Unique Small Business Ideas
We’ve broken down our top unique business ideas into seven categories including, specialty foods, sports and entertainment, pet businesses, and many more. We've ranked their startup costs, required skill level, and earning potential to help you decide which unique small business idea is right for you.
1. COOKIE DOUGH CAFE
Professional bakers or baking enthusiasts with a good sense for business may consider selling edible cookie dough. While this business can certainly remain small, the growth potential is huge. You may expand locally, regionally, and even nationally while still keeping costs low since the product can easily be shipped.
The earning potential of this business is great, considering the high markup potential of this specialty product. While costs will increase if you decide to open a brick and mortar shop, with enough business-savvy and sales, profits can grow quite high.
Learn how to start a cookie dough cafe.
2. OLIVE OIL STORE
If you have retail experience and a love for fine, specialty foods, an olive oil store may be a good fit for you. In addition to experience managing a retail operation, you’ll need be able to speak with customers about olive oil with some degree of expertise. While not necessary, cooking and teaching experience can be very helpful as hosting cooking classes and workshops can boost interest and profits.
Opening an olive oil store requires a fairly large investment to ensure your storefront is located in an area with significant foot traffic from high-end customers. The growth potential for this business is somewhat uncertain, but with more and more customers seeking premium, artisan products, the right business plan can lead to profits of 10% to 15% on sales and even more on classes, workshops, and other special events.
Learn how to start an olive oil store.
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3. GOURMET POPCORN SHOP
If you love popcorn and are creative in the kitchen, a gourmet popcorn business may be a good fit for you. This is another great business idea that gives you the flexibility to stay small or expand. You may sell from home, open a store, or get your products on the shelves of food stores across the country. There are also a considerable number of resources available for those looking to learn the ropes of the gourmet popcorn business before opening.
Startup costs vary considerably, depending on whether you start by operating out of your home, renting a storefront, or even buying a franchise. However, because of the significant price markup, selling gourmet popcorn can potentially be quite profitable, with some national brands worth millions of dollars.
Learn how to start a gourmet popcorn shop.
4. SEA SALT BUSINESS
Anyone who is self-motivated, likes working with their hands, and has access to seawater may consider starting a sea salt business. Owners will need some level of expertise to recognize the best locations, seasons, and times to source the salt. This requires at least basic knowledge of tides, currents, and sea levels.
Once you’ve pinpointed the best source for your sea salt, the startup costs for your business are very low. You can get started with a few buckets and jars, a food processor, and a means of evaporating the sea water you collect. The low costs, virtually unlimited supply of free raw materials, and high markup potential mean a sea salt business can be extremely profitable.
Learn how to start a sea salt business.
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5. AXE THROWING PARTY BUSINESS
Axe-throwing parties are one of the many unique niche entertainment options popping up across the country. Anyone who enjoys games and entertainment may enjoy running this exciting business. Experience with axe throwing is useful, but not required.
Insuring an axe-throwing business can be expensive due to the inherent risks involved and the novel nature of the business. If you put in the time and money, though, there is a good deal of growth and profit potential. A successful axe-throwing party business has the potential to make six figures, with larger businesses realizing revenue beyond $1 million annually.
Learn how to start an axe throwing business.
6. ESCAPE ROOM BUSINESS
Creative individuals who love playing games and have a keen attention to detail may be good candidates to start an escape room business. While formal education and experience aren’t required, a background in design or other creative fields can be very helpful.
Escape rooms are a new and growing niche entertainment business that has blossomed over the past decade. While it’s hard to say how far this industry may grow, it continues to be a popular choice for a variety of people from small groups and parties to corporations looking for team building activities. Startup costs are moderate, as you will have to rent a location and design and furnish the room. However, a successful escape room business can bring in considerable profits, well into six figures.
Learn how to start an escape room business.
7. CHALLENGE COURSE
Skilled marketers and salespeople who have an interest in outdoor activities and experience in military or police training, summer camps, or corporate training are uniquely qualified to run a challenge course business.
Whether it is an obstacle course, high-ropes course, zip-line, or other adventurous activity, startup costs are significant and include land, insurance, and quality staff members. However, these businesses continue to grow in popularity, attracting individuals, families, parties, and corporate clients. With the right marketing and business plan, even small challenge course businesses can bring in six figures. Larger businesses can make millions of dollars annually.
Learn how to start a challenge course business.
