The Hot List

Wellness and Staffing

Niche Gyms
Years on the list: 5 out of 20

When Jane Silber decided to get help for her 9-year-old daughter's weight problem, she found that lots of gyms didn't allow children to come in and work out. Mindful of Centers for Disease Control findings that the percent-age of overweight children has tripled since 1980, Silber, 41, recognized a hot business opportunity. This past August, she opened Generation Now Fitness for tweens and teens in Chatsworth, California, equipping it with kid-size, fun-to-operate exercise equipment, a smoothie bar, a study room and other amenities. "I wish something like this was around when I was a kid," says Silber, a former restaurateur who projects $1 million in first-year sales.

The kid gym concept is a hot one--witness the exciting buildup to Karen Jashinsky's O2 MAX fitness club for Los Angeles teens, featuring workouts as well as an internet cafe and tutoring, in "Biz 101" on page 110--but other niche gyms are sizzling, too. "[The] business model focuses not on the general consumer, but on one demographic and then builds the club and all its services around that profile," says Kathleen Rollauer, senior manager of research for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association in Boston. "The prime example is Curves, which came on the scene because [it] recognized the barriers to women in a typical health club." Nifty After Fifty in Whittier, California, fills another niche, offering people over age 50 physical and mental exercise routines, a driving-skills program, physical therapy and social activities. --K.O.

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

Inclusive Design

Fifty million Americans have some sort of physical limitation that makes it hard for them to use tools or function in environments designed for the able-bodied. When they look for products that make their lives easier, they often find that those products are, in a word, hideous. When building contractor Abbie Sladick, 43, founder and president of Abbie Joan Enterprises in Naples, Florida, suggested to an elderly client that she install a grab bar in her new marble and glass-block bathroom, the woman told her she'd rather fall than let her friends know she had one. "Those were the words that created a product," says Sladick, who founded a new company, Great Grabz, which has sales of more than $350,000 in its third year. Forget white plastic: Great Grabz designs and manufactures stylish grab bars in materials like brushed nickel to match the look of homes, hotels and other buildings. "Our bars are a beautiful accessory, not an eyesore."

"Fifty million is a lot of people," says Valerie Fletcher, director of Adaptive Environments, a Boston educational nonprofit that promotes design geared to all users. "It's not just people in wheelchairs. You have to think beyond mobility. Think about hands, eyes, ears, stamina and other issues." Fletcher emphasizes that the opportunities to fill a niche in this field are everywhere. From can openers to canes, products should be both functional and stylish. --K.O.

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

May I Help You?

Employee Screening

Events of the past 20 years have created a sort of "perfect storm" for the employee screening industry--notably the 1987 crash of a train driven by a marijuana-fogged engineer in Maryland, the rise of identity theft, and 9/11 and the ensuring terrorist alerts. According to Robert Capwell, founder of Pittsburgh's Comprehensive Information Services Inc. and co-chair of the board of directors of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, employee screening is now a multibillion-dollar industry. "When I started 17 years ago, there were only about 30 companies," he says. "Now there are 362 background screening companies in NAPBS, and they're telling us their businesses grew by 25 percent to 30 percent in the past year."

The industry is trending toward one-stop shopping, offering pre-employment drug and alcohol testing as well as education verification, fingerprinting, credit and driving history reports, INS verification, and background checks for criminal or terrorist activities. "Employers want to be sure people are who they say they are," says Tricia Smith, 35. She is the founder and CEO of Secure Check Inc. in Columbus, Ohio, whose sales will reach nearly $1 million in 2006. "They also want to know who their vendors are bringing in."

Smith believes there's plenty of room for growth in the field, noting that she's been hired as an expert witness in several negligent hiring cases. "There is a rise of litigation in this area," she says. "The question is, Should you have known an employee's propensity for a certain behavior before hiring them?" --K.O.

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

Staffing Services
Years on the list: 15 out of 20

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, staffing services will be one of the fastest-growing industries over the next five to 10 years. If you know how to lasso talent for some high-demand professions, you might be a contender in this still-hot field. "Sourcing and deploying talent is not a core competency of most businesses," says Richard Wahlquist, president and CEO of the American Staffing Association in Alexandria, Virginia. "There is more art than science when it comes to finding the right people."

Entrepreneurs new to the business aren't likely to do well pitting themselves against the huge, full-service staffing giants like Manpower, Wahlquist says. Rather, accountants, lawyers, nurses, mental health professionals, engineers and pharmacists, among others, are finding success using their connections and insider savvy to create niche staffing services for their own professions.

Another hot niche? Many employers are looking for workers over the age of 50--particularly temporary and consulting hires. "They want them for both their experience and their work ethic," says Edward Caliguiri, 49, a partner in The Response Companies, a staffing services firm in New York City with sales of $30.5 million. "Over-50s are also in great demand for consulting assignments because they have depth and breadth of experience throughout different business cycles." --K.O.

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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