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Starting a Business

From Chickens to Caskets -- 8 Unique Rental Businesses

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Traditionally, ownership of certain items like a car or home furnishings was a marker of adult life. But increasingly that sort of commitment isn't only unnecessary, but old fashion. After all, why deal with the hassle of car ownership when you can pick up a Zip Car whenever you need to get groceries?

While some items have been staples of rental business for decades such as movies, cars, bikes, and Halloween costumes, attitudes are changing about just what can be borrowed.

Nearly 15 years after Netflix changed the movie rental business, take a look at these 8 businesses that allow consumers to rent anything from a wedding dress, to chickens or even a casket.

From Chickens to Caskets -- 8 Unique Rental Businesses


Launched earlier this year, Rent the Chicken is the brainchild of husband and wife team Jenn and Phillip Tompkins of Freeport, Pa. Catering to those jumping on the urban framing trend, the Tompkins let customers borrow two egg-laying hens and all of their supplies, and provide an in-person lesson on chicken farming and maintenance for $350. The rental period runs from May-November.

The Tompkins say their business takes the commitment out of raising egg-laying hens from the time that they’re chicks, and helps cut down on the number of chickens that get abandoned in shelters. They deliver and pick up the hens and all supplies within a 50-miles of their hometown and will replace chickens that get eaten by predators, but they'll take away your chicken rental rights and charge you a fee if the chicken dies because of neglect.

From Chickens to Caskets -- 8 Unique Rental Businesses

Designer Handbags and Jewelry

Made famous by Jenifer Hudson in the 2008 Sex in the City movie, Bag Borrow or Steal took expensive items like designer handbags and jewelry and allowed middle income people to accessorize like the rich and famous. Rather than operating as a subscription service like Netflix, users can choose which items they want and pay an all-inclusive price that covers shipping and damage insurance to rent the item for a month.

Prices range from $35 to wear a pair of $275 designer earrings to $600 to tote a $16,500 Hermes satchel for a month. The site also allows users to buy and sell used designer handbags.

From Chickens to Caskets -- 8 Unique Rental Businesses

A Wedding Dress

According to a data collected by Cost of Wedding, a wedding research company, the average wedding dress costs start around $900, but those looking for designer labels could spend $2,400 or more. It’s a costly proposition for a garment you’ll wear once.

So, while grooms have rented tuxes for decades, budget-minded brides have just begun making their "something borrowed" the dress itself. One of the country's largest bridal rental shops, Alexandria's Formal Gown Rental, headquartered in Sacramento, offers nationwide service online, and lets customers borrow not only wedding dresses but bridesmaid, flower girl and prom dresses, and even shoes, centerpieces and bouquets. Prices vary, but the "Bridal rental package" includes the dress, accessories, cleaning and alterations for around $300.

From Chickens to Caskets -- 8 Unique Rental Businesses

Neck Ties

Operating on almost exactly on the same model as Netflix, Fresh Neck Tie Rental invites customers to fill up their online closet with designer ties, bow ties, pocket squares and cufflinks. After wearing the item for as long as they want, customers can send the item back in a pre-paid box. All memberships allow customers to select three items at a time and range from $20- $55 a month depending on which designers they choose.

Customers who want to keep their accessories can buy them at 20 to 60 percent off the retail price. A similar service is offered by Tie Society with membership fees based on the number of items a customer borrows at one time from $11 for one item up to $50 for 10 items at a time. 

From Chickens to Caskets -- 8 Unique Rental Businesses

Smartphones and SIM Cards

If you want to try an iPhone or iPad before you commit to it or you need a way to stay connected while traveling abroad, Escondido, Calif.-based KeepGo offers international SIM cards and electronic rentals. Prices vary depending on which countries you plan to visit and how many days you'd like to rent the device, but SIM cards cost between $2-$6 a day and smartphones and tablets run between $4-$25 a day.

From Chickens to Caskets -- 8 Unique Rental Businesses


Anyone who has attended college can attest to the burden of spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks each semester. Enter Chegg, an online company that started in 2007 as textbook rental company and has expanded to include access to online homework help and scholarship connections. On the site, students can search by subject or course and opt to rent a textbook for a semester for up to 80 percent less than the list price or buy a discounted used copy.

From Chickens to Caskets -- 8 Unique Rental Businesses


Renting a casket might sound a little creepy, but for many families it might make good financial sense. The average casket costs around $2,000, and some models can reach up $10,000 or more. Since the main purpose of the casket is for the funeral service and viewing, it makes sense that many funeral homes across the U.S. offer the option to rent a casket.

Loved ones of the deceased select the outer rental casket which is built with a small concealed door that allows for a simple wooden interior box to be slid in. The cost of the rental varies but is usually under $1,000 with the interior box that is used for burial sold for around $100. 

From Chickens to Caskets -- 8 Unique Rental Businesses

Saris and Other Traditional Indian Clothing

Indians have been one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States for decades. With an estimated 2.2 million Indians living in the U.S. it's not surprising that many choose to have traditional Indian weddings in the U.S. rather than travelling back to India. With more of these elaborate weddings there is an increasing demand for traditional Indian clothing that guests (as well as brides and grooms) will likely only wear once.

Understanding this dilemma first-hand, several rental websites run by female Indian entrepreneurs now allow customers to borrow expensive designer Indian clothing and accessories for both men and women. Sites like Luxemi, Borrow It Bindaas and Devi's Closet offer saris that retail for up to $1,500 for around $100-$200 for a four to ten day rental (Indian weddings are multi-day events). Kurta and Sherwani suits for men are even more affordably priced at around $30-50 for a multi-day rental.