Since I posted my worst ideas list a couple years ago I get requests all the time to talk about my worst business ideas or ideas that I just never pursued. I thought I would highlight some of the ideas I had in 2009 I did not do anything with.

Please do not email me telling me you want to do them but you need my help. I don’t need mean to be an asshole but if I wanted to do them I would have done them. I have ZERO interest in doing any of these ideas or investing in any of them so please save your breath 😉

Black Card Forum Subscription Website

Idea behind it:

Last year Amex came calling to invite us into the Centurion (American Express Black Card) program. As much as I wanted to be one of the cool kids with a black card I was not about to pay the $5k enrollment fee. After 2 more attempts to get us in they finally offered us the African American Express without the initial fee. So we took it and got cards for most of our employees. I mean we were already paying $600 per person per card for the plat + $450 per year per person with the priority and given you’re supposed to get all these massive travel perks it seemed like a no brainier.

So we got our bulletproof cards and booked some flights… then went up to the travel counter and was like can you upgrade me… uhh it does not work like that. Same with hotels, priority passes, rental cars….

There are SO MANY sites out there that are talking out of their asses about the Centurion card. There are many myths and a lot of misinformation. The FlyerTalk forums are about the best source of info out there and most of it is filled with haters saying the black card is not worth it… you seem to run into that a lot.

Over the last year and talking to good friends who I know actually have the black cards we have discovered a ton about how to get all the benefits and also lots of secrets that are not published like what top end restaurants cater to cent card holders. Also there are a lot of limited time offers (especially in vegas) exclusive to black card holders that you don’t know about unless you talk to your AmEx travel person.

But, yet, I am sure there is a TON of stuff I am missing.

Looking at the ShoeMoney Playbook the 3 things we look for are:

1) Is it a needed service?
2) Can it go viral?
3) Can it make money?

This idea is a very solid yes for all.

I have already shown and explained how it is a needed service. The viral part would be word of mouth. I know if I found a site like this I would tell 20 friends in a minute.

How can it make money? This has subscription written all over it. We are paying about $6k a year for all of our AmEx black cards do you not think we would pay $1k/yr for a subscription to a forum where we could interact with other black card users in private and get the real information on deals and offer availability?

In addition to the forum a monthly newsletter with all of this month’s or next month’s deals would be awesome too. This seems like a no brainer to me.

If someone did a really good job with this site I think it could make a couple million a year pretty easily.

So the obvious question – why we don’t do it? Well it’s not really our style. If there is one thing I learned from doing is to stick with what I know. And I know jack shit about running something like this.

Hand Jobs Car Wash

Car washes make TONS of money. There is a big up-front investment but over time they absolutely crush it. Mostly because on average you don’t need to upgrade any of the equipment for like 25 years. So I looked into buying a space….. equipment… and even talked to some car wash owners in Omaha about the car wash business in general.

They all said its a great business but the hardest part was getting people in the door. They all spend most of their money on advertising, and they kind of suck at it.

I thought between using AdWords/Facebook/Myspace advertising to get people there, I would come up with some marketing gimmick.

After a couple days I came up with the gimmick that all the cars would be hand dried by a staff of young ladies in bikinis.

Thus we could name the car wash “Hand Jobs”

Just the stupid gimick would help it spread super virally. I think anyway.

Why didn’t we do it ? – Well besides totally being out of my element and having zero experience in that business, in Nebraska Car washes only have about 5 months out of the year where they make all of their money. Yes it would work… and no doubt it would make money… But it’s a huge investment and a very long slow return on that investment. Just not for me.

Boy Or Girl

I talked about this quite a bit in my post titled “When is a Scam a Good Business Idea?”

Depending on where you stand morally and ethically this could be perfect for you.

Why it would work:

As soon as people find out they are pregnant one of the first things they want to know is the sex of the child. This is a really trivial service that I could have together in a few hours. You would just make a website where people could fill out a questionnaire and guarantee 100% accuracy or your money back. Just from jump street you have a 50% chance of getting it right (and being profitable).

What if you want to get more scammy? If you wanted to be really scammy, your 100% money back offer could have crazy stipulations like the people have to fax you a copy of the birth certificate within 24 hours of birth or something.

