With roots in Hindu and Buddhist traditions, meditation training has hit the mainstream as a way to cope with stress and improve focus, productivity, and relaxation. Estimated to be a $1.1 billion industry in the U.S. by market research firm IBISWorld, private or group meditation and mindfulness training makes up 7.4 percent of the $15.1 billion alternative care market in the U.S. A trend toward greater spending on corporate wellness programs could benefit the industry even more in the coming years.

Why it's hot: As companies embrace the idea that employees' mental health is directly tied to their performance, many are allocating budgets to benefits that help improve focus and alleviate stress. Twenty-two percent of companies already offer meditation training at work, according to a study by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) and Fidelity Investments. Another 21 percent plan to add such training in 2017.

What's required: Starting a successful meditation business is about more than passion and dedication to the practice. The field attracts its share of free spirits, so hiring and choosing associates with business savvy is a core skill. The practice complements such fields as medicine, psychology, fitness, and massage therapy, and a number of universities and independent institutions offer training and certification programs. For app-based meditation training businesses, you'll also need app-development skills, or at least know how to manage programmers.

Barriers to entry: It can take years to build up the experience and reputation necessary to be an effective business operator. Clients will want to learn from someone with an established practice and solid references and credentials, so even if you are a seasoned businessperson with extensive contacts, you'll need to apprentice with expert trainers.

The downside: Many consumers and corporate wellness managers alike may be skeptical of the value of meditation training. Marketing and selling your practice will take a focused approach to target those with similar mindsets and beliefs.

Competition: The leader in meditation apps is Los Angeles-based Headspace, with more than $30 million in funding and 12 million downloads. Companies including LinkedIn, Ford, and American Express have turned to the nonprofit Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute--an initiative birthed at Google--for employee-training sessions.

Growth: Revenue in the industry grew to $1.1 billion in the U.S. in 2016, an increase of more than $100 million from the previous year, according to IBISWorld, which finds the alternative health care industry as a whole is still in a growth phase.

Published on: Mar 1, 2017