New houses are  getting smaller, and yet we all seem to accumulate more and more stuff. The upshot is that many of us have a storage problem. This has led to a growth in the self-storage sector, but I just heard about a service in the USA which could easily be copied here.

Roost is a web app where users can search  for (and offer) storage space in their locality. Not everyone lives in a small house or have a large family, so in every neighbourhood there are people with more space than they need. Quite often these people would welcome an additional source of income, since large houses cost a lot to run. What the Roost app does is bring together those needing space with those offering space. It’s a classic middle man operation, matching buyers and sellers.

The advantage for the person looking for storage space is convenience (the space is close to where they live) and cost (charges are typically less than for a professional self storage operation.)

I can see no reason why something similar couldn’t work in the UK. Not something you can set up in 10 minutes, but there’s huge potential if it’s done correctly.

Investigation Summer Camp

The ‘summer camp’ is long established in the United States, but  it doesn’t have to be just  about outdoor pursuits. The popularity of programmes like CSI has awakened interest in investigation techniques, and to satisfy the interest, Stockton CSI now run summer camp programmes with a forensic science theme. Participants get to survey mock crime scenes, look for clues and even learn the basics of blood analysis.

I’m sure there’s a market for something like this here in the UK. It wouldn’t necessarily have to be a residential programme, or indeed one just for children. I can see that a lot of  adults would also be interested in this as well, and even a day or half day programme could give them  a valuable insight, as well as being a great deal of fun.

Something to investigate yourself if you have the right skills and background.

Cycling Tours

As we’ve said here many times before, cycling is booming, and the number of people interested in either basing their holiday around cycling, or incorporating it within  their trip, is on the increase. And what’s interesting, is that there are an almost infinite number of possible themes and concepts to base a cycling tour around.

If you fancy going from Lands End to John O Groats, there are companies that will take all the hassle out of it for you. It’s the same if you want to go coast to coast. But every area of the UK and Europe has interesting alternatives. How about a tour taking in the three UK stages of the 2014 Tour De France for example, or a tour around a particular county or region? Or maybe you could organise a tour that combines cycling with another interest like football, golf, whisky, popular music,  nature or whatever.

You might think that people can organise a lot of this themselves, which they can. But a supported tour would make things easier, safer and ultimately, more enjoyable for everyone.

Kitchen For Hire

Here are two facts which form the basis of a business opportunity – commercial kitchens are under-utilised assets, used for only part of the day, and many would-be food business entrepreneurs don’t have the capital to invest in a professional kitchen. In the United States, renting commercial kitchens has become a win-win for kitchen owners and entrepreneurs.

After being unable to find a suitable kitchen for her cookie business, Pricilla Maddox set up Kitchen For Hire to match up kitchen owners with spare capacity with entrepreneurs needing facilities. Exactly the same factors exist in the UK, so there could very easily be an opportunity for someone to copy the business here. TV cooking programmes have inspired many to get involved in the growing field of specialist food production.

Baby Madness!

At first I thought this was a joke, but apparently not. I bring it to you because it might only be me who thinks this is the most ridiculous, pointless idea of the year.

I’m sure we’ve all heard of instances where parents have left their child in a hot car, and it’s led to tragedy. A company called Studio Whale has developed a small GPS and weight sensing device that fits under a child seat in a car. The device tracks both whether the seat is occupied and the location of the parents smartphones. If the parents move away from the car, an alarm sounds, indicating that they have forgotten their baby and left it in the car!

There are so many things wrong with this idea, I hardly know where to start. Who the heck forgets they have a baby in the back of the car? And if you do, you’re not likely to be the sort of person who would invest in a device like this. The people who leave their baby in the car on a hot day (or any day for that matter) are negligent, not forgetful, and negligent folk don’t spend money on stuff like this.

Maybe I’m missing the point, or maybe they are. I’m not sure which.

Free PR and Marketing

Entrepreneurs have it so much easier in this century than the last one, and that was never more true than in the world of PR…or free publicity and advertising  to you and me. There are so many free tools available now, to help you get your name and product  out to a worldwide  audience, and then monitor the results. Here are some of the free tools  you can use  to promote your business online, and monitor the results:

1.    Open a Facebook  account
2.    Open a Twitter Account
3.    Open a Linkedin account
4.    Sign up to Hootsuite
5.    Sign up to Google alerts
6.    Sign up to Haro and Reporter Connection
7.    Visit Mashable,  Quora and Media Bistro forums
8.    Sign up for Google analytics
9.    Open an Instagram account

You can do all of this is just a couple of hours without spending any money. The fact that you can do all of this so easily and for free would astonish any previous generation, so if you haven’t done it – why not?

Ryanair Bargains

I’m old enough to remember when air tickets were a single price, irrespective of when you booked. More recently, it became the ‘done thing’ to wait until the last minute to grab a bargain. But that’s all changed gain now, and the economics of it became subject of an academic study recently.

Professor Claudio Piga, an economics expert from Keele University, claims the best time to book seats is 10 days before take-off. He looked at fares offered by Ryanair at different times of the year and whether making last-minute bookings meant customers were more likely to get better deals. The study showed Ryanair tends to increase prices by 50 to 75 per cent a few days before a flight. Ten days prior to departure is the optimum time to book in most cases.

March Of The Greys

We’ve talked about this here before, but if you’re serious about making some money in a business, you could do an awful lot worse than pay attention to the needs and wants of the ‘grey’ market. It’s a demographic group which is growing, relatively affluent, and not prepared to accept the sort of products and services which have traditionally been offered to their age group in the past.

I recently read about Marie Kolstad, who became the oldest recipient of breast implants at 83. And she’s far from alone. Over 65’s now account for 10% of the clientele of cosmetic surgery clinics in the US, with over 700,000 procedures a year being performed. Cosmetic surgery is just one of many markets where the older generation are now spending serious money.

Don’t ignore the older generation. You could build an entire business around the ‘grey’ market or develop a version of your product of service which suits their needs and tastes. Either way, they have money to spend, and are happy to do so if they like what you have to offer.

Make-A-Movie Parties

If you have young children, you’ll know that they’re always on the look-out for the next cool party venue or theme. This one that we found in the United States, seems to fit the bill perfectly, and we haven’t seen anything like it here in the UK.

Make-A-Movie- Birthday Parties is a self-explanatory concept. The company arrive at the party with a pre-written script, costumes and camera equipment. Roles are allocated, the film is shot and then edited over the next week or so when it is delivered to the person holding the party. Revenue comes from both the booking fee and sales of the movie to party guests.

This seems like something you could copy anywhere. I’d imagine it would be incredibly popular. Equipment is cheap these days and the editing technology is at the hands of anyone with a PC. If you fancy yourself as the next Speilberg, but lack the budget, this could be something for you.

We Come To You

People are lazy. I know this because I am a person – and lazy! While price and quality are two key reasons why we choose one product or service over another, convenience is important for a lot of us. It explains why home shopping deliveries are becoming increasingly popular, and services like hairdressing, beauty therapy and tutoring have a large number of ‘we-come-to-you’ mobile operators making a good living.  But here’s the question – might there be an opportunity for someone in your market to gain a competitive advantage by visiting customers in their homes? is a website which showcases dozens of different products and services which are available on a home visit basis – many of which you perhaps wouldn’t normally associate with  this sort of delivery. Take a look. It could give you some inspiration.