Franchise this

Five new business opportunities that are ahead of the curve.

(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- The living is richer when you're the boss. But you don't need to spend years climbing the corporate ladder if you start your own business. We've taken the first steps for you, talking to entrepreneurs and experts to find new business and franchise opportunities poised to capitalize on trends that will pay off now and in your golden years.

Pet insurance

With pricey medical procedures like kidney transplants and hip replacements now available for pets, the demand for health insurance for animals is booming. Analysts expect the market, which topped $200 million in 2006, to grow by 25 percent this year.

Cannine coverage: The pet insurance market is expected to grow 25 percent in 2007.
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Laura Bennett launched Ohio-based Embrace Pet Insurance with about $1 million raised from angel investors. You'll need to partner with a large insurance company to get policies into consumers' hands. Start now - the number of big insurers targeting our furry friends is growing.

Organic fast food

Restaurants serving organic food - fast- are popping up all over the country. Loyola Marymount University professor David Choi notes that in 2005, consumers spent $15 billion on organic food. He says the initial capital investment in a new restaurant ranges from $500,000 to $750,000. A typical franchise can be had for about $400,000. Tim Gargiulo opened V.G. Burgers in Boulder, Colo., in November and says he's received more than 100 phone calls from people interested in buying a vegan burger franchise.

Luxury rental shops

In our status-obsessed world, everyone wants the bling but not everyone has the bucks. Enter the luxury rental shop, where a customer can time-share that Louis Vuitton bag she's had her eye on. "Luxury rentals are definitely a growth business," says Michael Silverstein of the Boston Consulting Group. Seattle-based Bag Borrow or Steal offers designer handbags and jewelry online for weekly or monthly rates. CEO Michael Smith says his average return on investment per bag is well into double digits.

Cooking schools for kids

The proliferation of pint-size foodies is creating a market for children's cooking schools. Barbara Beery, for instance, offers up to four classes a day at her Batter Up Kids Culinary Center in Austin, with franchises opening soon across the country. Buying into a Batter Up business costs between $178,000 and $256,000, but the projected return on investment based on the Austin location is $365,000 per year. "The growth rate of highly specialized early-education franchises has been nothing short of spectacular," says Mark Siebert, CEO of the iFranchise Group.

Upscale retirement communities

What gets better with age? Investments in retirement communities, of course. Consider this: By 2025, Americans ages 65 and older will make up more than 18 percent of the U.S. population, and they'll all need a place to live. Get in now and you'll likely capitalize on the 21 million baby boomers nearing retirement age, half of whom will consider living in "age-restricted" communities, according to a recent survey.

Forget about old-style old-folks homes, however. Cashed-up boomers want gourmet restaurants, health spas, and ocean views. "There's growth in active adult retirement communities everywhere," says Margaret Wylde, CEO of research firm ProMatura.  Top of page

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