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No, Not All Small Businesses Are Boring Like Mine

What does it mean to be a truly unique business these days? In honor of the Paychex America's Most Unique Business contest, Gene Marks takes a look at some one-of-a-kind businesses that stand out from the crowd.

Depending on who you ask, there are anywhere between 20 and 30 million small businesses in the U.S. and, I'm sorry to disappoint you, most of them are ... well ... pretty boring. 

Not that these businesses aren't important. They are. But – like the majority of my clients and audience – they're just not that memorable. My business is a prime example. We provide technology and financial services for our 600-plus clients. Zzzzzzz – OK, wake up. But hey – I enjoy it, and it's a living. My clients do things like putting up drywall, cleaning buildings, packaging supplies, shredding paper, serving meals, replacing tires, and fixing roofs. It's vital work, and it often translates to profitable activities. But they are not incredibly unique.

small businesses in the U.S.

Sometimes, however, I stumble across a few companies that are doing something unique. Companies that are different, uncommon, fun to talk about, and innovative. Who are these companies?

Over the next couple of weeks, Paychex is bringing those companies to our attention. For the past several months, Paychex has been searching for unique businesses and has asked applicants to share why their business is so special. Hundreds of companies have applied, and the finalists are now competing in a bracket-style competition to earn the title of America’s Most Unique Business.

unique businesses

For example, there's Puppy Cake, a Pennsylvania manufacturer of cake and ice cream mix for dogs. Using all-natural products sourced in the U.S., Puppy Cake provides all the ingredients to whip up delicious canine deserts – like maple bacon, peanut butter, and candy cane – made especially for your pooch. How popular has the company become? So much so that its cake mix, according to the company, is the second best-selling cake mix on Amazon.

Then there's Ela's Cut, a finalist from the contest’s first round, which offers in-office haircutting services designed for the busy professional. Based in New York City, Ela's taps into the need for time-saving amenities and has designed its own automated system that allows its hairstylists to manage their own appointments and keep track of their clients. Ela's professionals use a special cage to collect hair and avoid mess, waterless shampoo, and specialized cutting tools for a quick and professional job.

There's a special bond created when you serve in the military and, for many, it's an experience that stays with you your entire life. Many veterans I know have a special kinship toward other veterans and that's exactly the community that Military Biz Connection, a first-round finalist in the America’s Most Unique Small Business contest, taps into. The company's platform provides an extensive listing of other veteran-owned businesses so that business owners and entrepreneurs can buy from or sell to them. "It is important to support the men and women who have given so much to defend our freedoms, and the families who have sacrificed as well," Channel Milbourne, the company’s founder, says on its website. "Our military community is made up of talented people who possess skills and make products that many people may not know about. Military Biz Connection will allow people to see what else active duty service members, veterans, and military spouses can do."

Finally, there's second-round contest finalist Action Vehicle Engineering, a company that builds specialty cars and then rents them and prepares them for stunts, crashes, and other uses in the entertainment industry. You've seen their cars in dozens of popular commercials and feature films such as Act of Valor and Need for Speed. Hey, if you're going to be in the car business, why not do something really unique, right?

America's Most Unique Business contest

Yes, most of us run boring businesses – particularly me. Important, but boring. Yet – as Paychex's America’s Most Unique Small Business Contest shows – some are performing those same vital services, but in a more unique and interesting way. And to me, that's pretty cool.

And don’t forget, you can cast your vote each day to help choose America’s Most Unique Small Business through Friday, January 5. Click here to vote. 

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Gene Marks is a business owner, small business expert, author, speaker, CPA, and columnist for The Washington Post.

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This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.

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