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Five Magic Markets

Learn tricks for getting in tune with today's five hottest consumer markets, and watch your profits soar.

So you want to start your own business. But do you know which market you want to target? Finding a lucrative market can be tough. Be Your Own Boss has taken the guesswork out of the idea hunt by exploring five markets that are hip, hot and happening. Who knows? Combining statistics with some creative thinking could generate the business idea that finally sparks your new path in life. So without further ado, here are our top picks for today's five hottest markets.

Hot Market No. 1: Parents/Kids

They say "Mom knows best." Well, moms also control 80 percent of U.S. household spending, plunking down an estimated $1.6 trillion annually on products and services for their families.

There are many ways to tap into today's parenting market, says Maria Bailey, author of Marketing to Moms: Getting Your Share of the Trillion-Dollar Market. She sees a wealth of opportunity in financial services that let parents set up "kid accounts" to teach money management and secure Web sites that offer parents instant test results and reports from schools. An estimated 2 million American families are home schooling, creating a new and untapped product and service niche. To generate ideas, look at how parents might use your product or service idea differently, Bailey says. For example, a video-production entrepreneur could consolidate baby videos into video "baby books" and create a profitable business in the process.

Children's fashion is another hot area. Carolina Zapf is founder of Baby CZ, a New York City company that sells a luxury line of cashmere clothing for infants up to 24 months. Zapf, 35, who spent 14 years in the fashion industry, invested $15,000 to start the company and got $40,000 in orders at her first trade show. "It was far beyond our expectations," she says. Baby CZ's sales now near $1 million annually, and its products are sold through www.babycz.com and at 80 stores nationwide, including Bergdorf Goodman and mall boutiques. The company is expanding into shoes, clothing for 3- and 4-year-olds, and high-end baby lotions and powders.

Tweens-kids ages 7 to 12-and teens are another hot market. U.S. kids ages 12 to 19 spent $175 billion in 2003 on everything from fashion and sports to technology, and the population of U.S. teenagers will reach 35 million by 2010, says Michael Wood, vice president of Teenage Research Unlimited, a Chicago market research firm. Tweens and teens are personalizing jeans, lockers, shoes-you name it-creating new business opportunities, too. "The product or service has to be tied to a need they have," Wood says. First among teen needs are rebellion, fitting in and conquering awkwardness. Remember being 14? Ponder it, and you could profit from it.

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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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