Novelty and joke products and services are a serious business. Anyone who lives or works near a seaside resort or tourist attraction will realise this, and the fact is obvious from the number of gift, card, novelty and joke shops situated in any town.
Retailing and manufacturing novelty and joke products are two possibilities, and once you add in mail order and other related businesses it is clear that there are a great number of opportunities in this field.
There are a number of areas in which you could operate. At one end of the process you could make novelty products and sell them on to shops. You could market a product which someone else has made, or involve yourself with the bulk buying and selling of novelty products. By researching the items on sale across the country or even abroad you may discover a demand for a product not already available, so it is possible to set up a business importing and distributing that product.
Alternatively, you could run a gift, joke and novelty shop yourself, run a market stall or even pay someone for the use of a portion of their shop, or simply sell products by mail order. Added to this there are various novelty services you can offer with little or no experience and start up costs required.
The key to success with novelty and joke products and services is originality and humour. The more original the product or service is, and quite often the funnier it is, the more likely it will sell.
These products are also largely linked to fashions and trends, so the more up to date the products are, the better. It is no use selling Bay City Rollers T-shirts for example as today's youth are more likely to demand T-shirts bearing the names of this year's musical craze. Develop an instinct for what items will be consistent sellers and what will only sell for a short period of time. It is far better to get in right at the start of a particular trend rather than when it is dying away, as you will sell more and may even corner the market.
Because a significant proportion of novelty and joke products will be sold as gifts, it is important that the products have a highly personalised element. Most gifts will appeal to a particular market or group of people, so tailor your marketing accordingly.
Here is a list of novelty and joke products and services which you could use to form the basis of a small business, either as they are, or modified according to taste or necessity.
There is a great deal of scope for selling ready made signs that can be displayed in the workplace and in or outside the house. On them could be famous phrases that actors, politicians, writers and other celebrities have used, humorous sayings, insults, proverbs, bible phrases or popular sayings of the moment.
Use your imagination - you could adapt phrases from a book of famous quotations, films, TV programmes or songs. You could make signs for outside the house, such as "My other house is a mansion", or "Trespassers will be eaten", or signs for inside the house such as "Do not disturb - genius at work" or "Keep out - gourmet chef at work", or anything else you can think of.
Making small phrase based signs is an easy process. Once you have your wood it is possible using a hot metal implement to burn or brand on the letters. Alternatively you could carve out the letters, or simply paint them on. By attaching magnets to the back you could sell your signs as fridge magnets. A 'while you wait' sign writing service making simple signs to your customer's specifications is another area to try.
As well as being cheap and easy to make, badges are a popular and fun product. Designs could feature statements and sayings, celebrities, sporting stars or pop stars. As well as being sold in shops, badges can easily be sold outside pop concerts and sports events, and at tourist sites and festivals.
By cutting out wood in special shapes and hand painting them, a whole range of badges can be created. You could sell animal shaped badges for kids, or badges featuring paintings, statements, symbols and faces. One way to make sure that shops stock your badges is to create an attractive display board for them. Another idea is to sell badges to sports fans along the lines of "I was at XXX match on YYY" in the hope they will collect them in the same way fans collect scarves and programmes.
Because badges are light they are easily sold by mail order and there may also be business opportunities selling badge making equipment. Badges are confusingly called 'buttons' in the USA.
A classic novelty and gift item. Mugs can be decorated in a number of ways to target them at a particular trend or a certain type of customer. Mugs featuring the names of people and places, popular cartoon characters, football teams and TV characters are all tried and tested examples of big selling mugs. There may be gaps in the market to try something similar, but try to be original and make sure you are not breaching copyright. Alternatively, make or market a range of fortune telling mugs which could be printed with astrological predictions according to star signs, or feature a guide to reading tea leaves.
Mugs containing opinionated statements could be targeted at a particular market. Examples you could try are "I hate Manchester United" (or any other football team), "I hate work", "I hate Mondays", or on the other hand, "I love my husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend" or "I love my job".
Weird and wonderful transport services can be offered in any place where there are a lot of people about, such as a shopping centre, tourist attraction or place of natural beauty. An advantage is that they can often be operated with little or no start up costs or experience. One idea is to operate a sedan chair service. Basically a modified seat with carrying handles, a sedan chair could hold one or two people and be carried by you and one or more helpers for short distances, for a small fee.
Another possibility is to modify a car or build a strange looking go cart to create a novelty taxi, or use a tandem or three wheeled bike to transport people short distances. In places where there are shallow rivers, lakes or ponds you could even charge people to give them piggy back across. It may be necessary to approach your local council to obtain a licence to operate some of these services. This is already happening in London. A crop of trishaw (3-wheeled pedal taxis) has sprung up in theatre land to beat the jams!
Selling bottled water from famous places is a similar idea to the soil trays. Water from Loch Ness, the River Thames or the Atlantic Ocean, for example, could all be popular. You could market the water as a health product, such as a facial skin care treatment or a therapeutic body soother, but take care that the water is not polluted - try to use water from clean rivers and lakes!
Many people are superstitious, meaning there is a big demand for making and selling lucky charms. Four leaf clovers, rabbit feet, horseshoes, destiny dice and number sevens are examples of items which can be sold in shops, by mail order, door to door and on foot.
Hats and Baseball Caps
Hats make excellent joke and novelty items. Possibilities to try out are hats featuring horns, antennae, alien heads, bald heads or the hairstyles of famous people. Australian style cork hats are incredibly easy to make and can be sold as a novelty or functional product. Baseball caps can be bought in bulk very cheaply and printed up according to your target market. Pop stars and rock groups, sports teams and stars, actors and celebrities names, place names and practically anything else can be featured on the caps. Because they are very light and portable the caps can be sold outside pop concerts, sports events, theatres, and at tourist attractions and resorts as well as shops.
