10 Strange Businesses You Didn't Know Existed

LiveScience.com

You probably won't find any business plan templates for these 10 very unique business ideas. You probably never even knew most of these existed. But, in towns all around the country, businesses that do some very unusual things are meeting the needs of their clients and making a profit while they're at it. Here are 10 unusual businesses you've probably never heard of.

Murder scene clean-up

In addition to specializing incleaning and disaster restoration, ServiceMaster by Best, a ServiceMaster franchise located in Wichita, Kan.,dedicates part of its business to cleaning up what few others will: crime scenes.

Owner by Sam Lazarus, said the company gets called upon several times a year to help clean up the blood, fluids and other damage incurred by homes and businesses that become the scene of a bloody incident.

"We are trained to deal with blood-borne pathogens," Lazarus told BusinessNewsDaily of his unique proficiencies.

Upon arrival, Lazarus' staff suits up in protective gear and sprays the home or business with a germicidal agent. Using an abrasive brush, they then try and clean as much as possible, he said. Carpet or drywall that can't be cleaned is removed, and special air filters and pumped-in ozone help relieve the odor.

Since the conditions are so rough, Lazarus's employees are given the option to pass on a job they don't feel comfortable with. Those who gut it out are rewarded handsomely.

Depending how grisly the scene, Lazarus said he pays his staff between double and triple what they would make on a regular cleanup job.

Cleaning up blood and other stomach-turning things most wouldn't come near – like homes filled with dead animals – can take anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks, according to Lazarus. He said the cost of a crime scene cleanup can range from $1,000 to as high as six figures for some tougher jobs.

Celebrity photo broker

Spotting David Beckham or Kim Kardashian at the grocery store can mean much more than having a cool story to tell your friends. A website called Meet The Famous connects ordinary people with celebrity and gossip magazines and fetches handsome fees for their photos.

The premise is simple: Anyone who snaps a photo of a celebrity they spot out and about can send those pictures to MeetTheFamous.com, which in turn will edit them and pitch them to more than 1,000 outlets worldwide, including E!, MTV, Perez Hilton, People magazine and TMZ.

If the photos get picked up by a media outlet, the photographer gets 60 percent of the sum paid, which according to the website, can range from $10 to more than $100,000, depending on the celebrity.

The website reports recent photos of Tom Hanks sold for $280, while Justin Bieber snapshots snagged $650.

Afterlife avatars

An Alabama company has taken the art of preserving your family to a whole new level. 

Created by Intellitar, the Virtual Eternity Program gives families the chance to digitally create each member so they can be preserved in an interactive time capsule for future generations.

With the program, families will have the opportunity to interact with a digital clone of brothers, sisters, children and grandparents.

Don Davidson, chief executive officer and co-founder of Intellitar, said the concept behind Virtual Eternity is to give users the gift of immortality, while offering future generations a sense of connection to their roots.

Users are able to digitally capture the look, personality traits and conversation style of each family member in their own avatar that can interact with their current family and with future generations.

Intellitar also offers a program that allows individual business owners to create their own avatar to accurately reflect their personality, voice, look, knowledge and life experiences. Businesses are able to use their avatars as a virtual clone, providing product and customer support for their website or online business applications.

To create the doppelganger avatars, the company has created an integrated software system that utilizes state-of-the-art speech recognition and synthesis, as well as lifelike animated visuals, all supported by an artificial intelligence conversation engine.

While Intellitar's costs range from $5.95 per month for personal plans to $24.95 per month for the virtual eternity plan. For those not happy with the look of their avatar, Intellitar staff will tweak the online image to get it as close as possible to the creator for $20.

Outsourced dating service

For those who find themselves too busy to sort through the world of online dating, Virtual Dating Assistants has taken the work out of finding online dates.

The company, founded in 2010, allows singles to fully delegate their online dating chores to a team of seasoned experts. Virtual Dating Assistants handles it all, from choosing the right online dating sites to setting the time, date and location of the first in-person meet-up.

The site's dating experts conduct initial interviews with the singles in orderto learn the ins and outs of their background, interests, personality, past dating experiences and current relationships goals. From there, the company helps each single select photos and craft a profile that will help them attract the type of dates they are looking for. They then set up accounts on the dating sites they believe are the best fit.

Afterward, the dating experts sift through thousands of online profiles to find matches that meet their client's criteria. Once the singles approve the dates they're interested in pursuing, the dating expert helps break the ice with a few initial email exchanges.

Virtual Dating Assistants services range from $360 to $1,440 per month based on the amount of work the clients wants the expert dater to do.

For those who can't afford the monthly membership price, Virtual Dating Assistants also offers singles the opportunity to simply have their online profile written by a staff of dating and writing experts for $147.

Customized romance novels

Thanks to YourNovel.com, you no longer have to imagine what it would be like to star in your own sexy romance novel.

The brainchild of the husband-and-wife writing team of Kathy Newbern and J.S. Fletcher, YourNovel.com inserts any couple as the hero and heroine in their own personalized romance novel.

The company gives readers dozens of books to choose from, each featuring a different theme and exotic location around the world.  Examples include beach themes, detective stories and trips abroad.