How to do this in a super legit way and build a valuable service ?

1) Start the service off as a 100% free service.
2) Once people have the kid shoot them an email and ask if you were right. Make it really easy for them to say yes or no. Use tracking in the email so they don’t have to sign in or anything.
3) Use the data from people’s answers to actual build an algorithm and show predictability.
4) If someone completes the survey and you have over a 75% chance (from real data) of predicting the child’s sex from previous peoples data charge them for the service but be completely honest about your rate of success.
5) Once the baby is born send them a email and ask if you were correct and if not give them a easy link to get a refund. You can even offer them a free netflix subscription as an apology (and make $35 from the affiliate offer). (Sorry, it’s the affiliate marketer in me).

How to market it? Should be pretty easy on Facebook and Myspace with their targeting options to “pregnant woman” and “women who just had a baby”.

At the end of the day though to do this right is going to take time and dedication.

Really this one seems like a no-brainer to me for someone looking for an idea. However again like many other things it’s just out of our element and I don’t know if it would move the needle enough for me to devote resources to it.

Twitter Train

Many times what was wildly successful with other things can work well in new things… Remember the Myspace Trains? The concept was simple. You put in your Myspace id and then you friended the 10 people listed. Now you were in line to get friends. I took that concept but applied to to twitter with adding some extra functions like geotargeting and category tagging (so you would only follow other people interested in the same things).

Lets say you were a real estate agent in California and you wanted to only follow people interested in real estate and also have them follow you. The twitter “Train” would deliver these followers.

The payment model would be free for the first 6 months… then would go to $5/per month. If users wanted to cancel thats fine… but they would lose all the followers they got. The pain of disconnect would be great.

So why didn’t we do it? Well we did do it.. The site is completely done, works awesome, purchased from someone we were about ready to rock then some jackass started a website called (or net) which was a total phishing site stealing peoples passwords and spamming the crap out of twitter so we never even got to launch it. The site never saw the light of day (even though its completely done). We got legal papers from Twitter’s lawyers to immediately cease and desist… and it also had some mumbo jumbo about a phishing site (they must have just sent legal letters to all the twittertrain tld’s ).

This one is kind of a bummer… I think it would have done really well. Now it sits in a “completed sites” directory with other sites totally done but never saw the light of day =(

I could go on and on all day about all the nutty ideas I get… but at the end of the day we have to apply the “prioritize the profitable projecs” – the ShoeMoney Mantra.

By Jeremy Schoemaker

Jeremy "ShoeMoney" Schoemaker is the founder & CEO of ShoeMoney Media Group, and to date has sold 6 companies and done over 10 million in affiliate revenue. In 2013 Jeremy released his #1 International Best selling Autobiography titled "Nothing's Changed But My Change" - The ShoeMoney Story. You can read more about Jeremy on his wikipedia page here.

58 thoughts on “Worst Ideas Of 2009”
  1. The car wash idea is brilliant.

    And yes, the margin on those is obscene. A $6.00 car wash cost the owner well under $1.00 in expenses.

    1. I pay $23.00 for a full service car wash here and they don’t do a very good job.

      I doubt you could have property, staff, girls drying a car, water, soap, etc. for $1.00 per wash but it would certainly cost more than $6.00 🙂

    2. What about the self car washing bays and the self serve vacuum stations? Those things must have HUGE profit margins… It cost me around $10 to wash my car myself in one of those bays and then vacuum the interior. Besides equipment and rent, all you pay for is water, soap, and electricity.

  2. For twittertrain couldn’t you have just changed the url to something other than twittertrain?

  3. Some fun ideas out there but i can see Twitter Train already up. Did u want people to search the site themselves and never provided the link?

  4. Haha, this is great:
    “You can even offer them a free netflix subscription as an apology (and make $35 from the affiliate offer). (Sorry, it’s the affiliate marketer in me).”

  5. Decent ideas… The thing is – any idea may work if you put the time and effort in it. People built sites around affiliate offers all the time and if you get good rankings as webhostinggeeks for example, you get paid. 🙂 I asked my affiliate manager to pick an offer for me, built a mini-site around it, ppc traffic converts pretty good so far, but I am planning to expand it now with a lot of useful services. 🙂

  6. Some of those ideas are actually quite nice, and just gave me some other ideas to write down, and might go after later, if I get time and develop them a bit. Cool post, even the worst ideas can turn out to be great, or inspire other great ideas.

