Nineteen ninety-four was a great year for internet entrepreneurs. Jeff Bezos founded Amazon. Jerry Yang founded Yahoo.
Fast-forward 14 years. Bezos and Yang are billionaires. Katz is living in Garden City, Kansas, raking in $40,000 annually, give or take.
Still, give her credit just for knowing what the Internet was back then. We didn’t. That’s why we’re blogging for a Web site instead of owning one.
But anyway, back to Katz. She really just wanted to teach herself how to design a site. But she didn’t know what the site should be about. So she looked out her window and remembered a moment from her childhood that always stayed with her. Cow swept up by a tornado? Grampa caught in the thresher?
No. A family from New York stopping in their station wagon to pick up a tumbleweed.
She decided to build an e-commerce site offering tumbleweeds for sale.
Katz only did it as a joke. But two weeks later a bride-to-be from New Jersey tracked her down and ordered two. The same week another order came in. Orders now average 30 a week. Prices are $15 for a small tumbleweed, $20 for a medium and $25 for a large.
Katz now gets orders from around the world. She gets so many from Japan that her site has a version in Japanese. Once, scientists from NASA bought a few tumbleweeds to help in testing the Mars Tumbleweed Rover. Tumbleweeds are popular as TV props and Christmas decorations.
Katz’s raw material is free. And her help is cheap: She enlists her young nephews and nieces to collect tumbleweeds.
Never thought we’d say it but: Wish we’d thought of that.