Are you a fan of the show CSI? Do you like horror or zombie movies where you feel like, “The gorier the better?” If so, you might want to start a Murder Scene Clean-up business. (It’s not just for murders, they also do suicides.)
I’m not one for guts and gore. In fact, doing the research for this business made me realize I really didn’t want to write about it. However, I will leave you with a couple of links so that you can do your own research if you chose to.
As I’ve been doing research for the Weird Ways People Make Money (WWPMM) series, I’ve come to realize that each business idea has its own set of challenges. Some businesses have ethical issues. Others have the, “What will people think?” issue.
Some of the takeaways that I’ve had with all of these businesses are: is there a need to fill? Will people pay for it? Is it ethical? If it’s not ethical, is it illegal? And if it’s illegal, who says so and why? Can the laws be changed?
While doing research for murder scene clean-ups businesses, I ran across a place in Switzerland where you can go and commit suicide and they’ll clean everything up for you so your family doesn’t walk into the aftermath. There are some hoops you have to jump through and I don’t really want to write too much on the topic. But here’s the link if you want to look it up and I promise that the next episode of WWPMM will end on a happier note.
Sami Bayrakci was looking for a gift online for a friend when he came up empty. He thought, wouldn’t it be great if someone picked a fun, interesting gift for someone and for the added surprise they wouldn’t be told what it was. It would be a total surprise. This is how he came up with The Something Store idea.
Nine years later they have delivered thousands of “somethings” all over the world. The great thing is they do it for $10 which includes shipping. Who would have thought that a mystery grab-bag type business would work out?
Bayrakci says, “You should take a chance on your wacky idea! What do you have to lose?”
We’ve all heard that, “Most businesses fail within the first five years.” But you know what? You’ll never know if you don’t try. All of the businesses I’m profiling at the moment are a bit wacky, but they all work and they all make more money than I do sitting in a cubicle for 40 hours a week. Most of these business have one thing in common, they started small, then they grew and now others see the coolness that they saw all those years ago.
Start now moving toward your goal now and eventually you be where you want to be. Or you can stand around and do nothing and most likely still be where you are right now.
We’ve all had that, “Why didn’t I think of that,” moment. Well this next weird business idea is so far-fetched that I don’t think anyone would have thought that this was a good business to start – but we all would have been wrong.
The Potato Parcel is a company that ships potatoes to your doorsteps. And these aren’t just any potatoes. These potatoes have messages written on the with Sharpie markers. Some of them have pictures attached to them as well. Those are called Potato Pals.
Need a Mother’s Day gift? How about a potato that says, “Love you mom! From your little Spud.”
Or how about, “Happy Birthday Babe! Now cook this up for me.” I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t go over in my house and the website specifically says not to eat the potatoes.
Do you think this business is crazy? Well they sold over $200,000 worth of potatoes their first year and you can watch this video of two Sharks from Shark Tank fight over the idea.
The point of these posts are to show you that no idea is too crazy if you know how to sell and market something. Now get out there and figure out what your Potato Parcel is.
Continuing with my series on, “Weird Ways People Make Money,” today’s weird business is The Wedding Wagon in Las Vegas. The idea behind the Wedding Wagon is that anyone should be able to get married anywhere they want for an affordable price. How affordable? How about $129.00? (Flowers usually cost more than that.)
The Wedding Wagon is a fully decorated wedding on wheels. An Officiant and photographer will meet you at your location. The back of the van opens up for an elegant backdrop and that’s where the couple takes their vows.
Now granted, this business is in Las Vegas which is often called, “The wedding capital of the world.” (Side note, one of my brothers was married at Red Rock Canyon just outside of Las Vegas. The marriage didn’t last long though because unfortunately she went back to doing drugs.) Moving on…
Vegas weddings can be fun and whimsical. There are drive-in weddings, “Little Chapel” weddings and even weddings with an Elvis impersonator as the Officiant. This type of business model is great for Las Vegas, but what about other geographical locations around the U.S.? Would this idea work?
I happen to know a lady named Samantha who does, “pop-up weddings,” in St. Louis, MO. A pop-up wedding is usually a small wedding at a restaurant, park or scenic viewpoint where the bride and groom can invite their close friends and family, have a quick ceremony, have a little food and then get the heck out of there.
My friend who does these types of weddings usually charges about $2500 and has a 20 person max. All food is included and you also get a person to officiate the wedding. This is about 12 times cheaper than the average cost of a wedding these days, which is roughly $32,600.
The point is there are all kinds of ways you can make money. One of the many ways is through weddings. Whether it’s through pop-ups, DJing, Officiating, being the photographer, or the cater, weddings are usually once (or twice) in a lifetime events that people don’t mind paying for.
