Every year, Entrepreneur eagerly anticipates our "Hot" meeting-a daylong discussion of the trends, markets and ideas we think will be hot for the coming year. Besides hashing out what's hot, we also assess ways entrepreneurs can parlay these trends into new business ideas. This year, we noticed four strategies smart entrepreneurs are using:
1. Tap the countertrend. For every trend, there's a potentially lucrative countertrend waiting to be noticed. Consider C&C California, the Los Angeles T-shirt company whose "classic" T-shirts have struck a chord with women sick of skimpy, midriff-baring tops. While the niches you'll target when catering to a countertrend are generally small, they often have passionately loyal followers. And if the countertrend becomes as big as the original trend, won't you be glad you got in on the ground floor?
2. Eat off the big guys' plate. Trend agency Trendwatching.com coined the term "feeder business" for companies that feed off giants like Amazon or eBay. Instead of trying to compete with Match.com (so the feeder mind-set goes), why not start a business to help Match.com's clients write better online ads, take "glamour photos," or make sure that potential Mr. Right really is who he says he is? Other thriving feeder industries include eBay drop-off stores and eBay software. Chew on this: How could you feed off Google? Starbucks? Wal-Mart?
3. Switch the niche. Take a tried-and-true product or service meant for one market, tailor it to a different market, and marvel at why you didn't think of it before. When John and Cynthia Ham couldn't find wallpaper borders to reflect their African-American heritage, they didn't get frustrated-they got inspired to create Cultural Hangups Inc., a Huntersville, North Carolina, company that sells ethnic-themed wallpaper borders, home décor and bedding. Translating products and services from people to pets (kosher dog food), from adults to kids (yoga and cooking classes), from women to men (skin-care products), or from the masses to a minority group (wedding planning for gay couples) are just a few ways to make this one work.
4. Borrow a business model. Charging members a set monthly fee to borrow an unlimited number of DVDs by mail worked for Netflix. No wonder smart entrepreneurs have since "borrowed" Netflix's business model to use in other industries. Los Angeles-based GameFly rents video games by mail; Booksfree.com in Vienna, Virginia, lends paperbacks by mail; and in perhaps the most creative twist we've come across, Bag Borrow or Steal, in Sunny Isles, Florida, lets its fashion-mad members borrow designer purses by mail. Is there a smart concept you could borrow?
When you visit our Hot Center, keep these approaches in mind. Throw in a little of your own inspiration, and you'll be on your way to turning today's hottest trends into profitable business ideas of your own.
Karen Axelton, Steve Cooper, Mike Hogan, Amanda C. Kooser, Gwen Moran, April Y. Pennington, Chris Penttila, Karen E. Spaeder, Laura Tiffany, Nichole L. Torres, Sara Wilson and David Worrell contributed to the articles in our 2005 Hot Center. Additional research by Steve Cooper, Natalia Olenicoff, Rebecca Villaneda and Jeri Yoshida.