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As a service-based business, starting a concierge service doesn't require a large capital investment. If you have access to information, you already have the business's most vital asset. "Start-up is not very expensive," says Stein. "[Costs] really depend on how elaborate you want to get. We have a computer network and a lot of information we've gathered over a number of years that would take time and money to build from scratch. For less than $20,000, you could set yourself up quite nicely."

Adkins agrees. "While you need to purchase the basics, such as a phone line, stationery and business cards, most of what you really need to run the business you get from established relationships," she says. "The key to being a good concierge is having contacts. I was developing my contact base for years before I started my business. It gives me a distinct advantage because I can call in a lot of favors."

Concierge services, both personal and corporate, have a strong potential for growth, particularly outside the big cities, says Stiel. "In smaller places, concierge [services] may still be an unfamiliar concept, but the need for these services is certainly not limited to big cities," she says.

Located 30 miles north of Boston, Seaverns' Suburban Concierge combines a big-city concept with small-town friendliness to distinguish itself. "What sets us apart from the other services is that we are outside the city," says Seaverns. "Unlike city services, we offer a very personalized service."

Corporate concierge services also have plenty of room to grow. As good workers become harder to find, businesses are looking to concierge services as perks to keep valuable employees happy. "I see large corporations wanting to give that extra benefit to their executives and other employees, says Patty Dreiseszun, founder of three-year-old Phoenix-based World Class Concierge and a former concierge at the Phoenix Hyatt Regency Hotel. "They do this by either bringing a concierge into their lobby or offering access to an off-site concierge service via a toll-free number."

Driven by time constraints, a desire for prestige or just plain convenience, more and more consumers are using concierge services to improve the quality of their lives. Although no official estimates are available, an Internet search reveals only a handful of independent concierge services in business, leaving a profitable market wide open to anyone who can provide service with a smile.

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This article was originally published in the August 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Now Serving....

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