One of the biggest challenges in starting your own business is figuring out how to set yourself apart from the competition.
If you’re selling a popular, widely available product, you can be sure that demand is high. But with high demand comes a competitive market and larger, more established players.
On the other hand, you might have a completely original product—something no other company is providing. Standing out here is easy, but how can you be sure there’s a high enough demand for the product to sustain your business?
Balancing these things is tricky, but easier when you start with a unique business idea.
Unique businesses in more niche industries tend to have less competition, but the competition they do have assures you that there’s an audience for your products. For a new business, starting from a point of uniqueness can make a world of difference when it comes to setting yourself apart from your competitors.
If you’re looking for a unique business idea, here’s a few of our favorites:
17 unique small business ideas for first-time entrepreneurs
1. Be the head chef of your own food truck
If you love cooking, you may have fantasized about one day opening your very own restaurant. But did you know that since 2016, growth in the mobile food industry has been outpacing growth of traditional restaurants?
In fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, while many restaurants struggled to keep their doors open, food trucks were experiencing a time of unprecedented growth. That makes the current moment perfect for newer brands looking to get a foothold in the industry.
For anyone who’s ever dreamed of developing their own unique menus, a food truck business offers the same business opportunity at a fraction of the price of opening a traditional restaurant. They also offer the advantage of mobility, meaning you can bring your restaurant to events and locations where you know there will be a lot of foot traffic and hungry customers.
Plus with food trucks, it’s easy to tie in multiple revenue streams, since the trucks themselves can double as a promotional tool for your other products. Take Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, for example. It sells its products both out of a food truck and via its own website.
Multiple revenue streams can go a long way in making sure your business is sustainable, and food trucks offer a ton of ways to do this.
- A Food Truck Business Plan to Supercharge Your Start
- Selling Like Hotcakes: 13 Profitable Food Business Ideas for 2022
- How to Start an Online Food Business: The Ultimate Guide
2. Become a virtual interior designer and sell home decor products
Home decor became hugely profitable during the COVID-19 pandemic, with quarantined shoppers looking to spend more time redecorating. Since 2021, the industry has been growing, and it’s expected to continue to grow through to 2026.
With the advent of augmented reality, online shoppers are now able to actually see how furniture and other home decor products will look in their home. This has given rise to a new type of business: the virtual interior designer.
Virtual interior design is still a relatively new industry, making it prime territory for new brands. There are even online services, like RoomPlays, that match virtual interior designers with clients looking for their services.
3. Start a dog-walking and pet-sitting business
If you love dogs, chances are you’d leap at the opportunity to spend as much time with them as possible. Starting a dog-walking business is a great way to get some exercise, build personal relationships with clients, and make all kinds of four-legged friends.
A dog-walking business is especially reliant on good customer service, so if you’re a people person (and a dog person), dog-walking is a great business opportunity.
Dog-walking businesses are highly localized, so the types of service you offer depends on where you’re located. Take Salty Paws, for example. Aside from offering traditional dog-walking and pet-sitting services for pet owners, it also offers adventure walks to locations all along New Hampshire’s seacoast.
Learn more: How to Start a Pet Business
4. Become a virtual teacher and sell memberships to an online course
More colleges, universities, and even elementary schools are offering online courses than ever before. With people becoming more accustomed to learning online, there’s a growing market for remote teaching, a trend that’s expected to continue.
Online courses can teach just about everything a person might want to learn—from cooking to playing the piano, so it’s an industry that offers a ton of niching possibilities. A growing industry with a ton of niches is perfect for new merchants looking to establish themselves.
In terms of revenue streams—you could sell access to recorded lessons, sell tickets to live streaming sessions, and even sell relevant, accompanying products in an online store.
Or you might prefer a more hands-off approach. For example, Helm Publishing offers open-book, self-study courses with accompanying tests and textbooks so customers can learn at their own pace and test themselves when they’re ready.
