Coffeehouse

Since 1998, coffee sales at U.S. coffeehouses have increased 77 percent, reaching $6.9 billion in 2003. This translates into a nationwide craving for specialty coffee, and local coffeehouses can meet that need by knowing their communities, finding niches and marketing their brands. "Have a real logo, a real identity for your business. Consistently promote that identity, and you can compete with Starbucks," says David Morris, co-founder of Dillanos Coffee Roasters, a specialty roaster, wholesaler and marketing consultant, and co-author of Brewing a Creative Culture.

Espartaco Borga, one of the masterminds behind the popular Dallas-based restaurant La Duni Latin Café, is not intimidated by the competition. He's working with partners to develop the first stand-alone La Duni Coffee Studio, a Latin coffeehouse concept, by early next year. By featuring homemade pastries, gelatos, a full bar, sandwiches, salads and typical Latin espresso-based drinks, Borga, 41, hopes to appeal to a new type of clientele he has seen emerge-one that seeks to experience new food and customs. Major expansion is expected, with plans to open 30 to 50 Coffee Studios and kiosks in the Dallas Metroplex area and other locations throughout Texas within six years. First-year kiosk sales are expected to reach about $450,000, and nearly $1 million is expected for the higher-end Coffee Studios.

Independent coffeehouses can drink up profits by responding quickly to meet consumers' needs. Morris has seen a spurt in entrepreneurs starting coffee drive-thrus, so much so that they have become the majority of his new customers. Whether people are sitting down or grabbing their java to go, the coffee industry promises profits for everyone as market research firm Mintel International Group Ltd. predicts that by 2008, total U.S. coffeehouse sales will increase 46 percent over 2003.

Specialty Travel

After a period of turmoil following 9/11, SARS and terrorism threats, the travel industry is finally beginning to stabilize-with some differences. Group travel is becoming popular, grandparents are increasingly traveling with their grandchildren, and specialty travel-often involving "soft" adventure in exotic places-is now hotter than ever.

People are increasingly seeking out ways to learn about new cultures in a safe environment. "[There tends to be] a spike in escorted or packaged tours when something like 9/11 occurs," says Julio Soto, director of sales for the SignaTours product line of AAA Auto Club South. Started about 10 years ago, SignaTours features a variety of specialty travel trips, including Harley-Davidson tours.

Heather Hardwick, vice president of Menlo Consulting Group Inc., a market research firm for the travel/tourism industry, points out that people want trips that cater to their particular interests and are customized just for them.

For 13 years, Doug Lofland, 47, and Jeannie Barresi, 43, of Colorado Springs, Colorado-based Beyond Boundaries Travelhave been attracting travelers by offering biking, barging and skiing tours through countries including Canada, Costa Rica, Holland and Spain. Last year, Barresi moved the concept of specialty travel up a notch by adding Santa tours to the Arctic Circle; The Da Vinci Code tour, which includes a scavenger hunt through England and France; and an interactive Harry Potter adventure where trip participants ride on the original train featured in the movies and also try their hands at archery, falconry or fencing. With projected 2004 sales of about $3 million, the partners are confident in their new line of trips.