Small Business Tips

Ventures Post Archive
Featuring articles related to the topic of business ventures including business opportunities and business ideas, with focus on stories of entrepreneurs taking alternative routes in order to profitably compete in large scale markets.
Breakfast in a Whole New Way

There is a new hit at some of our nation’s university campuses that is quickly headed toward popularity as widespread as Starbucks and McDonald’s. In September of 2004, David Roth and Rick Bacher started an innovative new business called Cereality — a cereal café on the campus of the University of Philidelphia. Since that time they have opened three other locations.

Huh? What’s a cereal cafe? Well, Cereality’s pajama-clad employees serve 30 varieties of cold cereal, with the option of mixing together and topping with anything from fruit to M&Ms, and even ice cream, served in a Chinese food style container. This couch filled environment, with cartoons always playing on the TV, is reminiscent of those Saturday mornings when, as children, we didn’t have a care in the world.

The common reaction: Why didn’t I think of that? Many wishing they had and Cereality are now facing some competition. And why not? Cereality already took the risk for them. Bowls, located at North Carolina State, opened in 2005. The Cereal Bowl opened this year across the street from the University of Miami and their projected first-year sales are expected to reach upwards of $350,000. Not too shabby.

Cereality welcomes the competition, but has recently taken steps to protect the franchise they are in the process of building. Roth states that he is trying to act before the big guys, like Starbucks, try and take a piece of the market. Cereality has applied for trademarks for its name and around 50 slogans such as “It’s always Saturday morning,” or “What’s in your bowl?” They have also applied for patents covering business processes, such as storage methods and cereal combinations.

Cereality also sent warning letters to Bowls and The Cereal Bowl, making patent claims on everything from the containers they use to mixing brand-name candy toppings with the cereal. They also sued Ohio’s new business Cerealicious for trademark infringement. The Cereal Bowl followed suit by sending a letter to Bowls and responding defiantly to Cereality.

Roth states that they plan to continue franchising, including partnerships with hotels and retail chains, and providing online sales and catering. Cereality has received 6,000 plus applications for partnerships from all over the world. Roth hopes to have at least 30 new partnerships by 2008. With an estimated 95% of Americans eating cereal, these gentlemen have stumbled onto something “Grrrreat.” Makes one wonder what other business opportunities are staring us in the face, waiting to be presented to the world.

One question remains: When are you opening one in my town?

Sources/Related Readings:
• Entrepreneur.com: Bowled Over
• Time Magazine: In a Real Crunch
• PRNewsWire.com: 1500 Square Feet of Cereal
• USA Today: A Whole New Bowl Game
• FastCompany.com: Customer Service Local Hero – Cereality
• Catalyst Magazine: The Cereal Cafe


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, March 28th, 2017 @ 12:05 AM CDT

Ventures |

Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Each year, Inc. Magazine lists what they call the “Inc. 500,” which is a list of America’s fastest growing privately owned businesses. I highly recommend reading the stories of these entrepreneurs — they are very inspirational.

What stuck out to me about this year’s list is that at least 55 of the 500 business owners were not born in the US. Their companies employ more than 14,000 and contributed in excess of $1.36 billion to the economy last year.

Every census taken from 1880 to 1990 revealed that immigrants were self-employed significantly more than American-born natives. The number of immigrant entrepreneurs in 2005 was 350 out of 100,000, compared to 280 of 100,000 for those born on American soil. Clearly, there is something to be said about “the land of opportunity.”

There have been numerous studies into the dynamics of immigrant entrepreneurs, many reaching the conclusion that immigration has “strengthened the entrepreneurial drive” within our nation, contributing to the surge of small businesses over the last few decades.

The Driving Force Behind Immigrant Entrepreneurship

Why are immigrants more likely to start their own business? There are a number of reasons. Consider the risk it takes to pick up everything and move to a country where the majority of people don’t even speak your language. Immigrants deal with a high rate of uncertainty in that alone, so starting their own business would comparatively seem but a moderate risk.

