Hot Stuff

Home Automation, Specialty Exercise Aftermarket & Home Improvement

Hot Biz:Home Automation
The mythic Jetsons-style home with its automatic lighting and easy room-to-room communication is no longer a figment of the imagination. The demand for home networking is growing, with nearly 86 percent of consumers wanting to install custom electronics in their homes, according to the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA). Home security systems top the list of desired automated amenities, followed by home entertainment, lighting and window coverings. Formerly a perk for just the very wealthy, the trend is starting to trickle down to more middle-class consumers, says Jeff Hoover, president of CEDIA.

Joe Dada, founder of Smarthome Inc. , a manufacturer and retailer of home automation products in Irvine, California, has seen rising demand from consumers. Dada notes that his customers generally start with a smaller, more inexpensive product-something to control lighting, for example-then move up to other, more elaborate automation products. "Once you've had it, you won't let go," says Dada, 41. He's expanded his $22 million business to include Smarthome Live, a service where customers can monitor their homes live via an Internet connection.

As big-name electronics manufacturers like Dell, Microsoft, Philips and Sony continue to design home automation products for the mass market, the entrepreneurial opportunity will be found in installing and maintaining these systems, says Hoover. Michael Holthouse, 46, founder of Intuitive Homes Inc. , specializes in such installations. This Houston entrepreneur, who expects sales of $2.8 million this year, notes that the challenge comes in integrating pieces of technology from different vendors-but that the end result is astounding to consumers. "The excitement is when homeowners who are not tech-savvy can fully utilize huge amounts of technology-it makes [it] so simple." -Nichole L. Torres

Learn More

  • Home-Automation.org - Here you'll find an online directory of home-automation Web sites ranging from hardware and software to example homes and ideas.
  • HomeToys - With educational and promotional content, this zine covers products, services and news for home automation and networking.

Hot Biz:Specialty Exercise Aftermarket
Today, yoga and Pilates are more than fads; they encompass a lifestyle with huge market potential. According to a June 2003 Harris Interactive/
Yoga Journal survey of 4,000 Americans, 7 percent said they are practicing yoga-a 28.5 percent increase over 2002. One in six respondents said they planned to try yoga for the first time within the next 12 months.

Companies are bending over backward to reach this growing market. Yoga and meditation gear-from clothes and mats to DVDs and music-populates retail shelves. Yoga classes aimed at pregnant women and kids as young as age 3 are rooting firmly in suburbia. Men now comprise 23 percent of U.S. yoga enthusiasts. "There's been a maturation of the market," says Dayna Macy, communications director for Yoga Journal, a magazine that boasted 20 percent circulation growth between 2001 and 2002. "There are all kinds of ways to capitalize on the yoga boom." Yoga-inspired foods, gear aimed at men, instructors who work inside schools and large corporations, and franchising are just a few largely untapped markets.

Roughly 4.7 million Americans also take Pilates, a workout that builds abdominal strength. Maria Leone, owner of Bodyline Fitness, bought into the Pilates studio in Beverly Hills eight years ago and bought it out completely from a partner one year later. Her Pilates on the Go video series, developed about three years ago with business partner Holly Correa, 39, is muscling onto shelves, with an estimated $200,000 in 2003 sales.

If you want to teach, keep your overhead low early on by finding a small gym or chiropractic office that will rent space for one-on-one sessions, suggests Leone, 37. "But you'll need great promotional skills," she says. A Pilates session can range from $50 to $70 per hour. "There's still so much room for growth," Leone says. Meditate on this market, and breaking in might not be such a stretch after all. -C.P.

Learn More

  • North American Studio Alliance - Aimed at the the mind-body community, this site offers a free newsletter, business resources and other membership services ($95 per year), such as alternative health-care programs.
  • 365 Fitness - Click here to access links to pilates Web sites and stores.

Hot Biz:Home Improvement
Home was once where the heart was-now the home is the center of the universe. And consumers are spending lots of money to remodel and refurbish their dwellings to make them more comfortable. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), some 26 million homes are remodeled yearly. The
National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) reports that Americans spent $163 billion on remodeling in 2002.

The proliferation of home improvement shows exemplifies the trend-at press time, there were more than 30 such shows on TV. Vern Yip, a designer on The Learning Channel's popular Trading Spaces series, is at the forefront of trends with his company, Vern Yip Designs in Atlanta. "There's been an increasing turn inward toward what it means to have an amazing home and how that impacts the quality of your life," says Yip. "And people are increasingly entertaining at home."

Mark Brick, NARI's national president, also says homeowners are focused on maximizing their space-from built-in shelves in every nook and cranny to raised ceilings to skylights. "They are using the area they have, and it's being planned out better," says Brick.

Noting that this huge industry is based on service, Brick sees myriad niches and opportunities opening up. These range from traditional fields, such as contracting and interior design, to newer specialties, like interior arranging (designing new spaces with items a client already owns). Making homes more accessible to the aging baby boomer population-adding wheelchair ramps and support rails, for example-is a growing segment, while businesses that design and remodel environmentally sound living spaces continue to develop.

Designing home interiors has been the bread and butter of William Hulsman and Albert Lynch of interior design firm William Hulsman Inc. in Boston. With a focus on classic design, Hulsman, 43, and Lynch, 47, have also added a retail furniture showroom in the Hamptons, Bill Hulsman Home, which they say will top $2 million in sales this year. Hulsman notes that among his clientele, "people are in a transitional mode and being more adventurous with how they want to live. People are recycling what they have and reinterpreting what they [own]-and reinventing themselves." -N.L.T.

Learn More

  • HomeImprovementDirectory.com - This resourceful online directory helps homeowners find contractors and offers contractors a chance to publicize their services.
  • NorthWest Builders Network Inc. - Here, builders and homeowners can find free online resources ranging from energy conservation to architectural planning and design.

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This article was originally published in the December 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hot Stuff.

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