8. RAGE ROOM
Creative thinkers and marketers with access to cheap, breakable items could turn a profit by letting customers smash things in a rage room. This is a relatively new idea, but one that can have widespread appeal. From parties looking for a unique experience to people looking to let off some steam after a breakup or job loss, a rage room can provide both entertainment and catharsis for its customers.
Startup costs are moderate, with a space for the rage room, storage, breakable objects, and liability insurance among the biggest expenses. Growth potential and profit will vary depending on your particular business model and price structure, but as popularity grows business owners may have the opportunity to expand into additional locations or even franchises.
Learn how to start a rage room.
9. INDOOR TRAMPOLINE PARK
If you enjoy interacting with people and having fun, you may be well suited to operate an indoor trampoline park. As with all businesses, strong marketing skills will give you an advantage over the competition.
Startup costs for this business are high, as it requires a large, open indoor space and a lot of specialty equipment. However, this is a growing industry. Those in a market with no competition can be especially successful, drawing customers from a wide area and potentially expanding to multiple locations in their region. If you have the money to invest upfront, an indoor trampoline business can see a profit margin of 25% or more, with profits well into six figures.
Learn how to start an indoor trampoline park.
10. FOOTBALL BOWLING BUSINESS
Another growing niche game that may be a good business opportunity for an outgoing person who enjoys fun activities is football bowling. Also known as bombowling or fowling, this activity entails throwing a football down a lane to knock down bowling pins. In addition to knowing the rules of the game, general business knowledge is critical for success in this new and fairly unknown business.
Startup costs are substantial, as the game requires a large amount of customized indoor space. Earning potential depends primarily on how many customers you can attract, but with the right marketing and a solid customer base, profits can be significant.
Learn how to start a football bowling business.
11. NERF ARENA
A Nerf arena is another business idea that’s great for outgoing savvy individuals looking to run a fun, fast-paced business. While the typical target customers are younger people, aged six to fourteen, many Nerf arenas have found they can increase revenue by also appealing to corporate and other adult groups.
Startup costs are fairly high, as a large amount of indoor space is required, along with things like equipment and insurance. Because of the high maintenance costs and lower rates charged to customers, earning potential is not as high as some of the other businesses in this category. However, a successful Nerf arena owner can still bring in a profit of around $50,000 per year.
Learn how to start a Nerf arena.
12. GAME TRUCK BUSINESS
If you enjoy video games and interacting with children, operating a mobile game truck business can provide a unique opportunity. Strong business management skills and a willingness to work on weekends are also important. While the mobile nature of this business removes the cost of renting a permanent space, the cost of outfitting the truck or trailer is still fairly substantial.
Gaming is a huge and booming industry, meaning growth potential for any related business is generally strong. Once established, low overhead costs mean game trucks can bring in a good amount of money from each event. If you’re able to book steady business, there is great potential to make some excellent profits.
Learn how to start a game truck business.
13. NINJA WARRIOR GYM
An outgoing individual who has an interest in fitness and entertainment may be a good fit to operate a ninja warrior gym. Popularized by the TV show American Ninja Warrior, this business draws in a variety of clients. It is important for an owner to be comfortable interacting with different people and to have some general knowledge about running a business to keep people coming back.
Startup costs are high, with the business requiring a large space, special equipment, and good insurance coverage. However, the growing appeal of ninja warrior gyms means your business has great growth and earning potential.
Learn how to start a ninja warrior gym.
14. PROFESSIONAL MERMAID
Professional mermaids have grown in popularity in recent years. This quirky business idea may be a good fit for a strong swimmer who enjoys acting and interacting with people.
While high-end costumes can be expensive, startup costs can be kept quite low for this business since it can easily be run by booking clients entirely online. As a highly specialized business, professional mermaids can charge a high hourly rate. With regular bookings, this can be a quite lucrative business, bringing in $1,500 or more per week.
Learn how to start a professional mermaid business.
15. PARTY BUS BUSINESS
If you are experienced at coordinating events, enjoy working with people and providing customer service, and can think quickly on your feet, a party bus may be a good business for you. Party buses have become a popular choice for a wide range of customers looking for a fun, unique, event that’s easy to plan.
Startup expenses are substantial, with the cost of buses, salaries, and insurance among some of the biggest. You’ll also have ongoing expenses for gas and maintenance of your buses. However, with the high hourly rates you can charge, it’s possible to bring in a respectable annual profit of $50,000 or more.
Learn how to start a party bus business.
