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Four Home-Based Businesses in Demand Consider these popular small-business ideas in 2011.

By Lesley Spencer Pyle

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The small-business market has traditionally been populated by corner stores and family-owned businesses. For women with an entrepreneurial streak, small-business opportunities have always been abundant. It's turning ideas into profitable enterprises that takes dedication and hard work. From stylists and bakers to bookkeepers and designers, women have played an important role in the small-business marketplace.

Today, women continue to influence their communities and the business world as a whole by launching successful, home-based companies. The economic downturn has been a catalyst for home-business growth. Take Indianapolis-based writer Emily Suess, for example. "In my case, my home writing business began because I simply needed the money to make ends meet," she says. "In tough economic times, people become increasingly resourceful about how they market their talents and skills."

Home-based businesses are proving again that necessity really does bring about innovation. For a couple of reasons, home-based opportunities have become popular as a result of the recession. First, technology makes communication effortless and affordable for entrepreneurs. In addition, a number of large businesses have downsized -- resulting in a growing number of contracting opportunities for professionals.

Freelance writers aren't the only people succeeding in the home-based market. A wide range of businesses are able to thrive in today's economy.

Here are some home-based opportunities that look good for 2011.

Catering services
Catering services are ideal for the home-based marketplace. After all, when will those hard-working entrepreneurs find time to prepare meals for themselves and their families? Food preparation and delivery are hot right now, and they can bring in extra cash or sustain a household. From family mealtime to Thanksgiving meals and parties, the demand for catering remains high. Home-based catering and bakery businesses are expected to do well in 2011 because these services are always in demand. People get married and throw parties in every economy, although they might cut down on the cost during a downturn.

Event planning
Weddings, birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, anniversaries, corporate holiday events -- all of these things require a great deal of effort to coordinate. Event consultants can save the day, and earn a decent living. If you're organized and know how to throw a good party, you can launch an event-planning business from the comfort of your own home without a lot of startup capital. Event planners will be in demand in 2011 for the same reason as catering services. In fact, networking among caterers and event planners can be good for both businesses.

Virtual assistant
With a growing number of websites dedicated to helping independent professionals connect with virtual assistants, you really don't need much more than a reliable internet connection and a home computer to start working from home. Virtual assistants often work on a part-time basis for several business professionals, helping them with everything from travel arrangements to bookkeeping. These kinds of home-business opportunities are ideal for moonlighters looking for extra cash to help pay the bills. As the number of virtual offices increases in 2011, so will the need for qualified virtual assistants.

Online retailers
From pet clothing to handcrafted jewelry and unique paintings, you can sell just about anything online. Small, home-based merchandisers can operate successfully thanks to sites such as Amazon, Etsy and Ebay. At a time where the missteps of large corporations have left the public mistrusting big names, home-based artisans can take advantage. Retail merchandise is another safe bet for 2011. People who want to make their bucks go further, in particular, are looking for unique, handcrafted items that are still affordable. And green items are also gaining in popularity – from organic skin care to organic kids' clothing.

Of course, the possibilities for home-business opportunities are practically limitless, and the home-based market is expected to continue growing as the economy takes its time recovering. The unemployed and underemployed -- people who might never have thought of themselves as entrepreneurs -- are expected to join the ranks of work-at-home professionals.

Lesley Spencer Pyle is the founder and president of and , and she is the author of The Work-at-Home Workbook: Your Step-by-Step Guide on Selecting and Starting the Perfect Home Business for You. Pyle has been working from home for more than 13 years.

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