There is also the factor that many immigrants face numerous struggles and frustrations in the large business work force, as they are often paid unfairly and required to work uncommon hours. This often leads immigrants to seek other options, which typically includes starting their own business, as they recognize that they can offer a variety of products and services that many other entrepreneurs cannot.

It is often stereotyped that immigrant businesses are usually small “mom-and-pop” restaurants or dry-cleaners, but the options for many immigrants has vastly expanded in the past few decades. Those who moved to the US to obtain a higher education, rather than flee oppression, account for a number of the successful immigrant entrepreneurs in our country. It is estimated that up to 25% of Silicon Valley firms were established by immigrants.

Immigrant communities also tend to provide a strong degree of support for each other. First generation immigrants, who made their living with the “mom-and-pop” businesses, tend to push their children to explore other professions, such as legal or medical professions. Others may take new immigrants in under their wing, providing apprenticeships so that the newcomers can either take over the business or start successfully on their own.

There have been numerous studies into the perceived benefits or disservices of immigrant entrepreneurs, but, with so many differing opinions, little definitive information has been established. Some find them to aid the economy, while others find them to be exclusive and harmful. Questions remain without answers.

So, what are your thoughts? What, if anything, do immigrant businesses contribute to our economy? Our society? How many jobs do they create? What sort of jobs? Do they aid in foreign trade?

Please share your opinions on these or any other issues regarding immigrant entrepreneurs.

Source / Related Readings:
• Carnegie Endowment: Immigrant Entrepreneurs
• Inc.com — Inc.500: The Immigration Debate
• Business Journal: Immigrant Entrepreneurs Reaching Higher
• Inc.com: Immigrant Entrepreneurs Outpace Native-Born Americans

The Negative Position:
• VDare.com: Less Benefit Than They’re Cracked Up to Be


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, March 26th, 2017 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Ventures |

10 Opportunities for 2006

This small business forecast is brought to you courtesy of Anita Campbell of SmallBizTreands.com.

This list was subjectively chosen by Anita under 2 requirements:

1) The list is limited to businesses that the mainstream can identify with.
2) The list focuses on opportunities for the average entrepreneur.

That said, here is the Small Business Trends list of Top Ten Promising Business Opportunities for 2006:

1. Outsourced information technology services
2. eBay and Amazon related opportunities
3. Pet-related
4. Food and beverage related niche industries
5. Hobby and avocation-based businesses
6. Anything security related
7. Services for seniors and retired people
8. Information filtering services
9. Hospitality businesses that create an experience
10. Hispanic products and services

[Read More...]


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By Chris Brunner
Saturday, February 4th, 2017 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Ventures |

Freelance Your Expertise

I remember the time before I started my own business. I was stuck in the rat race spending 40 hrs a week making other people wealthy.

Do you have a special talent that you could monetize? Do you have the ability to fulfill the needs of thousands (even millions) of people?

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1) Offer a service you know people want.
2) Take the time to establish yourself.
3) Don’t rush to quit your job until you save some money.
4) No matter what your field, contracts are important.
5) Establish an accounting system.

How to Freelance Your Expertise

Recommended Reading:
Making it as a Freelancer Journalist
Evolt.org – Freelancing Tips
Building Your Freelance Business on a Shoestring Budget


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By Chris Brunner
Wednesday, January 18th, 2017 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Ventures |

Sign Spinners Turning Heads

I first saw them on the Ellen show this summer – her picnic in the park special. She used sign spinners to introduce each guest. And, frankly, I thought they were pretty cool.

Apparently, so do a lot of other people, as the sign spinning industry is growing at a rapid pace. Still not sure what a sign spinner is? Well, basically they are folks who carry signs around, shaped like arrows, advertising local businesses. But they don’t just wear the sign, sandwiched between two billboards hanging from their necks. Instead, they dance, spin, toss the signs… all to get the attention of passers-by (Still curious? You can see some in action on YouTube).

