Note this is a reprint from The Story Exchange. The Story Exchange is an award-winning nonprofit media organization dedicated to elevating women’s voices. Through videos, articles and a podcast, we strive to provide inspiration and information to entrepreneurial women everywhere.
Mannequin Madness is #8 on this list they curated of 9 quirky business ideas.
Female entrepreneurs have turned quirky business ideas (like these crayon popsicles, above) into successful ventures, and it isn’t that unusual. (Credit: Art 2 The Extreme)
Dog portraits, colorful pancakes, mannequins and DNA kits for cats (yes, cats).
These are just a few of the more unusual business ideas we’ve come across via our 1,000+ Stories project. But the women entrepreneurs behind them have shown us how a niche idea can become a success — whether it’s because the product or service is filling a gap in the market, providing a solution to a common problem or merely indulging pet-loving parents.
Here’s a list of unusual ideas and the female founders who took a risk and created a full-time gig out of it.
Nicole Lewis is the founder of Art 2 The Extreme, which makes customized and personalized crayons for kids. From crayons shaped as numbers and letters to food items like donuts, this mompreneur says the idea for her business came to her while she was working as an elementary school art teacher.
Cat DNA Kits
Anna Skaya founded Basepaws, a 3-year-old startup that tests cat DNA (you read that right) in order to discern breed and health information about your favorite feline. In addition to the DNA kits, the startup also offers cat coaching for $10 a month, which gives customers unlimited access to vet technicians.
Turning Old Library Books Into Art
Michelle Ciarlo-Hayes was working as a librarian when she started bringing home the books the library intended to throw out, and repurposing them into pieces of art. In 2009, she decided to take what was at the time a weekend hobby and turn it into a full time business and thus MKC Photography was born
Vegetable Juice Based Pancakes
When Carol-Ann Carrington was trying, unsuccessfully, to get her young son to drink some freshly made carrot juice, she had a lightbulb moment: what if she added some of the vegetable juice to the pancakes he would inevitably end up having for breakfast instead? Today Carrington runs Kickerfeast Pancake & Waffle Mix, which sells blueberry, beet, carrot and pumpkin mixes.
Laura Connelly is the founder of Wall Art by Stellar Villa, a by-commission artwork studio. Amongst her prints and paintings, Connelly has found an unusual niche creating pet portraits, so you can hang a custom print of your animal friend proudly in your home.
Vibrant Coffee Mugs
Alicia Boateng is the founder of Alicia Boateng Designs, a line of handcrafted mugs that come in a range of different styles, from her Afro-Glam collection to her seasonal cups to her collection highlighting different cultures from around the world.
A few years back, Bonnie Tyler was making deviled eggs when she decided there had to be a more efficient way to peel them. So she created “The Negg,” a clear plastic cylinder that makes it much easier to get the shell off. As of October 2020, Tyler had sold over 600,000 Neggs worldwide — and fiercely battled counterfeiters, too.
Judi Henderson is the founder of Mannequin Madness, a company selling, yes, mannequins. Henderson has been in business for 20 years selling new and recycled mannequins from retail chains. Like so many small business owners, the pandemic has proved tough for Henderson, but she is weathering the storm: “It’s a struggle, but I’m able to be nimble.”
Kali Hawk has found success as a jewelry and accessory designer specializing in crowns, with her line H.Crownes. But not just for anybody. Her ultra-famous client list includes Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Serena Williams while her crowns have appeared in popular publications such as Harper’s Bazaar and Paper.