Look at these upcoming trends for your business
- Workspace of the future
- Hot sauce industry
- Traditional business lending
Skype-powered chat rooms – Workspace of the Future
Wondering about the office of the future?
There will not be an office anymore in the future.
You are already work from Starbucks, in the car and at our kids’ softball games.
Rather than the cube farms and conference rooms of yore, workspaces will be like the areas of the typical home–open floor plans with couches and soft rugs; cozy, kitchen-like spaces with waist-high countertops; and covered outdoor patios with chaise lounges.
Floor64, the media and consulting company maintains a brick-and-mortar space in Sunnyvale, Calif., but also runs a bunch of Skype-powered chat rooms for remote workers–many of which are buzzing for most of the day.
“These [chat rooms], more than anything else, represent our ‘office,'” says CEO Mike Masnick, “and they don’t exist in physical space.”
Nearly 6 million Americans work from home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Cloud computing enables data backups and remote collaboration in real time. And group video chat–videoconferencing 2.0, if you will–has become dirt cheap (or, in the case of Google Hangouts, free).
Even traditional back-office departments are moving toward virtualization. Recently a number of third-party companies have popped up to provide services such as human resources, payroll and benefits. Some of these providers, including Algentis and Insperity, offer customizable online portals for each employee.
Or, says Kevin Kuske–chief brand advocate and general manager for Turnstone, an
office-furniture company in Grand Rapids, Mich.–office planners will start to think more like city planners, clumping purpose-built spaces into distinct portions of a building. “Urban centers have entertainment zones, dining zones, even residential zones,” Kuske notes. “For an office to work it needs to take this approach, too.”
Move over ketchup, hot sauce is now one of the 10 fastest-growing industries in the U.S.
Hot sauce has caught fire. In last April research firm IBISWorld declared manufacturing of the spicy condiment to be one of the 10 fastest-growing industries in the U.S., with average company revenue jumping 9.3 percent per year over the last decade.
Even though the segment is small–roughly 5,500 people employed by 218 sauce companies, an industry valued at $1 billion–it packs an entrepreneurial punch.
Beyond established companies, thousands of kitchen and garage cooks have begun decocting their own spicy blends, with dozens of new sauces hitting local shelves and mail-order catalogs each year.
A quick survey of recent entrepreneurial sauciers included a 13-year-old boy from North Carolina, a formerly homeless veteran who used sauce to rebuild his life
A Palo Alto, Calif., firefighter who grows his peppers behind the station.
Even the industry’s largest player–Avery Island, La.-based Tabasco, which has an estimated 34 percent of the market–has been privately held by the McIlhenny family since 1868.
The hot-sauce explosion is similar to that of craft beer. It’s similar because it’s an industry in which people have a vision of a product that they want to create. So just like in microbrewing, people are using innovation as much as they can.
So what has transformed Americans from ketchup slaves to salsa-swilling heat addicts?
IBISWorld and DeWitt both point to the increasing popularity of and exposure to international foods. With that comes demand for zippy condiments like Vietnamese sriracha, Korean chili paste and more complex versions of Mexican salsas.
Research reports that sales of sauces and marinades–including hot sauces–jumped 20 percent and are expected to increase another 19 percent, mainly because people are increasingly cooking at home to save money and want to re-create those international flavors they have come to enjoy while eating out.
At the same time, hot sauces are maturing. Instead of focusing on extreme heat or crude names like Slap Your Mama and Blow It Out Your Ass, companies are doubling down on flavor, experimenting with fruit-based sauces and toning down some of the heat to appeal to a wider consumer base. The micro-hot-sauce industry and all the new brands are slowly eroding Tabasco’s market position. These new chili-heads are trying to come up with a line of products that will appeal to people who like all kinds of cuisines.
Blair Lazar, who founded Highlands, N.J.-based Blair’s Sauces and Snacks 23 years ago (and holds the Guinness World Record for the hottest product on Earth), believes technology is a major driver of the sauce boomlet. “When I started it was hard to even find bottles. Now people can order bottles and get labels off the internet,” Lazar says. But the most important reason for the trend, he contends, is that Americans, like much of the rest of the world, have simply fallen in love with heat: “We’re not a bland society, that’s for sure, so why not turn it up a bit?”
Traditional business lending is still faltering, but more people are starting businesses, which means borrowers and lenders are getting creative..
It’s no surprise that creative financing is on the upswing. More people are starting businesses than before the economy tanked–but traditional business lending is still faltering.
“The majority of small businesses don’t need to borrow $1 million. They need to borrow $25,000 to $50,000,” says Charles Green, executive director of the Small Business Finance Institute, a nonprofit that educates entrepreneurs about financing.
Little wonder that alternative financing methods–crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending sites, online pawn shops, you name it–have become so popular.
Take microlending. In 2011 Accion East, a leading U.S. provider of $500 to $50,000 microloans, granted 19 percent more loans and lent $2.2 million more than the previous year. According to Accion East CEO Paul Quintero, it’s the same story at the four sister organizations in Accion’s national network: more entrepreneurs applying for loans and more microloans disbursed.
Also gaining in popularity is revenue-based financing (RBF), which is repaid based on the lendee’s monthly sales. Since forming in 2010, Seattle-based RBF lender Lighter Capital has gone from making three investments per year totaling $250,000 to 13 totaling $1.5 million, says CEO BJ Lackland.
HireAHelper.com, a booking site for moving and day labor, got a $200,000 business-expansion loan from Lighter Capital a year ago. “It ended up being a pretty important catalyst for our growth,” says Mike Glanz, the site’s co-founder.
Entrepreneurs are also flocking to collateral-free loans, particularly short-term ones. Consider merchant cash advances, in which restaurants, retailers and other businesses doing a high volume of card transactions receive a lump sum in exchange for a cut of future credit or debit card sales–often about 25 percent.
So, are you ready to catch up with these trends? What innovation your industry is doing in the coming year?
Suresh Shah, M.D., Pathfinders Enterprise