Continue Reading: “Sign Spinners Turning Heads”


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, December 11th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Marketing, Ventures |

A Market in Part-Time Ownership

In the U.K. the concept has become a normal way of life, and though it hasn’t wholly caught on here in the states, part-time ownership is slowly creeping into the market. What exactly am I referring to when I mention “part-time ownership?” Well, here are some examples of businesses that have tapped into the industry:

Flexcar provides a range of membership packages to people who only have need of a vehicle part-time. Members designate when they need a vehicle parked locally and, instead of paying $500-$800 a month to lease a vehicle they hardly use, they pay an average of $100-$200 a month to only use a car when they need one. The business initially targeted residential markets, such as Seattle, where many people walk to most outings anyway. But Flexcar soon discovered that there was a need among members of corporate world, as well as those who couldn’t afford to purchase a car of their own. Not to mention the environmentally friendly benefits of the business, by reducing gas emissions.

Continue Reading: “A Market in Part-Time Ownership”


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, October 30th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Ventures |

Inner City Kids Learn About Entrepreneurship

High school drop-out rates continue to increase across our nation. According to the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, nearly one in every three high school students in the class of 2006 did not graduate. Many of those drop outs come from minority groups in inner city schools, where poverty and crime are part of the life they know.

But the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), a nonprofit organization out of New York, is doing what they can to change that. Though NFTE has been around for awhile (Steve Mariotti started working on the project in 1982), the benefits of the program continue to positively affect the lives of many kids across the nation.

Continue Reading: “Inner City Kids Learn About Entrepreneurship”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, October 28th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Ventures |

Getting Your Invention on the Market

You’ve brainstormed for uncountable hours. You’ve killed a dozen trees working through designs and specs. And you’re in the process of registering patent. Now you need to sell this new invention of yours, but how?

The Patent
First of all, don’t go for a full-fledged patent of your invention just yet, because, though you think it’s the greatest invention known to this generation, there may not be a market for it. Have you ever watched ABC’s American Inventor? Did you notice how many people thought the world of their inventions and spent gobs of money “perfecting” them, but were completely wrong about the consumer’s actual need for that product.

Instead of getting a patent right off, and spending quite a bit of money to do it, take the safe route and get a provisional application patent (which is approximately $100). This protects your invention from being swiped by someone else with a “patent pending” status (ever heard that phrase on a commercial?) for a period of one year. Before that 12 month period is expended, however, you must file for a full patent of your product.

Continue Reading: “Getting Your Invention on the Market”


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, October 15th, 2016 @ 12:10 AM CDT

Startup, Technology, Ventures |

A Need for Pet Memorial Businesses

Many businesses cater to the needs of our beloved family friends. Instead of kennels, many pet owners opt now for doggie day cares, which provide ample socialization and play time, as well as scheduled naps and meals. There are spas for pets, designer clothing and collars, and some hotels even offer room service menus. And, since the latest contaminated food scare, many businesses are providing all natural health food services as well.

But where the pet care industry comes up short is in memorializing our four-legged family members when they pass away. Some veterinarians provide cremation services, but, for the most part, there are few options for helping to remember our beloved fluff balls.

Continue Reading: “A Need for Pet Memorial Businesses”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, September 30th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Startup, Ventures |

New Advertisement Placement Ideas

Everywhere we look, advertisements surround us. And because we’ve grown accustom to it all, many of us ignore the billboards, vehicles and bulletin boards that bombard our everyday lives. But lately there have been some new found advertising venues that will help to make your ad stand out and get noticed above the rest.

Shirts
Okay, so the idea of advertising on shirts is not new, but these two concepts are. Eye Level Marketing out of LA has come up with interchangeable shirt panels to be worn on employees uniforms. Some of their target markets include theme parks, stadiums, shopping centers and retail stores. For example, the hot dog vendor at the ball park could where panels for a specific brand of beer or soft drink, making those hot dog loving fans salivate for something to wash it down.

