Got a crazy business idea but afraid to give it a try? It might not be as crazy as you think. BusinessNewsDaily tracked down a few small business owners who are making a living doing things you'd never expect.
Alex Andon majored in marine biology at Duke University. Now, he owns San Francisco-based Jellyfish Art, which sells live pet jellyfish and jellyfish tanks.
“The idea of a personal jellyfish tank came to me after I visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium and realized how wildly popular the jellyfish exhibit was,” said Andon. After doing a bit of research, he realized that he would be the first to create a jellyfish tank on a consumer-based scale.
After some tinkering and experimenting, Jellyfish Art started selling jellyfish tanks, food, and jellyfish through its website.
Andon invested $50,000 to launch the company about two years ago and the company is now doubling its profits quarterly.
The business has jellyfish suppliers all over the world. The jellyfish sell for $39 each.
Full of shirt
Jason Sadler owned a design business in 2008 when he saw the recession starting to take a toll. On New Year’s Day 2009, he decided to launch a business doing what he knew how to do best – generating buzz.
The Jacksonville, Fla.-based entrepreneur now runs iwearyourshirt.com. He gets paid to wear different company’s T-shirts for a day, make YouTube videos about the company and create a general buzz around the business.
His unique pricing structure encourages companies to sign on early. The cost of Sadler sporting a shirt costs companies $5 on January 1, 2011. It subsequently increases by $5 per day. He’s booked through June 5, 2011, on which day a client will pay $780 for him to wear their shirt.
In 2011 he will have four employees who also wear other companies’ shirts.
Denver entrepreneur John Kaplar, who owns the website Skedouche.com, turned his love of tacky holiday sweaters into a business. The site sells nothing but holiday sweaters and scarves—most of them tacky, and many downright lewd.
All the sweater designs are exclusive to the site, which carries styles for both men and women. In addition to more traditional holiday designs featuring snowflakes, Santas and reindeer, Skedouche carries a Naughty Christmas Sweater line as well.
“I have been a tacky sweater aficionado since my days in college and have enjoyed spreading Christmas cheer via my holiday apparel,” said Kaplar. “Each year I have to shop the ladies section of department in hopes of finding a semi-decent festive sweater. Department stores rarely stock Christmas sweaters for men and when they do, they are terribly boring.”
Keplar invested approximately $40,000 in the business in 2009 and is hoping to make his first profit this holiday season.
Jane Lipps and Lisa Jennings run a company called Masters of the Hunt which does nothing but run scavenger hunts.
“Jane was always passionate about hunts,” said Jennings. “Her parents used to compete in charity hunts every year and she thought it was the coolest thing. Then, she started organizing small hunts for her friends and family as a little girl. Flash forward to about 13 years ago, when Jane and I met when we worked together at a team-building company.”
The pair founded their Orlando, Fla.-based firm in 2003 and travel worldwide to conduct their events, which can cost clients $2,500 and up.
“The most interesting event we've done to date was an Amazing Chase for 2,500 people who did a ‘training at sea’ for their company,” Jennings said. “Guests combed the ship solving clues, which implemented some training information and they also competed in fun challenges, such as having to do a Staying Alive dance routine, rewriting the lyrics to a popular song to reflect a company theme and singing it karaoke-style on stage, climbing the on-board rock wall to get a piece of training info, etc.,” said Jennings.
“I teach others how to win,” Carolyn Wilman, who calls herself the Contest Queen and has helped her clients win more than $1 million in prizes since starting her businesses in which she counsels individuals on how to find and win sweepstakes.
Wilman, who calls herself a promotional marketing consultant, delivers her message in a number of ways, including through a book she’s written, a newsletter, her blog and a weekly radio show. She also conducts full-day seminars that cost $100 to attend and is also developing a webinar series.
Wilman started the business on a whim.
“I became unemployed and I began entering sweepstakes as a hobby, I became a mom, I went on a wild winning streak (3 trips in one week) and after about 100 people asked me my secret, I decided to combine my marketing background with my hobby,” said the Oshawa, Ontario-based entrepreneur.
Lining up business
There are more than 500 million parking spaces across America and someone’s got to paint them. But it’s not a guy in painter’s pants with a bucket and a brush.
We Do Lines, based in Ridgefield, Conn., is a franchise started in late 2009.
The businesses’ owners, Chris Couri, Dan Rella and Tom Darrow, got the idea to start the company after realizing how difficult it was to find someone to paint the lines in their business parking lot.
It started as a small business and now has franchises in several states.
The company uses a waterproof latex paint that is specifically manufactured by Sherwin-Williams to be durable, bright and approved by the Department of Transportation. The company does most of its stripe painting at night when parking lots are clear.