NEW BEDFORD — Hannah Grace Walsh, donning a light pink sweater and a pink bow Sunday used her hands to mix ingredients for one of her new bath bombs called birthday cake.“My dad thought I could make these and it worked,” she said.Hannah is nine years old and promotes her products through an Instagram page and a YouTube channel under the name Hannah Grace BeYOUtiful. The mixture of essential oils, baking soda and a few other ingredients is packed into a mold and dried.
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Some of these unique ideas for business make me shake my head in disbelief while others make me mutter, “Hey! Why didn’t I think of that?” You’ll probably have the same reaction.
The business ideas in this collection range from dealing with head lice to doing strange things with road kill, but they all have one thing in common; they’re all real businesses that make money.
Because while they might appear to be wacky business ideas to you and me, they’ve all successfully connected with an underserved group of customers willing to buy their products or services—a.k.a. a niche market. Learn how you can find and master a niche market of your own.
Unique Business Idea: Trees of Steel
You really have to see NatureMaker’s Artificial tree sculptures to appreciate them. NatureMaker handcrafts steel art trees for hotels, casinos, retailers, museums, libraries, zoos, commercial buildings, theme parks and luxury homes and they are truly works of art. Prices range from $25,000 (US) for a 16 foot (5m) tall x 10 foot (3m) canopy diameter Oak or Maple tree to $500,000 (US) for a 50 foot (15m) tall x 50 foot (15m) canopy diameter Banyan or Olive tree.
Note that the trees in the photo are not made of steel but they are a great example of how artificial trees are used in wildlife exhibits.
Broken Dolls Need TLC
If you have a beloved doll that’s seen better days, maybe a trip to a “doll hospital” is in order. At such an establishment, an expert will make the necessary repairs and restore your doll to good condition, whether it needs new parts sculpted and replaced or a costume refurbished.
Did you know that doll hospitals have been around for ages? One of the oldest doll hospitals was established in Lisbon, Portugal in 1830. The Doll Hospital and Toy Solider Shop (in Southeast Michigan, U.S.A.), which has been operating for about 60 years is an example of one such business that’s currently operating. You’ll notice that this company also repairs china and figurines.
If you love dolls and are skilled enough to fix them, doll repair may be a great business idea for you.
Not-So-Wacky Business Idea: Head Lice Removal
The head lice are out there… and some of them may end up on your child’s head! Fortunately, there are businesses that provide head lice and nit removal services. The most famous, perhaps, is The Texas Lice Squad (now The Lice Place), which has two locations as of this writing, but if you Google the topic, you’ll find that there are quite a few others, including Lice Squad Canada, which offers franchises.
Mannequins for Sale or Rent
Ever give a thought to where all those mannequins filling up retail store windows come from?
Yep, you’re right. Someone made them. Probably in a mannequin factory.
So that’s one mannequin-themed business idea. But there’s also a growing nation of used mannequins.
Mannequin Madness, based in California, has won an award from the Environmental Protection Agency for recycling mannequins. The company, founded by Judi Henderson-Townsend, sells and rents mannequins previously used by companies such as Macy’s, Sears and Nike. It also sells new mannequins and mannequin-themed products like Mannequin Leg Lamps. Now that’s wacky!
Vegetarian? At the wrong end of the table? Or just plain impatient? Fear no more. You can still break a wishbone of your very own thanks to Lucky Break Wishbonesof Seattle.
Ken Ahroni, Lucky Break Wishbones founder, claims that the idea of plastic wishbones came to him at a Thanksgiving dinner on his 47th birthday, proving that unique business ideas are all around us; we just have to be able to recognize them. (Read more about how you can learn to recognize business opportunities.)
Something – Anything – for $10
And just to prove that people will buy anything, The Something Store sells… something.
That’s right. You send them $10 and they send you something randomly selected from their inventory. It could be, for example, “a cool gadget, rare book, table game, handmade necklace, reverse clock, box of gourmet chocolates, popular video game, big-box retailer gift card, the latest version of a software, a set of kitchen knives, a pair of handmade earrings…” etc. according to their website.
Now that’s an original business idea! Who doesn’t like a mystery?
Everyone and everything dies, eventually. What happens with our earthly remains is a matter of choice for many people, and now that choice is wider (and deeper) than ever.
Eternal Reefs Inc., based in Decatur, Georgia, creates memorial reefs – by making a person’s cremated remains part of a reef ball. The reef ball is then placed into the ocean to become part of a new or existing reef, creating what the company calls a true living legacy. Reef balls for pets are also available.
Have livestock? Have you ever thought of renting it out?
One business idea is to rent out a cow to produce milk and/or cheese for the person who rents it. But here’s a new twist; in Switzerland, some farmers have a business renting cows to urban types and tourists. A person can come by any time to visit and/or milk their rental animal – or watch it on a webcam if they prefer.
We all know that spending time with animals is soothing. If you don’t have any yourself you can go to a business that does. Cat cafés, places where customers can sip tea and pet resident cats, have been popular in Taiwan and Japan for years – so much so that at some cat cafés, reservations are recommended on weekends.
Get the flavour of what visiting a cat café is like with Jane Aldridge’s photos of her visit to a cat café in Tokyo. The Calico Cat Café in Tokyo website, as you see, showcases its feline residents (website in Japanese but photos are “international”).
The first cat café to open in North America was the still-operating Le Café des Chats in Montreal, Canada in August, 2014. The first in the United States was the Cat Town Café opened in October 2014 in Oakland, California. Now there are cat cafés across North America, including some in Mexico. Is this the purr-fect business idea for you?
Google is surely the most famous user of mowing goats; they hire a herd of about 200 goats to mow fields around their California headquarters. (See the Official Google Blog.) But they’re certainly not the only ones. Mowing goats are a lot more eco-friendly than the standard weed whacker and pesticide approach to weeds and long grasses.
Trying to use goats to compete with residential lawn mowing services though, is not a good idea. Apparently, goats don’t actually do that great a job of mowing lawns but are great for weed and brush control, as Gary Pfalzbot of Goatworld.com explains.
Testicular Implants for Pets
I have to say I just don’t get this one, but according to the Neuticles.com website, some pet owners are reluctant to neuter their pets because the usual neutering procedure completely removes the animal’s testicles.
Neuticles eliminates this concern because “a ‘Neuticled’ pet looks exactly the same after surgery!” (Hmm… who’s looking anyhow?)
BrewDog – Road Kill plus Beer
Believe it or not, you read that right. On their website, BrewDog proclaims that their beers are in no way commercial or mainstream—and they really mean it.
James Watt and partner Martin Dickie have created an ale that is 55 percent alcohol by volume, (a higher alcohol content than whiskey and vodka), called The End of History, which comes in bottles wrapped in taxidermic road kill. Read more about BrewDog’s End of History Ale.
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You know it’s a fad when print media rushes in.
“Should Groupon be worried?” Ad Age asked.
The services didn’t last long. TimesSelect, the Times’option, is no longer available. I could only find one survivor: the San Diego Union Tribune. (Singles Hawaiian Luau Party anyone?)
Now it’s happening again, but with meal kits. Startups selling ingredients in a box have surged in popularity in recent years. Blue Apron now ships eight million meals a month through its subscription service. (At $10 each, that’s $960 million in annual revenue.) The company is valued at $2 billion, which is higher than Groupon’s GRPN 2.43% current market value.