On a Shoestring

Convenience Businesses

The ranks of the time-starved are growing faster than you can say "Fetch me a cab." More than 134 million Americans are employed, spending an average of 44 hours a week on the job, and more U.S. women are working outside the home than ever before, according to the Families and Work Institute in New York City. This means the weary are turning to others for help with the tasks of everyday life.

For example, people who need help with planning and making meals present a great opportunity for service-minded entrepreneurs. As disenchantment with tasteless frozen dinners grows, personal chefs are becoming much in demand. For a fee of about $300, personal chefs like Tom and Nadine Manning, the 36- and 33-year-old co-owners, respectively, of Truly Unique Personal Chef Services in Medford, New Jersey, shop for groceries, then go to clients' homes, and use their own equipment to prepare nine or 10 restaurant-quality meals. All clients do is take the meals out of the freezer, heat and enjoy.

The Mannings started their business with $2,000 in marketing materials and basic office equipment and now earn yearly sales of more than $90,000.

An estimated 4,000 personal chefs are in business around the country, according to David MacKay, founder of the U.S. Personal Chef Association. While it's not necessary to have worked as a professional chef, it is essential for a personal chef to have excellent cooking skills, lots of energy and a strong desire to please.

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This article was originally published in the August 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: On a Shoestring.

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