you’ve found success with one dropshipping business, it’s easier to start a second. By building a portfolio of ecommerce websites, you can create a million-dollar business empire.

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6. Start a home business, then scale

Jewelry made from a stone is presented in a box next to the stone it was made from.

If you’re a creative person, you can start a business right from your home. You could make and sell handmade products like:

Once you’ve built a customer base and established your brand, it’s time to grow. Consider increasing production by hiring help, freeing your time for additional projects. As your capacity increases, look to feature your products on marketplaces and in retail stores.

Take a cue from Leslie Herrmann, manager of Waystone. Her business, which turns stones into custom jewelry, started as a family project for her wedding in 2017. Now, she believes it has the potential to make more than $1 million.

“We had to do a fair amount of development to create a website that allowed our customers to really design their own jewelry,” Leslie says. “We have more products in the pipeline and are excited to continue to grow from necklaces to earrings, cufflinks, rings, bracelets, more shapes, etc.”

7. Start an AI-powered business

Businesses across nearly every industry are using AI to cut spending, scale processes, and increase profits.

Maryam Haghighi, the Bank of Canada’s director of data science, advises entrepreneurs to consider how AI can impact their business now, as well as over the next two, five, and 20 years. 

“The good news is it’s becoming less and less expensive to access disruptive tech,” she says.

Could you harness AI to develop the next million-dollar business? Perhaps one of these AI business ideas fits your skills and experience:

  • AI content marketing. AI can help create content optimized for search engines and tailored to your audience’s preferences. As a content creator who specializes in AI-produced content, you may not be able to charge as much for your content, but the potential speed and scale of your operation could give you a big advantage.
  • AI personal assistant services. Can you develop an app or simple SaaS platform to help with schedule management, set reminders, and make people feel less stressed about their commitments? By starting a business that offers AI personal assistant services, you can help other businesses improve their efficiency.
  • An AI agency or consultancy. Consider yourself an expert on the latest wave of AI tech? Why not start an agency to advise others on how they can best use AI to improve their businesses.

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8. Sell private label products

A woman in a blue shirt models a selection of Promix supplement powders, which are arranged in a stool.

Private labeling is a business model where brands collaborate with manufacturers to customize products. This approach reduces development time and costs, as manufacturers are already set up to produce the item.

Choosing a private-label product to customize and sell can be a potential million-dollar business idea. It’s especially suitable for businesses with a sizable audience and the ability to invest in inventory.

Consider Promix, a brand that developed a range of private label products to stand out in the crowded supplements market. Founder Albert Matheny used private labeling to monetize his food science background and personal brand.

“I have a gym in New York. I’ve trained people for 10-plus years, and I’m an athlete as well,” Albert says. “I really do try to live and breathe it and stay up on everything that’s happening.”

By focusing on an industry where he possessed genuine expertise, Albert was able to develop a quality private-label product with a convincing brand narrative.

9. Package your skills into an online service

The homepage for a marketing agency contains a promo video, a headline, and a list of notable media mentions.

Offering services based on your skills can become a million-dollar business that allows you to work from anywhere. You can help people who don’t have the skills you possess or the time to acquire them.

Alex Micol is the founder of Scalers, a marketing agency that has reportedly generated $30 million per year. He says that an understanding of “the deepest depths of the social and digital ecosystems” can be used to “bring in millions.”

Alex practices what he preaches through an affiliate marketing business model where revenue is earned by selling products on behalf of another retailer. He advises working with affiliates or clients in a vertical that fits your professional background or personal passion.

There are many ways to sell skills online, including:

  • Graphic design lessons
  • Freelance writing services
  • Personal training packages
  • Mobile app development
  • Video editing services

Alternatively, you might offer consulting services or virtual tutoring sessions, which often command higher rates due to their personalized, one-to-one nature.

As the name of Alex’s business suggests, the key to making millions with a service business is to scale. By building a team and creating a mini agency, you can take on more clients and, ultimately, generate more revenue online.

10. Create an online course

An online course curriculum page overflows a computer screen in this online course ad.
Visualize Value

Online courses are another popular way to transform hard-earned expertise into a digital product. Once developed, a well-structured course may only need minor updates, keeping production costs low while reaching a potentially unlimited number of customers.

Take the example of Jack Butcher and his course, Visualize Value. He used his graphic design skills to turn complex business practices into accessible illustrations, creating a package of digital lessons that has generated more than a million dollars per year.

When marketing your online course, social proof is crucial. Social proof is the idea that people will follow the actions of others if they’re given reason to believe that the behavior is correct or desirable. That means potential customers are more likely to sign up for your course if they see positive reviews and testimonials from previous students. It provides reassurance about the value and quality of your course.

After building an audience with your course, you can leverage it to sell a range of digital products. This could mean ebooks, webinars, or even merch. You could also consider affiliate marketing, where you use your content to promote products for another company and earn a commission on any sales made through the referral.