Not sure what to teach? People tend to turn to Google when they want to know how to do something, so a good way to get your foot in the door of the industry is to perform some keyword research and see what types of lessons searchers would like to learn.
Learn more: The Beginner’s Guide to Ecommerce SEO
5. Work remotely as a virtual assistant for other businesses
Virtual assistants are contracted workers that can provide a wide range of services, from accounting to content marketing to personal tasks, like planning trips and managing schedules. You could assist virtually as a full-time job or a side business.
With so many businesses shifting their focus to online operations, the demand for remote workers is growing. Since businesses can hire virtual assistants from anywhere in the world, being a virtual assistant doesn’t restrict you to any specific location.
6. Become a social media influencer and partner with brands
Nearly everyone is on social media in one form or another, which might be why influencer marketing is growing in nearly every industry. Regardless of what they’re selling, businesses need customers, and that’s where influencers come in.
A social media influencer in someone who specializes in growing their social media following in a particular niche. Influencers have a certain authority with their audience, so when they partner with brands, audiences tend to take those brands seriously.
A lot of brands rely on influencers to promote their products. It’s especially important for businesses that sell a niche product, where it might be harder to find customers with a more broad content marketing strategy.
But what’s great about becoming an influencer is that the audience you’re building is your own, meaning you can create additional revenue streams by selling your own products. Take apparel brand Unxpectd, which uses its massive TikTok following to direct web traffic to its clothing line and promote its latest product releases.
7. Start a niche cleaning service business
It’s almost impossible to count the number of things that need to be cleaned regularly, but cleaning tends to be one of the most dreaded chores. When it comes to more complex cleaning of things like carpets, cars, or pets—sometimes it’s easier to delegate the task to a professional.
Cleaning services tend to stay in high demand, given people’s general aversion to cleaning combined with the requirement of doing it regularly. When you own a cleaning business, you’ll be building personal relationships with your customers that tend to be long lasting.
With so many things that need cleaning, there’s a ton of potential for carving out your own unique niche. Take PramWash, a Singapore-based stroller-cleaning service provider.
Stroller-cleaning might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a cleaning service, but by zeroing in on an important chore that not many people want to do themselves, PramWash has cornered a very lucrative market.
On top of stroller cleaning, it also offers other services for new parents—like in-home disinfection treatments that use only baby-safe cleaning products.
8. Start a local grocery delivery service in your community
Everyone needs groceries, but not everyone has an equal degree of accessibility when it comes to shopping for them. Grocery delivery services let shoppers pick out items from the comfort of their homes and have them delivered.
While online shopping may be a globe-spanning exercise, grocery delivery often has to serve at a local level, since items like fresh meats and produce can spoil in shipping. That means that there are communities all over the world that have the potential to grow a niche grocery delivery business.
Retirement communities, college campuses, and densely populated areas tend to be perfect for starting a local business delivering groceries. Take, for example, Kiki’s Grocery Delivery Service, which provides fresh fruits, vegetables, baked goods, and all kinds of canned goods to customers throughout the Vancouver area.
9. Start your own online zine and sell digital subscriptions
If you love writing, chances are you’ve thought about founding your own magazine. “Zines” are small-circulation magazines that typically focus on niche topics. Zines tend to have a more independent element, so the industry is more open to newcomers.
The subject of your zine can have endless possibilities. Chances are, you’ll be more successful covering a topic that you’re passionate about, so this is a small business idea where it helps to stick with your instincts.
Whether you’re an artist, designer, or writer—a zine can be a great way to showcase your talent and make money doing something you’re passionate about.
And although you’ll likely want to have control on the creative direction of the zine, you don’t necessarily need to write every article yourself. You could hire freelance remote employees to help with creating some of your content.
10. Use a CNC router to design, build, and sell your own one-of-a-kind products
A CNC machine (also called a CNC router) is a computer-operated cutting tool that’s able to carve complex shapes out of materials like wood, metals, plastic, and glass. Since it operates via computer, CNC machines are able to mass produce goods in a fraction of the time it would take a professional builder.