An interesting point here, the original guys who started The Wedding Wagon sold out. They thought they would franchise the idea. Unfortunately they didn’t plan the exit very well and then went to Shark Tank to try to sell the idea. If you’re interested, you can click here to see the rest of the story.
This is the first article in a series that I’m going to write on weird business ideas that are making people money. If you think you have a good business idea, chances are you do. One thing for sure is your idea can’t be any crazier than some of the ones that I’ve been reading about.
For instance, www.boxcycle.com is a nationwide site that encourages people to recycle and buy used moving boxes. The site’s mission is to educate people that recycling boxes only helps landfills a little, whereas if we reuse them we have a more beneficial environmental impact. The site makes money when you order the boxes online and go pick them up at 100’s of participating locations.
Boxcycle started in San Francisco, but is available in most states. Just go to the site and enter your zip code. I did notice they are not available in Honolulu, HI yet, but they were available in the other six or seven states I entered into the box-finder filter.
My point of this short series is to show people that, maybe your business idea isn’t so crazy. Have some faith in yourself, do your homework to get yourself prepared and most importantly of all—START! Like now.
Gamification is a hot new buzzword in the business world, but it’s been around for over a decade. It’s the idea of applying elements that makes games fun into just about any kind of activity or process. The most common gamification process in the business world is in the field of marketing—“Make it fun, make it interactive.”
Another process or activity that is incorporating gamification is: filling out insurance applications—reach page 3 you get a medal, reach page 5—Boom! A little wizard might pop up saying, “You’re a Wiz! Keep going!”
Gamification is even being used in exercise. If you look at gyms like Orange Theory Fitness, they pit individuals or teams against other teams and the person exercising can see in real time who’s working harder and who’s in the lead on the screen. This motivates the other teams to get moving. It also helps that they have a coach up there giving feedback in real time.
Are you a runner? If so, have you ever heard of the app called Zombies, Run! It’s one of the most popular exercise game apps out there with over 1,000,000 downloads. You plug your headphones into your phone, listen to the storyline and music, next thing you know, “There’s a zombie! Run!” You take off running. As you run, you come along things that you can pick up that will help you with your quest. Music, points and sense of danger, all of these elements are part of gamification or game theory. Who knew running could be so fun?
Some other elements of gamification are: Status, Access, Power and Stuff.
- Status—it doesn’t matter if it’s Military Badges, “Power Seller Status,” Level-statuses; all of these things make people feel important. And the best thing about them is they’re free. It doesn’t cost anything to make people feel important because they only get these if they accomplish something.
- Access—this also can be free, but it is very valuable to the person obtaining it. Why is it valuable? Because normally the person would be able to get close to it. Whatever it
Let’s say you worked at People or Forbes magazine, interviewing Oprah or Warren Buffett may feel like just another day at the office. But if you’re a person who enjoyed reading about celebrities and you wanted to learn how to get rich, and you never met a billionaire, much less two famous billionaires as Oprah or Buffett, this would feel like the opportunity of a lifetime.
- Power—everyone likes a little power, even if we don’t want to admit it. Some just let it go to their heads like an elementary school hall monitor or that first month never-been-a-manager-before-manager. But in gamification, power equals advantage and everyone likes that.
- Stuff—this is the one that most people think we want the most. But most of the times that’s not true. Free things, a discount and cash-back is nice, but look at the three above things and really think about what you want more?
Would you rather skip a 15 minute line at Starbucks and walk right up to the front, have your drink ready, pay with a “Speed Pass,” and go? Or would you rather wait 15 minutes in line and have a free-coupon for any drink you want?
Most people would rather walk by everybody and still pay. Why is that? Because humans are not rationale creatures and gamification incorporates this. This is why you still see the claw-crane games crammed in the corner of an arcade begging for some sucker to grab a three-cent stuffed animal for a $1.00 that will take $6.00 or $7.00 to get.
“Oh, but it’s so fun and my kid really wants one.”
If you are interested in becoming certified in gamification, the Engagement Alliance is offering classes through UDemy. Of course they have four levels, each varying in difficultly, price and amount of work that needs to be done.
Wonder how you can use this idea to get employees motivated? There’s an app of course! It’s called Due Props. Let’s face it, no one likes doing, peer-reviews, annual reviews or feedback forms. Due Props lets you give instant feedback to peers, employees and even higher ranking people than you. As data is collected, it can be complied for a more comprehensive review later. Want more info? Click here.
So why should gamification matter to you? The biggest reason is because it’s going to change the way you do things and you probably won’t even notice that it’s happening to you. From exercise, to filling about long boring applications, to getting your performance evaluations at work, gamification is going to creep into your everyday life and hopefully you will have more fun doing it; whatever it is.
