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The business world is abuzz about knowledge. From knowledge workers to knowledge management, it seems what you know does matter after all. Knowing what to do and when to do it separates the doers from the wanna-bes-especially when it comes to starting businesses. That's why we've identified these 10 great ones to start now.
With rental prices for stores with doors on the rise, carts and kiosks have become the fastest way to profits in the retail realm.
"It's a lot cheaper to do this kind of business," says Waly Rizza, who got his start selling sunglasses from carts at the Irvine Spectrum in Southern California six years ago. He parlayed his $25,000 investment (borrowed from his older brother) into $180,000 in sales the first year-and $1.5 million in projected sales for 2001.
Today, Waly and his younger brother and partner, Ali, 21, have nine carts in seven locations that sell sunglasses, jewelry, body art and cigars, and they are always on the prowl at trade shows for new products to sell. "That's what carts do best-capitalize on trends," the 27-year-old Waly explains.
Rizza & Associates Inc. leases its carts, paying a monthly fee plus a percentage of sales to the management of the venues where the carts are located. Other retailers purchase carts, which sell for anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000, according to All A Cart Manufacturing Inc., a Columbus, Ohio-based provider. A key to the success of carts or kiosks is knowing your price point. Waly's suggestion: "Don't sell anything for over $50. This is a low-priced, high-volume business."
For more on starting a kiosk or cart business, check out Deals On Wheels.
If you've got fitness smarts and can motivate others, think about becoming a personal trainer. According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, this industry reaped $10.6 billion in 1999. Dale Huff, 32, and Ellie Zografakis, 27, of St. Louis tapped this lucrative industry in 1997 by founding Nutriformance, a combination personal fitness and nutritional counseling business. The pair started out by contracting with stores that sold exercise equipment; that got them into the homes of people receptive to personal training. "Word-of-mouth spread, and our business took off," Huff says.
Last summer, the team opened a 4,000-square-foot fitness facility that employs 22 people. "We'd been the ghosts behind the scenes working in people's homes," Huff explains. "The facility has given us more visibility." And more earning potential. Nutriformance expects to take in about $1 million this year.
Tech, HR and Success Coaching
Wanted: high-tech workers. That refrain will be sung by employers with increasing frequency. The demand for computer engineers is expected to grow by 108 percent from 1998 to 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
InternalDrive Inc., based in Campbell, California, is doing its part to get the next generation job-ready with its summertime high-tech training courses for kids. "The shortage of tech workers is going to reach epidemic proportions," predicts Pete Ingram-Cauchi, 28, president and co-founder with his mother, Kathryn Ingram. (Rounding out this family business is his sister, Alexa Ingram-Cauchi, who is senior corporate consultant.) "We prepare our students by offering high-quality, cutting-edge technology," says Pete. The trio started from a small home office with $900 three years ago. Last year, the company hit its goal of $1 million in revenue.
The camp's 30 locations, with 13 full-time and roughly 250 seasonal employees, have attracted 5,000 to 8,000 students so far. Kids attend weekly sessions and learn about such subjects as digital video production and robotics.
People skills combined with organizational abilities can net big gains. Just ask Jim Sterling, 45, who used his skills to capitalize on the growing virtual human resources trend two years ago when he launched Sterling Consulting Services LLC in Westerville, Ohio. The HR consulting firm does everything from developing employee handbooks to conducting surveys on morale issues. And the firm's Web site attracts businesses as far away as Scotland.
The ongoing downsizing movement has led to a boom in the HR outsourcing biz. Sixty-nine percent of HR professionals say their organizations use external vendors or consultants to handle HR activities, up from 58 percent in 1999, according to the Bureau of National Affairs and Society.
Eighteen years' experience in corporate HR management made Sterling a natural for this growing field. He invested $10,000 to set up a home office, and his various subcontractors have helped him take in about $200,000 per year.
Personal coaching, while not one of the newest professions (formalized in the 1990s), is one of the fastest-growing. Today, there are more than 10,000 coaches in the United States, up from about 1,000 in 1995, according to CoachU, the grand-daddy of the coach-training programs. Today's brand of coaches is decidedly different, however: Known as success coaches, they advise clients on all areas of their lives.
What does it take to be a success coach? "You have to be able to listen and motivate," says Kristin Taliaferro, 31, founder of KristinCoach.com, a success coaching firm in Dallas. Previously the owner of an executive recruiting firm, Taliaferro launched her company in 1998 with just over $5,000. Today, she coaches 25 to 30 clients per week and expects $123,000 to $206,000 in revenue for 2001. Because, like the majority of coaches, Taliaferro does her work by telephone, her clients hail from as far away as England and Japan. She charges $400 for four sessions or $300 per month for three 30- to 40-minute phone sessions and unlimited e-mail exchanges. She has no employees, but she sends any excess clients she has to a referral network of five other coaches, who then pay her one month's coaching fee for the referral.
If you're still not sure what type of business you want to start, read How to Find the Business That's Right For You and start planning your future today.
Design, Tweens and Staffing
People's urge to feather their nests is a bonanza for the home design industry. Nearly one-third of U.S. adults made home improvements in the 12-month period preceding spring 2000, according to USAData.com and Media-mark Research. And Americans who had kitchen remodeling jobs done in 1998 spent big-an average of $26,888, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association.