    1. I agree with Christian about these ideas generating a few sparks worth thinking through.

      I like the car wash idea, Jeremy. With the bikini-clad women, you’d get massive sales in those five months alone. Closing for the next seven would make it some sort of ‘event worth attending’..

      Sustainability you ask? Was just thinking out loud…

  7. “African American Express”

    Might want to phrase this differently…I don’t think some folks will react quite negatively to these words.

      1. Yeah, I noticed that and went back to read the post again trying to understand why this was the choice of words. I still dont get it. Its not needed.

    1. I am African American and I wasn’t offended.
      Anyway most African Americans call themselves Black.

      who evens says African American unless there filling out a Job App.

  8. It is always good to see people publicising their bad ideas as well as their good ones. 🙂

  9. The car wash idea is good but its nothing original. almost every carwash in my area has dope girls drying it, or thirty mexicans

  10. I love all these ideas, I specially love the Amex forum, too bad I don’t have a black card, otherwise I’d be all over that.

  11. Okay, I couldn’t fund your idea about HandJobs Washin’ but let’s do it. You get the whoopin percent.

    Move me to Miami or somewhere south. We make a lane for Men to drive through for the ladies HandJobs and of course, a lane for the Women to get the “Man HandJob”.

    Beautiful doncha say?

  12. I still don’t get why you don’t want to do the black card forum. Running a forum and managing subscription are something you know about. You use black cards. Seems like you know more about this than you did about ringtones when you started that site. A couple million a year easily? Sounds like you could make six figures w/ it even if it sucks.

  13. love the car wash idea too bad you live in a place that is so seasonal i’m sure you would have killed it!

    i almost bought a car wash once i had the funding together and everything but because i live in utah where it is also seasonal that way i just couldn’t make the numbers work.

    maybe i should have factored in the bikini girls that would have improved the numbers a little i bet

  14. I love it when you write posts like this! You really get to see the keen business intellect side of Shoe. Pretty good ideas but I imagine the hand jobs would bring you a ton of lawsuits before you ever saw any profits.

  15. I like the twittertrain and the forum idea. I have already started working on forums.. sweet share shoe! need to bookmark this post for future reference!

  16. Why would you have to wait until the baby was born? 99.9% of pregnant women go to the doctor to determine the sex after about 5 months. You could use it as a “know the sex of the baby earlier” service.

    1. Yea, the Hand Jobs car wash would probably do ok in FL where it’s a year round thing. Only thing is, there’s a car wash on every corner.

  17. Surprised a lot of comments like the Black Card Forum. I think a majority of black card holder wouldn’t really care about finding deals with their black card nor would they be tech savvy to join and participate in a forum.

    Think you saved a lot of time and money by not going through with that idea.

  18. I still love the baby one. This iteration is even better, especially the Netflix offer. I’m really surprised someone didn’t pick that up after the first time you mentioned it.

  19. Nah Shoe, I’ve had plenty of ideas worse than those!

    1. Banner Rentals – People rent banner space for a 1 off (large’ish) fixed fee on the basis that when they stop (minimum of 1 month) they get 100% of their money back. The income is generated from holding all fees in a high interest bank account.

    2. Bank Alert. Service that texts you whenever your bank account goes below a certain balance. Handy for those of us with spend happy better halves who don’t like to look at bank balances but do read text messages 😉

    3. Porn Twitter – Least said the better….

  20. That boy or girl idea is actually not so dumb at all imho lol.

    Hand job sounds appealing too.

  21. Love these posts where you just dump out what’s running around in that head of yours.

    If you’re bored (!), I bet a post about all the other ideas in your “completed projects” directory would be a hit.

  22. Ahhh the car wash. I spent three months of my life researching a car wash in Iowa City. Didn’t know a thing about them when I started. I know too much about them now, and I never pulled the trigger either. Seemed much easier to just put time into something online. I like your name though. Probably work in Omaha, but not sure how that would fly in a super liberal town like Iowa City.

