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13 Top Businesses to Start in 2013 for the Under 30 Crowd

The entrepreneurial spirit has never been higher than it is now. According to the Kauffman Foundation, a leader on  gentrepreneurial data, over 540,000 new businesses are created in the US each month, many of those by young first-time entrepreneurs. Technology has made starting a business easier than ever, and it has created a number of new niche business opportunities for the tech-savvy, health focused, and environmentally conscious millennial generation. So, without further ado, if you’re thinking about starting a new business in 2013, here are 13 areas where you could see success. (if you're in Illinois, Minnesota or Wisconsin, contact me if you want some help getting your new business legally formed and launched for success!):

1. App Development

Thinking about starting an app development business? There’s probably an app for that. Apple accepted its 1 millionth app in mid-November and there are hundreds of thousands more on other platforms. There is a lot of potential out there for good ideas to really stick with consumers, but in order to create a successful app, you’ll not only need a great idea but also both coding knowledge and software development proficiency.

If coding isn’t your thing, then you may be able to outsource that part to a firm or freelance designer and focus solely on the business development aspects of making the app successful. Development costs can range anywhere from a couple thousand dollars into the tens of thousands depending on complexity and functionality.

You’ll also need to register with the platform on which you’ll be offering your app for sale. For iPhone and iPad apps, creators must register with Apple for around $100 a year. Just as development costs vary, so too does the amount of money you can potentially make off of an app. Apple collects a fairly substantial royalty from hosting your app (around 30%), but the rest is yours to keep. Some of the most successful apps in Apple’s store pull in upwards of $50,000 a week.

2. Software as a Service

Software as a Service (commonly known as “SaaS”) is a software delivery model through which software as well as the data associated with it is hosted centrally in the cloud. A few examples of SaaS are Salesforce.com and Dropbox, or for attorneys, Total Attorneys. In essence, users of the software rent it online instead of purchasing it and installing it on a specific computer meaning that the software and data can be accessed anywhere by any internet-enabled device.

Because of that, SaaS is rapidly changing the way data is stored and accessed. According to Gartner, Inc., a leading information technology research and advisory company, from 2010 to 2011 alone, SaaS revenue grew 600% from $2 billion to $12 billion, and some projections have that number up to as much as $15 million through the end of 2012. The SaaS model is here to stay, so if you have the next great idea for data processing, storage or management, structuring it as SaaS is a tremendous way to make it a success.

3. Doggie Daycare

Americans spent $50.96 billion on their pets in 2011. The American Pet Product Association estimates that U.S owners will have spent a whopping $4.11 billion on pet services including boarding and grooming in 2012.

A dog daycare business requires a large commercial space with indoor and outdoor areas for dogs to play. A typical lease for a large enough space will run between $2,000 and $8,000 per month. Additional costs include insurance, licenses, fees and a great advertising campaign. Most daycares charge by the day and offer discounts for purchasing multiple-day packs. Given the amount people spend on their pets, once it’s off and running a doggie daycare can be an incredibly lucrative and emotionally fulfilling business.

4. Food Trucks

The street food business rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars each year and, according to one published study, has seen over an 8% growth rate from 2007-2012. Food trucks cater to folks on the go. They offer convenience and speed to anyone who needs a quick bite to eat (One of the best in my area is StreetzaPizza, recently named #1 food truck in the US by Bloomberg BusinessWeek). For an entrepreneur with some cooking savvy, operating a food truck is a great business opportunity because of the low overhead associated with its operation.

Unlike a traditional restaurant, food truck owners don’t need to cough up loads of cash for a space. Instead, a food truck can pull up anywhere there is some curb space (though cities may have certain regulations on where they can and cannot go). Best of all, if the chosen location proves to be a poor choice, the truck can simply be driven off to a more fruitful location.

Because of the low overhead and ability to serve a high volume of customers in a short period of time, food trucks are a great option for anyone looking to start a new business.

5. “One for One” Businesses

These companies support social causes with each purchase.  When a consumer buys one item, the company donates a similar item to those in need. The most well-known one-for-one business is Toms shoes, which donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair it sells. Another great new company is Smiles for the People which donates a toothbrush to a child that wouldn’t otherwise have access to one. The brushes are bamboo and biodegradable which makes them much more environmentally friendly, too.

The one-for-one concept can be used as a model for the sale of basically any product. The donations can be made for any cause for which you’re passionate. If you’re the type of person that is always looking to give back, then structuring your business this way may not only be economically rewarding, but socially rewarding as well.

6. Crowdfunding Consulting

Crowdfunding is a nifty way of funding a company by selling small amounts of equity to many investors, most of whom are just everyday people. In return for investments, investors are usually promised one of the first products off the line or some other perk.  Sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, RocketHub, and Rock The Post, provide platforms which enable entrepreneurs to describe their products and sign up investors. However, it’s not as simple as just describing the product and assuming it will go viral.

A successful campaign requires effective use of social media, contacting local media outlets, leveraging contacts and spreading word about the product to the right people. Not everyone with a great idea for a product is a great marketer. Since designing and implementing the investment campaign can make or break the product before it’s even produced the campaigning is best left to a professional.  Becoming a Crowdfunding consultant is a great business opportunity for anyone with a marketing and social media background.

7. Unbundled Professional Services

Unbundling is taking hold in the legal industry as attorneys (this writer included) embrace advances in technology to change the way in which legal services are delivered. In the legal industry unbundling is a method of delivering legal services in which an attorney and client agree to limit the scope of the attorney’s involvement leaving responsibility for other aspects of the case to the client. Attorneys using the model typically operate virtual law offices and, through the use of technology, are able to reduce overhead, which in turn mean reduced costs for the client.

