Strange businesses get started all the time ‘ many invariably fail. On both sides of the Atlantic the TV Show Dragon’s Den has demonstrated that some people truly have some wacky ideas. Business is also an area where women traditionally do not tend to enter. That’s not to say that female entrepreneurs do not exist, just that as they are few there will be far fewer wacky ideas. This list though demonstrates that strange ideas can take off.
1. The Snuggery
It is said that as a nation, the USA is not particularly tactile and that people would be a lot happier if only they spent a few minutes hugging their loved ones. This is the thinking behind the business Jacqueline Samuel whose business is dedicated to affection and non-sexual physical contact. The psychological benefits of touch are not in doubt: it lowers stress levels and is good for our mental wellbeing. Samuel’s business offer 45, 60 and 90 minute sessions with the option of one or two snugglers and an overnight option.
2. U.S.E.D. Bags
When cars are stripped down and scrapped, recyclers will re-use as much of the material as they possibly can ‘ there is a valuable market in reselling metal and rubber for example. In some cases, you are left with material that has no re-sale value and you can’t do much with it. Or can you? U.S.E.D. (Unlimited Supplies from Everyone’s Discards) founded by Betty Funk has found a niche in creating bags from’¦ seatbelts. Artistic hands at the business have become adept at creating all manner of accessories from the otherwise useless strips of cloth that save our lives. Their range also includes purses and belts
Kathy Newbern loves to read and write. She also understands the need for those readers who like to immerse themselves into a novel. So her idea was to create custom-made novels for couples to star in their own book. They provide some basic details, a setting, their names and a theme and the company produces a novel based around this criteria. Options are around $50 for a paperback and photos or around $100 for a hardback version with photographs.
Your furniture will take a lot of battering: tea, coffee, takeaway food, red wine, beer, greasy food. All of these things stain your sofas and if you spend a lot of time on your sofa watching TV that is a lot of punishment. Fortunately, Debbie Wiener invented a slob-proof fabric which means that all of these substances and more can be wiped off without staining the fabric. She lists her motivation as being ‘married to a slob husband and giving birth to slob kids’
5. The Cheese Lady
You’ve heard of stone sculptures and no doubt by now, ice sculptures too but what about cheese sculpturing? Sarah ‘The Cheese Lady’ Kaufman has been creating sculptures made from cheddar cheese for many years and is often invited to food fares and grand openings to show off her talents. She can be quite adventurous in her art having recreated the Eiffel Tower, the moon landing and even replicated the Chicago skyline. Sarah Kaufman sells through her own website for a variety of occasions
6. Purple Cloud Studio
What happens to our loved ones when they die has usually been one of two choices: burial or cremation. Purple Cloud Studios though, run by Michele Palanik, began life as a small off-shoot of her husband’s funeral directory business. Michele fashioned commemorative jewellery and now produces pieces with a keepsake of the deceased. She requests only half a teaspoon of remains which she then fashions into a piece of jewellery. She offers pendants, paperweights and sculptures with remains fused into the objects
7. Mrs. Brown’s Bath Bakery
Who doesn’t like indulgent food? Who doesn’t like indulgent toiletries? Mrs Brown knows that most people like both of these things so decided to set up a business fusing both together. Unfortunately, the toiletries she produces are not edible but they do smell edible! From cookie bath bombs to lemon cake shampoo, not only do they smell delicious in most cases they look like the real thing! Just make sure you keep them in the bathroom. She is based in Arizona and used 100% organic natural products
8. Fantasy Dating Game
Established by Suzanne Casamento it was set up because she got fed up with hearing her single female friends complain about the lack of available men so she created a virtual dating world on the web to encourage better dating practices and confidence in the dating game for women. It gives points for flirting, being asked out and going on a date. It is set out much like fantasy sports leagues where you vie against friends and other groups to be the best dater on the site
9. Anger Room
Violence against inanimate objects can be very therapeutic. Donna Alexander owns a small shop at a mall where people are free to come and trash the place. But of course it doesn’t come free of charge; you have to pay for your time in the room. Lashing out at chairs, mannequins and dummies, smashing crockery and glass is much better than lashing out at your nearest and dearest. Sometimes you want to talk to a therapist but other times, you feel the need to work out some of that repressed anger!
This final one on our list has to be seen to be believed. Though most cats can go outside, in some built up areas it perhaps isn’t wise to let them out at all ‘ such as those that live in a high up floor in an apartment block or they live near to a busy road. Rebecca Rescate lives in New York so knows this problem all too well. That leaves one problem: kitty litter. The CitiKitty device is used to train cats to use human toilets. She seems to be doing well with the business despite general belief that cats cannot be trained to do anything.
In a business world accused of being stuffy, unimaginative and all about image over product, there are still some great ideas catering to some necessary niches. The human capacity for innovation is never at its most interesting than when somebody sees a gap in the market and goes for it.