Have you ever had an unusual thought and wondered if it could turn into a profitable business? Here are five of my favorite unusual businesses:
1. Game Truck
Game Truck – Scott Novis developed Game Truck, a portable gaming party, after he found he was disappointed in his four-year-old son’s birthday party at a pizza arcade in 2006. Scott noticed that children were playing boring, static games, and that most of the kids had better games and better graphics on their home game boxes than were being offered at the party.
Scott went home, and, in his garage, retrofitted a truck with gaming consoles, flat screen monitors, and cool decorations, creating the first Game Truck.
After successfully trying it out at a friend’s birthday party, Scott turned his idea into a thriving weekend business. His company has since grown to nearly $2 million in revenue. Game Truck has nearly 40 trucks in 20 locations across the country, and 12 individuals are employed in its home office. The company also offers franchise opportunities.
2. Zipz Shoes
Zipz Shoes – John Stefani was at a family reunion in 2004 when he and his father began talking about how many pairs of dirt-caked children’s shoes were in their presence. John’s father, Jerry, said it would be great if an interchangeable shoe existed – one where you could mix and match the tops and bottoms, and throw the dirty part in the wash.
The idea stuck. After the reunion was over, John and his siblings went home dreaming about mix-and-match footwear. They sketched several prototypes of shoes held together with everything from Velcro to pins until, finally, Jerry designed a shoe held together by a zipper.
Zipz Shoes’ first year of sales was in 2010, and the company grossed $1 million in that year.
Zipz Shoes retail for $45 a pair and are available online and through boutique retailers. They are distributed in 40 countries, drawing particular interest from customers in Europe, Japan, and the Middle East.
3. The Something Store
The Something Store – In the summer of 2007, Sami Bayrakci was surfing the Internet in search of a birthday present for his friend. After an hour of fruitless browsing, Sami decided it would be so much easier if someone else would just make the decision for him. And so the idea of The Something Store was born.
When Sami first shared his idea with friends, they thought it would never work. At SomethingStore.com, customers pay a flat price for an unknown item. Who would pay for something when they don’t know what they’re getting?
But Sami gave it a try. With a small start-up investment of just $3,000 for supplies, he designed his own website and began selling small, lightweight items in order to keep shipping costs down.
Within his first few months of business, Sami had sold several thousand “somethings.”
4. Beaten Path Trails
Beaten Path Trails – If you don’t have access to nature, it’s not easy to appreciate it. Hikers and backpackers use trails to gain access to nature, but construction of these trails is not easy. Laws prohibit the construction of trails with the use of vehicles and machinery, and that presents a difficult situation for many contractors.
But Tyler Johnson has created a different kind of contracting business which has achieved plenty of success building and maintaining trails.
On the Beaten Path Trail Contractors started less than a year ago, and has already acquired around $ 3.3 million worth of contracts. On the Beaten Path Trail Contractors offers $17 per hour to off-season ski resort employees and to college students on summer break for work done creating and maintaining trails.
On the Beaten Path Trail Contractors currently has 63 workers in four states, and there doesn’t appear to be any worry of government cutbacks. Tyler says support from government officials for both access to nature and job creation will ensure that the contracts keep coming.
5. City Slips
City Slips – Susie Levitt and Katie Shea, both finance students at New York University, noticed that many women walked home barefoot at the end of the day because of their uncomfortable heels. So the young women decided to start a company which offered easily portable flat shoes.
They worked with contract designers and manufacturers in the United States and China, creating a pair of flats which folds up to fit into a pocket-sized zip pouch. When women put the flats on, the pouch becomes a tote bag in which they can carry the high heels they had been wearing.
CitySlips began selling in 2009, and they’re now sold by 500 retailers, including Neiman Marcus, Dillard’s, and Bed Bath & Beyond.
Katie says CitySlips have broad appeal. “A 16-year-old leaving her senior prom will grab a pair of CitySlips and put them in her clutch bag, and then there’s my grandmother who will wear them leaving church,” she says.
Launched using $15,000 from personal savings and a $100,000 private loan, CitySlips sells shoes which retail for $10 to $58, depending on the style and material.