There are two basic approaches to positioning and differentiating a new business.
If you’re entering a crowded marketplace where firms already sell similar products and services, you’ll need to differentiate with methods like distinctive branding, an ethical business mission, a lower price point or higher quality.
But if you’re selling totally unique products or services, or are one of the few players in your market, on the surface level, differentiation is much easier.
However, before blowing your life savings on a totally novel idea, you’ll have to check whether there’s a market for it. We discussed this extensively where we talked about how to test a new product idea – then decide whether demand can be sustained in the long term and be open to adaptations that futureproof your enterprise without diluting your authentic offering.
If you’re in the latter camp, taking a leaf from the books of a few outlier organisations can be beneficial, so here are three weird business ideas that work.
Breathing into a shiny silver box in order to make music is a fairly strange concept, but (with a few refinements) that’s exactly how you play a harmonica.
Although this musical instrument’s distinctive wailing and warbling sound enhances many a classic Blues track, there are very few longstanding harmonica manufacturers in the world.
But mouth organ mogul Hohner is one – this German giant has been producing high-quality harmonicas since 1857 and the music world’s a more harmonious place for it.
2. Sheep Shears
Back in the mists of time, some observant person noticed how cosy sheep look in their fluffy coats and realised that if they could only catch one and cut its hair, they could perhaps fashion some crude yet warm garment from it. It probably seemed a strange notion, but it contained the seeds of genius.
Fast forward a few generations and sheep shear retailers Horner sell practically every type of electric shearing machine, cutter and blade under the sun – simultaneously satisfying sheep, shepherds and woolly jumper fans the length and breadth of the land.
Please don’t confuse Hohner and Horner though – harmonicas are useless for shearing sheep, while for health and safety’s sake, sheep shears belong nowhere near your mouth!
Back in 1793, a smart young Scotsman James Ormiston noticed that the wigs of London’s foremost actors were frustratingly floppy, while the corsets of the capital’s most talented actresses lacked structural support in all of the important areas.
He founded braid manufacturer Ormiston Wire to solve these problems with stiff wire and the family company survives and thrives to this day – thanks to adapting its original offering to applications in everything from puppetry to polar exploration.
This hattrick of weird, wild and wonderful business ideas should provide plentiful food for thought when you’re formulating your own entrepreneurial plan.
If you’ve got a great idea and have spotted a genuine gap in the market, being one of a kind is often a brilliant business model.
So ends our list, but please share your own weird but brilliant business ideas in the comments section.