Small-scale CNC machines are becoming increasingly affordable, making it easier for small businesses to mass produce their own custom-designed products on a shoestring budget from their garages, basements, and bedrooms.
Demand for CNC products tends to be especially high on online marketplaces like Etsy and Facebook Marketplace, since one-of-a-kind products tend to be highly sought after on these sites. This is also the reason audiences in the market for CNC products tend to be open to buying from newer brands, giving an advantage to small retailers.
There are a ton of products you could make with a CNC machine: home decor, cooking tools, toys and games, and a whole lot more. Oftentimes, it’s the uniqueness of the product itself that becomes the selling point.
Take Avocrafts, for instance. Its line of cedar coasters and placemats are cut from a combination of wood and resin in such a way that each individual piece has a unique pattern. Drawing on the demand for uniqueness, Avocrafts offers its customers a high-quality product that’s one-of-a-kind, but still easy to mass produce.
11. Provide freelance bookkeeping services for business owner
Being skilled at organizing financial information might not seem like the most glamorous specialty, but freelance small business accounting services are in high demand, especially for small business owners.
Startup costs can add up fast, and having a solid financial foundation to build a business on is crucial, making bookkeeping a much-needed service for any full-time entrepreneur.
As with virtual assisting, bookkeeping is a great home business for people who want to stay mobile, since it’s easy to work remotely. A good bookkeeper should be organized, detail oriented, and capable of multitasking, since they’re likely to be working with multiple clients at any given time.
12. Become an “author-preneur” and sell your own books and merch
So many writers dream of being published authors, but the idea of having to spend months negotiating with big publishing companies over the creative direction of their work (not to mention their cut of the profits) can be discouraging.
But the time of having to prove yourself to a publishing company before proving yourself to audiences is over. Whether your genre is romance, science fiction, or guides on how to build birdhouses, it’s never been easier for authors to self-publish and market their own books directly to audiences.
“Author-preneurship” is exactly what it sounds like: authors who not only write their own books but also sell them, cutting out middleman publishing companies and engaging directly with their fans. Author-preneurs take full ownership over the promotion of their own work, often using social media marketing to build a dedicated fan base.
With a number of print-on-demand book options to choose from, authors are able to have high-quality copies of their own books printed and shipped at the point of sale, meaning there’s no overhead and no need to hold boxes of unsold stock in your garage or living room.
Some of the most successful writers to emerge in the past decade have been self-published author-preneurs. Take Rupi Kaur.
Kaur is a poet who began sharing snippets of her work on Tumblr and Instagram. Unable to find a publisher for her work, Kaur made the decision to move forward without one, instead focusing on growing and engaging her online fan base. The move paid off: her first self-published book, milk and honey, became the best-selling book in Canada in 2017.
Along with her books of poetry, Kaur also sells her own merch to fans—such as clothing, prints, stationary, and temporary tattoos featuring her work. Creating additional streams of revenue like this on your store can help supplement income, giving you time to focus on writing.
13. Create your own novelty t-shirt company
T-shirts are one of the most common items of clothing, but they often act as more than just clothing. People use t-shirts to express themselves—their interests, identities, values, or sometimes just their favorite bands.
The custom t-shirt printing market was valued at $3.64 billion in 2020, and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.7% from 2021 to 2028. You might not think of t-shirts themselves as “unique,” but the reason the industry seems so expansive is because the niching possibilities are endless.
Even with a high volume of competitors, no other brand will be selling your shirts. Whether they feature catchy jokes, intricate designs, stunning artwork, or rousing political slogans—no other product like yours will exist anywhere else.
14. Become a personal trainer and promote your services on TikTok
TikTok is one of the fastest-growing social networks, meaning there’s a ton of potential audience members for your content. It also tends to be an especially personal app, with influencers relaying on their infectious personalities to build relationships with their audience.
