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Hot Small Business Ideas and Trends for 2005

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By far my favorite issue of Entrepreneur magazine is their annual “hot list” of best businesses, markets, trends, and ideas. The list is too long to summarize in a single article so instead I’ve featured a few of the more interesting ideas. I’ve also added my own two cents here and there including some additional business ideas to help jumpstart your imagination.

Hot Business 1: eBay Drop-Off Stores

Like all the examples cited here, this idea grew out of a problem. For example, lots of people would love to sell their unwanted stuff on eBay but they don’t have the time, digital camera, technological know-how, or patience to do so. Solution: eBay drop-off stores that take the hassle out of selling on eBay. For a percentage of the selling price, store owners take care of the photography, product description, and financial transaction.

Val’s Two Cents

Unless you live in or near a city you probably haven’t run into an eBay drop off store. With franchises like QuikDrop cropping up, you’ll probably see these stores in suburban areas soon. This opens up an opportunity for people living in these areas to get there ahead of any franchise. And since the volume wouldn’t be worth a big operation in relatively rural areas this presents a niche opportunity, particularly for the customer service-oriented individual who is willing to pick up items at clients homes.

Hot Business Idea 2: Financial Planning

There’s nothing new about financial planners. What is new is that the baby boomer generation is entering retirement (all 77 million of them). Survey’s show relatively few spend any significant amount of time planning to live out their old age in comfort. This same generation will also have to make decisions about handling money from inheritance. Although there is competition out there, the article says those who are willing to provide the kind of service baby boomers demand can do very well in this field.

Val’s Two Cents

National Public Radio featured a story about how the average person (myself included) is baffled by the array of mutual funds into which to invest their 401k retirement savings. Plus as the economy shifts, few know what, if any, investment shifts they should make. Overwhelmed, many choose to do nothing.

The show told about an enterprising company called Financial Engines that offers objective third party advice and portfolio management to employees and individuals. Since the company does not receive any commissions on investments, their advice is free from conflicts of interest. After an initial analysis they’ll make investment recommendations and monitor your portfolio four times a year.

Financial Engines mostly serve corporate clients like J.C. Penny’s, Aetna, or 3M where interested employees can opt to pay half a percent of assets for the service. Individuals can also sign on for as little as $39 a quarter depending on the level of service they select. I was intrigued (not to mention number-impaired) enough to sign up myself. It’s an interesting business model for current financial planners or anyone interested in becoming one. And it’s a great example for all of us of how a company saw a problem and found a unique way to solve it.

You can listen to the original NPR segment at http://www.NPR.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4136179 or visit http://www.FinancialEngines.com

Hot Business Idea 3: Teen Hang Outs

According to the article, “Teens across the nation, especially those far from metropolitan areas, are starved for hip places, and the opportunity for entrepreneurs is huge.” Step one is to figure out what makes the teens in your community tick and then give them what they want.

Hot Business Idea 4: Niche Health and Fitness

Anyone can join a gym. But the reason the fitness franchise Curves has seen such explosive growth is that they offer something busy women want, a 30-minute workout in an environment that isn’t a meat market. Other niches include options that allow the whole family to work out as a group, options that include alternative health practices like yoga, acupuncture, and massage, and even health, healing, and fitness options for animals.

Val’s Two Cents

Another trend some of you may find interesting is corporate support for your goal of mind-body fitness. Balance Bar is currently accepting applications for grants to help support your passion for mind/body sport or other physical activity.

Grants provide financial support for enthusiasts and amateur athletes over the age of 18 who prioritize balancing mind and body and vary in sums ranging from $500 to $10,000 depending on how much you request.

Using the online application you’ll need to explain how a grant from Balance Bar will help you better integrate your mind and body. In addition you’ll need to send in two photographs showing yourself participating in the proposed mind/body activity.

The upcoming application deadline is January 17, 2004 for the grant period from March 10, 2005 through March 11, 2006. For specific grant guidelines go to http://www.Balance.com/grants/rules.asp

Hot Business Idea 5: Products and Services for Seniors

It wasn’t until Julie Ruhlander took care of her elderly grandmother and aunt that she realized how hard it can sometimes be for seniors to dress themselves. When you’re older or otherwise physically challenged, pulling something over your head or putting your arms back to get something on that opens in the front can be difficult or even painful. So Ruhlander started a catalog company called Clothing Solutions (http://www.ClothingSolutions.com) that offers front and side opening clothing as well as modesty jumpsuits for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients prone to undressing.

Here’s another interesting problem-solution. At 50 I’m blessed to have not one but two grandmothers living! One has a house full of antiques. At least once a week she vows to bring her old coins, antique dolls, vintage clocks, and the like to a local auction house to have appraised. At 92 though she doesn’t get around all that well, so the likelihood of this happening is basically nil.

Do you hear opportunity knocking? I do. So did antiques hobbyist Karen J. Martin from Farmington, Connecticut. Karen started a business helping seniors take inventory of, appraise, and liquidate their possessions.

Val’s Two Cents

The aging population is a huge trend in the U.S. Anything that helps aging Boomers either feel or look younger, or that makes the lives of seniors or caretaker children easier, has the makings of a winning business. To flex your entrepreneurial muscles, try generating a list of at least 10 business ideas that address this trend and population.

Hot Business Idea 6: Kids Plus-Size Clothing

According to the National Center for Health Statistics 16 percent of children and teens aged 6 to 19 are overweight with another 15 percent considered at risk. So it only makes sense there would be a growing market for trendy plus-size clothing for kids.

Enter Ruth “Penny” Smith the mother of an overweight child who often complained to his mother that he couldn’t find hip clothes that fit. Recognizing an opportunity when she saw one, Smith teamed up with her former boss (I love it!) to launch http://www.HeyMomItFits.com

Val’s Two Cents

With most trends you can further zero in on a particular trend of demographic group to find an even more unique and potentially lucrative niche. For example, what kind of unique products or services might you offer obese Latin or African Americans? What about new mothers who are having difficulty taking off weight? Or plus-sized travelers? Two very cool examples of the later are Freedom Paradise, a size-friendly vacation club in Mexico, and Big Adventure, a company specializing in scuba diving excursions for XXL sized people.

If you’re serious about escaping the job world and creating the life you really want, you’ll need to start tuning into the opportunities all around you. One small step you can take this minute is to subscribe to Entrepreneur or another magazine aimed at small business owners. You’ll find a large assortment, including Entrepreneur at MagaZania at http://TinyURL.com/5ypuh

If you’re not ready to subscribe then at least pick up the December 2005 Hot List issue of Entrepreneur. Use the complete list of hot businesses, markets, trends, and ideas as a springboard to start actively thinking about how you too can realize your dream of changing course.

Off the beaten path career counselor, 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. Find more articles written by Valerie at

http://www.ChangingCourse.com/articles/

Hot Small Business Ideas and Trends for 2005
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About Valerie Young
Off the beaten path career counselor, 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. Find more articles written by Valerie at http://www.ChangingCourse.com/articles/ WebProNews Writer
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