What These 6 Creative Small Businesses Are Doing and Why You Should be Doing Them, Too

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How to Stand Out Among the Crowd

In such a large market (of 25 million, to be exact), it’s tough to stand out as a small business. But, if you were to take a step back and look at all of those businesses individually, we’re sure you would find something about each one that’s unique, something you could learn from them.

So, to save you some time (because individually evaluating at 25 million businesses would be exhausting…) we’ve put together a list of 6 creative businesses, what they do that makes them so creative, and how what you learn from them could impact your business.

Discover 6 Key Takeaways from These Creative Businesses

  1. Cruise Automation: Founded by 29-year-old Kyle Vogt, Cruise Automation is a company that has taken cruise control to a whole other level. As John Brandon of Inc. Magazine explains, Vogt was driving down Highway 101 in San Francisco, clicked a button in between the front seats, and turned to look Brandon straight in the face. “At 60 miles per hour,” he wrote, “the scenery ticked by.” Vogt and his team have created a self-driving car. Surely this isn’t the first you’ve heard of this, but what makes Vogt and Cruise Automation different is that you haven’t heard of them until now.
    Your Takeaway: Despite his odds – competing against big names like Google and being knocked down once or twice in previous endeavors – Vogt got back up. He founded and funded Cruise from his own pocket, with the help of investors, and has built a team of 10 from the ground up. Only time will tell if Vogt will come out on top of his competitors, but the moral of the story is this: Underdogs aren’t underdogs forever, so keep your head up and continue crushing the competition.
  2. Altimeter Group: CEO Charlene Li founded the research company Altimeter group on the principle of disruption. Clients are able to learn about and experiment with new technologies, while also discovering the disruptive nature of social media. As their website says, Altimeter is the only analyst firm that provides free research to help people make decisions for their business. The company writes reviews for products to help users get the best experience out of those technologies – and they do it for free.
    Your Takeaway: They center their company on their values (much like we do). Of those values are humility, empower, and integrity. The work they do is first and foremost for the good of their customers – providing free research to help improve business performance. Take a look at your initiatives and core values. Are you living up to them? Is what you are doing in the best interest of your customers? Once you start fulfilling the values you set for your company, you’ll provide a better experience for your customers.
  3. Foursquare: Here’s a company you’ve probably heard of before. Foursquare is a mobile app and website that helps consumers find the best places to go in whichever city or state they’re in. And while that’s a cool idea in and of itself, the thing that sets them apart is the “checking in” feature. When users check in to certain spots through the app, it awards them with points and badges, climbing up the social Foursquare ladder.
    Your Takeaway: What makes their geolocation checking in feature so innovative is that it adds an incentive to use the product. Despite the fact that the awards and points are fictional, people will rush to check in so they can become Mayor amongst their friends of a certain hot spot in town. (Note: Foursquare’s check-in app is now known as Swarm). Thinking outside the box was something Foursquare really did right. Think of a way to turn something your customers will normally do anyway and turn it into a game. You could even use this as an opportunity to start a loyalty program.
  4. BungoBox: Co-founders and cousins Tom and Bob Cannon made moving easy. They took what is normally a tedious task – packing tons of boxes only to move them and unpack them – and turned it into something less unappealing. They call it, “The War Against Cardboard” and say on their website: “There was a lot that went into us forming a company that helps [make] moving less sucky.
    Your Takeaway: Customers all over the world – no matter what type of business they are doing or where – care about convenience. The founders of BungoBox made moving (something everyone will have to do at least once in their lifetime) more convenient, saving their customers time, stress, and money. At Direct Capital, our technology allows our customers the convenience of applying for financing quickly and hassle-free. If your company can do that; can make life easier for your customers, you’ll be golden.
  5. Threadless: Threadless is a company that is 100% customer-centric. If someone has an idea for a t-shirt, they can submit it to Threadless, a community of users vote on it, and the winner’s shirt gets designed and sold by Threadless. It’s a brilliant idea, encouraging customer involvement (in fact, thriving on it) while also making a profit. But even more than that, the company completely acknowledges how much their business relies on these designers: “You are Threadless. You make the ideas, you pick what we sell, you’re why we exist.”
    Your Takeaway: As an already established company, it would be difficult to rework your entire business model to make it entirely customer focused. However, you can start off slow. Think FritoLay. They often have contests where consumers can think of an idea for a new flavor. They develop five or six of those ideas and have consumers worldwide taste test them and vote. The winner becomes a regular Lay’s chip. Your business can do that, too. Want to try a new flavor of coffee? Design a new sneaker? Try out a new technology? Let your customers in on it. Let them take the first steps in your decision making. They’ll feel important and you can feel good knowing you are developing a product or solution your customers truly love.
  6. Kickstarter: Kickstarter brings together the concepts of community and creativity. This is a company that encourages users to share their project ideas with the Kickstarter family and people can pledge money to help fund those ideas and make them a reality. Since 2009, 7.9 million people have pledged over $1.5 billion. They are helping people’s game, film, music, and art ideas come to life just by bringing people together.
    Your Takeaway: While Kickstarter isn’t a charity in the traditional sense, it could be argued that what they are doing is charitable. They are helping someone in need (an independent film creator, for example) kick start their idea, their life, their business – or at least improve it. That’s what giving to charities does, too. Choose a local charity, school, or independent project that aligns with your goals and beliefs. Then, hold a fundraiser to help fund it, invite your customers to donate, or hold a promotion where every X amount of money customers spend, you’ll donate X amount to the charity.

There are so many businesses out there that we can’t even begin to compile a complete list, but we think this one covers the basics. It helps you to create better, more creative ways, to keep your business afloat and your customers happy.

We hope you will use some of these tips, starting today. For more information on Direct Capital, what we do, and how we can help your small business, visit our website or give us a call at 866-777-0117!

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