Success in Unsexy Industries: Building a Business Outside of Trends

Sexy businesses sell…or do they?

Are you a start-up disruptor looking to start a new business, scale-up, leverage the bleep out of your next big (or little thing), sell on, rinse, and repeat? You might be thinking about the tech space, online store, an app, or something AI-driven? Something that doesn’t require much human capital and looks good on Instagram.

You might not know where to invest yet, but what you do know is, you want to find your investment opportunity to be alluring, exciting, and even a little intimidating or challenging?

We get why sexy industries sell. They look good and sound fun to work in. But suppose you want to build a sustainable small business in the current climate. In that case, you’re more likely to build wealth, add societal value, and employ more people if you look into traditionally unsexy sectors.

Want to know why an unsexy business may just win the day? Read on.

Unsexy business explained

If the idea of it makes you say “Eugh” or “Ugh” instead of “Ooh, yeah!” chances are it’s an unsexy business.

A few examples of (seemingly) unsexy businesses include:

  • Stationery supply
  • Trucking and logistics
  • Deliveries and freight
  • Sanitation or plumbing
  • Cleaning services
  • Food or human waste disposal
  • Debt collection
  • Funeral services
  • Furniture sales
  • Adult education

Unsexy businesses are about providing sustainable solutions

Providing solutions to your potential client’s solid waste disposal issues may just be the answer to a reliable disposable income. And a good bed, decent washing machine, or refrigerator can change lives. 

Think of it another way, when it comes to doing business day in and day out, other than maximizing profit, solving a societal need actually creates further sustainability.

Plus, it might even fill you with a tremendous passion and enthusiasm for your business. Doing good feels good. And if you’re making money doing good…well, that’s pretty darn sexy.

Why do we need solid investment and bright minds in unsexy business sectors

Why are unsexy sectors and businesses worthy of your attention as investors, business owners, or both? The short answer is that many unglamorous, crappy (think waste disposal management or sewerage) daily grind-type businesses are also highly needed and necessary in modern society.

Here’s where to put your focus:

  • Need vs. trend & necessary vs. fad
  • Find something that everyone needs but no one wants to provide
  • Focus on relevance and problem solving rather than on trends

Think about it this way: your role in adding value in an unsexy sector could help save the planet and better human society. You’re just going to look more Clarke Kent and less Kal-El while doing it. Maybe you won’t be seen anywhere by anyone at all because your entrepreneurial empire will have its mission control in, say, a depot or prefabricated building in Cleveland.

That thought may be hard to swallow, sure. No one wants to swap dreams of an Armani suit and an entourage for a branded golf shirt and chinos, or even a hardhat or overalls. But we’re here to tell you that it might well be worth your while to do so.

Some industries can come across as pretty dull, sure, but people don’t have to be. That’s a choice. Ordinary, run-of-the-mill sectors can be made extraordinary with imagination, elbow grease, guts, commitment, AND CREATIVITY.

Let’s make the unsexy business sexy; here’s how

Reliability has always been sexy. Don’t be the business player; rather run the business that people turn to in a pinch and want to work for because you’re putting people first.

Hard graft, showing up, solid service, and doing what others won’t is where savvy, post-pandemic entrepreneurs are seeking opportunity, and so should you. Working hard is back in fashion, we promise.

Hybrid models: It’s all about reconfiguring our own, as well as consumers’ mindset. No one ever thought of waste collection as sexy, but if you read about small business owners who, for example, collect restaurant waste, compost it, and create urban food gardens, it suddenly becomes pretty sexy in modern terms.

Take your unglamorous business idea and give it a fun, modern story. 

Technology: According to many young, successful entrepreneurs, we need to be looking at spaces that haven’t been entirely digitized yet and seek out a solutions-driven approach that merges the best of tech, AI, and ML advances with personal service.

In a recent Beyond 8 Figures episode, we interviewed Ayo Phillips, CEO of Perfect Surface, a maintenance and renovation services business he acquired three short years ago, based in Houston, Texas. Philips spoke to us about finding the most lucrative opportunities when buying a small company.

Philips says there’s massive space for automation, optimization, and digitization of business sectors that struggle with efficiencies. So, a concern that’s old-fashioned but still around might make for a significant investment or acquisition.

The point is that whatever you do, your heart has to be in it. If you’re just there for the profits, you’ll likely have less. Because if you’re bored and uninterested, you won’t invest enough time and effort in keeping things afloat.

Find the opportunity and make it sexy (your way)

If we had to be honest, a large part of entrepreneurship is unsexy. No matter what your business is, it’s still going to involve hard graft, taxes, admin, payroll, and MANY unsexy hours spent at your desk.

Unsexy businesses are ripe for innovation, disruption and, quite frankly, are in high demand. So, why not go all-in on the unglamorous life and make some bang buck while you’re at it? When looking for your next business venture, look off the beaten path and find something that speaks to your values, and then set about bringing sexy back.

Success in Unsexy Industries: Building a Business Outside of Trends