It's easy to think up a business idea that's already common in the marketplace, but creating a unique brand takes courage and patience. You don't want to be just another small business with nothing unique to offer. Instead, ask yourself what's 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 hundreds of others and lead to a successful business.
If you need inspiration to start your own business in 2019, take a page from the book of these clever, game-changing companies and think about what problems you can solve.
E-commerce that gets even
I Do Now I Don't started after 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 as much as possible.
Party (cleanup) committee
It's no surprise that after a night of drinking, most people don't want to get up early 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.
Consumers are increasingly concerned about how much resources are wasted in the food packaging process. Often, cardboard, plastic, Styrofoam and twist ties are not recycled, leading to environmental waste. Package Free Shop, a zero-waste pop-up shop in NYC, has a unique solution. It 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 non-recyclable cups out of landfills.
Free lunch (with a side of marketing)
Manhattan's Lunchspread 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 up 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 Lunchspread schedules the group for another surprise sample delivery.
Each delivery comes with coupons and a card full of 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.
Flexible, shareable workspaces
Every day, technology makes it more and more possible for employees and entrepreneurs to do their jobs and run their businesses from anywhere, which means businesses don't necessarily have to invest in their own 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.
Tinder for pet adoption
Borrowing a page from popular dating app Tinder, users can swipe yes or no on potential romantic partners through BarkBuddy, making it easy to find and adopt the perfect dog for you. Users tell BarkBuddy what they're looking for in the perfect pup, and then swipe yes or no on different profiles of dogs in their area. Once you've found the potential right dog, you can set up a meet and greet through the app.
The company ensures that everyone using the app is qualified to adopt. You have to fill out an adopter profile to be approved first; otherwise, you aren't eligible to adopt.
Online education a la carte
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 even 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 $10 per month, with a free 14-day trial. 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.
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.
Travel-size food and necessities
While bigger might be better for some, Minimus takes a different approach. In operation 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 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.
Fancy portable toilets for rent
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 – 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.
Custom board and card 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 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.
More business ideas
Additional reporting by Brittney Morgan and Carlyann E. Edwards.