The Strange Way He Got Rich: Designing Digital Glitter

Courtesy Rhys Davies and family
Courtesy Rhys Davies and family
Summertime is here, and for many of us, that means we'll be taking some vacation -- a little down time to let our minds decompress from the usual worries of work, housekeeping, and the like. It's at times like those that a person, perhaps sitting outdoors, sipping a relaxing beverage, might start thinking about some outside-the-box ideas -- pondering some what-ifs.

To help inspire you to work on your own million-dollar ideas, for the next three days, we offer you three stories of unusual entrepreneurship -- true tales you probably haven't come across before. First up: David Mintz and his sweet solution to an ancient problem. On Wednesday, we began with David Mintz, who made millions by taking the "cream" out of ice cream. Next up, young Rhys Davies, who turned MySpace into a cash cow with the help of a bit of graphical flair.

Yes, A 14-Year-Old Can Get Rich Fooling Around on Social Media

Rhys Davies of Burry Port, Carmarthenshire, U.K., began his entrepreneurial career at the tender age of 14, when severe social anxiety led him to drop out of school.

"If anyone talked [to] or even looked at me, I would just crumble inside. The fear of interaction with other people took control of me," says Davies. "This led me to essentially become a recluse. The only place I felt comfortable interacting was on my PC."

At this time (circa 2006), MySpace was the most popular social media site, Davies explains. "Like any other teenager, I would spend hours customizing my profile with graphics, quotes, music videos, etc." In doing so, Davies noticed how popular simple glitter graphics were among other users decorating their MySpace pages.

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He decided to set up a website giving away these graphics for free, but charging for advertisements, through Google AdSense and the Yahoo! advertising network, on the site.

"The first month I hit roughly $10,000 in advertising revenue. It stayed that way every month so the first year in business I had done just over $100,000 in revenue. I was extremely lucky to have a successful business from the get-go," Davies admits. "The only expense I had was the hosting which cost roughly $400 a month."

Davies says he earned more money that first year than his father (a greengrocer and florist), fielded job offers from far larger Web companies, and had to hire an accountant because at 14, he wasn't necessarily legally allowed to run his business.

"The system wasn't really set up thinking that teenagers would be leaving school earlier than the law states and earning six figures," as he puts it.

Now 21, Davies has used the proceeds from this initial success to start an e-commerce business selling jigsaw puzzles called, "which is shaping up to be a million-dollar business in the next few years," he says. Davies also has a young family to support. He and his partner, Sarah, now have two children.

Friday: Suburban Mom Made her Fortune Helping People Find Reliable Contractors

Where Millionaires Live in America
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The Strange Way He Got Rich: Designing Digital Glitter

Metro Population: 1.8 million

Concentration of Millionaire Households: 8.3%

Number of Millionaire Households: 52,043

Median Income for All Households: $88,339

Median Home Value: $674,800

The original California capital has come a long way from its farm town origins. Today, San Jose is the center of Silicon Valley. And the area, including Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, is home to some of the world's biggest tech companies, including Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Google. Such employers tend to reward their geeks handsomely. Google even keeps its interns well-heeled, paying those specializing in software engineering an average $6,432 a month, according to employment research firm Glassdoor. The hefty paychecks can help cover housing costs — the San Jose area's median home value is the highest on this list, and a whopping 20.8% of houses are worth $1 million or more, compared with just 2.3% of all U.S. homes.

Metro Population: 5.5 million

Concentration of Millionaire Households: 8.6%

Number of Millionaire Households: 182,993

Median Income for All Households: $88,486

Median Home Value: $399,400

The nation's seat of power is topped with a plump cash cushion. The D.C. area is home to the greatest number of millionaire households on this list and ranks fourth overall behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. In D.C. proper, you can find many moneyed residents, including high-profile politicians, lobbyists and contractors, living in the townhouses of Georgetown and Capitol Hill. Outside the District, millionaires can enjoy the suburban life in Arlington, Va.; Bethesda, Md.; and other well-off neighborhoods.

Metro Population: 320,087

Concentration of Millionaire Households: 8.9%

Number of Millionaire Households: 12,078

Median Income for All Households: $56,876

Median Home Value: $317,200

Beautiful beaches and top-drawer retailers lay out the welcome mat for thousands of millionaires, as well as leisure travelers, who flock south for the warmth of the Gulf Coast. Shoppers seeking upscale styles have many options, including Cartier, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, at the open-air Waterside Shops. And golfers have just as many choices when it comes to links – there are more than 90 golf courses nearby. Another kind of green that may interest people in the area: eco-tourism. You can get a glimpse of the local wildlife a short drive away at Everglades National Park and Ten Thousand Islands. While real estate in the area tends to become more affordable as you move inland, the median value of homes in prime coastal locales such as Pelican Bay and the City of Naples is about $800,000.

Metro Population: 911,196

Concentration of Millionaire Households: 8.9%

Number of Millionaire Households: 30,048

Median Income for All Households: $82,558

Median Home Value: $466,700

The southwest coast of Connecticut, stretching from Bridgeport to the border with New York, provides a perfect (and preppy) suburban base for high-powered commuters, many of whom work and play in nearby Manhattan. Nearly 34,000 residents, or 8.1% of the local labor force, are employed in management positions, earning about $68 per hour on average. And 16.7% of households report an annual income of $200,000 or more; only 4.5% of the country's households pull in that much each year. Those high paychecks can help cover the area's high costs. Stamford proper is one of America's most expensive big cities, and typical homes in small affluent towns such as Greenwich and Darien go for $1 million.

Photo: Chrisbkes,

Total Metro Population: 18,040

Concentration of Millionaire Households: 11.7%

Number of Millionaire Households: 906

Median Income for All Households: $104,914

Median Home Value: $300,700

This tiny New Mexico town has the smallest population, as well as the highest concentration of millionaires, on this list. Chalk up the density of affluence to the National Laboratory, a research facility focused on national security and the county's largest employer. Since the lab was established in 1943 as site Y of the Manhattan Project, it has drawn some of the world's top scientific minds with state-of-the-art facilities, currently including more than 1,200 buildings on a 36-square-mile campus, and generous paychecks. In fact, the area's six-figure median household income is the highest on this list. And relatively low living costs — just 2.9% above the U.S. average — will help wealthy residents hold on to their fortunes.

Photo: Larry1732,


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Catherine Baab-Muguira is a contributing writer to The Motley Fool.
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