All this is good news for those with a knack for decorating or remodeling. If this sounds a bit general to you, you're right. As fans of HGTV can attest, home design is an extremely broad field, emcompassing everything from changing the fabric on an ottoman to putting in a new wall.
Rick Glickman, 42, founder of Skokie, Illinois-based Dream Kitchens, has himself capitalized on a specific niche of the industry. Dream Kitchens designs custom kitchen, bath and other cabinetry using computer-generated drawings based on customers' sketches.
Borrowing money from friends, Glickman established a showroom in 1992 and created a thriving neighborhood business. Then, during a brief slump, Glickman turned to the Web, and things turned better than ever: "The Web site became our second location, even bigger and more important than our first since it's not limited by square footage," he explains. The site gets more than 200,000 hits per month and helped Dream Kitchens take in more than $1 million last year.
They're not adults. They're not quite teens. And don't dare call them children. They're tweens-kids between the ages of 9 and 12. They have big-time spending power-and it's getting bigger. Last year, they were expected to influence $290 billion in sales, according to marketing expert James McNeal, and kids ages 4 to 12 shelled out $23.4 million of their own money, says the nonprofit Center for a New American Dream.
Robin Wells, 40, invested "six figures" of her savings and retirement money to launch Beverly Hills, California-based Royal Heirs, a line of bath and fragrance products for tweens, in 1998. As previous owner of a graphics business marketing fragrances and cosmetics, Wells got a firsthand look at that retail market and saw the dearth of products for young girls.
Her product line features natural, botanical-based fragrances that appeal to both tweens and parents. The dual appeal is the cornerstone of successfully tapping the tween market. "Let's face it, tweens can't drive themselves to the store to buy your products. You have to draw their parents in, too," says Wells.
The two-pronged marketing approach has worked. "We doubled our sales and took in six figures in 2000," says Wells. In April, she even opened her own flagship store, Blossom a Girl's World.
Think you might want to attract a tween audience? Find out more in Keep Your Cool.
Come boom or bust, firms that provide quality employees keep the good times rolling. Staffing is a $72 billion industry that puts 2.9 million people to work each day, according to the American Staffing Association. And the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the staffing industry will grow by 43.1 percent from 1998 to 2008. "Demand for quality people is going up," says Tom Potenza, 34, founder and president of TechLink Inc., a 70-employee staffing firm based in Ramsey, New Jersey, mostly specializing in software developers. Potenza started his business in January 1998 with $60,000 in savings. Last year, TechLink raked in $10 million.
If working with people is your strong suit, check out The Staff of Life for more on how to start a staffing business.
Seniors and Online Advertising
Senior Tech Training
They've got free time, disposable income and the desire to learn. Add to that the fact that senior citizens are the fastest-growing Internet-user population, according to research firm eMarketer, and you've got a market ripe for the taking.
"It's the beginning of the migration of this population to the Web," says Meredith Taylor, CEO of SeniorSurfers Inc., a Mountain View, California, company that provides computer training to seniors. "We see this as a very big business that's only going to get bigger as the baby boomers become seniors."
Last fall, the company raised $4 million in venture capital to launch three initial locations in the state. The company projects earnings of $2 million in 2001 and plans to expand to several other domestic locations across the country later this year.
While most training acquaints seniors with the Internet and e-mail, Taylor and her 16 employees foresee classes morphing into more advanced training as the population becomes more Web-savvy.
Online Ad Directory
As more people go online, more businesses are turning to online ad-vertising. Web advertising spending nearly doubled in 2000 to $6 billion and is expected to soar to $21 billion by 2004, according to eMarketer. Numbers like these grabbed the attention of Tyler Roye, 34, who in 1996 started LongIsland.com in Commack, New York. What began as a spin-off to his Web services company has evolved into a business in its own right with eight employees.
While the Net is global, most business is still local. That's why Roye zeroed in on the Long Island area, where he can build closer relationships. In doing so, he's created a niche in the local directory market.
Most of the directory's $200,000-plus revenue last year was generated from banner ads and corporate sponsorships. Roye attracts customers by adding features that keep LongIsland.com relevant and valuable, like classified ads and a keyword search matrix. Keeping the site fresh has been so effective, Roye expects LongIsland.com's run rate of $30,000 per month to leap to $100,000 by year-end.
Want more ideas on how to start an Internet business? Check out Got Net?
Andrea C. Poe is a Washington, DC-based writer who specializes in small-business, management and human resources issues.
- Dream Kitchens, (847) 933-9100, www.dreamkitchens.com
- InternalDrive Inc., www.internaldrive.com
- Nutriformance, (314) 692-0445, www.nutriformance.com
- Rizza & Associates Inc., 3848 Campus Dr., Newport Beach, CA 92660, www.ebodylights.com
- SeniorSurfers Inc., (650) 962-9200, www.seniorsurfers.com
- Sterling Consulting Services LLC, (740) 657-3982, www.sterlingllc.com
- TechLink Inc., (201) 995-0214, www.techlink-usa.com
- Young At Heart, (323) 937-0024, www.royalheirs.com