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Environmental ConsultingTranslation and Interpretation Services Home Health CareMobile App DesignFerryboats and Inland Water TransportationTea and Healthy Beverages Fun, Games, and Hobbies Exam Preparation and TutoringBakeries and Baked Goods Self-Storage Leasing Handmade and Vintage Goods Online Medicinal Marijuana Retailing Self-Published Video Games Blood, Plasma, and Sperm BanksWater Supply and Irrigation Systems Safety and Quality Testing
If you thought going green was a fad, think again. Environmental consulting is a robust and growing industry, valued at $17.8 billion, according to IBISWorld. Growth of 9 percent a year over the next five years is expected. This industry is well suited to independent contractors with the skills to install environmental gear such as wind turbines, solar panels, and green roofs. Every sector, from government to the individual household level, is expected to thrive. Looking to specialize? Expertise will be in demand in the fields of air-, soil-, and water-quality management, as well as sustainability studies as they pertain to development projects.
Talk is cheap, but solid communications are priceless in this global economy. The U.S. military and businesses expanding overseas are two of the translation and interpretation industry's best customers. Overall, the market grew some 18 percent last year. According to AnythingResearch.com, the translation and interpretation services industry is a $2.7 billion market that has grown an average of 22 percent a year since 2004. The healthcare industry is another area in need of language, due in part to the growing U.S. immigrant population. Many opportunities exist in the business-to-business space as well, which includes website translation and creation of multi-language marketing materials. There are also related tech opportunities in the burgeoning market for mobile on-demand translation via SMS.
Despite this year's legislation, health care costs – particularly at hospitals and primary-care providers – are soaring. As the elderly population also grows and demands less expensive, out-of-hospital care, the industry is expected to expand by an average of 4.9 percent through 2014, according to IBISWorld. This industry, which was also on Inc.'s 2009 list, has been strong for years and yet retains a low barrier to entry. Sub-sectors of the field include physical therapy and ambulatory delivery of new technologies. Non-medical home-care hiring is expected to grow by more than 50 percent before 2018.
Sure, iPhones have been around for a while. But with the advent of the iPad, explosive sales of Android phones and an ever-expanding market for mobile apps that work on any Web-enabled phone, there is plenty of fresh territory for programmers, developers, and designers. One tip: Keep location in mind. Venture capitalists and industry experts alike expect the location-aware economy to grow at the rate social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, have over recent years. In the past three years, companies that make location-based apps alone have received $656 million in 67 deals, according to Dow Jones VentureSource.
As highways in and around urban centers become more congested, the old-fashioned ferryboat is making a comeback. Privately run ferry services, as well as tourist excursions, are thriving along the Pacific Northwest coast and on the Great Lakes. Given that significant spending for building ferryboats and terminals is part of the 2009 economic recovery act, opportunities are expanding. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth in the water transportation industry is expected to grow 15 percent through 2018. The industry grew 17 percent last year, according to AnythingResearch.com. Barriers to entry, though, are steep. A new Coast Guard-certified ferryboat that carries 150 passengers costs about $6 million.
The top four teamakers control 88 percent of industry revenue, according to IBISWorld. But the remaining 12 percent represents a $264 million market for small, independent manufacturers. Tea, the 6th most popular beverage in the U.S. after carbonated soft drinks, bottled water, beer, milk, and coffee, is growing due to increasing consumer health consciousness, particularly among the boomer population. The industry averaged annual growth of about 5 percent over the past five years. Other healthy beverages with promising growth prospects include antioxidant-rich juices and vitamin-enhanced waters.
It's not just guitar hero: it's real guitars, bongos, and violas. Past growth in hobby, toy, and game stores has been tied to general consumer spending, but these days stores that sell crafts, hobby goods, and musical instruments have been performing better than the retail industry as a whole. AnythingResearch.com found a growth rate of 9 percent, which also took into account toy and game retailers. This might be a result of people cutting back on larger entertainment expenses and choosing instead to spend more on pastimes and skill-cultivation.
Parents always want their kids to do better on tests. A large number of adults returning to school are also looking for an edge. Given the low barrier to entry, this field is competitive. But if you carve out the right niche, it could be lucrative. The industry, which includes tutoring in such fields such as special education, language, and music, grew about 7 percent last year, according to AnythingResearch.com.
