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10 Unique and Successful Business Ideas from around the World

Unique business ideas often find success because they serve a niche market. Some of the business ideas in the list below might seem funny or even crazy. But, they make money because they’ve managed to tap into a group of customers that needed something other companies weren’t providing.

In this article, we’ll cover:

1. Cat Cafes

Cat cafes are cafes where customers can order beverages and also spend time with the resident cats. Cat cafes have been wildly successful in Japan and Taiwan for many years. The first cat cafe opened in Montreal is 2014 and since then they’ve started to spread through North America.

Cat cafes are part of the overall trend of activity bars—for example, bars that combine bowling or gaming. And this type of venture is a perfect match for crowdfunding techniques through sites like Kickstarter. There’s also the option to create spinoffs, like cafes that serve wine or dog cafes.

2. Stress Biosensors

An Irish company turned to Kickstarter to fund a biosensor that tracks your stress and helps you relax through game play. It’s supposed to help its wearer understand how to manage their stress. The company’s gamble paid off as 555 backers contributed a total of $103,916 to fully fund the project.

This is part of a trend of devices that are intuitive to use and that read emotions. Another example is the Mico headset from Japan that tracks its wearer’s brainwaves and chooses appropriate music for their mood.

3. Lice Removal

Head lice is every parent’s nightmare. For moms and dads who don’t want to do their own removal, there are now businesses that will do it for them. Lice removal businesses typically offer in-store or in-home services and also cater to camps, daycares and schools.

The Lice Place from Texas is famous in this space and has four offices plus two franchises. Another example is Lice Squad. Lice Squad has multiple businesses in provinces across Canada as well as franchise opportunities.

4. Biodegradable Packaging

Here’s a creative and green business opportunity: global demand for bioplastic packaging is expected to reach 8,84,000 tons by 2020, according to the Economic Times. Biodegradable bags make up about 10 to 15 percent of the world plastics market and should increase to 25 to 30 percent by 2020.

To meet demand, EnviGreen Biotech in India is making plastic-like bags that are actually composed of starch and vegetable derivatives. They dissolve in warm water and are recyclable, organic and even edible by animals.

5. Renting Cows

We have Switzerland to thank for this funny small business idea. Farmers there have begun to rent their cows to tourists and urbanites. The farmers take care of the cows and their temporary owners pay a reduced rate for the cheese produced from the cow’s milk. They may also be required to do some work on the farm or they can stay overnight for the true alpine farm experience.

There’s high demand and farmers are now considering adding more cattle and letting people rent just a half or quarter of a cow.

6. The Airbnb of Parking

Parking is a huge issue in rapidly growing cities across the world. One statistic estimates that 30 percent of pollution and road congestion is created by cars searching for parking. So any business idea that addresses this parking problem, not to mention any other issues created by increased urbanization, is sure to find success.

Greece’s Parkgene is one such company. It started as a parking booking service (there are plenty of apps that do this worldwide). It has now shifted to a peer-to-peer model, meaning people can rent out their parking spaces directly to each other.

This taps into another growing segment: the sharing economy. Of course, the most famous example is Airbnb, which lets users rent out rooms, apartments or houses to each other.

7. Bitcoin Tech

An Argentinian entrepreneur developed payment technology that makes it easier for South American companies to accept bitcoins as payment. The company is called BitPagos and it attracted $600,000 in investment, according to Business Insider.

Bitcoin is one of the most popular cryptocurrencies, also known as digital currencies. It can be used as payment and isn’t tied to any one country and only exists digitally, not in paper form.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were worth $107 billion in June of 2017, six times their worth at the beginning of that year, according to Fortune magazine. The industry is set to enter a trillion-dollar valuation.

Here are some ideas to enter this space:

  • Lending
  • Making payments
  • Payments through social media platforms
  • Bitcoin ATMs
  • Retirement investing

8. Vegan Meats and Dairy

South Africa’s Fry’s is famous for its vegan shrimp, sausage rolls, burgers, schnitzel and much more. Its products are now sold in 8,000 supermarkets in 30 countries and is just about to enter the U.S. market.

