What does it take for a business idea to make this list?
First, it has to be feasible as a small business. Currently, for instance, there are many exciting business opportunities in biotechnology and resource extraction but these aren’t opportunities that most small business people would be in a position to take advantage of.
Second, there have to be few if any barriers to entry, meaning that just about anyone could start one of these businesses; you don’t need years of education or millions of dollars.
Third, of course, they have to be legal and ethical.
With no more ado, my picks for the best business opportunities for 2014 are:
1) Gluten-free restaurants and bakeries.
Right now, avoiding wheat and gluten is not only something celiacs do but something almost everyone seems to want to do. Supermarkets and large chains are carrying increasing amounts of gluten-free food on their shelves and more restaurants than ever have a few gluten-free items on their menus.
But as a celiac, let me tell you there is plenty of opportunity for restaurants and bakeries that are actually safe to eat in and serve real, tasty food – especially hard to find fresh items such as soups, sandwiches and bread.
2) Day-care and nanny services.
“The Vanier Institute estimates there are regulated child care spaces for just 22 per cent of Canadian children under the age of six,” writes Tamsin McMahon in Million-dollar babies (Maclean’s). “That lack of affordable options has led to a booming market for nannies and babysitters.”
The profitable opportunity is not in becoming a nanny yourself (as the minimum wage for live-in domestic help averages out to $19,000-$21,000 a year according to the same article), but in providing nannies and babysitters to others, or in operating a properly regulated daycare.
3) Patient advocates.
If you or a loved one have ever had a serious illness or operation you know how excruciating it can be to navigate the medical system. As a patient advocate, your role would be to help people get the best care possible.
You don’t have to have a medical background to be a patient advocate, although some do. Our About.com Patient Empowerment expert, Trisha Torrey, details the different types of patient advocacy you might specialize in in So You Want to Be a Patient Advocate?
4) Body decoration services (piercings and tattoos).
Not to point out that I’m old, but I vividly remember the time when no respectable woman would ever even think of getting a tattoo. Now it’s rare for any young person of either sex not to have at least one – and probably at least one piercing, too.
Body decoration has gone mainstream, which makes it a good business opportunity. Focus on the clean, spa-like experience and you might even get some baby boomer types like me visiting your business too.
5) Transportation services for the non-mobile.
This keeps popping up on my list of the best business opportunities because there’s such a need for it that doesn’t appear to be being met – and that need is only growing.
It’s not just seniors (although many people with mobility issues are) but people whose mobility is limited because of health conditions such as obesity; anyone who is wheelchair bound or dependent on a scooter can’t just hop a bus or climb into the standard taxi. In a place with a high percentage of elderly folk, a fleet of lift-equipped vehicles could make your fortune.
6) Home care.
The first baby boomers started turning 65 in 2011. In 2030, when the entire Baby Boomer generation will have turned 65, seniors will make up one-fourth of the entire U.S. population. Unfortunately, although they are expected to live longer lives than previous generations, they are also expected to spend more years in sickness, according to a report on senior’s health by the not-for-profit United Health Foundation (USA Today).
Couple this with the bursting-at-the-seams medical system’s lack of beds for senior care, and you have a huge and growing need for home care. Create your own company offering such services, or buy into one of the senior care franchise opportunities available.
7) Mobile apps development.
Angry Birds was the start of something big. And now there are apps for everything from monitoring your heart rate through managing your girlfriend so you “never destroy another relationship with your inability to remember important dates and information again!”
Make the big score by developing an app that becomes wildly popular or cash in on the increasing number of businesses that want branded apps of their own.
8) Tea stores.
Tea is a great business opportunity because there are nearly 10 billion cups of tea drunk each year, according to Statistics Canada, and Canadians' tea consumption is expected to rise 40 per cent by 2020, according to a government agency report on food trends published by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, driven by a soaring interest in health and wellness.
And don’t limit yourself to thinking of a little retail store with shelves of canisters full of loose green and black tea. The trends are towards peppier, stranger flavours including maple, popcorn and even birthday cake, and even tea cocktails are making an appearance.
9) Financial advisors and planners.
Only 20 percent of Canadians have confidence in their math and money skills as they relate to helping plan for a secure financial future, according to a 2011 survey by Ipsos Reid for ABC Life Literacy Canada – which means that there is a huge pool of people in Canada who need and want help with their finances.
In the U.S., financial advising jobs are expected to be one of the faster-growing occupations over the next decade, with a projected growth rate of 32% between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Retirement planning, financial planning for small business owners – whatever the specialty, this is a real growth industry.
Showrooming, the practice of looking at merchandise in a traditional retail store and then shopping online to purchase the product, usually at a lower price, is becoming the new norm for North American shoppers. U.S. retail ecommerce sales reached $186.2 billion, an increase of 15 percent – the strongest annual growth rate since before the recession (Comscore).
Worldwide, global ecommerce sales passed $1 trillion in 2012 for the first time ever, fueled by growth in North America and the Asia-Pacific region, according to a new report from eMarketer. And ecommerce is only expected to grow. Setting up an ecommerce website is easier than ever. Pick the right products, get them online and your own profitable business could be off and running.
Why Are These the Best Business Opportunities?
None of these ideas will make you rich overnight.
But these are business opportunities that are going to provide real chances to make money in 2014 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. The best starting point is to write a business plan; working through one will help you determine if a particular business idea is feasible or not.