When I started Tailored Ink, finding the "right niche" was the last thing on my mind. I knew I loved to write, and I’d already worked at several agencies, so . . . why not? But since our boutique agency has begun growing and doing well, I’ve been spending more time thinking about scaling up. And the best way to do that is to find an underserved niche.
This was relatively easy in the early 2000s, when keyword gaming was at its worst. Google-savvy website developers would find underserved audiences, using keyword research. They would then create a microsite around that keyword and push a product (usually an ebook) via that site.
Millionaires were made overnight.
Today, however, online competition is stiffer, and consumers have more options than ever before. But that doesn't mean that plenty of really weird businesses haven't been successful (despite what they must have looked like on paper).
Wondering what niche you (like me) should be hyper-targeting? Or, how to pivot towards greater growth? Take a breather. If these five businesses pulled it off, so can you.
1. Rent a Mourner (because, of course)
Rent a Mourner is a U.K.-based firm that helps families whose loved ones have passed, by providing “professional, discreet people to attend funerals and wakes.” In other words, they hire what I can only imagine are semi-professional actors and unemployed gigsters to show up at a designated location and look sad.
The most surprising thing about this niche? It’s ancient. Professional mourning was practiced in the Mediterranean and Middle East thousands of years ago, and is even mentioned in the Bible. Real life truly is stranger than fiction.
2. Cuddle Party (for the curious socializer)
On paper, putting a bunch of adults in pajamas into a room and asking them to cuddle and make friends seems like the basis for many, many lawsuits. But in practice, Cuddle Party has been incredibly popular. The nonprofit runs in multiple countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia, and has been around for 13 years.
The company's service -- a “playful social event designed for adults to explore communication, boundaries and affection” -- has remained mostly scandal-free, and even has a bunch of great testimonials from cuddlers.
3. Throx (three socks are better than two)
Throx’s business model is just as charming as its retro website. Instead of selling socks by the pair, the brand sells them in threes so that you can lose one without feeling guilt. It’s brilliant, and probably the only form of sock insurance ever invented.
The quirky site offers visitors 30 different kinds of socks to choose from and has somehow convinced 35 different stores to carry its offerings.
4. YourNovel.com (customized romance novels)
Remember those “ Choose Your Own Adventure” books? YourNovel makes them look like penny books. The North Carolina-based service writes custom romance books upon request. Buyers can choose whoever they want to be the characters before filling out what I can only imagine is a very detailed questionnaire.
This seems like a lot of work at a very low price point -- until you take into consideration the popularity of romance novels. Romance as a genre is by far the biggest book market, and generates around $1.44 billion per year. Crime and mystery, coming in at second place, makes a mere $728.2 million per year.
5. 3Beds.com (air mattress reviews)
I’ve saved the best for last. 3 Beds is an air mattress-review site that offers objective, in-depth reviews. Most online reviews (like those on Amazon) are too subjective. By adopting a very empiric approach, 3 Beds makes “air mattress reviews a science.” The site even includes a whiteboard how-we-do-it video.
Having bought some very cheap air mattresses back when I was struggling to make money, I can appreciate what this company does.
No niche is too “niche”
If you’ve already started a business and are finding it hard to scale, or you’ve hit a wall and aren’t sure how to reinvent yourself, don’t be discouraged. These five businesses (and there are plenty more where they came from) are proof that no niche is too small or too weird.