Though Fry’s has been in business almost 30 years, the market is hotter than ever right now for vegan and vegetarian foods. Sales of plant-based food reached over $3.7 billion last year in the U.S., according to Nielsen. Vegan meat is the hottest food item, with sales increasing 23 percent.

That said, there’s plenty of competition. Beyond Meat is the leading seller of vegan meats, with sales increasing 70 percent in 2017. Other options include starting a business focused on plant-based dairy, eggs and complete pre-packaged meals. Plant-based milk is a fiercely competitive market but creamer, yogurt, cheese and ice cream are quickly growing categories.

9. Second-Hand Children’s Clothing

Changeroo is an online retailer that sells used, high-quality kids clothing. This Canadian company offers a 75 percent discount on like-new clothing. Changeroo is a small business run solely by its owner who does absolutely everything from customer service to buying to website management. Social media visibility has been key for her business.

Second-hand children’s clothing is a great opportunity because kids quickly outgrow their clothes and buying new ones can get expensive. Plus, getting brand names for less instead of buying cheap “fast fashion” is appealing.

Also helpful: moms and dads can return their used purchases to Changeroo for credit to buy even more clothes.

10. Speed Language Learning

An Irish man has figured out a system for learning a new language in just three months. Entrepreneur Benny Lewis now speaks 11 languages and has a series of successful books plus an online course and other resources. He also has a blog and a YouTube channel and has done a TED talk.

You could start your own language-learning business by making a website with classes that can be accessed whenever a student wants, says Entrepreneur. Students could pay a monthly fee to log in at a any time and you could also sell advertising space and courses or books. Mobile learning is also hot so you could optimize for mobile or think about creating an app.

Plus, you could sell to individuals or corporations. Companies in particular need speed language training to get their employees ready to do international business.

People also ask:

How Do You Come up with New Business Ideas?

To come up with a new business idea, think of what will be trending in the future and what technologies people will want, according to Entrepreneur. For example, voice search, coworking, standing desks, alternative learning, blockchain and membership incentives are just some of the upcoming trends identified by Forbes.

Successful businesses often solve problems, so think about what frustrates you and how you could solve it.

Or find an underserved niche market and give them what they want. Do your market research—find your customers and ask them questions, either in person or through a survey.

It’s also a good idea to innovate in markets that haven’t seen new developments in a while.

You can also provide a product or service that’s cheaper than what’s already out there. For example, Toronto-based Mejuri offers fine jewelry direct to consumers at much lower prices. Now Mejuri has waitlists of 40,000 people, a $5 million funding round and 5x year-over-year growth in revenue, according to Business Insider.

What Online Businesses Are the Most Successful?

Here are some examples of successful online businesses:

  • Subscription boxes. From food (HelloFresh) to shaving (Dollar Shave Club) to makeup (Ipsy) to clothes (Stitch Fix), subscription boxes are hot right now.
  • SEO optimization. It stands for search engine optimization. SEO gurus help company websites appear high in search rankings, organically. SEO marketing is highly coveted right now and experts are in demand.
  • Webinars. Webinars are live tutorials with a guru who may or may not sell you a course or other product at the end. Jason Fladlien has made over $100 million in sales thanks to his webinars. Use GoToWebinar and use your existing expertise to make you money.
  • Business coaching. This requires existing business acumen but there’s a massive market out there and with the right approach, business coaching can be very lucrative. Coaching in general is hot right now and there are many different types, if you’re not a business guru. A report by IBISWorld says coaching is a $1 billion industry in the U.S. and expected to grow year-by-year at 3.6 percent.
  • Ad management. Online advertising continues to explode and businesses need help navigating and optimizing all the different channels. Online ads will be a $129.23 billion dollar industry by 2021 according to eMarketer, so you may want to think about starting your own ad management small business.

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