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Hot Business Trends for 2004? And Beyond: Maybe One Will Turn Into a Creative Business Idea for You


I always look forward to the December issue of Entrepreneur magazine. That's the issue that features the publisher's annual pick of hot businesses, markets, and trends for smart entrepreneurs - or those who aspire to be.

Some of the high tech businesses cited like mobile gaming or online learning tend to require six and seven figure start up costs. This can seem daunting (although not impossible) for the person just venturing into self-employment. So I've decided to focus on the markets, trends, and businesses that speak to someone operating on a somewhat more limited budget. Let's start with hot markets:

HOT MARKET: Middle-Aged Women

Since I've recently entered my last year in my 40s, I thought it only appropriate to start with this group (although like most boomers, I still have a hard time thinking of myself as anything close to "middle aged"). Not surprisingly, products and services for women in their 40s and 50s that center around anti-aging and menopause are hot. The magazine cites such promising areas as counseling, exercise spas, yoga, smoking cessation programs? any product or service that helps women stay healthy and feel good about themselves - both inside and out.

The reference to smoking cessation got me thinking? Residential treatment facilities for other forms of substance abuse are common- place, but I've personally never seen a retreat, spa, or other residential-type place specifically aimed at people who need help quitting smoking, and who would benefit from doing so outside their home environment. I'm picturing morning walks, meditation, massage, support groups, good food, and of course, lots and lots of punching bags!

HOT MARKET: Toddlers/Tweens/Teens

According to market research firm Packaged Facts, last year 5 to 14 year olds spent $10 billion on food and beverages. Other favorite product areas for kids are sports, fashion, music, and technology.

And apparently home dcor and remodeling isn't just for adults anymore (who knew?). Stores like IKEA and Pottery Barn are starting to selling home furnishing products aimed at teens.

With baby boomers having more discretionary income with which to spoil their grandchildren, babies and toddlers have also become hot markets. Online start-up ELittle Luxuries offers designer baby furniture and more than 600 other upscale baby items. (http://www.eLittleLuxuries.com)

HOT MARKET: Overweight People

After reading how much kids spend on food and beverages, it's no surprise that 15% of children and teens are overweight. But we adults have them beat. A whopping 64% of Americans are considered obese or overweight. Businesses that offer products and services to help people slim down and develop more healthy habits are the most obvious. But entrepreneurs willing to think outside the "solve the problem" box by looking for ways to make overweight people's lives easier verses trying to fix them, will also do well.

HOT MARKET: Metrosexuals

With the enormous appeal of stylish soccer super star David Beckham and shows like Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy where gay men help straight men with fashion, grooming, home dcor, and social skills, a growing number of heterosexual men are allowing themselves to tap into their fashionable side.

One enterprising guy who jumped into the metrosexual market early has seen phenomenal growth. With $20,000 and a dream, Tom Granese launched Regiments, an online store that sells high-end grooming products for men. Less than two years later, Tom opened his first storefront in Dallas with a projected $210,000 in first year in-store sales.

HOT MARKET: Hispanics

The Hispanic market is certainly nothing new - in fact it's made Entrepreneur's list for many years now. The magazine cites opportunities in anything from food and entertainment, to financial services and Web services.

Now let's look at two of Entrepreneur's picks for hot trends in 2004?

HOT TREND: Outdoor Living Spaces

Into gardening or design? According to Joanne Kostecky of the American Nursery & Landscape Association, and president of her own garden design company, the concept of outdoor living rooms that is so popular in the south and some urban areas is beginning to reach the rest of the country. The fact that more consumers are investing in courtyards and elaborate gardens means the gardening and outdoor design businesses are bound to grow!

HOT TREND: Fast-Casual Food

Health and taste conscious consumers on the go are turning to fast- casual restaurants and chains. In my own small town of Northampton, two of the more popular joints are benefiting from the fast-casual boom. One serves upscale burritos (my favorite is the Thai burritos) and the other is a hip soup, salad, and sandwich joint that opened in a greatly remodeled former Taco Bell restaurant.

Idea: Back in my old softball days I always wished someone would cater to all those hungry players and fans by starting a high quality food wagon.

Other Hot Trends? Boating and water sports, the hunger for low- carb foods (a trend being taken seriously by restaurants, grocery stores, and food manufacturers), oils and sauces, and multiculturalism which includes the gay and lesbian markets.

Hot markets and hot trends lead to hot businesses. Here are some of Entrepreneur's picks?