Personal training is, well, personal—meaning building a high-level of trust with your clients is especially important. One-on-one sessions are a great way to build trust, but can be incredibly time consuming if you have a big audience. That’s where TikTok comes in.
When you grow a following on TikTok, you’re building personal relationships with huge swaths of followers through your content. Nurturing those relationships can take time, but having a dedicated following on a social media network like TikTok gives you a big head start on the competition.
And there’s a deep well of fitness-related content to choose from. You could post workout routines, engage your audience with fitness challenges, share nutritious recipes, or just post updates about your day-to-day life.
If you’re looking for inspiration, check out TikTok influencer Ulissesworld. A former professional bodybuilder, Ulisses has grown to become one of fitness-TikTok’s most popular content creators. His content is often fitness related, but he’s not afraid of deviating from fitness to show a more fun and personal side as well.
15. Become a life coach and offer motivation and advice
If your best entrepreneurial asset is your ability to build personal relationships with clients, life coaching could be the perfect full-time job to utilize it.
Coaches can work with clients facing a number of challenges and may specialize in areas like relationships, career development, dealing with conflict, or just providing support to clients in the midst of overcoming obstacles.
While it’s not a substitute for professional counselling, life coaching can make a huge difference in the lives of your clients, making it an especially fulfilling online business to get into.
Life coaching usually focuses on identifying client goals, assessing obstacles to achieving those goals, and developing a plan of action for overcoming those obstacles. Since these challenges can take on many forms, there are a ton of untapped life coaching niches.
For example, take the life coaches at Gay Man Thriving. They’re relationship experts who work exclusively with gay men, helping them overcome the fear of rejection in the pursuit of love.
In a heteronormative world, it’s a lot harder for gay men to find good relationship advice, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for it. By focusing on an underserved community, Gay Man Thriving immediately sets itself apart from competing relationship advice programs.
16. Create and sell travel guides and tourist maps
Well-versed travellers know that the best guides are often locals. Whether looking for clubs, restaurants, events, or just the best hiking trails—it's the people who live in a travel destination that often have the best ideas for how to spend your time there.
If you live in an area with a lot of travellers, chances are they’ll be looking for things to do. Why not show them with your own line of local travel guides? Travel guides can take many forms—you could sell audio walking tours, books, maps, or even augmented reality tours.
And you don’t have to live in Paris or New York to create resources for tourists either. Often, smaller tourist destinations have a higher demand, since fewer tourist resources are available. Take TravelBrains, for example:
Based in Bedford, New Hampshire, TravelBrains offers audio field guides created by local historians that help tourists learn more about the history of the area. New Hampshire might not draw the most tourists, but the ones it does draw tend to go there for the history, making TravelBrains historical angle very successful.
You don’t just have to niche by location either. You might make tourist maps and travel guides for a specific group of hobbyists. For example, MAD Maps offers state and city maps specifically for motorcyclists, detailing the best routes through the United States.
17. Launch a podcast and sell exclusive content
Podcasting is one of the fastest-growing forms of media. In 2018, 44% of Americans reported having listened to a podcast, a number that jumped to 57% in 2021.
With the number of podcasts set to rise, there’s about to be a lot of room for new podcasts to build an audience. Podcasting is inexpensive, easy to learn, and one of the few collaborative media projects that can be done simultaneously from several different locations, making it perfect for working remotely.
Monetizing podcasts is fairly easy as well. While podcast listeners might not want to pay for each podcast, a common online business model for podcasters is to offer a shorter, free version of the podcast alongside a longer, more in-depth paid version.
As you start to build an audience for your podcast, you could start monetizing by selling merch. Depending on the audience for your podcast, you could also sell accompanying products.
For example, if you have a cooking-themed podcast, you could sell recipe books or cooking supplies. And as with being an influencer, podcasters tend to have a level of authority with their audience, making popular podcasts widely sought after by brands looking for partnerships.
