Entrepreneurial spirit is the cornerstone of the American Dream. Yet starting a new business isn’t for the faint of heart. According to the U.S Small Business Administration, half of small businesses fail in the first five years after startup, and 20% don’t even make it to their first anniversary.
Perhaps that’s what makes the businesses on this list so special. As off-the-wall as these concepts may have seemed when they first launched, the entrepreneurs behind them found their market and were passionate enough to persist until their dreams became a reality.
When Riad Bekhit appeared on the TV show Shark Tank in 2016 dressed as a potato, he elicited a lot of giggles. Outlandish costumes aside, however, the business model behind his company, Potato Parcel, is actually a simple one. For $14.99, this company will send a potato to your friends and family for you. And it isn’t just any old potato. It’s a potato customized with the message or image of your choosing. The result is a lighthearted alternative to a traditional greeting card. Need to send a thank you note to someone? There’s a potato for that. Unable to make Aunt Nancy’s 3birthday party? Send her a picture of your face on a potato, so she knows you care.
Potato Parcel has Riad laughing too…all the way to the bank. These days, he is drawing a six-figure salary—and he hasn’t even turned 30 yet.
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SumUp originally started in Europe and had the crazy idea of challenging the status quo of payment acceptance solutions for small businesses. To solve this challenge they developed a 3-in-1 card reader the enables any business to accept debit, credit and contactless payments. Today, they are Fortune 5000 company with over one million customers.
Need something, but you can’t quite put your finger on what? Perhaps you should check out SomethingStore, an online company that gives the gift of surprise. Their business model is even simpler than Potato Parcel’s. You go to their website, pay $10 and they will send you… something. Shipping included, of course.
People who love randomness seem to enjoy the idea of getting a surprise in the mail, even if they have no idea what they have just purchased. The only guarantees you will receive from this business is that your “something” will be new and have a market value of at least $10. The Long Island-based company has been in business for 11 years and according to their website, is about to take randomness to the next level with a new project. Stay tuned!
Ever dreamed of giving up your day job and sculpting masterpieces out of cheese full time? Sarah Kaufmann of Ohio did. If you are okay with having your mind blown, check out her website. Sarah sculpts chunks of real Wisconsin cheese into almost anything—from life-sized human likenesses to aircraft carriers. She begins with blocks as small as a few ounces and as large as 10,000 lbs. She has held the Guinness world record for the largest cheese sculpture in the past (surprisingly, there is competition for the honor, so the title tends to change hands).
Sarah is thrilled to dedicate her working life to cheese and educates others about its food value along the way. She has been creating cheese art since 1996 and is still going strong.
The thought-provoking concept of “dining in the dark” first took root in Europe and came to America with the opening of Opaque. At this Santa Monica restaurant, you can dine in pitch-black conditions. You will be guided through your dinner by a legally blind server. Reviewers say that dining as if blind is a transformative experience that every sighted person should try at least once. Aromas come to life and tasting becomes a vehicle for a new kind of exploration. Not to mention the fact that it will keep you laser-focused on your conversation with your dinner companions.
Meal experiences at Opaque costs $99 per person, prix fixe. It is safe to say that if they can charge such a premium, business must be good.
If you feel like your dog is missing out on the urban food truck experience and you live in Chicago or San Diego, fear no more. Donna Santucci created Fido to Go, a “gourmutt” mobile catering service for dogs, just for people like you. Fido to Go cruises the streets, frequenting places like dog parks and canine events, offering their delicious dog cookies and ice cream. You can follow them on Facebook or Instagram to find out where they will be each day, so your dog doesn’t miss out.
Fido to Go throws lavish dog birthday parties too. The truck will drive to your party to provide “pupcakes” and lead doggie activities such as bobbing for hot dogs and creating paw print art. In short, this business is a dog lover’s dream.
When a Traverse City, Michigan ordinance was changed in 2009 to allow residential homeowners to keep backyard chickens, country-dwelling Leslie Suitor started receiving a lot of questions from suburbanite friends about how to raise them. She soon realized that while many people are interested in urban farming and being conscious about where their food comes from, few are prepared to house chickens all year round. Enter Rent-a-Chicken, a seasonal rental service that gives you two chickens, a coop, and everything else you need to get fresh eggs in your own backyard from early spring until Labor Day.
Sound like a business without much room for growth? You would be dead wrong to think so. It turns out that there is quite a market for chicken rentals. Not only does Rent-a-Chicken now have numerous affiliate farmers supplying rental chickens all over the country, but copycat businesses have begun to pop up as well.
Not a fan of chickens? How about goats? The Iowa company Goats on the Go provides an environmentally friendly way to clear noxious weeds, brush, and invasive plant species from your property. When you hire Goats on the Go, a herd of goats (supervised by human companions) will come to your property and engage in “targeted grazing,” eliminating the need for herbicides and carbon-emitting equipment.
This service will leave you feeling great about your carbon footprint, and as a bonus, the herd will leave valuable fertilizer behind when they are done. And you thought goats were only good for yoga.
This is a seven-figure business that is likely to surprise you. Since 1995, Neuticles creator Gregg Miller has championed canine self-esteem by selling silicone testicular implants for male dogs undergoing neutering procedures. With Neuticles, a dog can maintain his natural masculine appearance while his owners mitigate potential negative, aggressive behaviors by neutering.
Do the dogs notice the difference? It’s hard to say. Their owners seem to value this kind of cosmetic alteration because Miller has sold more than 500,000 Neuticles since he has been in the business. One of Miller’s past customers is none other than Kim Kardashian, who purchased a pair for her dog Rocky. Since the average pair of Neuticles costs $310, it’s fair to say that Miller’s invention has brought him a healthy ROI.
If you want to know more about Gregg’s success story—put on your reading glasses—in 2004, he published a book based on his experience with Neuticles entitled Going…Going…Nuts!
All eight of these tenacious entrepreneurs deserve our kudos. Starting a business involves risk, and the road is not always easy. For these business owners, at least, the gamble has paid off.
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