Are you ready to start a business but can’t figure out what to do? While there are lots of factors that will determine your success, it sometimes helps to start with a “hot” idea. Here are 10 of our best picks — and most won’t cost you a fortune to start.1. Children’s enrichment servicesSince school budgets have been severely cut, worried parents have turned to tutoring services to make sure their kids don’t lose ground academically. Your biggest startup cost will be marketing — word-of-mouth is the primary business driver. Work through local school systems and parent-teacher organizations. Try giving discounts to customers who direct other parents to your business.In some regions, specialization is key. Focus on specific subjects or grades. SAT tutors are in especially high demand these days.2. Senior transition/relocation servicesAs our population continues to age, these businesses — which provide various services to seniors and their families — will continue to thrive. The services are geared toward helping seniors move out of their homes and can provide assistance in any number of ways: finding a new home (assisted living, nursing home, etc.), packing and selling belongings, setting up a new home, and more.You’ll likely find customers in your neighborhood, but also try approaching “family advisers” like financial planners, attorneys specializing in senior issues, and clergy.3. Green consultantGreen consultants usually concentrate on helping either consumers or businesses become more environmentally friendly. Industry-wide revenues currently top $18 billion.As for demand, consumers are thinking with their wallets and hoping to save money (and get possible tax breaks) by making their homes more energy efficient. Businesses are also looking for savings, as well as instructions on how to be a green company. Many consumers are demanding it but companies often lack the internal know-how or infrastructure to go green.4. Translation servicesTranslation services are in high demand, with revenues rising 18 percent industry-wide in the past year. Prime customers include the federal government, health care professionals and businesses interested in importing and exporting.Don’t worry if you only speak one or two languages. You can hire people to do the translations — either employees or independent contractors (even better).
5. Meals on wheelsDon’t think roach coach, TV dinners or a hot dog cart. We’re talking food fit for a gourmand, like crème brûlée and Kobe beef burgers, or fancy versions of the stuff Mom used to make, like cupcakes and grilled cheese.Buying a new vehicle will likely cost you, so look for a used one you can “trick out” instead. Once you’re operating, your costs are minimal (except for the food). Marketing through Twitter will create attention and bring customers, and your labor costs are almost nonexistent.An even lower-cost option is operating a food cart. Good food + right location (heavy foot traffic) = big profits.6. WeddingsThe millennial generation is growing up and getting married. Starting in 1987, there were approximately 4 million kids born each year in the U.S. In 2011, those “kids” turn 24, and the average age women get married is 25. Do the math and you’ll see there’s going to be a surge in businesses that cater to the wedding industry.There are many businesses that will benefit from the coming wedding boom, including:- Retailers (clothing the bridal party)- Gift stores (gifts, invitations, stationery)- Restaurants, caterers and bakeries- Wedding planners- Travel agencies (planning destination weddings and honeymoons)- Flower shops- Videographers, photographers- Jewelry designers, jewelers
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7. Handyman servicesIt might seem old-fashioned, but handymen and -women are in demand as cash-strapped homeowners try to tackle small home improvement projects. You can even specialize: The senior market is promising, with elderly clients desiring to make homes (theirs or their kids’) safer and more accessible. Or, you can target new homeowners. In 2009, nearly 25 percent of first-time homebuyers were single women.8. Kids’ beauty products and servicesUnbelievably, by 2012, tweens and teens are expected to spend more than $8.5 billion on grooming and beauty products. Already, just among 6- to 9-year-old girls (per Experian market research):- 43 percent use lip gloss/lipstick- 38 percent use hairstyling products- 12 percent use “other” cosmeticsOther ways to fill the demands of this market include starting kids’ hair salons, teen spas and gyms.9. College consultantsWith incoming freshman classes breaking enrollment records (Pew Research says about 2.6 million kids enroll every year), it’s increasingly competitive to get into college. College consultants can be generalists or specialize in fields like college prep, applications, financial solutions and scholarships. In 2009, 26 percent of “high-achieving seniors” hired a private college counselor.10. CupcakesDon’t believe the naysayers who say cupcakes are dead; they’re still mega hot — and profitable. Cupcakes costing about 60 cents to produce can easily sell for $3 to $5. You can open a “cupcakery,” sell them in (or to) restaurants and bakeries, or even start a cart or mobile cupcake-mobile.As with every year, the name of the game is reading consumers’ feelings about the economy and spotting trends that tap into these sentiments.Want the scoop on more trends that can grow your business? Sign up for Rieva Lesonsky’s free TrendCast reports at www.smallbizdaily.com. Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow her at twitter.com/rieva.