Entrepreneurs have always done it: they get lean and leaner…. and do more with a lot less. We’ve been through downsizing and layoffs. You know the drill. We’ve come to accept shrinking paychecks, dwindling markets, increased competition, reduced resources, difficult customers and pressure to deliver a decent bottom line as the new normal. For many Americans, starting a small business is the answer. Break free from the emotional treadmill of a non-secure job, have the flexibility and freedom of being your own boss, and enjoy the self-esteem that comes with the title, “Proprietor.”
We’ve rounded up 20 businesses that will make you money in 2012. They have been selected for their viability and cultural popularity among customers, value, and longevity in the marketplace and ease in the startup. There is something for every interest and budget. But first, let’s examine 10 key points you must follow to embark on the wonderful journey of entrepreneurship:
1. Determine That You Are Ready: Are you willing to leave your present job to start your own business? If not, consider a part-time or weekend small business. It is an excellent way to determine if the lifestyle suits you and if you will enjoy running your own business. Consider important issues such as healthcare, establishing an outside or home office, and whether or not you will need to hire employees to execute your vision. Consider your finances and sketch out even a simple business plan to explore every aspect of your new business.
2. Survey The Market-Place: In searching for the right business to start make sure you choose something that you love to do. You will be spending a lot of time making the business work, so you must enjoy what you do. There are probably business ideas that will occur to you that would do well in your community, but if you don’t love that particular type of business, skip that idea and keep thinking. Find something you love to do and then figure out how to get paid to do it.
3. Find The Biz That’s Right For You: In researching the type of business you’d love to start, make a series of lists of what you’re interested in and see what you’re good at. Are there are common denominators? Do you like sports, pets, fixing things? What types of businesses could you start that relate to your interests? For example, an individual who loves parties and music might want to consider starting a mobile DJ service. Love cars? Think about a car detailing service.
4. Investigate Zoning In Your Town: Communities have really relaxed their rules on residential and commercial zoning now that so many people are working from home. But if your home based business means that you’ll have to have huge trucks delivering goods, then beware, your neighbors might not like it and might turn you in to the local authorities. You will not be able to set up a restaurant at home or a dry cleaning business or a commercial parking lot right on your front lawn. To find out about local zoning laws, call your town office and county clerk’s office.
5. Obtain Your Business Certificate: Take a trip down to your county clerk’s office and register your name. You will receive a Business Index number and can then use that Business Index number to open a business checking account.
6. Open A Business Checking Account: Don’t confuse your personal finances with those of your new business entity. To make sure they remain distinct, open a business checking account in the name of your enterprise. You’ll need to complete #5 in order to do this.
7. Go For A Pro Image: Most of your customers might never see your home office, so impress them with your professionalism and attention to detail by selecting a good looking stationery system consisting of high-grade letterhead and business cards. Build a website using a web hosting provider such as www.1and1.com. Get a separate phone line so no one answers the phone and just says, “Hello,” which could turn off potential customers. Get an answering machine or voice mail and you are in business!
8. Evaluate Your Insurance: Examine your insurance policy to see if you need to beef up your liability insurance or add on any other type of coverage. There are many add-ons to consider including: business interruption insurance, business property insurance, disability insurance, non-owned auto insurance, product liability and much more.
9. Create Excitment: Print up a flier, get involved in local clubs and other networking opportunities, send out a press kit to local newspapers, prepare a direct mail piece, try and place yourself as a guest –an expert–on local TV or cable, investigate advertising, become active in local civic groups and associations, offer to give a speech at a local club or gathering, send out discount coupons, send out holiday greeting cards, teach a class at adult education, attend trade shows as a guest or exhibitor. All of these methods will help you generate business and customers.
10. Countdown To Profit: Even though you might not plan to do your own taxes–and we do endorse the notion that you visit a professional accountant for tax assistance–it’s a good idea to get a grip on basic accounting principles and bookkeeping skills. Look into a local adult education course, browse through bookstores and find a “how to” manual or enroll in a local community college, but get a little accounting help under your belt.
The 20 businesses we present for your consideration are offered in no particular order. If you need to find more information on a particular business, do a Google search. See if there is such an enterprise in your region. Will it work in your community? Is there too much competition? Investigate the market; if you can offer a product or service your area needs, then go for it!
