12 Hot Business Ideas

Kids' Sports Education

If you can teach children to be good sports, you can score big.

Kids' sports--from baseball and soccer to basketball and volleyball--are hot, and entrepreneurs jumping into the sports education field are scoring major points. With so many parents wanting to help their kids excel in their sport of choice, there's an ample market willing to shell out good money to train young superstars-to-be. Just ask Ivan and Sherri Shulman, 44 and 46, respectively, who founded The Sports House in Houston. The comprehensive sports training company boasts two facilities with camps, clinics and everyday sports classes--it even provides parties for excited youngsters, offering everything from batting cages to pitching clinics. Though their core market is kids ages 5 to 17, their Soccer Tots program targets wee ones from about 18 months to 5 years old.

At The Sports House, kids get not only physical exercise, but also personalized training, which parents love. "[There's] something about sports I learned a long time ago," says Sherri. "A plumber is going to spend the same amount of money as a cosmetic surgeon to make his kid better." Parents are spending so much, in fact, that 2007 sales for The Sports House are projected to surpass $1 million.

Getting into the market takes skill, notes Sally S. Johnson, executive director of the National Council of Youth Sports in Stuart, Florida. She's noticed an increase in sports interest across the board--especially in organized youth sports--and suggests that startup youth sports trainers first get training. NCYS offers administrative courses for youth sports professionals, while the American Sport Education Program offers specialized coaching training as well as many online tools for coaches.

Ready to jump into kids' sports education with your own business? Consider the following before getting started.

Get the requisite training. If you want to start educating youngsters about sports, you have to be a master yourself. You should be well-versed in your sport of choice, and if you lack coaching experience, be ready to bring someone in who has some. Also consider sports management training and sports administrative courses, says Johnson: "That type of education is imperative."

Assemble a great team. If you plan to open an entire training facility like the Shulmans did, make sure your entire staff is top-notch. Conduct criminal background checks on your employees since they'll be working with children, suggests Johnson.

Pick a welcoming location. If you want parents to drop off their kids at your facility, you need to make it as inviting as possible. Choose a safe neighborhood and make sure every floor, window, wall and piece of equipment is squeaky clean, says Ivan. Those little touches of comfort and community make parents eager to return for year-round activities.

Put safety first. Sports and physical education are fraught with risks, so you need to bone up on your safety and first aid training. "[You] don't need to know how to handle dislocations so much as [you] need to know the emergency first aid response," says Johnson. And don't forget insurance. After researching the type of insurance he would need, Ivan found a broker who specialized in youth and batting cage businesses.

Treat every kid like the next superstar. Keep it positive as you encourage kids in their particu-lar sports. "Every parent thinks their kid is the absolute best in the world," says Sherri. Your treatment of both the children and their parents should be enthusiastic and encouraging, making every client feel special. Why? Because it's all about building self-confidence--not just in sports, but in life.

Kids' Sports Education:

Coffee-Houses
Coffee drinkers don't just want joe--they want a place to go.

Whether it's a drip, latte or cappuccino, Americans are hopelessly addicted to their coffee. According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, specialty coffee was an $11 billion industry in 2005, up from $9.6 billion in 2004. But some historians theorize that what Americans are really looking for in their cup of joe is a sense of belonging. "We spent so much of the post-[World War II] period in this country retreating inside suburban houses [with] fenced-in backyards," says Bryant Simon, a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia who has spent more than a year studying Starbucks. "The coffeehouses play to that desire of being out, even if you don't talk to anyone." While Starbucks has established itself as providing that "third place" environment, the door is certainly not closed to other entrepreneurs.

For Jeff Furton, 29, Beth Livedoti, 29, and Stephanie Lemmo, 28, entering the brewing industry in 2004 meant opening a window--or two. At The Daily Rise Expresso, a double-sided coffee and smoothie drive-thru in Ogden, Utah, customers come for more than just a caffeine fix. "[Some customers] come in two to three times a day just to talk," says Livedoti. "We are their little piece of sanity." A second location opened last year, 2007 sales are projected at more than $400,000, and franchising is in the coffeehouse's future.

If a traditional coffeehouse doesn't get your heart racing, think organic like Java Juice, a liquid extract straight from the bean. Other niches include aftermarket products like Coca-Cola Blak, a carbonated soda with coffee essence, and those that incorporate coffee for its health benefits--caffeine has been linked to a decreased risk of diabetes, liver cirrhosis, Parkinson's disease and even gallstones.

To brew up success in your own coffeehouse:

Use your size to your advantage. Being small has its benefits--especially when it means you can accomplish what the big players aim to do but sometimes fall short of doing. Study the coffeehouses in your community and examine what they fail at, advises Simon. By doing so, you'll have a better chance of finding your niche.

Aim for excellence. "People clearly want the milieu of a coffeehouse," says Simon. "They want the intellectualism, the music, the art. So do it. Really play music that you haven't heard a million times before; really put up local art on the walls; really emphasize your relationship with the community. If you really want to have a coffeehouse, go out and educate people. People want to know about coffee. It's like wine. Educate your baristas."

Establish a presence in the community. Furton, Livedoti and Lemmo make it a point to stay involved in the community--whether by providing refreshments at the local farmer's market, concerts and the Fourth of July celebration or donating to local schools and fundraisers. Says Livedoti, "People start to see us around town, and I think that sets us apart because we support them, so in turn, they come back to support us."

Don't underestimate your customers. Make sure you do your homework and find quality products to truly satisfy your customers. The founders of The Daily Rise Expresso considered 25 to 30 different roasters before making the final selection. "People really know their coffee," says Livedoti. "So it's very important that you're starting out with a good-quality bean."

Listen up. "It's about attention to detail and figuring out what that person wants, what that person is really going to enjoy and what's going to get that person coming back time after time," says Lemmo. "People appreciate that you make an effort to figure out what's going to be best for them."

Coffee:

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This article was originally published in the February 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: 12 Hot Ideas.

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