It’s said that 50 percent of small businesses fail after their first five years. Indeed, many of us will have gone through such agonizing disappointment, our entrepreneurial dreams smashed into a million little pieces. And if it doesn’t happen to us, then it will be a close friend or family member who suffers this stressful experience. Still, some unusual business ventures last beyond all projections.

What is the esoteric enterprising elixir that separates business success from failure? Why do the most niche businesses manage to stay afloat for decades and sometimes even generations? 

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Those are questions many would-be business moguls have mulled over for years. The truth is that there’s actually no secret formula. It’s usually a mixture of self-belief, chance, and a sixth sense. Combined, these work together to help business owners adapt their offering or stick to their guns and remain resolute.

To explore the concept a little further, here are three unusual businesses still standing strong.

Unusual Business #1: Tennent’s Lager

Pop into a pub or supermarket in Scotland and you’re almost guaranteed to see Tennent’s Lager. It’s the nation’s favorite pint of beer. Certainly, a single beer is an unusual business to last through the ages.

unusual businesses
Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

The philosophy “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” continues to benefit the company’s longevity. The lager still has had the same crisp, clean taste it had in 1885. Everyone from pensioners in neighborhood bars to youngsters at pop festivals savor the lager from this unusual business.

Business #2: Carhartt

Think tough American workwear and there’s a chance Carhartt springs to mind. Established in 1889, it has been popular with everyone from carpenters to Alaskan fishermen for generations.

Many of the materials used by this unusual business are truly innovative. For instance, the distinctive weave of its duck coats constituted a waterproof fabric long before synthetic materials were available. It still works wonderfully well.

However, its enduring popularity also stems from its enduring style. In the streets as well as in workplaces, it communicates something about the wearer. Its design and rugged durability mean you’ll now see it sported by rap stars as well as maintenance workers.

Unusual Business #3: Ormiston Wire

Braid and wire might not seem like the most promising materials to establish an business empire with. However, this unusual business product is exactly what keeps Ormiston Wire relevant.

Scotsman James Ormiston founded the company in 1793. It is still thriving as a family-owned business, partly thanks to a willingness to diversify its core products. Over the years, the firm has moved from wire for theatrical wigs and corsets to suspension wire for architectural installations. They even provide tripwire for military purposes. 

unusual businesses

So is there a golden strand of success that binds all of these diverse companies together? Perhaps it is this: To varying degrees, they’ve developed a high-quality core offering and stayed true to their original mission and values.

This was also the unusual business approach of iconic Scottish steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. He is famous for advising would-be captains of industry to “put all your eggs in one basket, and watch that basket.” 

Hopefully, taking a few minutes to review this hat trick of longstanding businesses has inspired your own startup plans.