Be A Mobile Mogul With An Italian Ice/Push Cart Enterprise. It’s fun to make people happy and what does it more than an Italian ice on a warm day? This is a good time of year to prepare your new business for the upcoming spring and summer season. To help you get started, tie in with an established company that can provide you with the equipment and know-how to get started and run your new business.
Little Jimmy’s Italian Ices & Push Carts (www.ITALIANICE.net) can help you launch your venture. Their products are fat free, and contain no dairy, no cholesterol, and no high fructose corn syrup. You don’t need experience and the pushcart offered by Little Jimmy’s requires no electricity or dry ice. The cart also fits in most mini vans or SUV’s. Visit their website or call 800/763-4348.
Grow Big With A Lawn Care Service. We know of an unemployed worker who turned a single lawnmower into a six-figure operation in one year. The individual printed up a brochure on her new lawn care service offering a 10% discount to first-time customers and distributed it throughout the neighborhood. In one month, she hired her first employees and by the following season was just booking the jobs. Even in a tough economy, homeowners don’t seem to have the time to grow, weed, trim, fertilize, aerate, rake, remove leaves and mow their lawns. Charge per hour on tasks such as leaf raking and offer a flat rate on lawn mowing, typically $40 to $100 per lawn. Find a fun name for your biz and look into renting equipment until you build up enough revenue to purchase larger mowers.
Prep For Success With An Apartment Move-In Biz. The focus of this business is to get an apartment prepped and ready for the next tenant to move in. You’ll clean and scrub your way to success.
This is a business you can start for less than $500 and build a clientele using sources such as landlords, realtors, condo vacation renters, etc. Placing an ad in the local paper will help boost your business. Do it faster, better and cheaper than the competition and you’ll develop a growing business. What products do you already own that could reduce your startup costs? You should contact your insurance company and beef up your coverage. If you can work with a few landlords, they will give you a steady income. Multi-unit apartment houses will cut down on your commuting costs, too. You can add on services such as floor sanding, carpet cleaning and painting to boost your income.
Raise Your Glass To Bartending Riches. One of the great things about starting a mobile bartending service is that you don’t need any equipment. Your clients provide the bar/table, the ice, the glasses, the beverages, etc. You show up in your white shirt and black pants and start serving beer, wine and mixed drinks to the guests. You should be able to handle the most common drinks and might consider taking a course to perfect your technique and develop speed. But anyone can start this business.
Some clients—such as store openings and art galleries—only serve red and white wine so it is a no brainer.
A bartender at a recent backyard BBQ told us he made $375 for a four-hour party. He had another gig the next day pocketed $750 for 8 hours of work. You can charge whatever your market will bear.
If you do have clients who want you to provide the refreshments, make sure you receive funds from them in advance to cover the costs. Charge extra for your time and for the lemons, limes, etc. To get started, print up some nice business cards and distribute them freely. Consider providing your services to a non-profit that is hosting a fund-raiser. You’ll generate a lot of interest and build good word of mouth for your deed. Cheers!
Sweet Success: Cake Decorator. The very popular TLC series, “Cake Boss,” has everyone drooling for a delicious custom fondant cake. These cakes sell anywhere from $25 to $3000 depending on the size, complexity and event. Isn’t it true that caterers seem to charge about 33% more whenever the word “wedding” is spoken?
If you are creative and enjoy baking cakes, consider starting your own custom cake company. Custom cakes have never been more popular. People don’t seem to want to spend precious savings on big events, but will splurge on a detail such as a cake.
The startup costs are minimal—especially if you are already a baker. You might need to add on decorating supplies, special forms and boxes for your new business. If you are a novice but really want to master this profession, take a course and start turning out cakes for your friends and family to see what they say. Photograph the cakes you make and put together a portfolio. An online slideshow would help you book gigs.
Consider the possibilities: weddings, birthdays, graduations, baby showers, reunions, grand openings, retirement parties, team events, company celebrations and much more. Don’t forget to offer cakes just for kids, too. Come up with popular themes and put them in your portfolio. Make appointments with local catering companies and offer your cake services for their events.
