Much has been said and written about the crumbling world economy and its potential devastating effects. In one sense, it doesn't matter if you're thinking of starting a small business or investing in one; people will always have needs. The trick to starting a successful small business is to discover what needs they are willing to pay money to fulfill and then bringing those people together with your products and services. Even during the American Great Depression, some people made money.
Here are what I think are the best business opportunities of 2012.
1) Cloud Migration
2012 is the year that a lot more businesses will store and do a lot more 'stuff' in the cloud as a lot more businesses become aware of the advantages of cloud computing and less afraid to put more data up there. Big business will lead the way on this but small businesses will follow – meaning that cloud migration, helping businesses switch from on-site data storage and applications to cloud-based solutions, will become big business itself.
2) Mobile Apps Development
Ever increasing numbers of consumers are researching, shopping and buying with their mobile devices. I think Diane Mermigas, editor-at-large at MediaPost, said it best: "Consumers are already where marketers and retailers need to be" in terms of mobile commerce. Businesses will not totally catch up in 2012 but increasing numbers of them will make the attempt. For many businesses, that attempt will include having their own branded app, opening lots of opportunities for mobile apps developers.
3) Hair Salons
Does seeing this on this list of the best business opportunities of the year make you shake your head? Well just remember what I said in the opening about business opportunities and people’s needs. The great thing about hair salons is that they are a sure thing. No matter how dismal the economic climate, women will still scrape together the money to get their hair done, even if they have to let their nails go. So hair salons with talented stylists and well-priced services will still (and always) be real money makers.
4) Engineering Firms
Collapsing bridges. Inadequate sewage treatment. Deteriorating water systems. There's an awful lot of aging, crumbling infrastructure in this country – providing great business opportunities for engineering firms capable of doing the necessary work and coming up with the winning bid on infrastructure projects. There will also be increasing opportunities for related technologies. Echologics Engineering Inc., for example, has developed a leak-detection and water pipe-condition assessment technology being used in cities across Canada and the U.S.
5) Mobility Products
I haven't looked back at them all but I'm sure I've had mobility products, such as scooters, wheelchairs, walkers, canes and stair-assists, on my annual list of best business opportunities before. The aging of the baby boomers is a fact of society that just can't be ignored, and with the first wave of boomers turning 65 recently, mobility products will be a real growth industry for years to come. The smartest business bet is to combine selling mobility products with related services, such as bathroom renovations suitable for seniors.
6) Senior Care
The burgeoning numbers of senior baby boomers also provide burgeoning business opportunities for senior care. In-home care and senior residences are the obvious ones, but don't forget all the related opportunities such as driving, delivery, catering and cleaning services for seniors who want to stay in their homes. You can certainly develop your own business providing care for seniors, but there are also quite a few senior care franchise opportunities available.
7) Medical and Assistive Technologies
This was on the list last year and the business opportunities are even bigger this year as increasing numbers of hospital and medical clinic administrators appreciate the value of healthcare IT, smart devices and diagnostic and medical devices that can provide better health care and decrease costs. Besides developing/supplying technologies, think people and training, too. There's developing the software/web app to get all medical records online, for instance, and then there’s finding the people to transcribe the records and training medical personnel to use the software.
North American ecommerce continues to grow and grow. Ecommerce in Canada was worth $15.3 billion a year in 2010. In that year, 51% of Internet users ordered goods or services for personal or household use and of those users who placed an order, individuals averaged about 10 orders over a 12-month period, with an average total value of $1,362 per person (Individual Internet use and E-commerce, Statistics Canada). All these statistics tell me that ecommerce businesses could be very lucrative ones, assuming you find the right products to sell.
9) Luxe Products
One segment of the retail economy that does not seem to be suffering as much as others is the high end. There are still some people out there who have a whole lot of money and are willing to spend it on the name products that matter. Luxury handbags, scarves, and shoes for women are still selling well, for instance. Combining chosen luxe products with ecommerce, which grew strongly in 2011 and should do the same in 2012, could be a powerful business opportunity.
10) Dogs, Dogs, Dogs
Canadians and Americans love ‘em – and make feeding, caring for and pampering their pooches a spending priority. The headline of this article in The Huffington Post says it all; Dog Businesses Find Success Even During Tough Times. So what kind of small business? Kennels, doggie daycare, dog treat bakeries and dog resorts are all mentioned in the Huffington Post article. Have a look at 18 Pet Business Ideas for more small business opportunities involving dogs.
Why Are These the Best Business Opportunities?
These are not necessarily ideas for businesses that anyone can start. Many of these business opportunities have barriers to entry such as a need for specialized training. But in my opinion, these are business opportunities that are going to provide real chances to make money in 2012 and beyond – businesses that, done right, in the right place and for the right people may be profitable enterprises for years to come.
Note that there is never any guarantee when you're starting a business. Any business opportunity you're considering requires due diligence. Writing a business plan is a good place to start; it will help you determine if a particular business opportunity is right for you.