Taking novelty themed photos is an excellent business idea if you have photographic equipment. You could create humorous painted display boards featuring people wearing bathing costumes, for example, with a hole for people to stick their heads through and be photographed. Alternatively you could buy special outfits for people to wear, such as Victorian clothing, giving the photograph the sepia tinted look typical of the period. You could also hire lookalikes or people dressed in funny outfits, giving people the opportunity to be photographed with the Queen or a real gorilla. These can be very lucrative schemes in places where there are many tourists about.
A business selling novelty seed packets and other garden products could be a fertile source of profit. One idea is to sell packets of garden weeds, such as plants with a strong smell which will have a similar appeal to stink bombs, plants with thorns and spikes, or just ugly looking plants. Novelty plant speech bubble stickers to attach to plant pots featuring phrases such as "My name is XXX, what's yours?", "Fancy a Chat?", or "I like my water shaken, not stirred" is an original idea to try. Small ornamental wishing wells could be made or sold cheaply and have the advantage of not being confined to the garden.
Portable and Indoor Golf Courses
By painting a scaled down golf course onto a white sheet and making plastic or wooden holes and small clubs you can create a mini golf course that can be used in the home, garden or office that is extremely portable and great fun to play on. Similarly, you could create scale versions of well known sports stadiums and motor racing tracks. These can be hired out as well as sold in shops.
An idea which could go down a storm at fairs and public places is to set up an action painting stall. This is where people pay to put on overalls and create their own action painting on a large sheet of paper or material, covering themselves in as much paint as they like and keeping their final picture. The price should include the cost of paint and materials and each person should be set a time limit. The interest such a stall will create should guarantee its success.
Another classic joke and novelty product, stickers have the advantage of being relatively easy to print and transport. Stickers targeted at children are likely to sell well, they could feature funny faces, jokes, graffiti, popular phrases and streetwise sayings.
Any product related to children can obviously be sold in toy shops and newsagents as well as gift and joke shops. A range of car stickers could be produced, either along similar lines to the usual stickers seen on cars such as jokes, names and so on, or you could create stickers saying "I hate traffic wardens" or "I hate policemen". Car stickers featuring wartime insignia such as RAF and army crests to stick onto car doors is an original idea you could exploit. Creating a range of amusing party stickers is something else you could try, using phrases like "My name is xxx" "Smile if you fancy me" or "I love your eyes". Ironic travel stickers along the lines of "Fun in the sun at Scunthorpe" or "I spend my holidays at beautiful Milton Keynes" could go down well at holiday gift shops.
Certificates and Licences
Spoof licences and certificates based upon their real equivalents make an excellent joke product. If you have a computer with desktop publishing software they are ideal items to produce cheaply, although printers and photocopy shops will produce them to your specification for a small charge. Joke licences and certificates could feature a space for a name to be filled in, showing that the person is a genius, a dangerous driver, a good husband/wife/mother/father, or anything else you can think of. Novelty educational certificates could show that the holder has a "Diploma in heavy drinking", an "A Level in avoiding the housework", or a "Degree in carnal knowledge".
A market with particular cult appeal, there are any number of science fiction related products you could develop and sell. Sci-fi images like aliens or flying saucers could be created and printed onto products such as T-shirts, badges, mugs, stickers, baseball caps, key fobs, and pens.
You could create messages such as "Beam me anywhere but here", or "I love time travel", or create imaginary deeds to distant stars, space stations or UFO factories. These products lend themselves particularly well to mail order and there are various specialist publications you can advertise in. In addition, gift shops, comic shops and sci-fi conventions are all places at which you could sell your products.
Horror Door Hangings
If you have artistic ability, or know someone else who does, a novel idea is to create horror door hangings. A piece of material is painted with an authentic looking horror scene, which is then hung in a doorway. When an unsuspecting person opens the door they are then shocked to be confronted by a ghost, zombie or headless ghoul.
Life Sized Cardboard Celebrities
As the name suggests, the idea is to sell life sized cardboard cut outs of well known celebrities, pop stars or sports stars. Although you may have to obtain permission to use the images of certain people they could make very popular products.
A consistently big selling item to adults and children alike, the soft toy is something you could either make, or sell and modify according to your market. Everyone has seen the usual selection of toy animals, so why not go for something a little more unusual? Soft toy insects such as bumblebees, caterpillars and ladybirds could have a wide appeal, and cute looking aliens and sea monsters could also be developed. A range of soft toys with particular characteristics could be developed, such as pocket pets, pouch pets, elasticated pets which can be attached to the bedroom ceiling, or velcro pets which stick to clothing.
Joke Books and CDs
Publishing themed joke books covering a range of topics could prove a versatile business venture, because in addition to gift shops they can be sold in book shops and other suitable shops. For example, you could produce joke books for a particular town or area, a certain sport or a certain person, or joke books about school, men, women, or pop music. An alternative is to compile these under different headings to produce an encyclopaedia of jokes. Similarly themed CDs could also be produced, perhaps incorporating humorous songs, rugby and football songs, and drinking songs.
An excellent mail order venture is to set up a joke club, sending out a monthly mail order catalogue of joke and novelty products. You could also write a newsletter including new jokes and ideas, a directory of jokes for different occasions and even include a practical joke of the month. In addition, you could offer a joke writing and finding service.
And There's More
Although I have covered what are perhaps the most exciting, versatile and profitable novelty products and services that could form the basis of a small business, there are many others you could try.
Here are a few of them:-
If some of these ideas seem unusual or fanciful, remember you have seen a thousand ideas like this already out there in the shops. If they are in the shops, that means people buy them. If people buy them, someone is making a GREAT profit from selling them! Why can't that 'someone' be YOU?