  23. Re: Hand Job Car Wash

    Though the name is clever… you have more against you than the weather… you are cutting your demographic by 50%. No woman would ever want to take their car there…

    Plus most men I know wash their car themselves… most women I know use a car wash.

    Ahh… what’s the point… you already know it is a bad idea…;-)

  24. “I don’t know if it would move the needle enough for me to devote resources to it.”

    Great line and VERY important business principle.

  25. The hand jobs ideal is really bad cause you’ll kill all the profit in employee costs. Some business kill it cause there are next to no employee costs, and car washes is one of them.

  26. The twitter idea was a great one. Sticking to what you know is a sage decision man.

    the Body Guard marketer

  27. thanks for the ideas 🙂 Just kidding I like to read this post from you every once in a while. Even though the ideas are great and taken, it still gets my creative juices flowing, thanks for that!

  28. Hi Shoe,

    I like your Amex idea. I am a huge fan of you and Seth Godin, so I thought I would start this company since you have essentially guaranteed to be the first customer and bring along 20 friends. 🙂

    The problem is guaranteeing that members of the forum would be Centurion black card holders. According to American Express themselves, there is no way for merchant services to determine what level a cardholder is at. Only Amex customer service has this information when a customer calls in.

    Therefore the only way to verify someone has a black card is to visually see it. And to do that online means you need a photo of the card sent to you or some other means to verify the cardholder indeed has a black card.

    Is that a show stopper for you to join? I have a private website and subscription page ready to go. 🙂

    Since you had the awesome idea, you and select others of your choosing could join free of course.


    1. The thing is what would the website offer that flyertalk doesn’t? As soon as something happens/occurs it seems a member has posted about it at flyertalk.

      It would be nice if they verified members there though instead of some of the posers. But generally I think most of the people claiming to be, are cardholders.

      As for the benefits, airline status etc shoe – well you have to enroll in them 🙂 Cant just show the card 🙂 Actually from my experience the card itself really doesn’t do anything for you except at nice hotels, they’ll sometimes upgrade you, if nothing else to a higher floor, even if you didn’t book through FHR.

      Other than that the #1 thing you’ll hear is wow that card is heavy! Most don’t even know what it is.

  29. I must say these worst ideas are better than most of the ones I have that I think would be good. The twitter train one really would have been a delight. But hey you win some u lose some

  30. I know a few people in the car wash business and they’ve told me it’s a pretty seasonal business. Lots of business in the summer, but in contrast, things tend to die down in winter.

    Read somewhere that you’d be cutting your market in half if you used models, but if you could alter the name Hand Jobs Car Wash – get some male models as well – I think this would even things out to some degree. Obviously the general tendency for men to jump at something like this in comparison to women isn’t al too great.

    The AMEX forum is definitely a good idea too. Probably a little bit out of my element too, but could potientially be a gem if one were to invest the time to get aquinted with offering something like that.

    1. Yes you should keep male members as well. After all few car owners are females as well and once you popular among females your destiny is going to change.

  31. LOL @ hand jobs car wash.

    Actually, in Thailand I heard that there are HJ barbershops. And they are real HJ’s..

  32. I feel sorry that your hard work on twittertrain never worked. why no try that again? Sounds really good to me.

  33. 3) Use the data from people’s answers to actual build an algorithm and show predictability.
    4) …you have over a 75% chance (from real data) of predicting the child’s sex…

    What? A child’s sex is completely random. There can be no predictive algorithm. That’s truly your worst idea.

    Otherwise, love your site.

  34. Sounds like a good idea. I guess do the car wash if you feel like having some cash cows if you ever decide to retire and give up the internet business.

    But I do not think you are ever going to quit because you enjoy the lifestyle to much!!

  35. lol I care the wank motorcar washing melodic theme.

    Love the cable car washing theme regrettable you live in a situation that is therefore seasonal i ‘m certain you would have killed it! .
    i well nigh purchased a cable car lavation erstwhile i had the backing together and everything but because i live in utah where it is likewise seasonal that means i only couldn’t create the numbers work. Perchance i should have factored in the two piece girls that would have meliorated the routines a bit i wager.

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