Additionally, a New Jersey company called Telme Clothing recognized the fact that most company t-shirts give very limited information about the business. As a means of provided that much needed information (such as a moto or complete contact information), Telme provides a paragraph or two of text on the inside, bottom back panel of the t-shirt. That way, you can hand out your t-shirts to potential clients and they will find all the information they need to contact your business.

Continue Reading: “New Advertisement Placement Ideas”


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, September 27th, 2016 @ 12:05 AM CDT

Marketing, Ventures |

Standing on the Job

Think hotel lobby, bars and fast food ordering counters. Or even counter-top dining tables (I have one myself, which comes in very handy when you have a dog that stands over three feet tall on all fours). So how about a counter-top desk in your office that you can stand at?

Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of Defense has one. And so does business owner Thomas Gimbel out of Chicago. And, unlike a counter-top table that simply has taller chairs, Gimbel (and Rumsfeld) stand at their desks. Gimbel initially got the idea when his 6 foot 6 inch frame caused him back problems no matter what chair he tried. He found relief only when he stood. So why not work that way all the time?

Continue Reading: “Standing on the Job”


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, September 11th, 2016 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Operations, Ventures |

Lease or Rental Agreement… That is the Question

So, you’ve made some investments in rental property? A very popular business venture these days, as you can never go wrong with investing in real estate (well, almost never). As you begin the process of finding tenants, one question that you must address is whether to use a Lease or a Rental Agreement for your property.

First, you must determine what type of market the property will appeal to. If it’s a residential home, such as a single family house, duplex or apartment complex, then your market will likely be those that are looking for a place to settle down for a while and stay put. For this type of property you would want to offer a Lease.

However, if your property is in the heart of the business district, close to a college campus, near a military base, etc., then a Rental Agreement may be the best option for you. Most especially if you are having a hard time finding someone to rent the property in the first place.

Let’s examine what each agreement consists of so you have a better idea of what would work best for you:

Continue Reading: “Lease or Rental Agreement… That is the Question”


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, September 10th, 2016 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Ownership, Ventures |

For Vision Impaired Diners: Menus that Talk

There have been many times when out dining with my in-laws, that one or both of them have forgotten their reading glasses and have to strain to read the menu. When that happened to Susan Perry, while dining with her blind niece, she realized there were few options and got a great idea. What if the menu talked?

Your first thought may be that there are Braille menus for the blind, but less than ten percent of blind individuals can read Braille. That fact is what truly motivated Susan Perry to pursue her idea. And, after three months challenges and an investment of $300,000 of her own money (including the patent, legal fees and a lot of trial and error), the first prototype of “Menus that Talk” was born.

Continue Reading: “For Vision Impaired Diners: Menus that Talk”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, September 9th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Technology, Ventures |

Funeral Homes Renovate Look and Services

The times are ever changing, and many things just aren’t the same as they used to be. Funerals are no exception (though you won’t hear and complaints about that from me). More and more families are planning celebrations of their loved one’s life after they pass on, rather than somberly mourning the loss.

Between that and the fact that the national cremation rates continue to rise (with an expectation of 50% by 2025), resulting in drops in the revenue that funeral homes bring in, funeral home owners are taking the hint and making some changes.

Continue Reading: “Funeral Homes Renovate Look and Services”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, August 26th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Family Business, Ventures |

Outsource Your Chores and Errands

There just aren’t enough hours in the day, at least for most, to get everything accomplished we would like to. Our priorities tend to focus on the businesses we own, as well as our family and social lives, and we tend to never get around to picking up the dry cleaning or mowing the lawn.

Well, some fellow entrepreneurs recognized this need in their own lives, decided to do something about and DoMyStuff.com was born. The basic premise is that buyers (a.k.a. busy people) post a task they need done, such as mowing the lawn, and assistants (local individuals or businesses willing to do the work) bid on the task. The buyer picks the best bid, which aren’t just about how much the assistant would charge, but how they would get the job done.

