While all businesses work hard to try to stand out from the crowd, some don't require quite so much effort. While they often have more a limited market for their products or services, unusual businesses have an advantage over others in that most consumers can't look elsewhere for what they offer. From a company that specializes in all things miniature to an online business that sends out personalized handwritten thank-you notes for consumers, here are 10 unique businesses you probably never knew existed.
Being pregnant can be a physically and mentally exhausting nine months for many women. Hoping to make pregnancy a little easier, Stephanie D. Johnson founded Bed Rest Concierge. The business provides a wide variety of pre- and post-delivery services, including creating and managing a baby registry, birth announcement creating and distribution, nursery design, diaper delivery service, laundry service and hospital preparation. In addition, Bed Rest Concierge offers a number of "pampering services," such as manicures, pedicures and facials.
Just one, please
While bigger might be better for some, Minimus takes a different approach. In operation for nearly a decade, the online company offers more than 2,500 different individually packaged products, including travel-size toiletries and individual servings of various food items — everything from chips to Tabasco sauce. When it was founded, Minimus did not have any employees and was housed in 500-square-foot space. Today, the company takes up two large Los Angeles warehouses and employs dozens of workers. In addition to the individual items, Minimus sells premade kits specially designed for different uses, such as baby and family kits, outdoor kits, first-aid kits and military care packages.
Big toys for grownups
Looking to supplement their construction business, Florida's Jason and Alisa Bennett decided to have a little fun with their heavy equipment. In 2010, the couple opened People at Play: The Heavy Equipment Experience, where they allow individuals from all walks of life the opportunity to run real construction excavators, loaders and dozers for fun and enjoyment. In addition to individual parties, People at Play hosts a number of corporate and group team-building programs. Located in Florida's Gulf Coast, the business operates seasonally between November and April of each year.
Few businesses are founded in a bathroom stall, but that is exactly how Star Toilet Paper came to be. Created by brothers Bryan and Jordan Silverman, the company utilizes toilet paper as a new advertising and media platform. Star Toilet Paper prints advertisements and coupons for other businesses on toilet paper and distributes the product to public venues for free. The advertisements, which are made with a water-based solution that are 100 percent safe, uses mobile technologies like QR codes and SMS advertising to encourage users to get engaged with the ads. Star Toilet Paper then entices businesses to stock the toilet paper ads to wipe out the paper's cost.
Thanks a lot
Saying thank you has never been easier with the help of Thankster. The online business lets users easily create personalized thank-you cards with simulated, authentic-looking handwriting. The service gives users the ability to pick and choose from a variety of handwriting styles in order to best match their own. For consumers, Thankster is great for sending thank-you cards for weddings, bar mitzvahs, graduations and baby or bridal showers. Many businesses use the service to send personalized "handwritten" notes to valued clients, customers, partners and employees. After the notes are finished, Thankster stuffs, stamps and sends out the letters to their intended recipients.
While chartered boat cruises are not unique, the opportunity to rent out a world-class racing sailboat for your own use is. Based in Rhode Island, America's Cup Charters rents out some of the country's most prestigious racing sailboats for company outings, team-building events and family gatherings. During the outings, guests experience what it's like to be an America's Cup sailor by learning tasks like how to jockey for position at the start and sail upwind and downwind. Included in the fleet of ships are the 1962 America's Cup winner US-17 Weatherly, two-time America's Cup winner US-22 Intrepid and the 1980 America's Cup winner US-30 Freedom. Founded by George Hill and Herb Marshall, the company offers the only fleet of actual America's Cup Defenders available for charter in United States.
For some events, the typical green and cramped portable toilet just won't do. ElizaJ rents out high-quality, clean and attractive portable restrooms for any outdoor event. Each of ElizaJ's individual restrooms includes fresh flowers, designer soaps and lotions, name-brand paper products, wicker waste baskets, air fresheners and fresh water. The company recently unveiled its newest restroom, "The Powder Room," which can accommodate events of up to 350 people and is designed to rival restrooms in the finest restaurants and department stores. ElizaJ has also launched a franchising model to give other entrepreneurs the opportunity to run their own portable restroom operation.
Bored with board games
Kids who grew up wanting to design their own version of Monopoly or Clue can easily do so now with the help of The Game Crafter. The world’s first Web-to-print game publishing company givers gamers the chance to create their own custom board or card games. While designing and publishing a game used to be extremely difficult, The Game Crafter, founded in 2009 by JT Smith, Tavis Parker and Jamie Vrbsky, has simplified the process by providing templates, instructions, videos and proofing tools to help would-be game designers create a quality product. Users then have the option of buying as many copies of the game as they like.
While e-readers may have made reading books easier, they've made sharing them much more difficult. Hoping to change that is eBookFling, the first Kindle and Nook e-book rental site. The website gives readers the opportunity to extract some value out of the e-books they purchased and read that are now sitting on their e-readers collecting digital dust. eBookFling's e-book collection is completely derived from its own members. Through the site, readers can both list their own e-books available to rent, as well as browse what others have to offer. Each time a reader loans out one of their books, they earn credits for free rentals. Those who don't have any e-books to offer can rent e-books for $2.99 each. When readers check out a book, they can read it on a variety of devices, including Kindles, Nooks, smartphones, tablets, Macs and PCs.
Capitalizing on the burgeoning beverage market is Design A Tea, which offers consumers the ability to design their own tea blend from scratch. Founded in 2007 by J. Brian Pfeiffer, the online business lets tea drinkers choose from among more than 40 flavors that can be mixed and matched to create their own artisan tea blend. Shoppers first select a base flavor — black, oolong, green or rooibos — and then mix in two other ingredients, such as almond, Irish crème, passion fruit, rum or wintergreen. In total, there are more than 10,000 different combinations tea drinkers can create. As part of its mission, Design a Tea has adopted numerous socially responsible practices, including using recycled paper products, labels and environmentally friendly inks. All of their tea flavors are 100 percent natural, organic and gluten-free.