16. CONTENDER ESPORTS FRANCHISE
A Contender eSports franchise is another great business opportunity that taps into the ever-expanding video game market. No formal education is required, but a strong work ethic, marketing skills, and a love of gaming will help increase your odds of success.
Startup costs are high since Contender requires all franchisees to have liquid assets of at least $50,000 and a net worth of $300,000. In this growing industry, the earning potential depends largely on your ability to attract customers. With a solid marketing strategy and consistent customer base, you’ll have the potential to make excellent profits.
Learn how to start a Contender eSports franchise business.
17. VINTAGE MAPS STORE
A very niche business, this is a good fit for historians and amateur map collectors who are passionate and knowledgeable about the topic. Many vintage maps business owners start out as hobbyists and then go on to establish galleries that house large collections of vintage maps.
Startup costs depend on whether you want to open a retail storefront or operate online, as well as the amount of inventory you want to carry and what you may or may not already have. As a niche market, growth can be limited. However, as accessibility to vintage maps decreases, the potential to expand your influence within the market increases, along with your earning potential.
Learn how to start a vintage maps business.
18. BONSAI TREE BUSINESS
Selling bonsai trees can be a good option for gardeners and stay-at-home workers looking for both a satisfying hobby and a business venture. While no formal education is required, owners should familiarize themselves with the various types of bonsai trees, best growing conditions, and basic techniques for raising the trees and helping them thrive.
Startup costs for seeds and other materials are relatively low, and you can turn a good profit once the trees are grown, provided you can wait 3–5 years. Bonsai are considered "high-value" trees that increase in popularity each year, especially with urban customers who lack the space to grow full sized trees. While profit margins are high, earning potential is limited by how many trees you’re able to cultivate and sell.
Learn how to start a bonsai tree business.
19. DRIED FLOWER BUSINESS
An individual who enjoys gardening, understands how different types of flowers react to different drying methods, and is looking for a way to make some part-time income may consider operating a dried flower business. Normally this business is done as a side venture to a person’s full-time job, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
A flower drying business can grow exponentially if you establish yourself in a community as the go-to for decorative plants or sentimental keepsakes. Start up costs are low, especially if you already have a suitable space for growing your own flowers. Even as a side business this venture has the potential to bring in serious profits.
Learn how to start a dried flower business.
20. DART STORE
This niche business is ideal for an expert in darts or a master craftsman who can create a product or provide service that sets their business apart from other suppliers. With a number of online vendors of dart equipment, a dart store should focus on quality and expertise. Those who can cultivate a unique style or specialty will shine in this industry.
Startup costs will vary depending on the space you choose and the raw materials used in your products. Growth can be slow since expensive, high-quality products are made to last. However, with the right products and marketing strategy, there is an opportunity to make significant profits since top-of-the-line darts equipment can be priced quite high.
Learn how to start a dart store.
21. WIND CHIME BUSINESS
A wind chime business can be a good fit for anyone with an artistic, creative ear. Whether you craft the chimes yourself or purchase them from artists and craftsman, the ability to identify calming and beautiful sounds is vital.
If you choose to run this business out of your home, as many do, startup costs are quite manageable. With low costs and the opportunity for a large markup, those with consistent sales can make a fairly good profit with this business.
Learn how to start a wind chime business.
22. VINTAGE TOY STORE
A vintage toy store is an excellent venture for avid toy collectors and enthusiasts looking to turn their hobby into a lucrative business opportunity. Having experience finding and purchasing rare toys is important, along with the general business knowledge to properly market your toys to the best audience.
Startup costs are moderate, with the biggest expenses being rent for a storefront and inventory. Some business owners may choose to start their business online before expanding into a brick and mortar store, and many maintain an online presence even after opening. If you are good at finding a variety of valuable toys at good prices, the profits can be significant.
Learn how to start a vintage toy store.
23. STAINED GLASS BUSINESS
While general artistic abilities and knowledge of how to run a business are important, high levels of specific knowledge and skills are also required to run a successful stained glass business. Stained glass is generally viewed as a long-lasting work of art, and customers expect top quality.
Stained glass is an ancient industry that’s been beautifying homes and buildings for hundreds of years. Startup costs can be kept relatively low since most owners do business out of their home. With the internet available as a valuable tool to reach a wide customers base, the earning potential of this business is good. How far you grow will largely depend on who you market to and how much product you’re able to produce and sell.
