Every entrepreneur is looking for that next great idea. In 2012, a number of savvy business concepts were born. The best were those with room to grow and whose services are in high demand. Here are 10 of the best business ideas of 2012.
With an estimated 1.3 billion mobile workers expected by 2015, businesses that can provide employee-monitoring services, as well as additional outsourced human resources functions, are going to be in high demand.
One company, Exaktime, recently debuted a mobile time clock. There are also vehicle-tracking time clocks and time-clock apps. Since employers often don't have the staff or time to manage the new data and distill it as needed for payroll and billing, future businesses offering such services would be equally popular.
Consumer demand for the newest electronics and latest gadgets has created a significant need for the recycling of old devices that are now unwanted. Entrepreneur Lee Lowden has jumped on the opportunity by founding the e-recycling business Buyback Boss.
"There is an abundance of unused electronic devices lying around in many households," Lowden said. "With e-recycling, consumers can cash in on their old technology and use the money for purchasing the newest technological trends on the market."
Socially responsible public relations
There are lots of PR firms out there, but as businesses become more specialized, so do their public relations needs. Socially responsible, fair trade, organic, local, B Corps and other kinds of businesses with a strong social or environmental conscience need public relations firms that will market their story to a different audience and deliver a different kind of message. A PR firm that specializes in that kind of work will attract clients who know they need a specialist.
Started by Josh Opperman, who was stuck with a diamond ring after his fiancée had a change of heart, I Do, Now I Don't is an online marketplace for buyers and sellers of secondhand jewelry — mainly diamond engagement rings and other wedding-related items.
On the website, sellers can let go of their unwanted jewelry and buyers can simultaneously receive a much better price than what’s offered at most retailers. An independent GIA-trained and accredited gemologist inspects each diamond sold on the site to assure the authenticity and quality of every piece.
With government constraints on how businesses raise money now lifted, many new businesses are turning to crowdfunding to help launch their endeavors. Crowdfunding lets groups of people pool their contributions — usually between $50 and $500 each —to invest in startups.
One such crowdfunding consultant is Victoria Westcott, who helps others understand the practice and raise more money by helping plan, strategize and run campaigns to attract new backers.
With so many entrepreneurs looking for cash to turn their idea into an actual business, Westcott believes the need for crowdfunding consultants will grow in years to come.
"As long as crowdfunding grows, then people who want to crowdfund will continue to reach out and look for the magic tips and tricks," she said.
Local marketing services
Creating a business that serves local markets is another smart way for aspiring business owners to jump on a growing market. Hulafrog, a service that provides information about local events to parents, is one business taking advantage of the concept.
"It's a very good time if you are serving a niche that has a unique need for local content," Hulafrog co-founder Sherry Lombardi said. "Hulafrog connects parents to all of the daily events and business for kids in their local community."
Multicultural marketing expert
All businesses are looking for new ways to connect with customers, but many are missing the mark when it comes to connecting with minorities. To reach those targeted shoppers, businesses must recognize the places where the consumer resides and design a specific message not just for a single ethnicity, but also for cultures among those segments.
That has created an opening for marketers looking to specialize their services, like Lisa Skriloff, founder of Multicultural Marketing Resources Inc.
With minority populations growing at a faster rate than the Caucasian population, Skriloff notes that businesses that want to succeed must effectively tap into the minority markets.
"It is very important that (businesses) don't ignore this, and start paying attention to these communities," she said.
The devastation of Hurricane Sandy proved again how critical it is to be prepared for all types of disasters. The desire to be ready to take on the worst is increasing the need for consultants who can help guide businesses through the necessary steps for protecting all pieces of their company — from physical buildings to online documents — in case of a manmade or natural disaster.
"Unfortunately, we are in a cycle of more frequent and severe weather events, coupled with an alarming occurrence of freak events," Barry W. Scanlon, president of crisis management and public safety consulting firm Witt Associates, told BusinessNewsDaily. "This has led more and more leaders and businesses to realize that if they are not prepared for all hazards and crisis events, their hard work and growth can be lost in a moment’s notice."
Apps, websites, e-commerce options are now considered must-haves for any business. But it's no good having them if they don't work properly.
This has put testing services — businesses that specialize in testing applications and software to make sure it works as intended — in hot demand. One such company is SOASTA, which offers cloud-testing services for clients.
There's room in this market for growth, with businesses that specializes in niche testing having an edge over broader testing services.
As people become more attached to their favorite gadgets, enterprising business owners can serve that market by designing clothes that integrates the technology.
One company at the forefront of this trend is Alphyn Industries, which merges technology with everyday clothing items, such as jackets, pants and shirts.
"Technology is rapidly changing the way we make, wear and use our clothes," said Ben Raviv, CEO of AlphynIndustries. "Today we have highly advanced materials available to us, so technology finds its way into things we take for granted. There are great technologies out there that need to find their way into the clothes we wear. And if the designs are solving a basic need through technology, people will buy it."