Profits As A Garage Organizer. Businesses that do well in even tough economies are those that offer an affordable luxury. A well-organized garage is just that! And it doesn’t cost clients a fortune, either. You can start a business helping your clients get their garages in shape. The GarageExperts system (www.GarageExperts.com) provides you with everything you need to start this home-based business. You’ll not only offer garage organization to your clients, but you’ll provide garage floor coating, too. This is extremely popular and could actually stand as the majority of your profit base if you want it to do so.
You don’t need to be a wizard to start this business. The company will help you get started and they invite you to attend one of their Discovery Days in their Anaheim, CA headquarters. Go online to visit their website or call the company at 800/768-1175.
Permanent Profits In Temporary Tattoos. Everyone loves the idea of getting a fun or meaningful tattoo, but many fear the permanence of the ink. You can provide fun and awesome tattoos to your clients even if you have never taken an art class and can’t draw a circle or a square. How? Start a temporary tattoo venture. TAT International is a leading provider of everything you need to start your own business.
The temporary tattoos are hot sellers at mall kiosks, on cruise ships, at fairs, at community flea markets, bachelorette parties, and many more events. Be creative in marketing because you don’t need to be an artist to apply these temporary tattoos. The startup costs are less than $1000 and you can use the materials to generate more than $10,000 profit.
To learn more, visit www.TatStore.com or call 800/280-8198.
Join A Multilevel Marketing Team. Multi-level marketing (MLM) is a marketing strategy in which the sales force is compensated not only for sales they personally generate, but also for the sales of others they recruit, creating a downline of distributors and a hierarchy of multiple levels of compensation. The programs over the years have been criticized on various levels for not providing a real business opportunity in some cases and exploiting relationships in others.
However, there are plenty of good multilevel marketing programs ranging the gamut from vitamins to perfume. The key is to find a solid program that offers great products and where you can get great service from the home office. Also, be wary of programs that only grow when new sales people are recruited. You can always sell Avon products even if you don’t recruit new sales force team members. Some examples of multilevel marketing companies are: Avon, Tupperware, Mary Kay Cosmetics, and Lia Sophia.
You don’t need to leave a job to start this type of business. You can sell anywhere you go: work, hair salon, etc. Wherever you go, keep your catalogs with you and talk up your product line. Do your homework on this top of opportunity. Conduct your own due diligence to make sure you are comfortable with the company and their products.
Close Up On Family History Videographer Enterprise. There is a lot of interest in recording and documenting family histories. It takes a long time to write a family history, but a video could be put together in a week or two providing that all parties are available. It is then up to you to edit the piece together into a digital presentation.
The entire video can be shot with a basic digital video camera and then edited on your home computer. You can put in titles and even video objects in the home (trophies, flags, awards, medals, etc.) and dissolve them into your video using the well-known “Ken Burns effect.”
The startups costs are very minimal if you have a camera and a computer. Create a family history film to use as a selling tool. Build a website so you can show your potential clients snippets of how their family history will look. Charge more for elaborate presentations and for those that will include interviews with many family members.
There are packages you can purchase on starting a video biography business. Do some research on these businesses and see if it might work out for you.
Click! Ka-Ching With An Affiliate Website Biz. Imagine making money while you watch TV or sleep! You can! Start a website, get it smokin’ hot and tie in with a wide variety of affiliate marketing opportunities. When visitors to your site click on an affiliate box and go to the company’s website, you get a commission. If the visitor buys the product, you might make, even more money.
Who offers affiliate programs? Every site from www.musiciansfriend.com to www.amazon.com and hundreds more. The web hosting company www.1and1.com has an affiliate program that can earn you $110 for a referral. To find affiliate marketing programs go to sites that interest you most and see if the company offers such a program. There are also Affiliate Marketing Directories that list opportunities for you to consider. Affiliate program directories are niche web directories that are very like the large and broad web directories like the Yahoo! Directory or the Open Directory Project (also known as DMOZ). Web directories are like the Yellow pages in the offline world, listings of sites grouped by niche, geographic location or special characteristic or property, according to Wikipedia. Make sure the companies you are considering have a viable contact number, a website, a definite product to sell, a good track record, can provide you with testimonials, and offer no charge to participate.
