13 Hot Businesses for 2005

Performance Apparel

Today's clothing needs to offer more than just a fashion statement--it needs to offer value and practicality. That's the thinking behind the growing industry of performance apparel.

Performance apparel is clothing with a purpose, like shirts that offer UV protection or sunglasses with an embedded MP3 player for active people who love the outdoors. You may have been donning performance threads for a couple of years without even realizing it--think wrinkle-free pants and stain-resistant shirts. Apparel that's really pushing the envelope includes clothes that clean themselves; suits that monitor the body and deliver drugs like insulin when necessary; raincoats that receive real-time weather forecasts, notifying the wearer of the outdoor conditions; pants that repel insects; washable suits; and anti-microbial underwear.

Bill McNally, co-founder of Noble Fiber Technologies in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, has created X-Static, a silver-woven textile fiber that's easily incorporated into any textile material and enables the material to kill odor and bacteria while enhancing existing sweat-wicking systems. McNally, who has a biomedical background, recognized the benefits of X-Static for the medical community and also saw applications for use in the military and consumer markets.

"To maximize the performance of a given product, you need to be able to deliver multiple benefits--and that's what we do," says McNally, 43, whose company has seen exponential growth each year since it was founded in 1996.

David Schmida, executive director of the International Association of Clothing Designers & Executives , predicts that by 2010, some 40 percent of all garments sold will have some performance apparel element to them. "Where I see the entrepreneur coming in is in nontraditional uses of fabrics or technologies in apparel," says Schmida. For example, Schmida says entrepreneurs might develop a new fabric for the military but find a use for it in golfwear. Schmida adds that fitness and leisure-time clothing are the hottest segment of the performance apparel market today.

McNally can attest to that: His product was used by 61 countries during the Athens Olympics; Johnson & Johnson and NASA are also on his client roster. One success secret is pretty simple, he says: "Value is a recession-proof asset."-S.C.

Functional Food

Water isn't just water anymore--it can now be fortified with vitamins and minerals to enhance your health. And the same goes for nutrition bars, shakes, snacks, cookies--you name it, and companies are adding nutrients like calcium and soy protein to enhance it. Such "functional foods" experienced an average of 9 percent growth year-over-year, accounting for $22.8 billion in U.S. sales in 2003, growing from$13.7 billion in 1997, according to the Nutrition Business Journal .

Promising benefits that range from defeating dehydration to alleviating joint pain, functional foods are marketed to play up their health and wellness benefits. It was, in fact, a search for something to relieve his mother's menopause discomfort that led Dr. Aaron Tabor to create his company, Revival Soy . Founding the company in 1998 while he was in medical school, Tabor wanted to create a line of shakes, bars, snacks and such that would harness the positive health effects of soy but taste good, too. Tabor patented the process he'd found for isolating the most beneficial elements of soy and, adding them to his products, began putting the Revival Soy products through clinical trials. To date, the company has 20 such trials completed or underway, offering evidence of the products' health benefits. "I've been able to touch hundreds of thousands of people now, [compared to] if I'd just gone into clinical practice," says Tabor, 34. Selling direct to consumers via a toll-free number and the internet, Kernersville, North Carolina-based Revival Soy has annual sales of more than $20 million.

Patrick Rea, research director with Nutrition Business Journal, notes that nutrition bars remain one of the most popular functional food items, while drinks and snack foods also show a strong market presence. Still, he notes that it's a challenge to get noticed among all the competition--especially because you'll want to get your product on the shelf beside those from huge companies. To get started, check out Functional Foods & Nutraceuticals magazine , not only to find out what's going on in the market, but also to see the listing of functional food technologies and innovations to possibly license and put into food products.-Nichole L. Torres

Financial Planning

Now entering their retirement years, 77 million baby boomers are finding themselves forced to deal with financial planning and asset management if they want to live comfortably well into retirement. From the wealth boomers are expected to inherit in the next few years to management of the money they've earned in long careers, there's a need for good financial planning. Still, according to a 2003 survey by financial services company ING, 62 percent of baby boomers spend one hour or less on retirement planning activities per month, while 32 percent say they don't spend any time on it at all.

And therein lies a huge market--or plethora of markets. "Even within the baby boomer demographic, find a niche--a target group," advises Michael Kitces, director of financial planning for Pinnacle Advisory Group Inc. , a wealth management company based in Columbia, Maryland. There's opportunity, he notes, for financial planners to target boomers within a specific asset level, for example, or even boomers getting ready to retire from a specific profession or industry.

Bruce Fenton started wealth managment and private banking firm Atlantic Financial Inc. , now based in Boston, in 1994. He targets boomers as his main clients and warns that they are a particularly demanding group. "Boomers tend to be savvy consumers," says Fenton, 32. He has built his business to more than $1 million in annual sales by meeting those demands as well as being highly communicative with his clientele.

While the boomer market is highly competitive, forward-thinking entrepreneurs can also target Gen X and Gen Y consumers. Jonathan Guyton, principal with Cornerstone Wealth Advisors Inc . in Minneapolis, notes that financial planners can get into the business today by managing the assets of slightly younger consumers--who often don't have the same large net worth as boomers--and build a long-term trust with those clients over the years. But whatever niche you ultimately choose, Guyton sees a trend of more service-oriented vs. product-oriented financial planners--those who are paid a fee to provide ongoing advice on all relevant financial matters.-N.L.T.

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