The starring couple also provides a number of details about themselves, such as eye colors, pet names for each other, best friend's names, places of work and favorite musical groups, in order to make the book as personalized as possible.

Other options allow readers to insert their own photo on the cover and specify whether they want a story that is wild, with a steamy and sexy side, or mild, with a cuddly and flirty tone.

Fletcher and Newbern came up with the idea for Yournovel.com nearly 20 years ago while they were still dating. At lunch one day with friends, the group was discussing Newbern's yet-to-be published romance novel when someone wondered aloud what it would be like to read about yourself in a book like that.

On the drive home from lunch, the two realized that writing personalized romance novels was something they could do and immediately started outlining their first book.

"We acted on a great idea, and today are going strong," Fletcher writes on their website. "We firmly believe that the only way to get something done is to do it."

Paperback versions of the novels are $49.95, or $74.95 with a photo.  Hardbacks are $84.95, or $99.95 to include a photo.

Spandex suits

One clothing company is giving sports fans the chance to show their true colors.

Since 2008, Superfan Suits has been creating its full-body spandex outfits for sports fans looking to make an impression at the stadium.

The suits, available in a spectrum of colors, cover every inch of the body.

While Superfan Suits has primarily been a direct-to-consumer online retailer, the company is planning to expand its presence this year by stocking the suits in retail outlets across the country.

With demand for Superfan Suits growing, the company recently added to its base of single-colored suits, and now offers a new range of prints and textures as well as themed costumes like aliens, skeletons and Santa Claus.

Overall, the company offers 100 different suit variations.

They cost between $50 and $64.

Ancester detective

Untangling the branches of a complex family tree can get tedious.

That's where Ancestral Discoveries comes in.

The business, started in 2006 by Janice Sellers, helps people who are interested in researching their personal family histories.

"People interested in family history generally come to me either because they've gotten stuck in their research at some point or because they want to know the information but are not inclined to do the research themselves," Sellers told BusinessNewsDaily.
Sellers said she's always had a fondness for family history, and when she began helping friends research their pasts, she realized it was something out of which she could make a career.

She particularly likes being able to connect her clients with their long-lost ancestors and show them interesting things that happened in their families' past.

"I really enjoy puzzle-solving, which is what a lot of family history involves," Sellers said. "I like looking at how individuals and families become part of the historical events happening around them."

Sellers' services range from between $50 and $70 per hour, plus expenses.

Dog sledding

Adventurists in New Hampshire can get a feel for running the Iditarod thanks to a local company.

The Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel offers a variety of dog sledding trips, ranging from a quick 20-minute ride to an overnight voyage through the White Mountains.

The kennel comprises more than 100 sled dogs, including Alaskan Huskies, Siberians and Malamutes.

According to the company, its tours let participants interact with the dogs and learn aspects of a culture that many people never get to experience. Muddy Paws also offers dog sledding clinics for those wanting to learn to be a musher. The four-hour class, which costs $475 per person, teaches students all aspects of modern dog sledding while traversing a 22-mile course.

The overnight trip, $1,010 for a couple, features an all-day 50-mile trip through the snowy woods of New Hampshire, followed by an overnight stay at the Mahoosuc Inn.

Used cardboard box marketplace

Founded in 2008, BoxCycle has simplified the process of finding and getting rid of cardboard boxes.

Based in San Francisco, BoxCycle is a used-box marketplace. Retailers, recyclers, and individuals are able to sell their used boxes with minimal time and effort, while buyers can easily find used boxes in their area with convenient pickup options.

Instead of throwing out used boxes, businesses or individuals with an abundance of boxes can go online to BoxCycle.com and post how many boxes they have, and what sizes. In turn, those looking for boxes can see a list of sellers, and their box sizes, in their area. The entire transaction is then completed online.

"For buyers, we offer a lot of information upfront to make it easier to find and buy used boxes," founder Ilia Gimelfarbtold BusinessNewsDaily.

For sellers, BoxCycle takes the hassle out of trying to find someone to buy their used boxes, according to Gimelfarb.

Boxes on the site sell for between 38 cents and $1.25 each.

Dryer vent cleaning

Everyone knows the amount of lint that can build up in the dryer vent after just one use, but San Antonio's Alisa LeSueur wants people to also consider how much collects inside theduct pipe that runs from the laundry room to a home's outside over the course of an entire year.

Known as the dryer vent lady, LeSueur built a business around cleaning out those hard-to-reach pipes in an effort to minimize the risk of fire and increase the dryer's efficiency, thus saving the homeowner money.

A certified dryer exhaust technician with more than 13 years of experience, LeSueur uses a spinning brush and rod system to scrape off as much lint as possible from the pipe.

LeSueur, who bills herself as the "chimney sweep for your clothes dryer," says there are various signs that the pipe needs to be cleaned, including clothes taking longer than 30 minutes to dry, thedryer getting too hot, excessive lint in the laundry room, the heating element cutting off intermittently or the laundry room becoming overly hot or humid.

The price ranges from $78 to more than $145, depending on the size of the house and the vent's accessibility.

This story was provided by BusinessNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience. Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who spent 10 years working as a newspaper reporter before working in public relations. You can reach him at chadgbrooks@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76 .

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