Profits In Pets. Pets are big business in the United States. Americans have more pets than children. In fact, sales generated from pet-related goods and services topped $50 billion last year. If you love pets, consider starting a pet-oriented business you can run from home. The possibilities are endless. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to start a pet sitting business. You can print up a flyer and start distributing it. You can pet sit in the home of your clients so you don’t need to purchase any special equipment. You might want to call your insurance company and ask them about becoming “bonded.” This form of protection will come in handy if you accidentally break something while in the home of your customers.
Another business you can start is a pet taxi service. You’ll need a van or station wagon and you’ll basically transport pets to and from vet appointments—while their owners are at work—and even drive pets to a vacation destination while the pet owner takes a plane. You’ll need to invest in crates or cages to safely house your cargo. Fees for this type of pet transport range from $25 to $50 per animal, one way. Consider offering a discount for multiple pets owned by the same client.
Pet grooming is lucrative and you can build a nice six-figure income once word of mouth gets around that you provide great service with attention to detail. You’ll need to check with your local county clerk’s office to see if you require a license to groom pets. Consider your environment, too. Do you have a spare room with water access to properly bathe pets and cut their hair? You might want to consider renting an outside facility for this business. You can also contact local pet stores in your region and see if they would like to sponsor you in their facility. They’ll set up the equipment, etc. and you handle the grooming tasks. You can give the storeowner a small percentage of your sales and they, in turn, also get to promote and extra service offered in their retail location. It’s a win-win.
Cash In With Your Crafts. Take a visit to www.carolee.com/ and see how a home-based crafter grew her business into an international enterprise. Carolee started stringing beads one night at her kitchen table. A friend called the costume jewelry buyer at Bloomingdale’s and made an appointment for Carolee to show her crafts. The buyer loved it and ordered dozens of the bracelets. The rest is history!
Today, you don’t need a buyer to help you sell your goods. You can visit www.etsy.com and set up a free page that acts as your website to generate interest in your products and sell them, too. Timothy Adam author of How To Make Money Using Etsy (Wiley, $19.95) has put together the following questions that will help you brainstorm and get a better understanding of your product and how to approach setting up your Etsy page:
• What do I make ?(list everything)
• Do I love what I make?
• What do I want my main product focus to be?
• What sets my product apart from the competition?
• What technique do I do better than the competition?
• What is the price range of my product?
• Is it easy to ship?
• Who is my target market?
• What are 5 to 10 words that describe my craft?
• Do I have a good digital camera?
Pick up a copy of the book to learn more about how to establish your own craft business on Etsy. You can also sell on ebay and amazon, too, with your own ‘store.’
Prescription For Success: Medical Billing. You can set up an office at home or in an outside facility to establish your medical billing business. The healthcare field has exploded and doctors and dentists don’t have the time or the staff to handle all of the electronic and paper claims processing that goes through their office every day. Medical billing small businesses also handle patient statement processing and mailing, insurance follow-up, etc.
There are companies you can contact to help you start this business. Claimtek (www.claimtek.com) is one example of a company that sells a business opportunity package to help you get started and run your own medical billing business. `Another company is Medical Billing Business Resources and you can contact them by visiting their website at: www.medicalbillingbusinessresources.com.
Make Money Without An Office: Car/RV/Boat Detailing. Detailing is described as a thorough cleaning, polishing and waxing of an automobile—inside and out. You can also detail an RV or a boat. There are more than 50,000 car detailing operations in the U.S. and if you think there isn’t room for one more, consider the American love affair with their automobile, and the growing sales of both boats and RVs. This increase has created a new booming marketplace for detailers.
Some detailers never see the client. They instead work for car dealerships and car rental companies. This is also an option for your service. Do a search online to see how these businesses carry out their operations. You can also tie in with a car detailing company that offers a business opportunity or franchise for purchase. If you love independence and want to work on your own, this could be the perfect opportunity for you. Visit our website at: www.sbomag.com and click on our Business Opportunity chart. We have a number of Automotive businesses listed that you can contact —ranging from detailing and windshield repair to ding repair opportunities—and learn more about their programs.
