4th Annual Million-Dollar Ideas

Home Entertainment Installation

Do you have friends who dream of custom-built home theaters with surround sound, automatic lights and a big-screen digital TV? We thought so--according to the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA), 86 percent of U.S. adults want home entertainment systems. And they're creating a tidal wave of demand for expert installers.

David Harwell and Greg Hill, founders of Audio Video Unplugged in Farmers Branch, Texas, are meeting that need. Offering custom-designed systems that start at about $20,000 and go well into the six figures, the pair expects sales to top $2 million this year. Business is so robust, in fact, that the partners work only on referrals and have had to turn customers away.

The government's recent mandate that all TVs larger than 13 inches be digital by July 1, 2007 is fueling industry growth. "That gave a big boost to the audio-video industry," says Hill, 30. "If you're going to digital, you have to have people who can help you implement the technology in your home."

NEXT STEP
Magazines to be aware of: Audio Video Interiors, Home Theater magazine, Home Theater Builder magazine, The Perfect Vision and The Absolute Sound and Sound and Vision magazine.

More than just entertainment, this industry encompasses everything from security systems to home computer networking. Right now, most clientele is affluent, though as the technology becomes more affordable, it will trickle down to more modest-income consumers, creating huge market potential, predicts CEDIA president Jeff Hoover.

This business can be tough, though: Hoover notes there's a shortage of labor who can master the ever-changing technology. Harwell, 37, agrees. "We have very competent people," he says, "[but] it requires special individuals."

In addition to finding talented employees, a key to success is making sure to pitch potential customers on the ease-of-use angle. "Nobody buys a 'home network,'" says Hoover. "What they buy is the convenience that a home networking system provides."

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This article was originally published in the January 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: 4th Annual Million-Dollar Ideas.

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