Continue Reading: “Outsource Your Chores and Errands”


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016 @ 12:12 AM CDT

Ownership, Ventures |

Using Your Business to Serve the Community

There are a large number of possiblities when it comes to getting involved in your community. In fact, there are a number of ways your business can get involved, such as donating some of your profits to charity or donating the product/service you provide to those in need. But have you ever considered actually using your business itself to serve the community?

Continue Reading: “Using Your Business to Serve the Community”


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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, August 22nd, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Human Resources, Ventures |

The Cheapest Gas Prices in the Nation

New Jersey requires all of its gas stations to be full service (as does Oregon) and is the only state in the country where gas prices still average under $3 a gallon. So how in the world is a full service gas station keeping its gas prices lower than everyone else?

According to Doug MacIntyre, senior oil and gasoline analyst with the EIA, cost has little to do with it – it’s all about local supply and demand conditions.

And it doesn’t hurt that New Jersey has four in-state oil refineries that have yet to have any problems like those in the Midwest, which have caused Chicago’s gas prices to average more than San Francisco’s, which is known for some of the highest prices in the nation. Another beneficial factor is that New Jersey is the main port for gasoline imports from Europe.

Continue Reading: “The Cheapest Gas Prices in the Nation”


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, August 18th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Ventures |

Wine That Appeals to the Non-Connoisseur

I’m not a wine drinker. I never can find one that I like. I’ve been to wineries and tried all the reds, whites, chardonnays, but none of them provide that taste bud explosion that wine connoisseurs rave about.

But there’s a new product coming out that may convince me to give wine another try. Amazing Food Wine Company in San Francisco is on the verge of releasing a new brand of wine called Wine That Loves. Their wines are not classified by age, grape and birth place. Rather, they are classified by the foods each particular wine should be paired with,

So far the wines available are:
• Wine That Loves Pizza
• Wine That Loves Pasta With Red Sauce
• Wine That Loves Roasted Chicken
• Wine That Loves Grilled Salmon
• Wine That Loves Grilled Steak

Wines currently in the works are those to be paired with grilled chicken, Chinese food and even macaroni and cheese.

Some wine “experts” have expressed a bad taste in their mouths regarding this new wine brand, claiming it is “dumbing down wine.” Vic Motto of wine investment bank Global Wine Partners states, “It’s a paint-by-numbers approach that by definition sophisticated wine drinkers will not be drawn to…It might be something [for new wine drinkers] to try once. But if you liked it, wouldn’t you want to know why?”

Could that comment be more culturally closed-minded? First of all, I don’t think it is Amazing Food Wine Company’s intention that Wines That Love appeal to “sophisticated wine drinkers.” The target market is obviously the younger generation whose knowledge base regarding wine is lacking in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to knowing what wines to pair with what foods. Not to mention the fact that the wine runs at an affordable $12 a bottle, well below the pricey cost of “sophisticated” wines.

And truthfully, how many wine drinkers really care all that much about where their wine comes from and how old it is? Outside of the manufacturers, who are supposed to care, and a select few who attend wine tastings and have detailed discussions how a particular wine affects their pallet in everyday conversation, not many.

Most people just care about whether or not they like the wine and it goes well with what they’re having for dinner. Personally, I think that the concept of Wine That Loves is brilliant and appealing and there is no reason why it won’t be a completely successful entrepreneurial venture because the market is definitely out there.


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, August 4th, 2016 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Ventures |

Demand for Healthy Pet Food Presents Business Opportunity

If you’re an animal lover and looking for a niche market to start a business in, then healthy pet food may be the product line for you. Following last month’s pet food recall, pet owners are on the prowl for a healthier alternative for their extended family members.

Canada’s Menu Foods, which produces dry and canned dog and cat food for over 50 brands, pulled over 60 million canned and pouch products off of store shelves after reports that the products were causing the deaths and illnesses of pets across the nation.