Rise In Stay-cations Signals Opportunity. Americans are staying home and making their homes their castles. If you have a business that caters to the American love of their own backyard, take heart. One way they are doing so, is by building more pools—both above ground and inground. It is an excellent time to consider starting a pool maintenance business. Pc Pools, one of America’s leading direct marketers of above ground pools and pool supplies for residential and commercial pool owners enjoyed a 20% increase in pool sales in 2011.
Marketing Director Ted Robinson had this to say, “Demand is clearly on the upswing in the above ground pool market. As gas prices increase, more homeowners realize that having a pool in their backyard proves cheaper than taking a yearly family vacation or driving to a family cabin every weekend. Rather than spending thousands of dollars taking expensive short trips or hundreds of thousands on a vacation home, more and more families are bringing the ‘staycation’ to their backyard.” Given the increase in quality of the above ground pool market, continued high gasoline prices and the rise in vacation home prices, Robinson expects the staycation trend to continue for the several years.”
This is a great time to start a pool maintenance business. You don’t need a lot of experience. This is a business you can learn. Visit www.poolcaredirectory.com and learn about their sales tools and manuals to help you get started.
Grow A Locavore Farming Ven-ture. The average vegetable travels 3,000 miles to your dining table and can spend up to a year locked in near-freezing storage chambers. Popular television programs such as “Top Chef” and “Hell’s Kitchen” have put an emphasis on creating meals from fresh food products that are grown locally. The trend to be a “locavore”– someone who primarily eats foods from their local or regional food shed or a determined radius from their home (commonly either 100 or 250 miles, depending on location) is growing. The Panera Bread chain prides itself on purchasing locally grown veggies for their menu.
Locavores hope to create a greater connection between them and their food sources, resist industrialized and processed foods, and support their local economy. You can cash in as a locavore farmer who supplies restaurants, cafes, diners and coffee salons with your products. If you have even a half-acre of land available you can produce a lot of crops. Before you get started, canvas your neighborhood restaurants and eateries and see if they would be interested in buying your lettuce, tomatoes and other veggies. You might also start a business delivering your crops directly to consumers who subscribe to your weekly harvests.
Money In Makeup. We recently profiled (Start Your Own Business, Winter 2012) a makeup artist who generates $3 million a year in sales. She not only applies makeup to select customers but also performs magic as a special effects technician. If you have an interest in cosmetics and the art of making people look better, this could be a wonderful business for you to consider.
The popularity of makeup artists in our culture is highlighted in Bravo’s “Real Housewives” series—all of the participants hire freelance makeup artists to come to their home and create their look for a special event or evening out—or dinner party in their own homes. You could do this, too.
Makeup artistry is seen as an affordable luxury today. Consumers might not be able to take that vacation in a five star hotel, but they can hire a makeup artist to attend a wedding and feel as though they are a celebrity for the day. Weddings, formal affairs, graduation parties, New Year’s celebrations, Valentine’s Day, etc. are all big profit centers for your new business. You might have the knack and the flair to start this business without any formal training. Get a wholesaler’s license from your state and purchase your supplies at rock-bottom prices. If you need help in learning the latest techniques, go online and find a school in your region that teaches makeup artistry.
Trash To Treasure: Garage Sale Project Manager. Are you organized? Love to sell things? Like turning a castoff into profit? Then you are a perfect candidate to coordinate garage sales for others. Your startup costs are minimal—print up a flyer, place an ad in a local newspaper—and you are on your way. Americans are tightening up their belts and are looking for what they perceive as bargains.
You’ll not only set up the wares for the sale but you’ll have to do advance marketing, posting signs, and generating interest to get the crowds to come and shop and relieve your customers of all that ‘stuff’ they no longer need or want.
Organize with condo owners, apartment building dwellers, etc. to create a mega garage sale weekend. You’ll need to hire help for this type of activity. Charge a flat fee to organize the sale and then take a percentage of whatever is sold. Your flat fee could be from $50 to $100 and take from 10% to 20% of the total.
Trish Suhr, yard sale expert, from Style Network’s “Clean House,” reveals her secrets to hosting the perfect yard sale:
• consider a theme
• set everything up like a department store—put the best stuff first in most visible spot
• have an extension cord and electricity available
• sell items by the bag (kid’s craft kits, adapters, screwdrivers, etc.)
• price high so you can negotiate down
• offer something for free: lemonade on a hot day, or get rid of old tools, etc.
