Standing out in the sea of startups is crucial to creating a thriving business. Those CEOs who are breaking down the barriers of the cookie cutter business model already know that-whether they're creating a unique work environment to attract the best employees or using creative marketing tactics to expand their business.
The massive Google empire has experienced success in creating an environment that promotes employee happiness with cool employee perks like swimming pools and video games onsite. But what about the lesser-known CEOs revolutionizing business creativity? They're the ones likely to survive. Want to see how it's done?
Check out these five up-and-coming CEOs who know how to do business uniquely.
Chris Young: Digital Broadcasting Group
Chris Young of Digital Broadcasting Group earns a spot on this list for the creative ideas behind the company's main service. Instead of producing traditional ads, the company develops ads in disguise-marketing videos that appear as entertainment. After creating the videos, the company places them on 2,600 websites. Some of the most well-known companies that have used this service include Wal-Mart Stores, American Express, Coca-Cola, and Ford.
And this revolutionary idea of marketing has led to huge successes. With just 45 employees, the company brings in $21.3 million in revenue each year. In the two-year period between 2008 and 2010, their change in revenue increased by a whopping 2,563 percent. Young sums up the business's ideas well, saying, "You need to now elevate the conversation with your consumer on their terms, which is immersing your brand into their experience hence the share functionality, the share widget functionality, or empowering them to participate."
Sophia Amoruso: Nasty Gal
Sophia Amoruso, founder and CEO of Nasty Gal, launched the company in 2006 in her aunt's basement. What started as an eBay store reselling vintage treasures has quickly become an online retail empire that sells affordable retro-inspired fashions. The company's revenue in 2008 was $222,868. That number skyrocketed to $22.9 million in 2011, an increase of 10,160 percent, making it one of the fastest growing retail companies in history. With Nasty Girl's revenues now at $250 million, it's a wonder how Amoruso turned a basement business into a blossoming one.
Amoruso's rush to the top of the retail world is often credited to the strong social media connection she's established with her customer base of "bad-ass girls" on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Myspace. This strong connection has resulted in an extremely loyal group of girls that visit the website religiously, spread the world effectively, and shop until they drop. In addition to selling vintage finds from other brands (located anywhere from flea markets to store floors), Nasty Gal is now designing and selling its own clothing line.
Ben Huh: The Cheezburger Network
Who would have thought you could make millions by sharing memes online? Ben Huh of The Cheezburger Network believed in that vision when he set out to buy I Can Has Cheezburger. What started out as a weblog featuring lolcats has boomed into a media company that now owns over 50 humor sites that receive over 400 million page views each month. Huh is even known as a pioneer in making the Internet meme into a mainstream thing.
Huh's ideas proved to be a unique step in Internet entertainment, paving the way for many other CEOs to make money entertaining the masses with similar offbeat methods. As he says, "We felt like that there was a pretty good possibility that we were buying into a cultural phenomenon, a shift in the way people perceived entertainment."
Shane Smith: VICE Media
For years there's been this unwritten set of guidelines for how business people should act and dress. VICE CEO Shane Smith says to hell with that. Vice started out as a magazine focused on arts, culture, and news topics. It later expanded into Vice Media, which includes a website, record label, and film production company. But you won't find it to be anything like a traditional news outlet. Instead, Vice utilizes immersion journalism and a "punk" voice that leaves many people wondering if it's proper to call Vice "real journalism." It's been called the "hipster bible" with a "raunchy pedigree."
Since starting the company, Smith understood that to reach his ideal audience, he couldn't create a company built as a mirror image of other news outlets available, and that idea alone has led to a huge customer base serving the younger generations. The business model is showing so much promise and success that Rupert Murdock of 21st Century Fox invested $70 million into the business in 2013.
Ricardo Semler: Semco
Ricardo Semler of Semco is well-known globally for his employee-centric management style. He teaches businesses how to improve employee performance, and his company is a prime example of how his techniques work. While he admits that his management strategies aren't for everyone, his techniques have proven to produce long-term employee loyalty and enhance productivity, leading to an impressive level of growth that makes his company a $400 million business.
The techniques he has adopted include letting his employees set their own wages, determine their own working hours, and even dictate the type of office technology they need to get the job done. Semler believes that treating adults like adults-like you trust them to make decisions on their own-will make the work environment a better place, opening the company to more opportunities.
As he puts it, "The point is that if we do not let people do things the way they want to do them, we will never know what they are really capable of and they will just follow our boarding school rules."
These CEOs are prime examples of the fact that entrepreneurs don't have to stick to textbook rules to reach success. They show that not only does your business idea have to be unique, but the way you manage your employees, market your product, and develop a company culture in offbeat ways can have a huge impact on your success, too.
Author Bio: JT Ripton is a freelance business, marketing and technology writer you can follow him on Twitter @JTRipton