Learn how to start a stained glass business.
24. CUSTOM DOLL BUSINESS
Most people who get into the custom doll business started out making dolls as a hobby. Knowledge of how to work with different types of materials can be useful to increase the types of dolls you can make. Being flexible and able to respond to the particular demand in your market will help you succeed.
Startup costs are quite low, but custom dolls is a very niche market with limited growth potential. Making each doll takes a good deal of time and effort, and there is a fairly low price ceiling. While you can definitely turn your hobby or craft into a profit, the low numbers mean it is much better suited as a supplemental income steam.
Learn how to start a custom doll business.
25. CHICKEN DIAPER BUSINESS
The chicken diaper business suits a pretty specific type of person: someone who is creative, a good sewer, and who has experience owning or raising chickens. This business has grown specifically out of a rise in urban chicken raising, so enthusiasm for this field is important for bringing in customers.
While the industry is on the rise as thousands of people in cities around the country have become interested in raising chickens, it is still a small and fairly limited market. Even with very low startup costs, it can be difficult to make more than a small supplemental income. Still, this can be a very fun side business.
Learn how to start a chicken diaper business.
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26. TINY HOUSE BUSINESS
If you are involved in construction, architecture, or another part of the real estate industry, the tiny house business can be a fun and profitable way to use your experience.
Startup costs vary based on the specifics of the homes you build and the real estate market in your area. Because this business requires fewer materials and less land than traditional home building, costs are generally manageable. With the current popularity of tiny houses, builders can make a sizeable profit on each home.
Learn how to start a tiny house business.
27. CUSTOM TREEHOUSE BUSINESS
Individuals with a background in construction or engineering who understand tree growth patterns and enjoy being outside can be a great fit for building custom treehouses. Carpentry skills and the ability to communicate effectively with your customers are also important.
Startup costs can vary, depending on the size of your staff, the materials you use, and the type of treehouses you choose to build. The complex nature of each build can place a limit on how far you can expand, but the high markup means successful treehouse businesses can be extremely profitable. Completed treehouses can sell for anywhere from in the thousands of dollars to over a million, depending on your customer base.
Learn how to start a custom treehouse business.
28. SENSORY DEPRIVATION TANK BUSINESS
Individuals with spa service experience and the ability to afford high startup costs may want to consider a sensory deprivation tank business. This is a relatively new industry that appeals to a niche audience, but as it grows in popularity there will be room to expand into new regions and markets. However, strong marketing and customer service skills will be critical to ensuring the business takes off.
You’ll also need to make a considerable investment to get your business started, with costs for a two-tank set up easily surpassing $200,000. However, once you’re up and running, this setup can net more than $100,000 per year for successful business owners.
Learn how to start a sensory deprivation tank business.
29. PROFESSIONAL MEDITATION BUSINESS
If you have a long history of practicing meditation and enjoy working with and teaching others, a meditation business may be a good fit for you. The more experience you have with different styles and methods of meditation, the more customers you can appeal to.
People are always looking for a way to slow down and relax. The recreational therapy industry, of which meditation is a part, is slated to experience 12 percent growth over the next few years, making this an excellent, growing industry to join. Earning potential varies by region, but the average salary for a recreational therapist in the U.S. is around $47,000.
Learn how to start a professional meditation business.
30. HOT TUB GARDEN
The ideal hot tub garden business owner believes in the relaxing, therapeutic potential of hot tubs and also has strong marketing skills. Basic mechanical skills can also be useful to deal with any potential issues with the tubs, as well as to perform general cleaning and maintenance.
Hot tub gardens are a fairly new concept, allowing customers to enjoy a hot tub in a private space, paying by the hour. Startup costs are in the tens of thousands of dollars or more, so you’ll need to be prepared to make a significant upfront investment. However, a successful hot tub garden business can be quite profitable, possibly bringing in high six-figure income each year.
Learn how to start a hot tub garden.
31. AROMATHERAPY BUSINESS
If you are passionate about helping others through homeopathic methods, and you also have a heightened sense of smell and the discipline to handle the day-to-day requirements of running a business, aromatherapy may be a good venture for you. Aromatherapy businesses cater to people looking for more natural remedies for common problems like stress and insomnia.
Homeopathic and other alternative therapies have become more popular in recent years, allowing for a good deal of growth in the industry. Startup costs are generally manageable, especially if you are not renting a storefront, and earning potential is solid. Business owners report earnings of anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 per year.
