If your livelihood revolved around doing something that most people have never heard of, how easy would it be for you to describe your off-the-wall business? We're sure you'd find a way to do it, especially if you'd found a way to make a pretty penny from it.
Which is exactly what the following businesses have found a way to do. Join us as we pay tribute to these 14 business owners who service a less-than-ordinary niche market and are becoming rich in the process.
Murder Scene Mop-Up
Entrepreneur: Jerry Turner, 38
Business: Advanced Bio-Treatment, based in Atlanta
Off-the-Wall Factor: The simple fact is, Turner's company is a cleaning company. The twist is what they clean up. Cleaning up after murders and suicides is one of their specialties, but they also handle meth labs and fecal matter and urine.
Not-So-Off-the-Wall Revenue: By next summer, Turner expects to be bringing in $1 million in sales a year.
Nature Calls--And They Clean It Up
Entrepreneurs: Jacob and Susan D'Aniello, 32 and 31
Business: DoodyCalls, based in Washington, DC
Off-the-Wall Factor: They run a pooper scooper business. Let's be real clear about this: Their company sends employees out into yards across communities to pick up dog poop.
Not-So-Off-the-Wall Revenue: DoodyCalls and its franchisees will collectively bring in about $1 million this year.
This Business Owner's No Dummy
Entrepreneur: Judi Henderson-Townsend, 48
Business: Mannequin Madness, based in San Francisco
Off-the-Wall Factor: Henderson-Townsend's company rents and sells mannequin body parts. She even named her business Mannequin Madness because she knew she was "either mad for doing this--or I'd found a really crazy niche in a unique market."
Not-So-Off-the-Wall Revenue: $175,000 by the end of 2006, Henderson-Townsend predicts.
A Leg Up on the Competition
Entrepreneur: Brian Jones, 30
Business: Red Rider Leg Lamps, based in San Diego
Off-the-Wall Factor: The business sells lamps with a base that's the shape of a woman's stocking-clad leg--modeled to look just like the lamp that Ralphie's father receives in the 1983 Christmas classic, A Christmas Story.
Not-So-Off-the-Wall Revenue: The company has generated sales of close to $700,000 since it launched back in 2003.
From Ashes to Fishes
Entrepreneurs: George Frankel and Don Brawley, 56 and 42, respectively
Business: Eternal Reefs, based in Decatur, Georgia
Off-the-Wall Factor: Eternal Reefs mixes the ashes of cremated people into cement to form "reef balls," which they then lower into the ocean to help create habitats for marine life.
Not-So-Off-the-Wall Revenue: Sales are projected to hit more than $500,000 by the end of the year.
Canning the Kitty Litter
Entrepreneur: Rebecca Rescate, 26
Business: CitiKitty, based in New York City
Off-the-Wall Factor: Rescate developed a gadget that actually teaches a cat to do its business on the toilet. Then after a few weeks, the gadget can be thrown away, and pet kitties can relieve themselves on the regular toilet. To put it bluntly, she sells toilet training kits for cats.
Not-So-Off-the-Wall revenue: Rescate's business generated sales of $150,000 in 2005; she's projecting her company will bring in $275,000 in 2006.
Managing the Garden of Eden
Entrepreneurs: Dave and Helen Landman, 54 and 53 respectively
Business: DeAnza Springs Resort, based in Jacumba, California
Off-the-Wall Factor: It's the largest clothing-optional RV park in the United States, holding up to 700 people and boasting all of the amenities one would expect at a vacation destination resort.
Not-So-Off-the-Wall Revenue: They'll expect to hit sales of $1 million for 2006.
A Fowl Business
Entrepreneur: Bill Thomas, 53
Business: BioScientific Inc., based in Phoenix
Off-the-Wall Factor: Thomas has built a mini business empire around selling fertilizer made of chicken poop that goes by the name Guano Plus (guano being the Spanish word for animal droppings).
Not-So-Off-the-Wall Revenue: More than $1 million annually
Welcome to TV Land
Entrepreneur: Georgette Blau, 31
Business: On Location Tours Inc., based in New York City
Off-the-Wall Factor: Long a Hollywood staple, this New York City TV junkie arranges bus tours of Big Apple TV landmarks like the Bada Bing strip club from The Sopranos and the apartment where Carrie Bradshaw hung her hat in Sex & the City.
Not-So-Off-the-Wall Revenue: Blau estimates 2006 sales will hit $1.5 million.
From the Slab to the Lab
Entrepreneur: Jim Rogers, 38
Business: Science Care, based in Phoenix
Off-the-Wall Factor: This is the country's first and apparently only accredited whole-body donation company--as in this is where you could go if you want to give your body to science.
Not-So-Off-the-Wall Revenue: Science Care won't disclose revenue, but wants to stress that they don't buy bodies--they're all donated--and they don't sell them either. They make money from university medical centers and the like that pay for the services of Science Care's pathologists and the cost of storing and shipping body parts.