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5 Clues for Spotting Business Ideas

Ideas are everywhere. The trick is knowing where to look.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the April 2002 issue of Teen Startups. Subscribe »

( - If there's anything you know for sure, it's that you want to own your own business. There's just this little matter standing between you and success--finding the right business idea.

Don't despair. There are business opportunities all around you--if you know where to look. Here are five signs of money-making opportunity to watch for wherever you go:

1. Things people are too busy to do. Business owners are some of the busiest people in the world. Shea Allen, 14, of Destin, Florida, thought a flier delivery service could be one way to help business owners in his hometown save time. So Allen visited all the sub and pizza shops in his area and offered to deliver their fliers to the 2,000 homes in Destin. The owners took him up on his offer, and he was in business!

Other jobs busy people may not have time to do include: shopping, ironing clothes, leaf raking and outdoor painting.

2. Things people don't like to do. Cooking for a big crowd isn't most people's favorite thing to do, so when they plan a party, they usually want help. Sixteen-year-old Kelvis Patrick likes to cook, so he decided to capitalize on this need.

The Atlanta, Georgia, teen started Kelvis's Catering. And he's got an edge on the competition: Not only are Patrick's cooking skills a draw, but so are the secret-recipe BBQ sauces and seasoning mixes he's created.

Other jobs people may be happy to be rid of include: organizing closets, garden weeding, washing windows and lawn care.

3. Things that get dirty over and over. There's nothing more frustrating than washing your car and having bad weather the next day that gets it dirty again. But Sheila Gallegos, 18, of Alcade, New Mexico, enjoys washing cars, and bad weather doesn't bother her at all. So when it comes to keeping their cars clean inside and out, plenty of people are happy to let Sheila take over.

That's one of the reasons her business, Sheila's Auto Detail, has been a success. Another reason is that Gallegos also offers car-detailing services. Not only does she work for private vehicle owners, but she's landed a few contracts with local car dealerships, too.

Other jobs that fit this bill: boat and RV cleaning, swimming pool maintenance, fish aquarium services, and cage and stall cleaning.

4. Things people throw away. When Kevin Hanks' neighbor gave him eight broken bicycles that were gathering dust in a shed, Kevin immediately recognized a business opportunity. He repaired five of the bikes and displayed them in his front yard with a "For Sale" sign.

When Hanks quickly sold all the bikes for $35 to $40 each, he decided to turn his one-shot deal into a business called Mass-Bike. The Wilbraham, Massachusetts, teen, now 18, has invented some creative ways to deal with his business's biggest challenge: finding more used bikes. He places ads in local advertising papers and bids on bikes at police auctions.

Recycling isn't limited to aluminum cans, newspapers and glass. With a little creativity, items such as leftover buttons, wire and wood can be turned into saleable craft items.

5. Things that make use of special talent or experience. An advertisement for Jeremy Scott's business could read: "Have Saxophone, Will Travel." But the Racine, Wisconsin, teen is already so famous in his hometown and surrounding areas that he doesn't need to go far.

This jazzy 18-year-old, who plays the tenor, alto and soprano saxophone, has turned his talent into cash by giving concerts and performing at special events. Scott has even opened for famous artists like Smokey Robinson.

Got a talent you could capitalize on? How about one of these: foreign-language tutor, face painter, clown, computer consultant or sports coach.


Ready to cash in on the opportunities right under your nose? Here are some ways to get started:

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