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More Hot Trends 2008

Growth Areas

Social Entrepreneurship
Social entrepreneurs are turning their business acumen to social issues, making a difference instead of just a buck. Both experienced and new entrepreneurs are finding that what works for business can also work for social change. The academic sector is helping drive this change, as well as the media and the funding field, says Lara Galinsky of Echoing Green, an angel investment firm that seed funds social entrepreneurs.

Like many social entrepreneurship organizations, Echoing Green was started by General Atlantic, a wealthy private equity firm. "They wanted to apply what worked for them to social change," says Galinsky. "Because there are so many people who've become wealthy quickly in the past [several] years, we're seeing more early adopters of social entrepreneurship." Examples: The One Laptop per Child project led by Nicholas Negroponte, and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar's Omidyar Network, which invests in microfinance institutions.

But this isn't just a rich man's game. Many new entrepreneurs are starting social enterprises, and business schools are helping. According to a survey conducted by the World Resources Institute and The Aspen Institute, 54 percent of the 91 business schools surveyed required students to take a course in ethics, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, or business and society. Organizations like Echoing Green are the next step, helping young activists fund their social entrepreneurship dreams. There are more resources than ever to help you get a social enterprise off the ground. --L.T.

Government Contracting
Good news for businesses seeking their fortune in government contracting: Federal procurement spending rose from $377.5 billion in 2005 to $412.1 billion in 2006, and 40 cents of each discretionary dollar spent went to a private firm.

"We clearly see the trends shifting [to a] breakout for small business. It's unmistakably clear," says Tim Walsh, president and CEO of ePipeline Inc., a federal contracting opportunity research service. Based on the contract opportunities ePipeline is tracking, Walsh sees growth in the operations and maintenance arena--small-business set-asides there grew from 54 percent in 2002 to 64 percent in 2007--as well as IT, where he says large contracts are being unbundled for small businesses.

Women- and veteran-owned businesses, especially those owned by service-disabled veterans, are also on the government's radar. Tom Johnson, publisher of Set-Aside Alert, a government contracting newsletter in based in Bethesda, Maryland, believes a set-aside for women-owned small businesses should be a reality in 2008. "That's been in the works for more than five years," says Johnson.

Regarding the SBA's recertification of small companies that got acquired by large firms so they will no longer count toward small-business contracting goals, Johnson doesn't see a widespread impact: "As far as small business, most of the agencies are meeting their goals. The impact is going to be on those companies that have grown and are being acquired more than [on] the companies that are still small." --L.T.

Weddings
Saying "I do" will never go out of style, if the $72 billion-per-year wedding marketplace is any clue. Brides and grooms seek goods and services to make their day special--and are willing to spend an average of $27,000 to get it right. Even second weddings are becoming more popular. Ann Nola, founder and director of the Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants, says, "If they didn't have the wedding of their dreams the first time, they're having it the second time."

And with the nearly 80 million echo boom kids starting to hit marriageable age, look for this market to continue to grow. Weddings are also going green, notes wedding planner Loree Tillman of Tillman & Co., who says couples are purchasing everything from natural fiber wedding gowns to recycled paper invitations to organic food and wine to show their environmental savvy.

Today, 85 percent of couples use the internet to help plan their weddings, and Kristin and David Ciccolella, , 38 and 40, respectively, are smack in the middle with WedAlert.com. Their Hackensack, New Jersey, online directory matches couples with local wedding vendors. With $3 million in sales, Kristin notes, "No matter what is going on in the world--whether the economy is booming or in a recession--people are still getting married, and we want to capitalize on that." --N.L.T.

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