Friday, October 22, 2010

Finding a Unique Business Niche

     How many times have you heard about a unique business and said, "Why didn't I think of that?" Here are some pointers to help you get that business idea that everyone else wishes they had thought of first. Pay attention if you hear people saying:

They wish there were some devices or businesses that will help them do tasks easier.
They wish they knew of a device that would save them time with certain tasks.
They would pay someone to do tasks they hate.
They wish certain items were more affordable.
They are interested in learning something new but do not know where to start.
They are tired of the "same old way" of doing certain tasks or operating something.

     Business niches exist in every profession and industry. Niches are basically potential customers whose needs have not been met. For example, homeowners with small yards, may have a difficult time in finding a lawn care professional to mow their smaller yards. Many lawn care business owners find it more profitable to care for large companies' or establishments' larger properties. Thus, the niche here is to offer to mow and maintain the condo or townhouse yards. A niche can make you rich. Look for those opportunities.

Suggested Resources
Book: Strike It Rich in a Niche by Sharon Lampert
Article: "How to Find Your Niche in Business"


Next: Wells Fargo Second Half Champions at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Monday, October 11, 2010

Learn How to Choose Your Ideal Business Idea(s)

Your ideal business idea is one that combines your skills, preferences and financial resources with a solid, reputable company. Each venture is unique, so thoroughly investigate its profit potential and its overall suitability and how it relates to you and your life’s goals. Here are some points to consider:

--Your experience and skills: See what ventures will incorporate your talents and skills gained from previous jobs or education in their operations. Previous experience in an industry increases your likelihood of business success. A good way to see if you will like doing this work on a full-time basis is to get a part-time job in the industry related to your business idea. You will also pick up some practical pointers and make contacts with whom you can network after you launch your business. Enroll in courses if you need certification or to learn new skills and information required to operate.

--Personal preferences: Consider opportunities in which you will be doing work you prefer and if it is feasible to run at this time of your life. Again, there is no avoiding the long hours of running a business, so it makes sense to choose a venture you enjoy.

--Working alone or not: Partnerships sound good in theory, but most break-up due to partners’ conflicting business goals. Can the businesses idea that interests you be operated solo or will it need independent contractors or employees or additional company staff? Will you need assistance in hiring and managing employees?

--Financial capability: Calculate your personal financial statement to determine your borrowing potential. Financial experts can assist you in analyzing your personal finances and assessing business opportunities’ accounts. Paying down your personal debt and having money to invest in your business venture, increases your chances to get a loan. If you cannot start right away, start saving money toward your venture.

--Your available time: New ventures involve many hours. What type of business activities can you fit into your present schedule? Three-quarters of all home-based businesses are started on a part-time basis.

--If you are interested in purchasing a franchise** or business opportunity, ask if they offer financing to qualified buyers; or consider borrowing from friends or family members or independent lenders. Consult with certified financial and legal experts before signing any financial contracts. Franchise consultants and career counselors can evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and provide you with compatible business ideas.

Talk to your bank’s officers to pre-qualify for a business loan and ask if they participate in the U. S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Franchise Registry ( that streamlines the loan application and qualification process.
**For important information, read the’s “Buying a Franchise: A Consumer Guide,” and visit the sites of The International Franchise Association and The Association of Franchisees and Dealers

--Write a business plan as it will help you determine if a market exists (potential customers) that will be able to meet your expenses AND produce continual profits.

Choosing the best business idea for you is only the beginning in your quest to having a successful home business. For many, this is as far as it goes. Others go on to the next steps that turn their business ideas into a working reality. Do not be afraid of going forward to the next stages of your business start-up. Millions are doing it every day, and so can you!

Suggested Resources

Book: “Work at Home Now: The No-Nonsense Guide to Finding Your Perfect Home-Based Job, Avoiding Scams, and Making a Great Living” by Christine Durst, Michael Haaren


Next: Finding a Unique Business Niche

Monday, October 4, 2010

Money Money During the Holidays

I enjoyed a feature today on Good Morning America: “Hire Yourself for the Holidays:” - Holiday money-making by Tory Johnson
Here is an article I wrote on this topic several years ago:

With the holidays and related celebrations upon us, many of us wish we had some ways to bring in some extra money to help pay the extra bills and other living expenses.  Even though you are not starting a business, per se, here are some preliminary questions you should take the time to consider:

Will you be selling a product or service?

If a product, wholesale or retail?  If a service, will you provide it to consumers? Businesses? both?

If a product, how will you be selling it? 
--Directly to consumers? carts or kiosks? to shops? to catalogs? via mail order?

Is there a demand for your product or service in your area (market research)?

What prices will you charge? (See my archived article on pricing.)

What is your marketing plan and what advertising methods will you use?