• arrange for a local charity to pick up the stuff that doesn’t sell
Party Your Way To Profit: If you enjoy children and love to plan parties, consider launching your own professional party planning business for kids. Kiddie parties are very big, but hassled and harried parents—especially single parents—just don’t have the time to pull it all off. You come in and save—and make—the day with an incredible agenda of fun.
Pick a few popular themes – Harry Potter, pirates, Smurfs, Disney, Superheroes, Princess, etc. and put together options: the budget pack, the intermediate, and the splurge (could come with a performer and inflatable bouncy) and you are ready for business.
Ask for a deposit up front, consider wearing a costume yourself for the event, charge by the hour or establish a flat fee, consider hiring a couple of helpers (could be local babysitters), build a website, and start advertising. Once word of mouth starts getting around you’ll be booked solid!
Recording Riches: Audio/Video Seminars & Shows. There are trade show talks and seminars and lectures that take place each week all over the United States and sponsors and participants would love to have a video or audio of the event to distribute for publicity, sell on a website or use to book other gigs.
In the analog days, professional equipment to do this use to cost a fortune but today’s digital offerings can have you starting this business for less than $3000. Consider offering your services to a local group at no charge to generate interest and publicity for your venture. Contact convention centers in your region and learn about upcoming shows—contact the producers and offer your services. Also contact participants directly and send them information on your company with price lists. Market yourself on twitter and facebook and build a simple website to merchandise your services and products.
MOVE FORWARD EVERY DAY
One of the most difficult realizations in starting a business, according to legendary ice cream kings, Ben & Jerry, is having to deal with naysaying friends and family. It is amazing how quickly people we love become jealous over the decision to be your own boss. Ignore them. And, don’t listen to their naysaying ways, especially when they point out how many small businesses fail each year. Tell them the story of how Yahoo! has evolved in a decade from a garage hobby to a $6 billion a year megawatt multinational empire!
Many people dream of having their own business. To see if starting a business is right for you, ask yourself these important 20 questions. Your answers will help you determine if you are ready to become a small business owner or where you need to spend more time in planning.
Am I prepared to spend the time, money and resources needed to get my business started?
What kind of business do I want?
What products/services will my business provide?
Why am I starting a business?
What is my target market?
Who is my competition?
What is unique about my business idea and the products/services I will provide?
How soon will it take before my products/services are available?
How much money do I need to get my business set up?
How long can I have to finance the company until I start making a profit?
Will I need to get a loan?
How will I price my product compared to my competition?
How will I market my business?
How will I set up the legal structure of my business?
How will I manage my business?
Where will I house my business?
How many employees will I need to start up?
What types of suppliers do I need to contact?
What kind of insurance do I need to invest in?
What do I need to do to ensure I am paying my taxes correctly?
The U.S. Small Business Administration has a clever tool to help you assess whether or not you are ready to start your small business.
Since the SBA introduced the online “Small Business Readiness” assessment tool, usage has climbed rapidly. The assessment tool – the first of its kind – helps budding entrepreneurs evaluate their readiness for starting a small business.
The Small Business Readiness assessment tool helps prospective entrepreneurs determine their level of preparedness for venturing into a new business through a series of automated questions. It helps them evaluate their skills, characteristics, and experience as they relate to starting a business.
Based on their scores, entrepreneurs are directed to the SBA training resources that support the identified needs to improve business preparedness. The Small Business Readiness assessment tool is available on the SBA’s Web site at http://www.sba.gov/assessmenttool/index.html, or by clicking the “Assessment Tool” icon under the spotlight heading on the SBA home page.
The 8(a) Business Development assessment tool was launched in October to help small business owners decide whether they are suitable and eligible for the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program. The program helps small disadvantaged businesses compete in the U.S. economy through business development. Like the small business readiness assessment, the customized 8(a) Business Development assessment tool directs entrepreneurs to targeted training and resources online. It too is available online at http://training.sba.gov:8000/assessment.
The Small Business Readiness and the 8(a) business development assessment tools help take away the guess work, and are easy to use. They are customer-focused and designed to make it easier for entrepreneurs to evaluate and recognize needed business skills. The new Web-based tools are simple to use and take about 10 minutes to complete.