Want to dig deeper? Two of the biggest Gamification Gurus are: Gabe Zicherman and Yu Kai Chou. You can check them both out by clicking the links.
If you want to read more on the topic, Dr. Karl Kapps has an excellent book called, The Gamification of Learning and Instruction.
Ralph Kosters’s A Theory of Fun is also a good one.
Did you know you could make a career out of drinking beer? Most people would never dream that you can make a living off of drinking beer. Can you imagine the look on a parent’s face when they asked their child, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”
And they said, “Eh, I think I’m going to drink beer all day and talk about it to people.”
There are many careers out there that many of us aren’t aware of. Part of what I’m trying to do with this site is bring some of those careers to light. Once you understand that there is not always a clear cut career path to doing what you love, the sooner you will realize that sometimes you have to blaze your own path.
As far as knowing everything about beer goes though, there is a clear cut path. It’s called the Cicerone Certification Program.
There are four levels of the program: Level 1 -Certified Beer Server, Level 2 -Certified Cicerone, Level 3 -Advanced Cicerone and finally Level 4 -Master Cicerone.
There are almost 67,000 people who have been through Level 1 training called—Certified Beer Server. To get this designation you have to take a 60 question closed-book test and pass with at least a 75%. Questions would include things about: proper storage, styles of beer and knowledge about the Cicerone program in general.
There are roughly 2000 people who have been through level 2 training or are called Certified Cicerones, which can take up to a year to complete. But when we look at Levels 3 and 4, the numbers drop off significantly.
There have been 13 people who have been through Level 3 Advanced Cicerone training and only 11 people worldwide who can call themselves a Master Cicerone.
Mirella Amato was the first person in the world to become a Master Cicerone outside of the United States. She has created a really cool business called Beerology where she does tastings and food pairing workshops centered around beer.
Amato also has written a book called Beerology-All You Need To Know To Enjoy Beer and has been teaching all-things-beer to students since 2007. She’s also been a judge at major beer festivals and beer tastings all over the world.
I had the chance to as to ask Ms. Amato a few questions regarding her business and the Cicerone Program:
What made you decide to pursue a Cicerone designation in the first place?
“My whole career is based around me learning as much as I can about beer and sharing what I’ve learned with others. By 2010, I had been working as a beer specialist for a number of years – doing sommelier-type work and doing public workshops to promote beer appreciation – and wanted to acquire some sort of credential so that my students and customers would trust my level of expertise. This led me to my Certified Cicerone certification. The Master Cicerone exam was more of a personal challenge; I really enjoy learning and found this to be a great way to structure my learning and work towards a tangible goal. It’s a 14 hour exam, so it requires a lot of dedicated study.”
When did you realize you were going to start your own business and incorporate beer in that business?
“I’ve always worked for myself, so the decision for me wasn’t so much about owning my own business as it was finding the right business. Freelancing is a combination of passion, intuition and hard work. I had many passions and was exploring a number of them in the year before I founded Beerology.
The reason I landed on beer is that there was a real need – that’s the intuition piece. At that time – 2006 – craft beer was finally gaining traction and, as it did, an increasing number of people were looking for information and guidance. There were people making beer, but there were very few people in a ‘beer sommelier’ type role. Because this was an emerging field, though, I had to figure out a lot of things on my own. It was quite a challenge!”
Any inspiring thought you may have about people saying, “Your idea is nuts. Just forget about it.”
“There’s always someone who will tell you you’re nuts. They may be wrong, or they may be right – only you know for sure. Occasionally take a step back, look at the work you’re doing, and ask yourself:
1) Are you passionate about it?
2) Is it filling a real need?
3) Are you willing to work hard?
If the answer to these three questions is ‘yes,’ then you’re on the right track!”
Mirella Amato is one of less than a dozen people in the world who has blazed her own way in a career field that is as unclear as a pint of stout. She should be an inspiration to us all.
I wrote this article after reading a book called Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher and now I know what’s wrong with me.
I’m a Scanner.
A Scanner is someone who is interested in a lot of things. They research these things intensely and when they learn what they want to know about it, they move on to something else and research that intensely.
Scanners drive the people around them nuts. They seem flighty and unfocused. Some people call them a Dilettante. Webster’s definition of a dilettante is, “A person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge.
But what Barbara Sher brings to light is that Scanners are very curious and are highly creative people. They also can get bored easily.
Here are some things I’ve looked up this week (but mostly in one day) and spent anywhere from 20 minutes to four hours researching it this week:
1. Birthstones, specifically blue ones: Aquamarine, Topaz and Sapphires
2. Gamification—how to make learning fun. I even sat through an hour webinar from the VP at Adobe.
4. I made a list of all the cool things I’ve done over the last 10 or 12 years: the birth of my child, places I’ve visited, jobs I’ve had, houses that I’ve bought and sold, college degrees, too many things to list for this post.
