If you want to hit the next big thing, it's all about catering to dads who are spending more time with their kids, and who need products and services formerly geared only to mothers. Recent U.S. Census data show there are 25.8 million fathers in married-couple households raising children younger than 18. And there are 2 million preschoolers whose fathers care for them for more hours than any other child-care provider while their mothers are at work. Also counting the 2 million single fathers in the United States, there's a growing demand for father-centric products.
A father himself, Chris Pegula founded his Santa Monica, California, company to make cool diaper bags that resemble messenger bags for dads. Diaper Dude was born about May 2003 after Pegula, 32, couldn't find anything he liked on the market for his outings with his children. Says Pegula, "[I thought] 'I'm just going to design a bag and sell it and see if it works.'" The fashionable bag, an immediate hit with dads, is now available at high-end stores like Fred Segal and Nordstrom, boosting annual sales to a projected $350,000 for 2004.
The dad market is opening up because Gen X men are the new fathers-and being a dad is a priority, says Ann A. Fishman, marketing expert and president of marketing firm Generational Targeted Marketing in New Orleans. Even more than the generations before them, this generation of fathers is concerned with work/life balance and creating an equal parenting partnership, notes Fishman.
Marketing to this niche just takes a bit of forward thinking. Says Fishman, "Quit thinking pink. All [entrepreneurs] have to do is realize that males will be handling the products as much as females." You can create newsletters and Web sites for fathers or create a dad-friendly section on your existing site. From products for new fathers to services aimed at dads with adolescents, this market can run the gamut from electronics and safety products to insurance and financial products. Says Fishman, "There's no limit to where you can go with this."