The Hot List

Now that we've uncovered the most popular business trends for 2007, it's up to you to strike while they're hot.

Online exclusive: Want to know more about the trends that affect your business? Or tips on starting each and every one of these business ideas? Our Hot Center will get you started.

Green Products

Even Wal-Mart sells organic cotton T-shirts these days, but you definitely don't have to be a retailing behemoth to take your business in a green or organic direction. In fact, entrepreneurs have an advantage when it comes to reaching customers who care about the cause as well as the products.

"It's a highly underrated opportunity for small business," says Dr. Karel J. Samsom, a specialist in environmental and sustainable entrepreneurship and author of Spirit of Entrepreneurship. A study by the Organic Trade Association shows that nonfood organic product sales reached $744 million in U.S. consumer sales in 2005, with supplements, personal care and household products leading the charge. For green entrepreneurs, passion is key, says Samsom: "People who are imbued with this kind of spirit have an incredible imagination to rebuild the value chain and inspire their customers in the process."

That passion is evident when talking to Jonelle Raffino, 41, of South West Trading Co. Inc., a Tempe, Arizona, business that specializes in earth-friendly, alternative fibers and textiles such as yarns made from bamboo, corn and even recycled crab shells. "This country is seeing that we need to challenge the idea of products that use fossil fuels," says Raffino, who co-founded the company in 2001 with her mother, Jonette Beck. Business is booming so much, they've expanded into ready-to-wear items, and they can barely keep up with demand for their line of plush Soy-Silk Pals toys.

We'll take an in-depth look at the trend in our April 2007 issue, so stay tuned. --A.C.K.

To find out how to start this business, read the complete article here .



Alternative Energy
Years on the list: 2 out of 20

Got grease? Justin Carven of Greasecar Vegetable Fuel Systems LLC does. The 29-year-old founder's Easthampton, Massachusetts, business makes conversion kits that allow diesel engines to run on vegetable oil. "Ultimately, it's the rising fuel prices that are convincing people to get onboard," says Carven (above). Greasecar sales have grown by more than 200 percent each year over the past couple of years and are expected to reach up to $2.5 million this year. And the company is jumping into the commercial and municipal markets with enthusiasm.

Some major alternative energy growth areas include solar, hydrogen, bio-fuel, fuel cells and energy conservation technologies. Development, installation and creative application of these technologies are all possibilities for entrepreneurs. "It won't be just one alternative energy source that will be the silver bullet to solve our problems; it will be multiple options," says Nabil Nasr, director of the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. Research firm Clean Edge expects the worldwide market for clean energy to reach $167 billion within a decade, up from $40 billion in 2005. Entrepreneurs will have to find their niches and build flexible companies that can react as the energy market changes. Nasr advises businesses to diversify their marketing and selling sources.

"It's really easy for startups to pop up overnight," says Carven. "This market is larger than people may think." --A.C.K.

To find out how to start this business, read the complete article here .

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This article was originally published in the December 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Hot List.

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