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Utah man makes his living selling tumbleweeds

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Posted at 10:38 PM, May 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-18 23:52:57-04

WEST JORDAN, Utah – A Utah man’s unique business has grown and expanded over the years, and it all hinges on cashing in on something many people in the area view as trash.

Mike Rigby sees dollar signs when he sees tumbleweeds, and he and his wife Angela make their living selling the plant.

Mike Rigby owns Curious Country Creations, and he said he still finds his success surprising.

“I thought it was a total joke,” he said of selling tumbleweeds. "I couldn't believe why anybody would ever buy one."

Mike Rigby has been selling tumbleweeds for nearly a decade, and it all started as a happy accident when he had to build a website for a college class.

"I'm there watching Jay Leno, and there was stuff sold on eBay, and one of the things was a tumbleweed,” he said. “And I'm like, ‘seriously, I could do that on my website: They're free!’”

So Rigby did just that, and six months later he was surprised to learn he’d made money via PayPal. He’s been selling them ever since and said everyone from individuals to movie studios purchase his product. His Utah-grown weeds have been seen in movies like "Transformers", and on one memorable occasion he supplied Ralph Lauren—though that almost ended in disaster.

"The cleaning crew came through, and they threw them all away, thought they were trash, didn't know why they were there,” Rigby said. “So we ended up having to overnight like 20 more tumbleweeds, probably chartered most of a plane to overnight these things to Paris, and it cost them, probably ten, twenty thousand dollars…. Ralph Lauren was going to be there, so they had to have the tumbleweeds."

The Rigbys eventually quit their previous jobs to work full time in the tumbleweed industry.

"Building, building, building, and then three years ago we went: 'This is getting big; we need a warehouse, it's too big for the house now,'” Angela Rigby said with a laugh.