5. Lyrical Essays for a possible submission—the “braided essay,” is the type I’m going to use.
6. That got me into looking up things that were related to writing in general and that brought me to Stephen’s King’s On Writing…
7. …which lead me to looking up, “How to submit to blogs for being a guest writer.” Hint: Google “Write for us.”
8. I checked in with this blogger named ViperChill who wrote a really long article on: How to buy Facebook likes for less than a penny each.
And then he described how to make two business pages on Facebook, send out the same stuff as the other one, but link the two together and somehow this gets more people to share your content because Google will index it differently.
9. Then I decided I needed to look up houses on the waterfront here in the St. Louis area, which in case you don’t know, is in the middle of the United States, so…there’s either rivers, creeks, ponds or lakes.
Well, I found a house that’s less than $100,000 on a lake by where I currently live and I didn’t even know it was there. But the bad news, it probably needs another $100,000 in work.
Somehow I let this take me out of the game for at least 45 minutes to 1 hour.
11. I went to her blog which lead me down the rabbit hole for another hour because she’s that damn good and what she does. Besides writing her own stuff, she writes SALES LETTERS for other artists and they are just irresistible. No wonder she’s helping so many people make money from their art.
12. So of course I had to look up Bob Marley stencils, because you know? I like to make art. And I like to make money. And I’ve made a few stencil art pieces in the past.
13. So then I went to Ebay and looked up how much stenciled Bob Marley paintings are going for. Answer–$12.00.
So I decided to write this post about Scanners instead of painting a Bob Marley painting to try to show you what it’s like to have this kind of brain.
To some it’s a curse. To others it seems like, “You can never pick one thing and stick with it.”
To me, it’s just what I do and this blog is my outlet for it. My goal is to show you that you can pick any topic you want as a career, even if that topic is about people who can’t pick just one thing to pursue.
“Every 1000 mile journey starts with the first step.” –Asian proverb
The quote above has been used in more motivational books than anyone would care to remember, but it still rings true today. Even with all our modern conveniences, a 1000 mile road trip is still a long trip. You have to plan for it.
You will probably want to make sure your car is mechanically sound. You don’t want to drive an old-jalopy 1000 miles from home.
You’ll want to check your oil and your tires to make sure they can make the trip. You’ll also want to make sure you have a jack, just in case. And you’ll definitely want to have a GPS or at least map to help you get there too. (Do people still even use a map?)
Before you take off you’ll go to the gas station and fill’er up. Plus you’ll get some snacks and drinks to take with you before you take off. You’ll use the restroom if you didn’t go at home. You don’t want to forget anything before you start. You want to be as prepared as possible so when you get going you don’t have to stop for anything. You want to go as long as you can without running out of gas.
It’s funny how a person will plan for weeks or even months before they go on a 1000 mile road trip, but they hardly plan at all for their career, business or even their life. Matter of fact, most people let their life and career happen to them. Like a guy driving around lost, too stubborn to ask for directions, they’re lost too and don’t know how to get on track.
The fastest way to achieve something is by setting a goal and a deadline. Setting a date that you want to accomplish your goal by is very important. This makes your mind work toward that time frame. It’s ok to set your goals high, just make sure you give yourself enough time to achieve them.
Tony Robbins once said, “People overestimate what they can do in a year, but severely underestimate what they can do in ten.”
Speaking of Tony Robbins, one way a person can get back on the road to a successful, fulfilling life, is by using a coach. There are coaches in almost every field these days. Whether you’re trying to learn about marketing your business more effectively, or trying to finish that manuscript, coaching is just one way to help you get your life or your passion back on track. They also will take your game to the next level. Almost every successful person you’ll ever see or read about has almost always had a good coach or mentor.
In the old days (15-20 years ago) coaches used to be called mentors. The good thing about mentors is they are usually free. Besides not paying them, the main difference between a mentor and a coach is the relationship. Mentors usually have more of a personal relationship with their protégés. Coaches on the other hand are usually about results.
If you need help with your business idea, there are many organizations willing to help you, often for free. The The Small Business Administration , your local Chamber of Commerce or SCORE The Service Corp of Retired Executives , which is part of a national non-profit association dedicated to entrepreneur education have a wealth of knowledge and contacts in particular fields.
To find a SCORE Counselor that is in your area look them up at score.org. It is recommended that you make an appointment, although many time walk-ins are welcomed.
Remember, “Every 1000 mile journey starts with the first step,” but today you can do it in a comfortable car, with a GPS, and person who’s been there, sitting by your side the whole way. All you have to do is ask someone for help.