From the November 2003 issue of Startups

Been tossing around the idea of starting your own business? Well, you couldn't have picked a better time. With the holidays bearing down on us quickly, everyone around you needs some sort of help.

So how do you parlay these needs into some cold, hard, holiday cash? Look no further than these 10 ideas to get you started.

1. Personal Shopper. Unfortunately, many people now regard holiday shopping as more of a chore than a joy. So who would turn down a chance to give someone (namely, you) the responsibility of doing the dirty work? Quote potential customers a reasonable hourly rate, and you'll probably end up with more business than you can handle.

2. Gift-Wrapping Service. Gift-wrapping is a similar chore hardly anyone enjoys. Setting up a gift-wrapping service can work a few ways. After picking up supplies from someplace like a dollar store, you can either be a traveling wrapper or talk to the management at a local shopping center or mall about setting up a table. Either way, print plenty of flyers, wrap a few sample boxes and price according to size.

3. Caterer. If you like to cook or bake, there are plenty of people who could use your help around the holidays. The festive season translates into parties and social gatherings, and the people attending those parties will want food. Ask your parents if you can advertise your business to their friends, and prepare samples of your products so potential customers can taste before they hire you.

4. Party Planner. If you're considering a catering service, why not pair it with some party planning skills? You may need a few friends to help you, but your parents' friends will appreciate help setting up, decorating and cleaning up after their gatherings and, chances are, they'll pay a pretty penny for the convenience.

5. Holiday Decorator. How does creating and selling homemade holiday decorations sound? If you love the holidays and find creating decorations to be a piece of cake, you'll find lots of business at community centers, religious institutions and craft shows. All these places and more hold holiday events where you can sell your homemade goodies.

6. Selling Crafts. Are you crafty in other ways besides making holiday decorations? In addition to homemade decorations, holiday shoppers love the personal touch that comes with buying something handcrafted rather than mass-produced to give as a gift. Use the same places as in "Holiday Decorator" as possible sales locations.

7. Cards and Calendars. Besides Christmas, there are a number of celebrations that fall in December, including Passover and Kwanza. During this season of gift-giving and card-sending, a computer whiz with a flair for creating cards and calendars will find lots of customers.

8. Gift Basket Service. What would you like in a gift basket if you were an avid gardener? An attorney? A mom of four? Put together some fun items in attractive baskets for different types of people and you might just have some big sellers on your hands.

9. Outdoor Décor Service. Putting up holiday lights and outdoor decorations is fun for some people and torture for others. Many people would happily pay someone a good price to take this chore off their hands.

10. Balloon Bouquet Service. Helium tanks, balloons and ribbon are all available at very reasonable prices from party supply stores, so why not pick some up and start a balloon bouquet business? Advertising is easy-just attach a business card to a single balloon and hand them out to potential customers. Don't forget to include businesses, many of which hold holiday parties for their employees.

More Resources
  • Read how one young entrepreneur turned his love of woodworking into a thriving holiday business called Ken's Pens at YoungBiz.com.

Amy Fennell Christian, a writer living in Augusta, Georgia, is a freelance editor for YoungBiz.com