What legalities are required?  Remember, too, that even with seasonal earnings, you will have to report your income and that you should follow all the required legalities—licenses, permits, liability insurance, etc.—that apply to your particular enterprise.  Be advised to consult with an accountant, lawyer, and insurance broker, before you enter into any profit-making endeavor.

     It may even be too late to start a part-time, holiday venture this year, but at least you can start researching some ideas for next year or for the next big holiday.  Here are some money-making ideas—but know, too, that there are other lucrative ideas out there, including those that may apply to your area/region only. 

1.  Crafts - If you are creative with your hands or you are an artist, holidays offer some of the best times to sell you work.  Remember, though, the work you create must be your own designs, unless you have a licensing agreement to sell well-known characters (movie, television, or book characters).
--Open House - One woman in a small town, regularly holds a Winter and Spring open house in her own seasonally-decorated home.  She charges the other artisans a percentage of their sales and an admission price to attendees that she donates to local charities.   She applied for a temporary parking permit from her borough to allow for her customers to use a nearby public, parking lot.
--Craft Shows - Retail and wholesale shows are usually held the same time and place each year, so you can plan your production schedule accordingly.
--Catalogs - If you wish to sell your items to a catalog house, your crafts will first, have to be accepted by the catalog’s buyer; and secondly, you will have to be able to fulfill the orders received (at a profit).
Get good business pointers from the print publication, The Crafts Report –
3.  Calendars - Using popular desktop publishing software and a scanner, you can make unique calendars using customers’ favorite photos.

4.  Holiday Cards
--Your own:  “Niche” greeting card designers and companies, are reaching  smaller specialized audiences.  Many artists hire local printers to produce a quantity of their work into unique greeting cards. - The Greeting Card Association –
--Calligraphy - If you have talent and training in this letters-art, you could charge to address cards or party invitations.
Stockings, Tree Skirts - If you are good with a thread and needle, unique or personalized
Christmas stockings and tree skirts will always be a popular holiday item.

5.  Unique Ornaments - Many crafters are making ornaments, not just for the Winter holiday season but for other holidays as well..  Those made from natural and recycled materials sell well.

6.  Decorating
--Businesses - Check with local businesses if they hire out for their store decorating and if so, propose to do it for them.
--Individuals - Most people with homes enjoy doing their own holiday decorating, but you could offer to do it for those who no longer have the time or are physically-able to do so (do not forget to include the “un-decorating” with your service, also).
7.  Sensational Santas - Many crafters have created one-of-a-kind Santa figures that are popular items not only with Santa “collectors” but with storefront decorators as well. 

Holiday Catering - People love parties, but not everyone has the time or inclination to cook for these special occasions. If you decide to do this, keep in mind most states require you cook from a commercial kitchen, which you may be able to rent on off-hours from an institution or an eating establishment. 
Other food specialties that are in demand during holidays:  specialty desserts; cookies; candies; and hors d’oeuvres

Pet-lovers will love the following:
--Pet Photography - If you are skilled in photography, you could arrange at a local pet or feed store to take holiday pet photos.
--Pet Portraits - If you can paint or draw, many people would love to have a pet portrait. One woman custom-painted pet portraits on beautiful pins for gifts.
--Pet Consultant - Often at holiday times, many people buy animals as gifts, but really do not know how to handle them.  If you have experience or training with certain kinds of animals, you can offer your services either on how to select the pet best suited for a person or family; or how to train and care for a pet after it is purchased.
--Petsitting for pet owners who are going away for the holidays.

--Growing kits:  If you are knowledgeable with seeds and what grows in your area, you could package gardening “kits,” –butterfly, herb, children’s gardens, etc., to sell as gifts to be planted in the spring.
--Holiday Greens - If you have holly, and/or evergreens on your property, you could sell cuttings for decorations or make them into centerpiece arrangements or wreaths.

     People and businesses can use the following to help them save time during the hectic season:
...Deliveries for businesses.
...Gift Consultant - for consumers, businesses.
...Wrapping and taking packages to the post office or shipping centers.
...Buying (and returning) gifts.
...Holiday Clean-Up - before and after parties.
...Holiday Child Care - babysitting evenings so couples can shop together for their children’s gifts.
...Assembly Expert - Help put toys and gifts together that come disassembled.
...Holiday Jobs Newsletter - Publish a newsletter listing seasonal jobs and have it available for free at local stores. Charge the employers to list the openings.
...Letters from Santa - Write and design special custom letters to send to children.
...Table Favors - Design and create special napkin rings, place cards, or tiny favors for parties.
         These are just a few suggestions for you to earn some part-time money during the holidays.  If your ventures are profitable, it may lead to a regular holiday tradition for you or to a lead-in for a possible business start-up.  Do not forget, too, the “Spirit of the Season.”   Giving a percentage of your proceeds to help your favorite charity or a needy family is not only good “PR” but is also good for your community and will help “warm your soul.”