4 weird and wonderful niche products that converted to commercial success

If you’re developing a startup business plan, it doesn’t always pay to rely on products that are highly specialised — unless you’ve identified a genuine demand.

But British people do appreciate things that are a little different — whether they’re excellent engineering products or eccentric shoes.

So maybe thinking outside the box is the key to a breakthrough — here are four weird and wonderful niche products that converted to commercial success.

  1. Gentlemen’s sock suspenders

Despite hosiery quality improving over time, some men still occasionally face the indignity of exposing crumpled and collapsed socks during a high-pressure meeting or dinner date.

And that’s exactly why gentlemen’s sock suspenders were invented by Albert Thurston in 1820.

These sartorial secret weapons are strangely soothing to wear under any type of slacks — give them a try and you won’t want to take them off.

  1. Pocket watches

Before wristwatches became de rigueur, no self-respecting gentleman would leave home without a pristine pocket watch secreted in his waistcoat pocket.

Wristwatches were originally designed for women in the 19th Century and became popular with men as the 20th Century advanced after they were adopted by the military.

But thanks in part to the popularity of heritage fashions, pocket watches have made a comeback — combined with a raffish chain, they add the final flourish to a retro three-piece suit.

  1. Wire

When you need to lift or hoist a heavy object with a crane, make an elevator move safely and swiftly or steer a plane using control surfaces, stainless steel wire rope is crucial.

It was developed as a more reliable version of iron chains for the German mining industry by Wilhelm Albert in 1831.

The product has evolved over the years, but the basic design has endured — proof that any firm that can source or manufacture practical products stands a good chance of lasting success.

  1. Segs

Once trainers become worse for wear, it’s usually not too long before they’re dumped in the recycling bin.

But before the days of disposable fashion, it was important to make shoes last as long as possible — something Yorkshireman John Blakey realised back in 1880.

His cast iron shoe protectors became known as Blakey’s segs — and they extended the life of millions of pairs of shoes throughout the following century.

Now that traditional quality shoes styles are fashionable again, they’re enjoying a resurgence.

So the next time you’re distracted by the suspected sound of someone tap-dancing along your high street, a set of segs are more likely the source.

The survival of these four diverse products proves that specialised businesses can survive and thrive — provided they stick to their mission and maintain quality.

So don’t dismiss your unusual startup plan before taking stock of its pros and cons — if you keep faith in your innovation, you might end up coining it in.

These four weird and wonderful niche products that converted to commercial success should reassure any inventive entrepreneur.

What’s your favourite niche product? Share your thoughts in the comments section

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