Saying some businesses had it pretty hard in the current millennium is like saying that it is colder in the winter and warmer in the summer. Some people call it hard times and, well, It’s true. Fewer people have significant disposable income. Those with money are still shy about spending it. They go out less, travel less and buy fewer entertainment and luxury items. And yet some products and services are performing well, taking advantage of the technologies, sensibilities, laws and super-connectivity of our new world that are putting the old ways to bed.
Point of view truly is everything. To the social-media-savvy independent artist, The Pirate Bay is Robin Hood and his merry men. To Sony Music they are thieves. To Philip Morris, restrictive smoking legislation is tyranny. To the personal vaporizer industry it’s opportunity. And so while some businesses and many people find our new world a threatening place, others rise to the occasion and become lions in our rapidly evolving savage garden - Some are expanding with an alarming rapidity that has made investors, entrepreneurs, and even the general public sit up and take notice. The five ventures detailed in this article belong to the latter group.
Succeeding in the current economy means learning to do things a new way. It means experimentation, foresight, courage, and above all, delivering value. The best price is always at your fingertips. Consumers can get exactly what they want delivered to their door for the price they want, and they know it.
Without further delay, here are five successful industries are that have adapted to increasingly demanding consumers.
Anywhere you’re not allowed to smoke, you’re allowed to vape, and if anyone complains you can tell them to get bent. That’s the smoker’s attitude, and it’s that attitude and the perception of relative healthiness - well, (supposedly) healthier than smoking - that’s made E-Cigarettes a huge market force.
The first e-cig can be traced back to a vaporizer invention in 1967, but it wasn’t until 2007 that it was introduced into the UK in a very different form. Good thing. The original steamed actual tobacco and very likely smelled like the wind off a landfill. Today’s e-cigs are sexy little things that resemble actual cigarettes or airplane parts, depending on the brand, and come in as many flavors as snack foods.
When electronic cigarettes (or ‘electronic nicotine delivery systems’) were first enjoying a marketing push in the USA in 2012, they were the subject of much ridicule. So was the first automobile. Now you can find them being puffed in airports, restaurants, movie theaters, and everywhere else they aren’t specifically banned.
Let’s face it, if you can make it easier for an addict to enjoy their drug of choice, you’re going to do quite well in this world, and the estimated 1.7 billion dollars this industry is supposed to be worth in 2014 is sufficient proof of that. Turnkey e-cig franchises have started popping up recently, so if you’re looking for a new business venture, this may be the one for you.
4 3d Printing
We’ve covered 3d printing before, and with good reason: It’s an incredibly exciting technology that’s been years in the making and is poised to change how virtually everything is produced. Personal 3D printers for the home make replacing little household items as easy as clicking a mouse. No more waiting for that spork! For the shop, you can get that rare part you need right away. No more waiting for that piston! For the hospital, they can actually print patients a new organ. No more waiting for that ear or heart! There are patents and plans to 3D print houses with concrete extrusion from huge overhead cranes.
3D printing is huge and it’s invading every sector of the economy, from personal to industrial use. Truly, it is a new way of making everything. The basis of 3D printing is “computer numerical control” which is a fancy way of saying a computer makes a little robot follow the construction plans you give it. It squirts out melted plastic, metal, chocolate, or whatever else you require in a predefined plan and, boom, you’ve got your new widget. Every business from bakeries to gunsmiths can enjoy this - it’s really the dream of anyone who grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and longed for a replicator.
Not convinced 3D printing is a viable business? Head over to shapeways.com and look at the multitude of shapes for sale. You can buy the shapes someone else has designed or upload your own and purchase the printed object. Or how Alex Hornstein and Bilal Ghalib, who make new products every few days then test and sell them? Joe Neighbor may not be getting rich, but they are certainly able to supplement their income with their custom designs.
3 Virtual Assistants
The virtual assistant business is not a new one, but the success it is currently enjoying is a novelty. A virtual assistant is just what it sounds like… almost. A “VA” is not the MS Office paperclip; a VA is a person that helps you with your personal or business needs using digital communication instead of in person meetings. They do just what any other personal assistant can do - organization, marketing, scheduling, secretarial work - but also things that an in person assistant can’t. And that’s where their newfound success is coming in.
Have a look at BrickWorkIndia.com. What you may notice is that, surprise, it’s an Indian business. As anyone who’s ever spent any time on a customer service call can tell you, hiring Indian people to do your phone work is no new thing. Even having them write your white papers or organize your travel plans isn’t all that novel… but a couple of companies have taken the Indian virtual work to another level.
We live in a worldwide economy now, and that means a lot of travel. You could even say we have a bit of an executive migrant worker population in America these days, and many of them come from India. A couple of Indian companies have capitalized on this by leasing personal assistants in India to Indian executives in America to take care of their family back home. As more and more people move around the globe, these new local-virtual businesses are becoming more and more important.
But the secret ingredient that makes a virtual assistant business potentially much more profitable than a traditional personal assistant is that one virtual assistant can work for several people at once.
2 Legal Marijuana
It truly is a new age in the USA. More than half of all American states have passed medical marijuana laws and two have passed recreational use laws. As was expected, those people who were lucky enough to get into the business early and take every legal precaution necessary are enjoying huge benefits. Marijuana has long been the most profitable cash crop in America and now anyone willing to jump through a ridiculously extensive gauntlet of hoops can start taking advantage of the newly legal marketplace.
There are very few – seven, at last count - legal, recreational marijuana dispensaries in Colorado. Those seven cannot keep their product on the shelf. Whether you demonize or commend marijuana, one thing is undeniable: There is a huge demand to buy it legally. So much of a demand that while the black market for marijuana isn’t going anywhere, the shops that offer it legally are currently selling it at three to four times the street pharmacists’ prices.
This mimics what happened with the early medical dispensaries before the competition picked up and the price stabilized, but stabilize it did, and those people in the right place at the right time are still reaping the rewards of their vision and conviction.
Not convinced? The NIDA estimates that half of all high school students have used marijuana in their lifetime, a quarter of them in the past month and 6.5 percent every day. In many areas of the country those numbers are much higher. Once again, facilitating a user’s drug of choice is a path to monetary success. Not sure it’s a moral business? Remember that while you’re enjoying a beer at your neighborhood bar.
1 Custom App Design
Virtually every business is virtual these days, and there are apps for every type of business, from delivery restaurants to automotive repair. Pretty soon it will be almost mandatory for the majority of businesses to have a mobile app, and riding this wave are savvy coders branding themselves as custom app design boutiques. Some write a new app for each client. Some simply redesign a boilerplate app for each client. Some specialize in one industry and sell the same app over and over again to each new customer. But one thing is the same - small business mobile app design is big business.
Software developers make a median salary of $93,350 a year, or about $45 an hour, and mobile app design is a very in-demand and growing sector of the software industry. For the time being, the demand for mobile coders outweighs the supply, and if the trajectory of the more traditional forms of computer programming careers is any indication, when the demand and supply finally do equalize and income plateaus, it won’t be at any low level. Mobile coders have a rosy future ahead of them.
The mobile app design world can be a bit like the Wild West. App marketplaces are a free market where success can hinge as much on luck as quality. Custom app designers don’t have to worry about that. If their client wants to speculate on the success of a game or piece of software, that’s on them. The designer just gets paid to code - and they get paid well, and often.