Sometimes there are businesses that are just plain weird. The product they sell is so different that the common sense point of view is that they’ll fail. This year, however, an unusually large number of companies that fall into the “weirdo” category are succeeding.
J&D’s Foods, Kings Of Bacon
Americans love bacon. Last year we bought more than 550 million pounds of it. Some people, however, love bacon more than anything else. That’s the case with Justin and Dave, two friends who co-founded J&D’s Foods. They asked themselves, “Why should bacon be the only thing that tastes like bacon?” The duo developed and launched bacon-flavored salt. According to the founders, they sold 6,000 jars of Bacon Salt during the first five days of sales despite having no marketing or sales budget. People from 15 countries and 25 states bought it. In addition to online sales, the company’s products are now distributed through major retail chains in the U.S. and the U.K.
The company now has a full line of bacon-flavored foods, including popcorn, Baconnaise (bacon-flavored mayonnaise), bacon dip and bacon dressing. That wasn’t enough for these two, however; they also sell bacon lip balm, bacon-flavored envelopes and even bacon shaving cream.
And just how did J&D’s raise its seed capital to launch the company? It turns out that Dave’s then 3-year old son was playing with a wiffle ball and Dave decided to video tape it. He submitted the video to America’s Funniest Home Videos and, when they won, the $5,000 prize was the seed money for J&D’s.
Panda Ecological Tea, The World's Most Expensive Tea
Tea drinkers are just as fanatical as coffee drinkers when it comes to getting their caffeine fix. The search by tea fans for the best cup of tea in the world will lead them to An Yashi, an entrepreneur in Southern China who happens to be a tea fanatic and also a wildlife expert. Yashi has combined his love of tea and animals to launch Panda Ecological Tea, which produces what is considered by many to be the finest tea in the world. What makes Yashi’s tea unique? He grows the tea leaves in panda poop. Pandas have one of the least efficient digestive systems in the animal kingdom. They absorb only 30 percent of the nutrients in the food they consume, and what they love to consume is bamboo, which is very rich in nutrients. Yashi touts the taste and the health benefits of his special tea. He is so convinced about the benefits that he has spent a small fortune buying 22 tons of panda poop to use as soil.
So how much is his tea? A pound of the highest grade leaves will cost you $35,000. If that’s a bit steep, he’s willing to brew you a cup for just a few hundred dollars.
The Cheese Lady, Master Of Cheese Sculptures
Sarah Kaufmann loves cheese. Cheddar cheese. Growing up in Wisconsin meant that dairy products were an important part of her personal and professional life. Kaufman spent the first 16 years of her career working for the dairy industry, mainly in marketing-related positions. During this time, she discovered that she had a knack for something rather different, sculpting cheddar cheese. At first she started sculpting blocks of cheese to use as part of the dairy industry’s marketing campaigns. But then she discovered that she absolutely loved it and wanted to spend all her time sculpting. That’s when “The Cheese Lady” was born.
Since deciding to launch her cheese sculpting business, The Cheese Lady has grown to include two studios and has created hundreds of commissioned works. Kaufmann is one of only three traveling cheese sculptors in the country. She’s hired to sculpt for weddings, corporate events, fundraisers, fairs, trade shows and more. What's her largest work? A sculpture made out of a block of cheese weighing more than 12,000 pounds.
Terasem Movement, Digital Afterlife Clones
Between now and the year 2313, around 10 generations of your descendants will have lived. Imagine your descendent in that future year being able to sit down and have a conversation with you, asking you what it was like to live back in the year 2013, what made you happy, what your hopes were and more. That is exactly what the Terasem Movement proposes.
Funded by entrepreneur Martine Rothblatt, Terasem is backing several ventures focused on creating mindfiles and mindware. Mindfiles are a collection of all the information that can be known about a person, which is then projected to be run through a future software, called mindware, that will create a virtual consciousness of the person based on that data. At some future point in time, the idea is that the mindfile and mindware can be embedded into a biological or robotic body that will create a digital clone of you hundreds of years after you die. It’s weird and spooky, but with millions of dollars in resources at their disposal, it may not be far-fetched.
These companies may be weird, but they clearly resonated with enough buyers that their weirdness made them successful. Have you come across any weird companies this year? Let me hear about them in the comments section.
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Photos: Thinkstock, J&D’s Foods, Sarah Kaufmann