Odd businesses that shouldn’t have succeeded, but did

From tea in an aerosol can to a horse photography company, these ideas have come slightly out of leftfield, and are all the better for it. In this piece, we pay tribute to odd businesses.

Today’s business world is competitive. The incredible idea you’ve just had for a steam room dehumidifier or velcro court tennis club has, in all likelihood, already been done. However, that didn’t stop these three wacky visionaries from unfurling their odd businesses on the world and making their mark. Hopefully, you can learn from their outside-of-the-box thinking to come up with your own insanity that might just make some money.

Reconstructive medical tattooing

scalp micropigmentation hair simulation Tattooing by El Truchan Medical Tatttooist

For El Truchan, a stockbroking career represented great money but provided no emotional satisfaction. One day, while waiting for her mum to get her eyeliner done at a salon, El had a Eureka moment.

‘I felt strongly compelled to the idea of recreating or improving people’s facial features: eyebrows, lips, as well as helping them with more medical-related conditions like surgery resulting in nipple/areola loss, Vitiligo or hair loss.

I decided to look into it, and within a few weeks I had signed for my beginners’ training with a cosmetics academy,’ she says. After the first week she knew this was her future job and went through further training. Perfect Definition was born.

‘I have never looked back since then. Microblading, semi-permanent makeup and medical tattooing became my passion and I am excited every time I go to work.’

In the beginning, it was hard to get people enthused about the company; it may have been seen as one of those odd businesses. ‘Changing from finance to beauty and the sub-medical field was a huge step but the hard work, continuous professional development and education, and most importantly client satisfaction has helped me become established,’ she says.

El found she was working even longer hours now while working for herself than when she was in finance, which she didn’t think was possible. ‘The difference is I absolutely love every minute of it and every time I hear from my clients how happy they are with the difference I’ve made, it makes my day, and makes everything worth the effort.

‘Medical tattooing for reconstructive or recovery purposes is still very unknown and that’s why raising awareness of it is so important.

‘But it is a work of love and only people with a great deal of compassion and understanding of the emotional effect medical conditions can have on patients should uptake the niche and specific training,’ El says. ‘For others who just like beauty – this will probably be too hard to deal with.

‘Offering niche services is great but companies should make sure they have enough core services to assure their financial health.’

Horse photography

Horse photogrpahy

Sue Westwood-Ruttledge started out as a jack-of-all-trades photographer, concentrating on babies, weddings, and the like, but after 12 months she realised she needed to specialise. A horse owner and lover, she combined her equine interest with her love of fashion and an original idea was brewing. After asking one of the girls at the stables to put her prom dress on, Sue had a make-up artist do her up and they did a shoot with the horse.

The resulting images were edited and posted on Facebook, and within the hour Sue had three bookings. ‘Later that week I went to the stables to see my horse and got another six bookings…and so I had effectively stumbled onto what was to become my niche,’ she says.

‘I’ve been very lucky as girls seem to love what I do, glam clothes, hair and make-up done… and their horse. Most horse owners have competition photos but none in a portrait or fine art style which is what I do.’

From the initial shoot Sue says she has been very busy and in 2014 franchised her business, Horse Photography UK, as she was travelling all over the UK trying to keep up with the demand.

A lot of people have tried her idea since she started, but most have disappeared, Sue says. ‘I had seven photographers in a period of two weeks ask me to train them to take photos of horses as it seemed such a lucrative business. Photographing horses is difficult, especially if you have little knowledge of them.’

‘Photographers obviously take great photos but then have no idea how to market themselves,’ Sue adds. ‘I think my skills are business first, photography second. Eighty per cent of the time is spent doing the business side and 20 per cent is actually photography.’

In terms of going for a niche offering, it’s important to think through your growth strategies at the outset, and plan how the business can grow,’ Sue says. ‘If there are limited opportunities to expand then think twice before launching the business. Ive also launched a dog photography website which is still niche but has the direct connections with the animal photography and most horse owners have dogs.’

Tea in an aerosol can

Guy Woodall

No More Tea Bags is based on a new patent-pending technology which allows for high-quality liquid teas to be contained in an aerosol-style recyclable can. This means tea can be dispensed into a mug, hot water and milk added and the perfect cup of tea created without the need for waiting for brewing (or mashing depending on which part of the country you’re from) or having to mess about with and dispose of tea bags.

The man responsible for this, Guy Woodall (pictured), is more excited about the taste benefits than the convenience the can affords users, suggesting there is some aesthetic method to his otherwise all-pervading madness.

‘The convenience of not having to sit around and wait for your tea to brew is a major USP, but the technology we’ve used enables us to produce a tea with what we believe is a far superior taste to an ordinary tea bag,’ he says.

According to research the average tea bag is brewed for just 13 seconds, which isn’t anywhere near long enough to appreciate the flavour of real tea, according to Guy.

‘The tea we use in No More Tea Bags is brewed for a full five minutes such that a fuller flavour is achieved. All you have to do to get the strength or size of tea you want is add more or less NMTB as required. Whether you want a strong but small mug of tea or a weaker large mug, NMTB caters for your exact needs, producing the perfect cuppa each and every time.’ One of the odd businesses, but one with a certain logic to it nonetheless.

Further reading on ideas and planning

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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