From the February 2004 issue of Entrepreneur

What do women want? That question has been asked by millions of men (and other women) throughout the ages. Many magazines have attempted to answer, promising to reveal the innermost secrets of womankind. Well, don't get too excited-we're not spilling our guts here (though the women of Entrepreneur could probably tell you a thing or two). But we will give you the scoop about one of the nation's, if not the world's, most important and influential markets: women.

This is an area where female entrepreneurs can claim a natural advantage; after all, they are consumers as well as business owners. And while Entrepreneur has many women readers, about 60 percent of our readers are men. So in the interest of leveling the playing field, we're going to clue you all in. In the past several decades, as tens of millions of American women left the house and entered the work force, they accumulated a lot of buying power. In addition to what women actually buy, they also influence a ton of other purchases made by family members and friends. And that's just in their roles as consumers. Add their relatively new roles in the business marketplace, and you start to understand why marketing to women should be an integral part of almost any entrepreneur's plan.

This is not as easy as it sounds. Many a costly mistake has been made by big and small businesses alike in underestimating the women's market. I can remember a time when mega-corporations, in their attempt to appeal to women, simply took existing products, made them pink and expected millions to flow into their coffers. Needless to say, that didn't happen. (More women hate pink than you would imagine-I'm one of them.)

I don't want to imply that women are a monolithic market. We are not. As you likely have figured out by now, we don't all want or need the same things. So what do we want? Sorry, no answers here. But if you turn to page 54 and read Joanne Cleaver's "What Women Want," you'll not only learn what we want, but how you can take (business) advantage of this knowledge.

One of our goals here at Entrepreneur is to anticipate what you need to know to grow your businesses and show you how you can gain an edge on your competitors. But as much as we try, we can't be everywhere. And we don't know everything. (Shocking, I know.) So you have to do your part. Keep your eyes and ears open. What are your friends and colleagues talking about? Watching on TV? Eating? Their habits could be part of a larger trend you can incorporate into your business.

For instance, have you noticed how many people are followers of the Atkins or South Beach diets? Chances are, at least several of the folks you see and talk to every day are low-carb devotees. And while I don't expect you to become the nation's next diet guru, there are ways many of you can adapt at least a part of your business to capitalize on the low-carb trend. We'll be letting you in on the scoop in the May issue of Entrepreneur.

It's hard to predict what's hot and what's not. Who would have guessed that one of the biggest hits of the 2003 TV season would feature five gay men? But the one thing that remains constant in all entrepreneurs' lives is that nothing is constant. Especially here in America, what's in and what's out can change in the blink of an eye, and if you're not aware, you could lose what you've worked so hard to gain.