Little treats have a sugar-glazed forecast. Bakeries, pastry shops, and bagel sellers are growing at a rate of 5 percent, according to AnythingResearch.com. Research suggests small indulgences are picking up whereas big purchases such as vacations are not – but blogger and baked goods expert Nichelle Stephens, co-editor of the prominent sweets blog Cupcakes Take The Cake, says the movement is expanding into high-end foodie territory. "It's focused on small batches, local suppliers, seasonal ingredients, and lots of creativity when it comes to flavors and combinations," she says.
After a period of slowed growth during the U.S. housing crisis, self-storage has bounced back – largely because it was already better insulated against economic forces than the housing market. The subprime mortgage crisis caused a wave of foreclosures, meaning families needed places to store their possessions. The $22 billion industry has a remarkably low barrier to entry, with 90 percent of self-storage companies owned by small business entrepreneurs. According to the Self Storage Association, there are 2.2 billion square feet of self-storage in this country. That means there's more than 7 square feet of storage per U.S. resident.
Forget Main Street: This industry is comprised of retailers with no physical retail presence. Instead, they sell solely online – and are especially thriving in the areas of quality handmade jewelry and vintage clothing. After Web retail saw revenue fall as the recession decimated 2009 sales, expectations are high this year. The industry has a remarkably low barrier to entry (have something to sell? Get a PayPal account and you're set). Online sales of independent merchants – mostly via sites such as Etsy, eBay, RubyLane, and Supermarket – grew at an annual 6.6. percent over the past five years, according to IBISWorld.
With the sale of marijuana for medicinal use legal in nearly one out of three U.S. states, and California considering total legalization, pot's cultural tide is rising. So is its business side. California's biggest dispensaries are starting franchise operations and establishing branding. There's an emerging industry trade show and a lobbying, marketing, and consulting firm strictly for cannabis in Oakland, California. Harvard Economist Jeffrey Miron in a February 2010 paper estimated the market to be $14 billion. Others have pegged the medicinal retail market at $10 to $40 billion, based on usage, demand, and pricing data.
While the price tags of blockbuster video game titles have been steadily rising, the barriers to entry for small game developers have never been lower. Self-publishing through Apple’s iTunes app store as well as through Microsoft’s Xbox Live allows entrepreneurs and code geeks with a solid idea to elbow their way into this highly competitive field. "This is the best time to be a small garage shop, or a mom-and-pop shop of just a few developers," says David Riley, who specializes in video games and entertainment at the market-research firm NDP Group. "They don’t need to sit down in front of a venture capitalist and sweat blood" anymore. The $44 billion market has also been thriving due to the influx of non-traditional gamers such as baby boomers, women, and young children.
As technological advances allow a broader palette of life-saving surgeries, the organ and blood reserves that make these operations possible will continue to be in demand. Blood and organ banks make up 55 percent of the $23.8 billion ambulatory health services industry, and the financial barriers to entering this field are relatively low, despite some regulatory hurdles. Perhaps a more surprising growth category in this industry is the increased demand for sperm donation. This is largely due to legislation in a number of European countries that no longer permit sperm donors to remain anonymous or receive compensation. This leads to a severe drop in supply and now "you have all of those infertile people buying sperm from U.S. cryobanks," says Corey Whelan, the program director for the American Fertility Association.
Clean and consistent water supply is an essential service of modern living, so the industry remains untouched by economic fluctuations. According to IBISWorld, the industry should see steady 3.5 percent revenue growth per year until 2015. While traditionally the industry has been dominated by municipally owned operations, there may be increasing opportunities for independent companies to enter the market as it trends toward privatization. Why? Challenges in adhering to stricter water-quality standards could drive cities to look elsewhere for solutions. They'll also likely face hardships in keeping up with technological developments. Tech and consulting are two hot areas for breaking in.
Companies that help manufacturers perform safety and quality testing on consumer products and materials, a.k.a. "laboratory testing services" comprise a $15 billion industry, according to data from IBISWorld. Over the next five years, the industry is expected to grow 5 percent each year, as fueled by increased government regulation of consumer and food products. Growing consumer concerns over the safety of products – especially in regards to children’s products – will also add to the demand for testing laboratories. Additionally, the industry will be driven by the amount of money that companies put into research and development, which appears to be increasing. IBISWorld predicts that in the coming years, companies will invest even more in new products and technologies, therefore giving R&D a healthy boost. – By Christine Lagorio, Tamara Schweitzer, and Josh Spiro.