Taking Advantage of Trends to Start a Biz

Trump's Trend-Spotting Tips

No one knows how to ride the crest of a trend wave better than real estate tycoon Donald Trump. Tsunami is more like it: Trump capitalized on the reality-TV trend by becoming the star of NBC's The Apprentice, a solid-gold branding opportunity he has committed to for two more years.

Trump has built his business on trends, but he knows how to cash in on fads, too-at press time, he had moved to trademark his signature catchphrase "You're fired," which will be emblazoned on a line of T-shirts. He shares his advice for entrepreneurs eager to capitalize on the next big thing:

  • Do your research for a big-money payoff. Read and study magazines in great detail, and pay attention to pop culture for signs of the next product craze or innovation in product development. "If you are able to hit a trend or a fad early," says Trump, "you'll make much more money than you would from a more normal business."
  • Try a variation on an already viable trend. "Always extend a trend," he says, describing how, for example, the principles of the Atkins diet may be used to help children-or even pets-shed unwanted pounds.
  • Consider a contrarian approach. "One of the things I do, and often successfully, is to go opposite the trend," Trump says. If the hottest buildings in Manhattan are smaller units-studios and one- or two-bedrooms-he'll start building very large ones. "By the time you plan the building and get it built, which is a number of years, there'll end up being a glut of small apartments and not enough big ones."
  • Fine-tune production. Since no one can predict how long a trend or fad will last, make sure, if you're a manufacturer, that you aren't stuck with overages. "You can't create or build so much product that, if the trend or the fad doesn't last, you're going to be stuck with it," Trump says. You need flexibility and the ability to stop quickly when it ends.
  • Jump in before anyone else. Being too cautious will cost you dearly. "If it's already on the shelf," says Trump, "you can, generally speaking, forget the idea."
  • Go with your gut. "You're going to do well if you're lucky to be blessed with gut instinct," Trump says, adding not to worry about the naysayers who don't understand your vision built on an idea that hasn't yet become a household name. "You're the one taking the risk, they're not. And by the way, when it turns out to be good, family and friends will be right behind you."

Finger on the Pulse...

Want to keep up with the latest trends, but not sure where to start? These 10 online resources will help you stay in the know.

  • DailyCandy is a free daily e-mail service spilling the beans on fashion, food and all things hip.
  • Trendcentral is a free daily e-mail newsletter covering lifestyle, technology, style and entertainment, particularly for Gens Y and X.
  • Daypop offers a Top 40 list of the hottest blog topics including links, archives and performance indicators from previous updates.
  • BlogPulse allows visitors to search, analyze, chart blog content and includes ready-to-go trend analysis such as "yoga vs. Pilates."
  • Google Zeitgeist charts the most popular searched items on Google on a monthly basis, plus offers access to archived Zeitgeist lists.
  • Yahoo! Buzz Index is a daily ranking of searched terms through Yahoo! based on total searches and percentage of change from the previous day. A free weekly e-mail buzz report is also available.
  • Small Business Trends is a business trend-tracking blog for entrepreneurs and small and mid-sized businesses that's updated even on the weekends.
  • Emerging Trend Advisor by Find/SVP is a monthly e-mail newsletter written by industry experts covering business trends. The newsletter is free to all Find/SVP clients, but non-clients can sign up for the latest newsletter online.
  • PollingReport.com is an independent, non-partisan Web site revealing American trends through regularly updated polls. PollingReport.com also offers a bimonthly subscription-based newsletter.
  • Trendwatching.com offers a free monthly e-mail newsletter covering consumer trends and related business ideas. The Web site also offers a preview of the current newsletter in case of commitment reservations. -Steve Cooper
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Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.

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