12 Hot Business Ideas

Kids' & Teens' Parties

Big parties are all the rage, and you're invited to join the fun.

Kids' party planning has been hot for several years. Now teen party planning is sizzling as well. Blame MTV's My Super Sweet 16 for showing teens nationwide the extremes the superwealthy go to for a child's coming-of-age soiree. American teens, who number more than 70 million, want what's hot at all their parties--from bar and bat mitzvahs to quinceaƱeras, sweet 16 parties and other coming-of-age rites. From starting a new specialty business to adding kids' and teens' parties to your existing event-planning business, or specializing in teen party peripheries like security or entertainment, there's an angle for everyone.

Party planning expert Marley Majcher, 37, who founded Pasadena, California-based The Party Goddess! Inc. in 2000, suggests walking that fine line between making your young clients happy and making their purse-string-holding parents even happier. "You have to be a really good listener and see yourself as a liaison," she says. It's true of younger kids' parties as well--parents will likely want to include them in the planning, even if it's just asking what theme they want. Your job is to listen to the child's interests and select the perfect theme--dinosaurs, princesses, Finding Nemo--that makes their eyes light up.

To succeed, you'd better follow the trends. Majcher, whose company expects to bring in $2.5 million this year, notes that lounge party setups are in vogue for teens. And since music and entertainment are paramount to any successful teen shindig, hooking up with hot DJs in your area can help you break into the market. For younger kids, the trend factor is less important, but for parents, the "keeping up with the Joneses" factor is alive and well. The theme is whatever the child loves--but the execution should be exceptional.

Ready to start the fun with your own kids' or teens' party planning business? In addition to marketing in areas with high disposable income, follow these tips.

Learn negotiating skills. It's important to keep the parents happy because they're footing the bill, but you should still be looked up to as an expert by the teenage or preteen guest of honor. Hone your communication skills so you can steer your clients to great parties within their parents' requirements, all while avoiding family conflict.

Know your marketplace. Determine how you should price your services--a flat fee or a percentage of the final party cost? Local customs can help you decide. Also, check out the International Special Events Society (www.ises.com) for information on how to become a Certified Special Events Professional, and consider attending a convention of local event planners.

Cross-promote. See if you can forge alliances with local record stores, DJs and other vendors within your target demographic. Check out country clubs, too, suggests Majcher, as many affluent parents might be connected to such groups and are likely to hold functions in those locations. You might even volunteer to decorate or help organize a school's prom in exchange for branding opportunities, just to get your name out there with the teen set.

For younger kids, put up fliers, postcards or business cards where kids and parents will see them, such as in pediatricians' offices, toy stores and places that hold kids' classes like dance or karate. Network with kids' party vendors like clowns, face painters and balloon artists for referrals.

Do the math. Majcher notes that because kids' parties generally have lower cost margins than huge shindigs like bar mitzvahs and weddings, your revenue will generally be smaller. To make money doing this, plan to increase the number of parties you design, or add kids' parties as a supplemental offering to your general event-planning business. If you're thinking smaller, this can also be a great part-time gig.

Kids' & Teens' Party Planning:

Specialty Apparel
Like fashion? See if a clothing boutique looks good on you.

Everyone wants to feel special. That's why women will shell out serious money for a fantastic pair of shoes, even when there's a practically identical pair in the discount store down the road.

Women are increasingly looking to specialty retailers to satisfy their appetite for hip, hard-to-find clothing. Even men are jumping onboard, with apparel stores like Road--which got its start in 2005 when brothers Raj and Akhil Shah, 52 and 50, respectively, debuted a flagship store in downtown Seattle, offering specialty apparel for 30- to 60-year-old men. Sales for 2006 grew 700 percent over sales for 2005.

Among women, hot growth areas include specialty athletic apparel, maternitywear, footwear, clothing for over 40s, and petite and plus sizes. When it comes to these categories, think high-end. Market research firm The NPD Group notes that loyal customers of upscale retailers purchase more than 25 percent of their apparel at high-end stores and spend an average of $95 per shopping trip, even on staples like pants and dresses.

That's where brands like Trigelle come into play. Liza Boquiren, 30, co-founded the Brea, California, women's golfwear company with sister and sole designer Lulu Faddis, 35, and friends Jocylyn Corpuz and Karen Lee Santos, both 29. "We want to be the golf line that people go to," says Boquiren, who debuted Trigelle's line of cute golf apparel at a trade show in 2004 with just 17 pieces. "We want to be a household name." Now available in more than 250 golf resorts, pro shops and high-end retailers worldwide, Trigelle projects $1.3 million in sales for 2007--helped in part by the three professional women golfers they sponsor.

Ready to get started with your own specialty apparel business? Don't bypass these tips.

Define your market, whether it's over 40 women or petite athletes. Doing so will help you determine where to focus your research and development. For Boquiren, that means enlisting the help of professional women golfers who not only wear Trigelle clothing, but also have great advice about how to design golf apparel. "Their insight is very important to us," she says.

Consider building your business with e-commerce. If word spreads about your specialty apparel, people will come looking for it. And if they can't find it in a store, they'll want to find it online. Says Boquiren, "We get calls every day from people asking how they can get a certain piece of clothing."

Hone your selling skills. No matter where you sell your clothing, the bottom line is that there's going to be selling involved--either to consumers directly or to retailers. "Ask yourself, 'How do I provide something different [than what my customers have]?'" advises Boquiren. And if you're a retailer, "keep in mind [your] clientele," she adds. "If it's not the right fit for [a customer], back off."

Have a realistic outlook on startup costs. How much will you spend? How can you save money? Boquiren and her team spent about $100,000 of their own money to start and sought private investment capital later. They also worked out of their homes. Saving money in this way has allowed the company to expand into office space in Brea as well as a warehouse in nearby Santa Fe Springs.

Solve a problem. Trigelle solved a problem by creating cute golf apparel for women. Doing so has resulted in a loyal, growing customer base. And you can do the same. What problem can you solve?

Specialty Apparel:

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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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