Acres of Diamonds: How Lint on a Tuxedo Turned into Millions of

This is the story of how a man who had a problem, solved it for himself, then asked the simple question, “How many others would like this same solution for this problem?” As a result of answering this question, found his own Acres of Diamonds.

Here’s how I heard about this man.

About 15 years ago a friend of mine called me up with more enthusiasm than normal saying “I’ve got someone you’ve got to meet.”

I said, “Why?”

He said, “Trust me.”

He gave me the name and phone number of a woman and just said, “Call her.”

Being a shy personality, at the time, this was way beyond my comfort zone. But because he was my friend and I could tell he thought I should talk to this person. I called. Boy was I glad.

I called her up and explained why I was calling and she said, “I know exactly why your friend asked you to call.”

She then went on to describe an incident with her parents and how one major irritation during an evening’s event lead to a great business, their own Acres of Diamonds.

Her parents were both professors and two different universities. They would frequently have special events where they would accompany each other such as banquets or award ceremonies. These were often black-tie events and this one was no exception.

As her dad got ready for the special event at the university, he went to put on his tuxedo only to discover he hadn’t been sent to be cleaned since he had last worn it and it had lots of lint that showed on the black tux.

He almost cancelled but then came up with an idea. He got an empty toilet paper roll and wrapped masking tape around it with the sticky part out. He then rolled the sticky combination up and down the sleeves, the front, the back of the jacket and also both the front and back of the pants. He was able to remove all of the lint.

He tossed his invention aside and went to the event, which went along just fine.

When he returned home that evening he saw his invention and wondered if others might be interested in an emergency delinting device like his. He concluded they would.

He started making these in the evenings in his basement and selling them through local stores. As the business grew he would have the neighbors come over to his basement after work and they would help assemble these as well.

He got to the point of making so much money he decided to quit his job as a professor. Everyone, including his parents, thought he was crazy.

Within a few years the business grew to over $15 million per year in revenues.

His wife’s name was Helen and their last name was MacKay. So he named the company Helmac.

You’ve seen the sticky tape with a handle on it. Take a look at the next one you see, it will probably be made by Helmac.

So how can you take this example and apply it to your situation?

1. Make a list of problems you encounter every day. Whether the problem is related to taking a shower in the morning, walking the dog, finding a parking spot, getting stuck in traffic on your way to the gym or taking out the garbage; write it down.

2. Add to the list every time you have a problem yourself or hear someone complaining about a problem.

3. Once a month, go through the list and pick one or two of these ideas and brainstorm ways of solving the problem. If you can think of a low cost solution to a problem that many other people would want to purchase, then you might be onto a great product or service idea.

Your Acres of Diamonds may not be polished precious gems sitting in your backyard. They may be lint on your tuxedo that needs to be removed at the last minute.

What are your Acres of Diamonds?

About the Author

Dan Swanson is an Internet marketing consultant, who systematically increases qualified traffic and improves conversions of visitors to customers for client’s websites. For more information on his Internet marketing consulting services visit

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