11. Start a YouTube channel

A YouTuber wearing a patterned shirt poses before a computer-generated background.
Ryan Trahan

With viewers watching 694,000 hours of YouTube content each minute, starting a YouTube channel can be a pathway to a million-dollar business. If you have a unique personality or deep knowledge of a specific topic, you can post regular videos and build an audience.

There are several ways to monetize your YouTube channel, including:

Ryan Trahan is a track and cross-country athlete who started a YouTube channel about running. He dropped out of college with 30,000 subscribers, determined to make YouTube his full-time career. His content creation philosophy is all about finding and expressing his unique perspective. 

“You’re the only person that’s you. I’m the only person that’s me. And it actually matters. I think that matters a lot,” says Ryan.

Ryan has since amassed more than 15 million subscribers, which he leveraged to sign multiple brand deals. He now regularly makes big-budget sponsored videos as part of his lucrative online business.

12. Reach $1 million with subscription revenue

Row of blue boxes containing leaflets and handmade goods with “Indigenous Box” written on the side.
Indigenous Box

The subscription ecommerce market is expected to surpass $450 billion by 2025, presenting an opportunity to build a million-dollar business based on a steady stream of revenue from customers who are billed automatically each month.

You can package popular products, such as food, cosmetics, or pet toys, into a subscription box. Then, use a subscription app like Shopify Subscriptions, Appstle, or Seal to sell subscriptions and manage automatic monthly billing for customers in exchange for their box.

Mallory Yawnghwe is one entrepreneur who put this million-dollar idea into practice. She founded Indigenous Box, a quarterly subscription service that sources products made by Indigenous entrepreneurs.

“I meet with every single entrepreneur we buy from,” Mallory says, adding that she finds many of her partners create products to raise awareness and fuel change for their communities. 

“It’s just so powerful to work with them.”

What makes a million-dollar business idea?

“Growing a profitable business is not an accident,” says Troy D’Ambrosio, executive director of the University of Utah’s Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute. “Founders must work hard to build their product, sales, and marketing. The idea is important, but it’s what a founder does with it that matters most.”

Business owners with an entrepreneurial mindset pride themselves on:

  • Resilience
  • Curiosity
  • Accountability
  • Confidence to step out of your comfort zone

All of these entrepreneurial skills can help win outside investment to propel your business into million-dollar territory. Take it from Jimmy Daly, founder of networking company Superpath.

“The biggest thing is probably the stamina to turn a good idea into a million-dollar business,” says Jimmy.

“One of my old coworkers recently started his own agency and asked if I’d be interested in investing in it. Starting an agency isn’t a unique idea, but there are plenty of million-dollar agencies. Having worked with him for a few years, I knew he was persistent, and I was happy to invest.”

How to execute your million-dollar business idea

Once you’ve found your million-dollar business idea, how do you start your business? Make sure your first steps include these tasks: 

Write a solid business plan

A business plan details every aspect of your business, from your target audience and market research to the strategies you’ll use to attract customers. Use this free business plan template to create yours.

Create an online store

An online store allows you to sell products online and reach a global audience. Build your own ecommerce website with Shopify for $29 per month.

Develop a brand

A strong brand sets your business apart from the competition. Create a logo and tagline, and develop a brand story to help your products stand out.

Invest in market research

Market research is key to understanding your target audience’s current needs, and how they’re likely to evolve. Run email surveys, analyze the behavior of your website visitors, and read industry reports to get a full picture of what’s happening.

The insights developed from market research can lead you to add new products to your catalog, raise your prices, or make preemptive changes to brand identity.

Find funding

However small your business, you’ll likely need some amount of capital to kick things off.

If you’re not investing in inventory or employees, you may be able to self-fund your startup or secure a bank loan. As you establish your brand and validate demand for your products, you could progress to sourcing additional funding through a crowdfunding platform, like Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

Get funding to run your business with Shopify Capital

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Turn your million-dollar idea into a winning business

As these entrepreneurs show, it’s possible to build a multi million-dollar business with no more than a small investment and a good idea.

The best part? You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Solve a common problem, iterate on an existing product, identify a niche, or find a new way to use the latest technology to make a mark in your chosen industry.

Million-dollar business FAQ

What is a million-dollar business?

A million-dollar business is a company that’s valued at more than $1 million. This calculation often includes the value of a company’s brand, inventory, and assets.

How do I start a million-dollar business?

  1. Find an industry with niche or mass appeal.
  2. Source products from a dropshipping supplier or manufacturer.
  3. Build a brand around your chosen products.
  4. Focus heavily on marketing to attract new customers.
  5. Expand your product line.

What are some million-dollar ideas?

  • Dropship popular products.
  • Start a YouTube channel.
  • Create an online course.
  • Start a wedding business.
  • Sell a subscription box.

What businesses make millions?

  • Finance companies
  • Subscription boxes
  • YouTube or TikTok influencers
  • Wedding companies
  • Dropshipping business

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