Sometimes the key to identifying a market opportunity requires looking where everyone else isn't. As a part of Inc.'s annual look at the best industries for starting a business, we decided to shine a light on some of the promising but lesser-known niche sectors that aren't getting the attention they deserve.
Here (in alphabetical order) are the six best industries for starting a business that you've probably never heard of. We made these selections from IBISWorld's exhaustive list of U.S. sectors, which takes into account everything from revenue data to competition to barriers to entry.
Artificial Grass Turf Installation
2014 industry revenue: $1.1 billion
Projected annual revenue growth, 2015-2017: 13.1 percent
Companies that provide artificial turf installation benefit from the fact that every square foot of natural grass replaced with turf saves more than 50 gallons of water per year, according to estimates from the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Increasing awareness that artificial grass also saves on maintenance costs and reduces pollution is helping drive interest in this sector, which has low barriers to entry. IBISWorld predicts industry revenue could reach $1.7 billion by 2019.
Employee Relocation Services
2014 industry revenue: $12.5 billion
Projected annual revenue growth, 2015-2017: 6.4 percent
The employee relocation services industry consists of businesses that aim to simplify the moving process for their clients by helping with home sales, property management, and moving services. The sector's performance is closely tied to real estate values, as employees buying new homes are the largest driver of both demand and revenue. An expected rise in global relocations should help spur continued growth in the sector, which has low barriers to entry and is expected to generate $16.4 billion in revenue by 2019, according to IBISWorld.
Indoor Climbing Walls
2014 industry revenue: $151 million
Projected annual revenue growth, 2015-2017: 1.9 percent
Indoor rock climbing centers have grown in popularity in recent years as more people look to climbing-wall establishments as an alternative to gyms. Consumers aged 25 and younger in particular are providing a boost to industry revenue, through their increasing interest in on-site group events like birthday parties and climbing lessons. IBISWorld describes barriers to entry in this segment as "medium" and expects revenue to reach $162 million by 2019.
Laser Tag Arenas
2014 industry revenue: $246 million
Projected annual revenue growth, 2015-2017: 4.8 percent
Believe it or not, laser tag arenas represent one of the most profitable businesses in the entertainment industry, with operators generating profit margins of as much as 40 percent, IBISWorld reports. Though competition is heating up, barriers to entry are low, and increasing demand is expected to allow business owners to raise prices modestly. By 2019, laser tag revenues are projected to reach $302 million.
Meat Jerky Production
2014 industry revenue: $1.1 billion
Projected annual revenue growth, 2015-2017: 1 percent
Although some consumers still associate jerky products with high levels of sodium and preservatives, several large players in the sector have helped improve their product's reputation by characterizing it as a healthy food and a lean source of protein. Barriers to entry in this sector are high, but revenue is expected to continue growing in the near future, reaching roughly $1.3 billion by 2019. According to IBISWorld, businesses should be able to increase prices in the next few years, as consumer spending on jerky products rises.
Prison and Jail Construction
2014 industry revenue: $2.7 billion
Projected annual revenue growth, 2015-2017: 3 percent
It's not a glamorous job, but somebody's got to do it. Prison and jail construction is expected to see increased government and private investment in the next few years, which should improve the market for businesses in this segment. Market share concentration is also expected to decrease, as new entrants meet the rising demand. IBISWorld characterizes both competition and barriers to entry as "medium," but industry revenue is projected grow to $3 billion by 2017.