By Amber Middleton
One might look at Skulls Unlimited International in Oklahoma City, one of the only businesses in the world that specializes in cleaning human and animal skulls, and think, “Why would anyone want a skull, no matter how clean it is?” However, Skulls Unlimited’s “products” are in popular demand with museums, veterinary and medical schools, and other educational groups. Business is booming, and owner Jay Villemarette employs 13 full-time staffers and two part-timers. The company brings in over $2 million in sales each year.
In 2010, Villemarette opened his own public museum dedicated to bones to share his hobby with a wider audience. The Museum of Osteology features over 300 full skeletons, ranging from a shrew to a humpback whale. The museum offers programs, hands-on activities and self-guided tours. The museum is only one of its kind in the world. “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher…This is my way to be a teacher and to give back. I’ve had a lifelong obsession with skulls and skeletons, and decided to take it one step further,” explains Villemarette.
One reason entrepreneurs may be thriving in dirty jobs is that so few others are doing it, theorizes Mike Rowe, host of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs. “There are huge benefits to hopping on the road less traveled,” maintains Rowe. “The best opportunities in the world are often in the cracks. Some of the best entrepreneurs I’ve met began by seizing an opportunity, and obviously you have to look for opportunities where others aren’t looking. You aren’t going to find them on Main Street.”