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Start Your Business Business Ideas

12 Unique Business Ideas to Inspire You in 2020

image for opolja / Getty Images
opolja / Getty Images

It's easy to think up a business idea that's already common in the marketplace, but coming up with a unique business idea takes courage and patience. Ask yourself which innovative business ideas are missing from your own life. What is an issue that's affecting you or your loved ones? Once you have identified a problem and created a solution for it, your idea could help a large audience, meet a large demand and lead to a successful business.

If you need inspiration in coming up with your own unique, innovative business ideas in 2020, learn from these clever, game-changing companies and think about what problems you can solve.

In terms of unique business ideas that feel especially appropriate for 2020, starting a business that provides disaster and emergency preparedness kits is at once unusual and certain to find an audience. Ready To Go Survival launched in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to provide personalized kits for anybody anticipating disasters, and it has coupled its services with YouTube videos detailing recent and potential disasters, Facebook memes that bring levity to this deadly serious topic, and blog posts that help people prepare so they're not caught unawares in the event of a disaster or emergency.

Have a green thumb? Help other plant owners keep their greens healthy and thriving. Nick Cutsumpas, perhaps better known as Farmer Nick, has provided exactly this type of consulting to people in New York City, alongside other plant-friendly services such as in-person plant shopping assistance.

For those who can't get to the grocery store or who struggle with preparing fresh, healthy meals that taste good too, turn your kitchen prowess and passion into a passive income source that gives back to the community. Several meal kit brands, such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh, have long offered similar services via online subscription models, but your unique business idea can help you forge lasting bonds with people in your area.

The online business I Do Now I Don't started from what might at first seem like a niche concern: Its founder experienced a failed engagement and tried selling the $10,000 ring back to his jeweler, who only offered $3,500. It's now an e-commerce site that sells gently used jewelry and other accessories.  Typically, the company offers the seller more money and offers the buyer a lower price than a jewelry store, eliminating the middleman – and driving sellers' earning potential right alongside the business's – as much as possible.

It's no surprise that after a night of drinking, most people don't want to clean their home. That's where Hangover Helpers comes in. This company not only takes care of your post-party chaos, they also provide breakfast (with your choice of "grease" or "green") to ensure you're feeling your best – without the added mess. As innovative business ideas go, this seemingly niche service is in high demand among all regions and demographics, and it only requires straightforward skills – cooking, cleaning – of its workers.

Consumers are increasingly concerned about resources that are wasted in the food packaging process. Often, cardboard, plastic, Styrofoam and twist ties are not recyclable, leading to environmental waste. In response, Package Free Shop, a zero-waste pop-up shop in NYC, offers convenient and simple alternatives to single-use plastic products. Since opening, the company has estimated it has kept 597,640 plastic straws, 851,950 plastic bags and 490,856 nonrecyclable cups out of landfills.

Manhattan's Spread takes everyone's love for free food in the office and adds a genius marketing strategy for local restaurants. This company helps new and under-the-radar restaurants build their customer bases by matching businesses in the area to food they're likely to enjoy, and delivering free samples right to those businesses' doors. After the samples are delivered, the recipient group fills out a survey about the food. Then Spread schedules the group for another surprise sample delivery.

Each delivery comes with coupons and a card featuring details about the restaurant. That way, you can learn more about where your food came from and reorder from the restaurant if you and your employees enjoyed the meal.

Every day, technology makes it more possible for employees and entrepreneurs to run their businesses and get the job done from anywhere, which means businesses don't necessarily have to invest in renting or buying office space.

WeWork provides office space for the officeless, with flexible, month-to-month membership options for individual freelancers and large companies. Freelancers who prefer to work outside of their homes can have a more reliable workspace than a local coffee shop, and companies and other teams can have a place to collaborate and hold meetings and events.

Do you ever find yourself wishing you could go back to school, or maybe even teach a course in a subject you're skilled in? Skillshare, founded in 2011, makes both of these things possible. The company allows experts to teach online courses on a subject they choose via short videos while students can watch classes at their own pace and use the community to get feedback. Students can take classes offline via smartphones and tablets if they'd like to learn on the go.

Unlike college or graduate school, with their high tuition rates, Skillshare costs $99 per year. Half of that fee goes to pay the company's teachers, so if you're an expert in something, it's a great way to make some extra money. And if you're looking to learn new skills or just brush up on old talents you can use to earn a passive side income, Skillshare allows you to do so right from home.

Skillshare also gives back: According to the company's website, for every annual membership purchased, Skillshare donates a membership to a student through the company's scholarship program.

While bigger might be better for some, Minimus takes a different approach. Operating for more than 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.

The company was founded after the Shraters, the family behind it, noticed how much product they were wasting at the end of a trip to New Hampshire. Today, the company takes up two large warehouses in Los Angeles 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.

For some events, the typical green and cramped portable toilet just won't do. To address this seemingly niche need, ElizaJ has come up with one of the more innovative business ideas out there, to much success. It rents out high-quality, clean and attractive portable restrooms for any outdoor event – perfect for hosting something a little more formal.

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. One of the options, The Powder Room, 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 operations.

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 gives gamers the chance to create their own board games, along with customized playing cards and 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.

Game creators may find that The Game Crafter provides them with ample earning potential and unique business ideas of their own. Creators who feel especially confident in their work can fully develop and sell their games via crowdfunding apps to earn passive income while mining their passions. After audience demand surpasses a certain threshold, creators may be able to turn their Game Crafter-developed ideas into full-time businesses.

Looking for even more ways you can start a business? Check out these ideas from our partners at CO– by U.S. Chamber of Commerce, or dig into these other great business ideas.     

Sammi Caramela, Brittney Morgan and Carlyann Edwards contributed to the writing in this article.