Hot Stuff

Women's Fitness Centers, eBay & Medical Supply

Hot Biz:Women's Fitness Centers
Women's fitness is big business: Women comprise 52 percent of the slightly more than 36 million health club members in the United States, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. The health club industry generated $13 billion in total revenues in 2002.

The strength of the women's fitness market isn't lost on savvy companies. Curves for Women, a Waco, Texas-based women's fitness franchise, is seeing tremendous growth with its 30-minute workout concept. Even the 111-year-old dancewear company Danskin is getting into the act with a line of weight training equipment just for women.

Women's fitness is booming, says Mark Mastrov, founder and CEO of 24 Hour Fitness , a San Ramon, California-based fitness center with more than 300 locations. Women account for 48 percent of its membership. "That number continues to grow," he says. "Women are really getting into personal training, working out with a trainer who can teach them about nutrition and the proper way to exercise."

"Exercise spas" combining spa treatments with Pilates and yoga are emerging around the country, and women's strength training is benching sturdy growth, too. Burr and Carl Diehl, married and both 56, are co-owners of The Bar Method, an exercise studio in San Francisco. They've also licensed the name to owners who have locations in Los Angeles and Connecticut. With estimated 2003 sales of $500,000 from their San Francisco studio, Burr says, "We're growing at a pretty [good] pace."

Opportunities also abound in nutrition, personal training, workout reminders, progress tracking, clothing and equipment. 24 Hour Fitness' research shows women want a maximum drive time of 12 minutes followed by a 30-to-45-minute workout. "Women are looking for something convenient, social and close to home," Mastrov says. "If you're creating a new entrepreneurial concept aimed at the women's fitness market, pick the right location, and make sure you have staying power inside a very strong experience- and service-oriented concept. You've got great opportunity right now." Understand what women want, and you could fit right in. -C.P.

Learn More

  • Association of Women's Fitness - Check out the online home of this women's fitness association, which offers women a chance to meet both formally and informally to share and promote their overall health and fitness.
  • American Council on Exercise - ACE is a nonprofit fitness certification and education provider. Their site features a free newsletter, fit facts, job listings and more.
  • Entrepreneur's How to Start a Personal Training Business - Offering information on everything from start-up costs and marketing ideas to day-to-day operations, this guide can show you how to put your interest in fitness to work for your by showing others how to get and stay in shape.

Hot Biz:eBay
It's easy to get started on eBay. Unearth your forgotten knickknacks or old clothing, snap some photos, and in minutes they can be up for auction. But with 16 million items up for sale, and sales totaling $61 million on any given day, transforming your weekend hobby into a full-time eBay business and really making some noise on this vast site will be your challenge.

So what's hot right now on eBay? Just about everything. Home and garden items grew 151 percent between second quarter 2002 and second quarter 2003. Clothing and accessories grew 103 percent; vehicles, parts and accessories grew 93 percent; and consumer electronics grew 63 percent in that same time period.

Gotham City Online founders Jonathan Garriss, 33, and David Topkins, 31, have found success in the clothing category on eBay, auctioning overstock merchandise for their retail clients since 1999. This niche has brought the New York City-based business an estimated $7 million in sales for 2003, and with projections double that for 2004, it's safe to say the duo has found the eBay formula for success.

They use their eBay Store-a subscription-priced, customizable site that provides eBay sellers with their own URL, discounted fees and a one-stop shop where buyers can easily search all Gotham City auctions-to let customers find what they want more quickly. They advertise their outside site on Google and Overture, and then use it to drive traffic to their eBay auctions and to work with their retail partners.

The biggest secret to running a successful eBay enterprise is customer service, a tactic in which Garriss is well-versed. "We want to remove all barriers holding back a shopper," says Garriss. "We have a return policy, run free-shipping promos [and] offer combined shipping. All our packages are insured at no additional cost, and we post a toll-free number for our customers to contact us if they have any questions." -Laura Tiffany

Learn More

  • Shop.org - This site is the online home of the National Retail Federation, whose focus is to provide support for online retailing executives. Membership fees start at $2,500 annually, which allows access to the site's member directory, teleconference archive and other member-only content.
  • MarketingExperiments.com - This Web site tests Internet marketing strategies then publishes the results for all its subscribers to read-and best of all, your subscription is free.

For more on starting your own eBay business, read "Finding Your Niche on eBay" here .

Hot Biz:Medical Supply
With baby boomers fast approaching the age where chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes and respiratory ailments set in, and with the number of seniors expected to grow to 70 million by 2030, according to the U.S. Administration on Aging, the medical supplies and equipment industry will continue to grow.

Though the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently took action against abuses of the Medicare program by temporarily halting issuance of new supplier numbers, which vendors need to sell their products, they are expected to begin issuing numbers again early next year. New applications will be heavily scrutinized, making entr�e into this industry more difficult but not impossible. Most experts say the extra effort will pay off for entrepreneurs, as the size of this market continues to boom. "Families of senior citizens will rely on quality home health care more and more," says Kay Cox, president and CEO of the American Association for Homecare , which represents the home medical equipment and supplies industry. "The entire home-care industry is growing consistently-no one particular segment has been left behind. And the number of patients is rising steadily."

Samer Ariss, 29, and Farshad Firouznam, 30, started their home medical supplies business in 1998 after hearing about the opportunity from doctors they knew. Forgoing dental and medical school, the pair invested $16,000 of their own money and hours of building relationships with area doctors to grow Orange, California-based Global Care into a $6 million business. Ariss credits the success to the partners' focus on a specific niche: respiratory and sleep apnea products. They've also expanded to include a mail order pharmacy. Says Ariss, "At the end of the day, you're really helping older people live normal lives." -G.M.P.

Learn More

  • MedMarket - Browse this medical search index for manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, purchasing agents and physicians.
  • American Medical News - This online news site for physicians covers topics ranging from government and professional issues to business, and health and science.

Steve Cooper, Amanda C. Kooser, Gisela M. Pedroza, April Y. Pennington, Chris Penttila, Devlin Smith, Karen E. Spaeder, Laura Tiffany and Nichole L. Torres contributed to this article. Additional research was conducted by Steve Cooper.

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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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