Upon further research, Menu Foods and the FDA discovered that the finished products manufactured between December 3, 2006 and March 6, 2007 contained melamine, which it typically used in making plastics. The contaminant coincided with the switch to a new distributor for the wheat gluten ingredient contained in the products (see Menu Foods’ March 30, 2007 press release).

Since the recall, sales have skyrocketed for a number of small businesses across the country that manufacture organic and/or chemical- and preservative-free cat and dog food. The Honest Kitchen out of San Diego, California reports four times the online orders and a 100% doubling in actual dollar amounts.

Many of these small businesses got their start by providing home cooked meals to their own pets. KosherPets in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida started after its owners couldn’t find anything on the market that would help their Dalmatian’s skin allergies. But once Martine Lacombe started making kosher meals for their dog, they saw immediate improvement.

The neighbors were so impressed they were asking where they could buy the food for their dogs, but there was nothing on the market. So, KosherPets was born in 2001, bringing in $10,000 it’s first year, $100,000 its second and is expected to rake in up to $500,000 this year.

Lucy Postins, founder of The Honest Kitchen states that, “people’s animals are like their babies…they enjoy participating in creating a meal for their cat or dog, rather than scooping something brown out of a can.”

I have three dogs at home, who are, in fact, much like children to me. I’m not ready to spend the extra cash on organic and preservative-free dog food, but I can definitely understand the appeal.

Many dogs develop skin allergies to the preservatives and chemicals in dog food, including my four year old Lab/Great Dane. Thankfully we have found a dog food that helps alleviate the problem, though not completely. If the organic products were more affordable, we would definitely switch. Maybe it just takes more entrepreneurs tapping into the market to make the products that are the best for our pets more readily available.

Source:
• BusinessWeek.com: A Growing Appetite for Healthy Pet Food


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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, July 25th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Ventures |

Grimy Entrepreneurs Rake in the Money

A grimy entrepreneur… the first thing that may come to mind is a mobster involved with rotten business deals. No, I’m talking about that kind of grime. I mean grime as in smelly, rotten, nasty and downright disgusting business ventures that are quite lucrative.

I love Dirty Jobs, hosted by Mike Rowe on the Discovery Channel. It has the appeal of NBC’s Fear Factor, but I can actually watch it without throwing up or turning away . . . well, most of the time.

The show has featured everything you could possibly think of, and anything you couldn’t, that constitutes as a job most of us would refuse or be extremely unhappy to do.

Some examples of dirty jobs that have been featured on the show:

• Skulls International, a company in Oklahoma that cleans all types of skeletons, from chipmunk to human to giraffe.
• Bio Oregon, a fish recycling plant.
• A dairy farm where the owner makes biodegradable/plantable flower pots out of cow patties.
• Coyote Texas Turkey Farm, home of the liquid compost turkey pile.
• San Francisco Waste Treatment Center (enough said).
• Ohio State Department of Transportation, Road Kill Recovery Division – ewwwww!

We all have our ideas of dirty, disgusting jobs that we would never do. Let’s face it, none of us longed to scoop dog poo out of people’s yards for a living or be a trash collector when we grew up. I knew a guy who was a trash collector… and I also know how much money he made and, if I were desperate, I might consider it… despite the fact that I’m a female!

The point is, somebody’s got to do the ugly work. Could you imagine how life would be if no one picked up the roadkill or the trash or worked in the waste treatment centers? I don’t even want to think about how disgusting our existence would be.

And, since so few people jump at the chance to do the nasty jobs, most of them pay pretty nicely. Skulls International charges $7,500 to clean a human skeleton (less for animals, because they don’t smell as bad), and expects to reach over $2 million in sales this year.

Clearly, they are in high demand, as are most other entrepreneurs who venture down that dark, grimy alley of the not-so glamorous business. They see that the public is in need of a specific service and that no one else is doing it because of the muck involved, and just dive right in (so to speak). Hey, have at the slime between your toes!

Related Readings:
• Entrepreneur.com: Filthy Rich Businesses


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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, July 13th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Ventures |