Got a unique business idea? Here’s what to do next:
Standing out is no easy task in the world of business, but when you’re trying to get your business off the ground, it’s crucial to set yourself apart from your competitors. Having a unique business idea is a great starting point, but here’s what to do next:
1. Come up with a unique selling proposition
You may have a unique idea, but it doesn’t mean you won’t have competitors. A competing business may not have the exact same service as you, but if customers can choose them over you, then you need a way to set yourself apart.
A unique selling proposition is the selling point that makes your business different from competitors. When customers are overwhelmed with options, it helps if they can quickly and easily understand what makes your business different.
That’s why it’s important to develop a unique selling proposition to guide your branding and digital marketing decisions. Focusing on a specific selling point in your marketing will help easily explain what makes your business different to customers, and help create a more memorable idea of your business in your audience’s mind.
2. Develop a business plan
There are a lot of steps to growing your business, from coming up with an idea to hiring collaborators to evaluating startup costs. A good business plan can help you clarify potential roadblocks and secure the resources you’ll need.
Good entrepreneurs can adapt to change, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan. Take the time to research your idea. Identify potential challenges, consider what you’ll need to grow your business, and come up with a timeframe for putting your plan into action.
3. Promote your business through SEO
Search engine optimization, or SEO, involves practices and strategies for bringing search engine traffic to your online store or social media profiles. SEO is especially important for unique businesses, since potential audiences are likely to be searching for a solution that your business offers.
SEO can be both technical and instinctual. Not only are you looking to create web content that’s picked up by Google’s web-crawling algorithm, but you also need to entice the actual humans that will be searching and clicking.
Studies have shown that users rarely click past the first page of search results, so getting to the top position for searches relevant to your audience can give you a huge advantage over potential competitors.
Learn more: The Beginner's Guide to Ecommerce SEO
4. Launch your online store
When you’re finally ready to launch your store, you might find it difficult to juggle all of the potential setbacks at once. With so many moving parts and things to consider, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at having to prepare for launching your business.
Is your payment processor set up correctly? Do you have any dead links on your website? Are pages easy to navigate? Will your customers find what they’re looking for?
If your head’s spinning with endless questions, it might help to create a launch checklist to organize your thoughts and streamline all the tasks you’ll need to complete before opening your store.
Stand-out from the competition with a unique business idea
Starting your first business can be an incredibly exciting experience, but it also comes with challenges. Coming up with an idea is important, but remember that it’s how you execute the idea that will be the deciding factor in your success.
Try not to get bogged down in thinking of something that no other business has touched. It’s important to stand out, but the uniqueness of your business depends less on what your actual product is and more on how your product is different.
Smartphones were invented years before the iPhone, electric cars existed long before Tesla, and Amazon wasn’t the first company to sell products online.
The best business ideas aren’t always completely original. It’s their desire to do things differently that sets them apart.
Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify—no credit card required!
Unique business ideas FAQ
What are some unique business ideas?
The best business ideas usually either offer a new spin on an existing business or provide service to a niche market that might not be adequately served by existing products and services. To get some inspiration, check out the unique businesses above.
How can you make business ideas profitable?
There’s no easy answer for making a business profitable, but if you’re offering a unique service, it helps to promote your business through SEO and social media marketing, as well as to have multiple streams of income to draw from.
How do you come up with a unique business idea?
To come up with a great business idea, think about successful businesses that you find inspiring. What is it that sticks out to you about these businesses? What sets them apart? Then ask yourself what they could be doing better.
Oftentimes, identifying problems in competing businesses can ignite a new idea for your own successful small business.
What new business can I start?
If you’re looking to find even more business ideas, check out some of these resources:
- The 23 Most Profitable Business Ideas in 2022
- Side Hustle Ideas: How to Find Yours and Make an Extra $1,000 A Month (And More)
- Kid-Powered Businesses: 12 Ideas for Future CEOs
- Becoming a Sidepreneur: 9 Part-Time Business Ideas to Start In Your Spare Time
- No Inventory? No Problem: 17 Low-Investment Small Business Ideas