Looking to start a new business but short on ideas? Here's a roundup of some of the great business ideas we've researched so far this year. Click on the individual titles to learn more about the business idea and get advice from experts who know about each industry.
Business Opportunity: Career coach
With unemployment at near-record levels and millions of others stuck in careers they can't stand, there's a supreme demand for career guidance.
And considering today's job search is different from 10 to 15 years ago, with new components like social media and fierce competition, job seekers need a little extra help understanding the process and tapping into the available resources.
This reality has made career coaches more popular today than ever. Career coaches help job seekers determine direction. They can also assess skills, prepare a job search campaign and action plan, draft résumé cover letters, reference pages and LinkedIn profiles, and prepare clients for the interview and salary negotiation process.
Business Opportunity: Personal social media consultant
Between Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and a host of other ever-evolving social networking sites, the potential for unintentionally sending the wrong image of one's self to potential employers, college recruiters and even business partners is greater than ever.
Formerly a vehicle used primarily to chat with friends, social networking sites have become a powerful tool in the business world, providing an opportunity to stand out from the crowd when searching for a job or launching a new company.
Statistics show Internet users spend more than four hours a month on social networking sites. The difficulty in knowing what image to portray on each one has spawned personal social media consultants, who help individuals minimize the impact of any negative content online and show them how to use social media to highlight their expertise and position themselves as an expert in their field.
Business Opportunity: Memory organizer
Birthdays, holidays and first days of school are all events that parents want documented with photographs. But what happens to those memories after the birthday candles are blown out?
While photos used to be stored in albums, digital cameras often can mean pictures get taken and then are never seen again. Or they are stored in a litany of places, from the camera itself to flash drives, computers and online photo- sharing services. Add in home movies, which are simpler than ever to shoot, and keeping track of all those memories becomes overwhelming.
Filling a need in this area is a new business aimed at helping families organize and track their photos and videos — and it's turning into quite a big business. Recognizing the need, Bob Evelth founded HoldMyMemories.com, an online site giving families one place to hold their photos and videos that's accessible from nearly anywhere.
Business Opportunity: Invasive species pest management
While there has long been a need for exterminators, the recent arrival of such irritating pests as the stink bug and long-horned beetle has opened the door for a new type of pest management specialist.
Today, the services that invasive species pest management businesses provide are in high demand, as the bugs — which arrived from other countries — continue to explode in population.
The most notable annoyance is the stink bug, which has taken hold of the eastern half of the United States since landing here less than 15 years ago. What started as a problem for Pennsylvania residents has now become an issue for homeowners in 33 states and as stink bugs make their way west, the need increases for someone to exterminate them.
Business Opportunity: Tablet app development
As the iPad continues to win over consumers, other brands such as Motorola and Samsung are jumping into the game in an attempt to cash in on the tablet craze.
Corning, which manufactures the durable and scratch-resistant glass found on the devices, estimates that tablet computer sales could skyrocket from roughly 20 million units last year to almost 180 million by 2014.
And with more consumers using tablets, more companies will be developing tablet apps as a new way to reach their target audience.
Industry analyst Gigaom predicts the tablet app market will top $8 billion by 2015 — that's compared to $183 million in 2010.
That dramatic increase is opening up new avenues for those with a software background to help businesses market themselves in ways that previously weren’t possible.
Business Opportunity: Online video production
While businesses used to reserve video for their television ads, the Internet has opened up a new world of opportunities for the medium, and everyone is looking for that next great viral video to spur on their brand.
According to a survey from Brightcove, nearly 85 percent of brand managers indicated they are currently using online video on business websites for marketing products and services.
That, in turn, is creating opportunities for everyone from telecommunications specialists to film school majors to use their creative talents.
Business Opportunity: Specialty foods provider
Americans are dealing with more dietary restrictions than ever. These special dietary needs are driving the growth of the specialty foods industry, which includes gluten-free, organic, low sodium and lactose-free products.
New research released by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade reported more than $70 billion in sales of specialty foods in 2010, up nearly 8 percent from the previous year.
In addition, specialty foods represent 13 percent of all retail food sales, with the number of gluten-free products increasing the most over the last year.
The rise in demand for specialty foods has been profitable for its manufacturers. More than three-quarters of specialty food manufacturers reported sales growth for 2010, with more than a third up by at least 20 percent.
Business opportunity: Online privacy management
In recent months, major brands such as Sony PlayStation and LinkedIn have suffered online security breaches, potentially leaving sensitive customer information in the hands of the wrong people.
Since 2005, more than 500 million consumers have had their online records breached.
These high-profile cases show hackers aren’t backing down — in fact, if anything, they're becoming more brazen. That reality creates additional opportunities for computer programmers and computer security experts to work with large and small businesses alike to ensure they are properly protected.
Business opportunity: PR for socially responsible businesses
Over the past several years, the business model of combining a for-profit mentality with a socially conscious mission has become wildly popular.
In order to really maximize the business and the causes it supports, however, it’s critical that consumers are aware of what the business is ultimately fighting for.
A study conducted by research-based consultancy Penn Schoen Berland concluded that, when given a choice, more than 55 percent of consumers will purchase products that support a certain cause—but only 11 percent of consumers said they actually are hearing about businesses social endeavors.
This shows a need for public relations consultants that specialize in working with socially responsible businesses to ensure their message is being heard.
Business Opportunity: Personal concierge
Regardless of the hours in a day, it seems that for many people there’s simply not enough time to get everything done.
The need to get more accomplished has fueled the demand for personal concierge services. The role of a personal concierge is simple: to assist busy clients in getting things done — whether it's paying bills, picking up the kids or doing the grocery shopping.
A recent study by the International Concierge and Lifestyle Management Association shows that new low-cost startup concierge businesses are turning profits at a quick rate.
Fifty-one percent of the survey’s respondents said they invested $5,000 or less to start, and nearly a quarter of them realized a profit in the first year.
Business Opportunity: Senior care services
This year, the first of some 78 million Baby Boomers will officially take on the additional title of senior citizens. Born between 1946 and 1964, this group will lead an extensive increase in the senior citizen population.
While some will require advanced medical care, many will just need help with day-to-day activities — or just a little companionship.
According to research from Home Instead, a senior care franchise, the nation’s senior population will have increased by almost 3 million by year’s end, to nearly 49 million; by 2025 that number will grow to 72 million — more than double the 35 million seniors America had at the turn of the new century.
The numbers are creating an immediate need for those with patience and compassion to brighten the day of those in their twilight years.
Business Opportunity: Resale retail
The recent recession taught Americans a lot of lessons, including how to cut back on their spending. That cost-cutting led to a rise in the popularity of resale shops for those on the hunt for everything from clothes and house wares to sporting goods and antiques — a trend that remains even as the economy starts to improve.
Resale is a multibillion-dollar industry and, according to the National Association of Resale Professionals, one that has grown by 7 percent in the last two years.
America’s Research Group says 18 percent of Americans will shop at a thrift store during a given year — about on par with the 21 percent who will shop in major department stores