This concept is ripe to be carried over to other service industries. Accountants can easily use this principal to change the way their services are delivered and accessed. Support personnel like secretaries and paralegals can also borrow the concept in order to support attorneys and accountants offering unbundled professional services.

If you have a background in law, accounting or their support industries, this increasingly accepted practice could be a way to set yourself apart from the fray.

8. Green Contracting

While typical contractors will perform services with products you specifically request, there aren’t many out there billing themselves as purely green contractors. From the environmentally conscious to the tax savvy, consumers are going green now more than ever. Contractors looking for a new branding image or even those looking to get into the game may want to think about setting themselves apart as experts who specialize in all things green, from windows and doors to roofing and installation.

9. Dairy Free Foods

Low calorie, high fiber, gluten free and so on- dietary trends seem to change practically before we know they even exist. But, there is one trend that has yet to catch on, and there’s a big reason that it’s only a matter of time until it does.

According to studies by the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, a third of all people are lactose intolerant and ¾ of adults have a decrease of lactase activity. Lactase, of course, is the enzyme that breaks down lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. Yet, for some reason, lactose-free foods simply aren’t all that popular. Items like soy ice cream and almond cheese are out there, but they’re tough to come by at mainstream groceries.

If you pick up any processed food at a grocery store, I would bet that 80% of them include some form of dairy ingredient. It’s not only ice cream and cheese, but things like bread and many cereals include milk.

For anyone with some skill in the kitchen and a determination to build a sustainable food product business, dairy-free may be the way to go. Don’t be afraid to give it a shot- many grocery stores will be happy to deal locally with a producer of specialty foods. You can build the business from there.

10. Home Fitness Consulting

There are 75 million baby boomers that are on the verge of retirement and, for the next twenty years, an average of 10,000 people each day will reach age 65. That means that services for the elderly will be increasingly in demand.

One potential area for growth is in the home fitness consulting industry. A home fitness consultant is somewhat of a hybrid- part personal trainer and part health consultant. Home fitness consultants make house calls to offer fitness sessions and advise on healthy living habits in the client’s home environment. They can teach clients how to stay active in the home and structure exercise routines without going far from home.

For an aging population becoming less mobile, regular trips to a health club may start to become too burdensome. Weakening muscles and bones mean that exercise routines that may be appropriate for a young healthy individual may not be appropriate.  By going to the client and teaching them that fitness doesn’t necessarily mean running 4 miles or joining a health club, home fitness consultants can provide a valuable service to a demographic that provides no shortage of clients.

11. Elderly Home Care

Along the same vein, those aging boomers are going to need more assistance with everyday tasks, like cleaning, cooking, errands, yard work, laundry, or ever getting up and down the stairs. Many would welcome the idea of hiring a young person to help them with those things.

12. Shared Workspace

Entrepreneurs, authors, consultants, photographers, and the like are increasingly skipping the traditional office space in favor of a more flexible option. Shares workspaces like Hudson Business Lounge in Milwaukee or Regus provide office sharing spaces which permit clientele to purchase a package of services structured to fit their needs. From workstations to full-time offices and conference rooms, these options run the gamut so that there is something for everyone. These companies typically offer secretarial services, phone operators and messaging service as well as copying, printing, and other essential business functions while providing a business mailing address to boot.  Clients purchase monthly packages made up of the services they need which is a cheaper solution to the fulltime dedicated office space.  

In order to get started, you’ll need to invest a fair amount to renovate a space and put the infrastructure in place, but with the right location the concept basically sells itself. Opening in a metropolitan area with a high concentration of entrepreneurial types will ensure that the business is successful from the get go. Shared workspaces look like the future of office working for sole proprietors and those with minimal staff.

13. Entrepreneur Consulting

According to the latest numbers from the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, a leading indicator of new business creation in the US, over 540,000 new businesses are created in the US each month. Many of those businesses are being started by first time entrepreneurs. Anyone that has started a company knows how much work goes into even getting it off the ground, yet alone sustaining early success. Of course, there are a number of people out there that can help maximize the possibility that operations will run smoothly in the beginning- lawyers, accountants, marketing consultants and so on. But, the vast majority of first time entrepreneurs are starting their companies without much more than a great idea. Funds are limited, and as such, so is the ability to hire a large team of specialists.

If you have experience starting successful businesses, why not think of starting one more as an Entrepreneur Consultant?  The knowledge and experience gained from building a successful business can be transferred to those folks that are just starting theirs. You can advise on all things startup- from taxes and formation to accounting, marketing, business planning, and product rollout.  For entrepreneurs just starting out cash is minimal. Hiring a consultant that can give them the basic tools and knowledge to succeed may be a preferable- and much cheaper- option to hiring multiple professionals.

If you’ve ever thought that starting a business may be for you, then there may be no better time that 2013. There is no shortage of industries that would welcome new ventures, so the best thing you can do in the New Year is get out there and give it a go.

By Michael Brennan.

Michael F. Brennan runs a virtual law office helping clients in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota launch new businesses. He can be reached at michael.brennan@mfblegal.com with questions or comments, or check out his website at www.thevirtualattorney.com.

The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and is not legal advice, nor is it intended to create an attorney-client relationship. For specific legal advice regarding a specific legal issue please contact me or another attorney for assistance.

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