Have You Heard the Latest?

Counsel on Aging

Even stronger than the power of McDonald's is that of baby boomers, and two particularly strong service industries target this segment. By caring for aging parents and young children, senior- and child-service providers are giving boomers a hand. "We're a dual-income society--only one out of 10 families are one-income families," says Jerry Clum, founder and CEO of Comfort Keepers, a nonmedical senior-care franchise. "And whereas people used to provide assistance to their aging parents, it's more difficult now, because we're all so busy and, many times, hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from each other."

Whether due to time or distance constraints, consumers are turning to franchises like Comfort Keepers to provide companionship, light housekeeping, meal preparation and other in-home services to seniors. When medical care is needed, companies like Right at Home Inc. fill the gap.

With our aging population, the need for medical and nonmedical senior-care services won't be lessening soon. "Unlike faddish concepts that have a short duration, there are few substitutes for this service," says Allen Hager, president of Right at Home. "Actually, [the market] will start getting really exciting in about 15 years." He's probably right, considering seniors 65 and over, who currently account for 12 percent of the U.S. population, will double in number over the next 20 years.

Meanwhile, children under 13 constitute about 20 percent of the population, pointing to a mature market for retailers like Once Upon a Child and USA Baby, and child-care companies like The Goddard Schools and Kiddie Academy.

Child enrichment programs, offering supplemental education and extracurricular activities, are also making an impact. Parents send children ages 5 to 17 to Drama Kids classes as a creative outlet, but find other benefits from the program. "We often receive letters from prior Drama Kids students in high school or college who thank us for building their speaking skills and their confidence," says president Doug Howard. "It's fun to keep track of their success and know we played a small role in it."

FasTracKids' goal is to prepare young children, ages 3 to 6, for school. This program works on communication skills, decision-making, teamwork and negotiation skills, to be used in elementary school and beyond. "This is very popular right now--even President Bush is talking about 'no child left behind,' which is exactly what we're doing," says Amy Kaufman, marketing manager for FasTracKids. "We're responding to the policies the government is giving--that's why we believe we'll grow even faster."

Tech Connection
Another segment that keeps growing is tech consulting. As more families buy computers and more small companies spring up, someone needs to provide the needed IT services. "We've targeted the largest sector of the computer industry--72 million households with one or more computers and the 10.5 million small businesses with 20 or fewer employees," says Walter Ewell, president of Geeks on Call.

While there's no shortage of demand for these services, technology-consulting franchises still have a hurdle to overcome. "Right now, the tech support industry is fragmented with 50,000 to 60,000 independent computer companies that range in size from one-person to 10-person shops," says David A. Milman, CEO of Rescuecom. Geeks on Call, Rescuecom and a few other tech support franchises are working to move the segment away from such a smattering of independents and create recognizable name brands.

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This article was originally published in the January 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Have You Heard the Latest?.

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