Five accidental business-success stories

Sometimes all it takes is a good idea and some luck. These folks had both. (The Internet helped.)

Andrea Bartz and Brenna Ehrlich
Stuff Hipsters Hate

How it happened: Bartz and Ehrlich were brand new to New York when they discovered the joys and pitfalls of dating hipsters. The two originally met at Northwestern's journalism school and began trading war stories over e-mail. But they realized they were onto something when Brenna went on a date with a hipster who rattled off things he disliked, which included jeans, birthdays, going to shows, hugs, children, life, etc. Bartz and Ehrlich took their findings to the blogosphere to start Stuff Hipsters Hate ( "I guess because we're journalists, when we're on a bad date, we don't just up and leave," Bartz says. "I just get fascinated and keep asking questions. That curiosity led us to start the blog." To get more hits, they used their connections—they were guest columnists for Heeb, and discovered a wide network of fellow bloggers. "We spent a ton of time e-mailing other bloggers and creating link-exchange relationships," Ehrlich explains. "We decided to add a weekly links page for the sole purpose of creating link exchanges. Even was like, 'Your site's hilar' and put us on their home page." After buzz heightened, the girls didn't even have to solicit agents and editors—publishers came straight to them with a book deal.

Their advice: When you're blogging, play to your strengths—don't just do what everyone else is doing. "Many popular observation-based blogs—Look At This Fucking Hipster, This Is Why You're Fat—were very photo-based," says Ehrlich. "They're great blogs, but there weren't that many blogs focused on writing." Bartz adds, "Lots of blogs-to-books are written from a comedic standpoint, but we're journalists. We brought a certain type of documentation and nuance to our observation."