Learn how to start an aromatherapy business.
32. REIKI BUSINESS
A Reiki business isn’t for everyone, but those who have experience with this practice may enjoy starting their own venture to share it with others. Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that promotes healing. It’s based on the idea that an unseen "life force energy" flows through us and gives us life.
Startup costs will vary depending on your specific business plan. Many practitioners begin working out of their homes, minimizing costs early on. Your company’s growth potential is directly tied to saturation of the market, the needs of the area you serve, and the number of practitioners you’re able to hire. Innovative entrepreneurs in this field strengthen their business by offering a well-rounded practice that combines multiple types of therapy to meet all their client’s needs. Reiki practitioners report annual profits between $39,000 and $73,000.
Learn how to start a Reiki business.
33. GOAT RENTAL BUSINESS
If you own goats or have the space to accommodate them, you may consider starting a goat rental business. Sometimes known as goatscaping, this business lends goats to people looking for a natural and environmentally friendly way to cut and even fertilize their property. Business owners will need to be familiar with keeping and caring for goats.
Startup costs vary depending on your situation. You’ll need goats, enough room for them to live, and a trailer to transport them to your customers. You’ll also need to cover all the expenses required for continued maintenance of the goats. If you already own goats, this business can be extremely affordable to get started. For those starting from scratch, costs are moderate to high. Earning potential depends on how many goats you have, but you could expect to earn around $750 per week during grazing season for each four-goat herd.
Learn how to start a goat rental business.
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34. CHICKEN RENTAL SERVICE
Much like a goat renting business, a chicken rental service is an excellent business opportunity for anyone who already owns a chicken farm or has experience raising chickens. Chicken renting allows non-farmers to rent chickens for the purpose of egg laying without the responsibility of owning a farm or taking care of them long term.
If you’re already an established chicken farmer, startup costs are quite low. However, rental prices for two chickens for six months is typically only between $250 and $500, so it can take time and a large number of chickens to start making significant income.
Learn how to start a chicken renting busines.
35. GLAMPING BUSINESS
A glamping business can be a good endeavor for an individual who has a background in the hospitality business and an attractive piece of available land. Glamping, or glamorous camping, appeals to people looking for a camping experience without having to rough it in a traditional tent or campsite.
Startup costs can be considerable, as glamping tents can cost tens of thousands of dollars. This business is really ideal for folks who already own a large piece of land like a farm, hunting ground, or coastal property that can be converted for at least part of the year. Earning potential varies depending on the location and the quality of the tents, but with nightly rates ranging from $50 to over $3,000 and fairly low ongoing maintenance costs, this business also has a great potential to bring in large profits.
Learn how to start a glamping business.
36. PET HOTEL
Animals lovers with business skills may enjoy operating a pet hotel. While not necessary, experience working in an animal shelter, boarding facility, or vet’s office can be helpful. A pet hotel is essentially a luxury kennel, offering high-end care for pets while their owners are away.
Startup costs are moderate, typically running between $25,000 and $85,000 depending on location and the size of your establishment. The pet grooming and boarding industry is huge, generating over $8 billion in revenue each year, with an average annual growth of 6.6%. With a good location and steady business, owners can see profits around $40,000 in their first year, with the potential for much more over time.
Learn how to start a pet hotel.
37. PET BAKERY
Someone passionate about pets and pet nutrition may want to consider starting a pet bakery business. Knowledge about pet nutrition is essential, and veterinary experience can be extremely helpful. Pet bakeries provide specially formulated pet foods using more natural, high-quality ingredients.
Startup costs vary depending on the size and business model, but selling online and using your home kitchen can keep expenses very low. While many start out small, there is a great potential to grow over time, increasing both online sales and the reach your products have across retail stores. Earning potential can be quite high, with nationally recognized brands bringing in millions each year.
Learn how to start a pet bakery.
38. CAT CAFE
Outgoing and personable cat lovers can be a good fit for this increasingly popular business. Cat cafes offer people a place to relax with friends and felines, while they also enjoy a beverage or meal. In addition to serving human customers, many cafes also help the cats they house by making them available for adoption. While not required, experience running or working in a cafe can be very helpful.
Startup costs are fairly substantial, with the expenses of renting and running a cafe plus providing adequate space and care for your cats. This business model is still very new in the United States, but success in Asia and elsewhere shows that cat cafes can become extremely popular and successful.
Learn how to start a cat cafe.
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