HOT BUSINESS: Children's Enrichment Programs

With so many parents in the workforce, more kids than ever before are engaged in extracurricular and after school activities. If you like the idea of working with kids, you can opt to open a physical location like a gym, dance or art studio, or camp, take your program into the schools, or provide private lessons.

If you think opening your own place is financially out of reach, think again. While $12,000 is no small sum of money, it's a lot less than a lot of people might expect they'd need to shell out to start their own dance studio. But that's how much former dance student turned instructor Archer Alstaettter dug up in cash and credit cards to found Dance Emotion in Irvine, California. That was five years ago. Today Archer's studio has 500 clients and expects 600-plus to be enrolled by spring. You go Archer!

HOT BUSINESS: Home Improvement

Remodeling, refurbishing, and redecorating are all the rage. There are some 30 cable shows on home improvement alone. And home improvement isn't all about dcor. Worth noting are businesses that help home owners maximize the space they have as well as those making homes more accessible to an aging population. (To read about a unique, highly successful, and legitimate home business opportunity that matches home owners with reputable home repair contractors go to http://www.ChangingCourse.com/hrnsuccess.htm)

HOT BUSINESS: Yoga & Pilates

According to Entrepreneur, companies are bending over backwards to cater to the growing market of people practicing yoga. Clothes, mats, DVDs, music, and classes aimed at seniors, pregnant women and children as young as three are just a few products and services aimed at this growing market.

And with a reported 47 million Americans taking Pilates, a work out that builds abdominal muscles, opportunities abound for gym owners and instructors alike. If you like the idea of teaching Pilates, studio owner Maria Leone recommends starting out by keeping overhead low. She suggests renting space for one-on-one sessions from a small gym or chiropractic office. Fees for a typical Pilates session range from $50 to $70 an hour. Meditate on that!

HOT BUSINESS: Upscale Pet Services

According to the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association, Americans spent an estimated $31 billion on pets in 2003. A few of the luxury services cited include pet hotels complete with heated floors, limousine rides, day cruises, and personal shoppers. And apparently the spa trend has extended to the pet world with exfoliating treatments, aromatherapy, liposuction (I kid you not), and chiropractic services.

HOT BUSINESS: Outsourcing

Outsourcing is one of those good new-bad news things. If your job is being eliminated because it's cheaper for your company to outsource functions like HR, accounting, and network security, then outsourcing is a bad thing. Outsourcing is particularly hot in IT - and when it comes to outsourcing jobs overseas, it's also controversial. The good news for freelancers is the federal government plans to open 850,000 jobs to outsourcing, with $85 billion in federal IT contracts to be awarded over the next three years

Other Hot Businesses: Spas, organic foods, online matchmaking, senior care, wireless, tech security, and voiceover IP (VoIP).

If you believe as I do that it's better to be the boss, than to have one, why not make 2004 the year you start putting your entrepreneurial plans into action? You don't have to quit your job or mortgage your home to get the ball rolling. You might resolve to do some research, start putting together a business plan, take a course on marketing, glass blowing, woodworking, web design, or whatever sparks your fancy, get certified to teach yoga, buy a book on how to launch a successful on-line business, start a Barbara Sher style Success Team? or just order a subscription to Entrepreneur.

If you don't already subscribe to Entrepreneur you can do so at http://www.Entrepreneur.com. The site also features a ton of free resources for anyone who already is - or dreams of - working for themselves. For other free resources for people who want to start their own businesses visit http://www.ChangingCourse.com/newbiz.htm

Okay, but what if you don't see a trend, market, or business here that speaks to you? Then find the one that does! I had a client who is crazy for horses and photography. It took me all of 30 seconds on Google.com to find a group called the Equine Photographers Network.

In addition to their conference this February in Florida, the group offers a free public online discussion group with over 700 members who range from top-of-their-field working pros to amateur photographers to magazine editors and writers to horse owners, all interested in improving their equine photography skill and knowledge. Learn all about the Equine Photographers Network at http://www.EquinePhotographers.net.

The way to find the "hottest" business idea for you is to get in touch with the passion that burns the brightest in your heart. Then make 2004 the year resolve to you take those first bold steps on behalf of your dream!

"Off the beaten career path" consultant, Valerie Young, abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at http://www.ChangingCourse.com, offering free resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Redbook, Entrepreneur's Business Start Ups, and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and iVillage.com. An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, she's presented her How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are program to thousands of people.


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