10 min 16 sec

“Stoner Culture” Emojis Roll Out $10,000/Month in Passive Income

A project manager in California lights up a new revenue stream and smokes the competition with his counterculture emojis.
App Niche Ideas Passive Income PG 13

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What It's About

Counterculture emojis roll in the legalization of recreational marijuana in California!

Business Model
Skills Required
Marketing & Resourcefulness
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

It pays to pay attention to trends! If you’re really stumped trying to come up with something to test, look to what is making waves and ride it. At the very least, it will give you some experience—but on the flip side, you could end up with enough money to spend on your next project and some experience!

Fun Fact

Before emojis, there were emoticons, facial expressions made with punctuation marks. The first emoticons appeared in an issue of Puck magazine, all the way back in 1881. The magazine published four “faces”—conveying joy, melancholy, indifference, and astonishment—and called them “typographical art.”

These days, there are over 1,800 emojis in existence—who knew you could say so much through little pictures of fruit?!

Notes from Chris

Episode 530
Whether you love them, hate them, or use them exclusively to convey your thoughts and feelings online, there’s no denying that emojis have infiltrated our society. Although text messages have become a major form of communication, by themselves, they often fall a little, well, flat with words alone.

Oh yes, the days before emojis were fraught with miscommunication and a dark period in our history indeed...

Although emojis got their start as simple, punctuation-based smileys, they really hit their stride by 2016...and that’s where today’s story begins.

2016 was the year that Apple introduced new emojis for cheese, champagne, and tacos among others, and at the time, a 25-year-old Eli Graham was working as a Product Manager for a digital marketing agency in Los Angeles, California. Like most millennials his age, Eli had an eye for trends.

Always on the cutting edge of what was new in the market, he noticed that the emoji market showed no sign of slowing, and with the legalization of recreational marijuana in California coming through the haze, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine the two in the form of a side hustle.

Although he had some experience in design, Eli opted to hire an illustrator to bring his ideas to life. Drawing on inspiration from alternative street brands, he built his emojis with an edge from stoner culture and a healthy hit of parody. The classics were all in attendance although clearly under the influence, and since it was 2016 after all, they even threw in some emojis of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, as well as the current occupant of the White House. Oh, and also one or two police officers who had clearly dipped into the evidence room...

In the beginning, building an app seemed like his best bet, but he eventually discovered the option to license his emojis. And that's where he really found his all-time high—letting other companies use his designs on products.

These days, Eli and the licensing company he has partnered with have expanded their product offerings to include some apparel and keychains, and they sell anywhere from $100-150k in product a month, which means that Eli himself brings in roughly $10-15k himself in pure profit!

  Since he spent around $10,000 in getting his app and emojis out to everyone, he recouped his initial investment within the first couple of months and everything that has been coming in since has helped him completely cover his living expenses and even pay for a new car. Still, Eli says that the best part of all of this has been proving that he didn’t have to depend on his day job if he didn’t want to.

Moving forward, Eli has some dope plans for new designs and is even in talks with a licensing company who works with brands like Urban Outfitters—look out for his SMOKEmoji licensed items!



Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


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Quote of the Day
"While there were a few things that led to the success of SMOKEmojis, I wouldn’t say that it was an exact recipe for success. No two projects will be exactly the same, but the lessons still remain: be observant, be persistent, and be on the lookout for ways to take it to the next level."
—Eli Graham #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau