Making a million is a milestone--the defining moment of success for many entrepreneurs and an attainable goal for those tapped into today's hottest trends. Entrepreneurs are keeping their fingers on the pulse of what's hot in today's marketplace. They are the trendsetters, the pioneers, the ones to watch as they lead the pack, followed closely by franchisors poised to capitalize on winning ideas and spread concepts nationwide.
Already dreaming about living the good life as a millionaire? We've compiled the most lucrative trends across seven industries. But keep in mind that regardless of the route you choose--whether it's going solo or buying a franchise--arriving at your first million in sales will require persistence, strategy and, in most cases, multiple locations. And in case you doubt it's doable, we got the scoop from savvy entrepreneurs who went from zero to a million.
Fountain of Youth
With the first baby boomers starting to hit 60, America is fighting tooth and nail to stave off the signs of time. In 2004, Americans spent about $44.6 billion on anti-aging products and services, according to Business Communications Co. Inc., an information resource company. But that's nothing compared to the $72 billion market it's expected to mature into by 2009.
Why the sense of urgency? Vanity is part of it, and the fact that we're living longer adds to the need for enduring youth. But there's also the fact that many baby boomers won't be financially able to leave the work force as early as their parents did and will have no choice but to stay vital and active, says Maddy Dychtwald, co-founder of Age Wave, a think tank focused on boomers and the aging of the population. According to a study by the National Association of Realtors, the median age at which baby boomers expect to stop working is 70, but 27 percent say they never intend to stop working. Dychtwald predicts that this will open up all kinds of opportunities to entrepreneurs--such as those who can create wellness centers and bring together a variety of health and nutrition specialists under one roof.
Jeni Garrett is one of those entrepreneurs providing a mind and body oasis to baby boomers desperate for rejuvenation. In 2001, after enjoying the benefits of spa visits herself, Garrett, now 28, founded The Woodhouse Day Spa, a luxury spa in Victoria, Texas. A year and a half later, she set her sights on turning the brand into a household name. She first planned to open more company-owned locations, but Garrett soon turned to franchising to spread the concept. "With our business model, you really need an owner/operator present because of the staffing issues and to do the marketing initiative," she says. "Franchising lent itself very well to that."
To move forward, Garrett knew the foundation had to be solid. She chose a top-notch franchise lawyer and streamlined operations, even ordering the fixtures for the franchisees. With her franchise system in place, she has positioned herself perfectly to accommodate the growing clientele of baby boomers. To further meet the needs of this segment, she added a menu of services that boasts 15 holistic, all-natural treatments that focus more on wellness than pampering. She is enjoying success with a multimillion-dollar business as more boomer women--and men--make the spa experience part of their lifestyles. Says Garrett, "We're seeing [spas] move from a level of luxury to a level of necessity for wellness."
The Sweet Life
The nation's sweet tooth is becoming more insatiable, driving everything from the franchising industry, where cookies and ice cream concepts are growing categories, to the fine-dining industry, where diners are staying more often for the grand finale.
Dessert has become such a significant portion of the food industry that it's warranted its own annual trade show since 2003. Meanwhile, according to Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research at the National Restaurant Association, almost 1 in 3 fine-dining operators reported that consumers bought more desserts last year than in the two previous years. In an increasing number of cases, high-end desserts are stealing the spotlight, as entire independent restaurant concepts are being founded on the premise of tasty, upscale indulgence.
Paul Conforti and Kim Moore, 36 and 40, respectively, researched the restaurant industry for a year while attending Harvard Business School before they opened the doors to their first upscale, dessert-focused restaurant, Finale Desserterie & Bakery, in Boston in 1998. Offering an exquisite menu featuring Valrhona chocolate, honey caramel gelato, nougat mousse and cherry almond Florentines, they are often credited with the distinction of starting the first high-end dessert concept. Their focus is as much on high-quality ingredients as it is on the overall experience. Says Conforti, "Making sure [customers] have the best dessert of their life is important, but it's also about the atmosphere, service, background music [and] cleanliness of the restaurant."
They have since grown their restaurant concept into a $6 million-plus business and are about to open their fourth location this month. Planning to open three more locations in Massachusetts next year and to reach Washington, DC, by 2009, they are working toward their ultimate goal of going nationwide. With an idea as divine as upscale desserts, $1 million in sales can be achieved with only one location, and the proof is in the pudding: One of Conforti and Moore's locations makes twice that much annually.