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Top business opportunities for 2011

Henrietta Walsh investigates which industries to watch, and what businesses to launch over the next 12 months

We've got a great feeling about 2011. Having fought through the deepest financial crisis in post-war history, January 2010 marked the official end of the recession. Despite lingering turbulence, British small businesses are leading the way to recovery and are increasingly being recognised as the key to economic growth. However, the job market remains volatile, which means now is as good a time as any to set up on your own. We believe 2011 holds a vast range of exciting possibilities for entrepreneurial minded folk, looking for their next venture. Here's a list of our top five industry trends and our five favourite business opportunities for the coming year.

Industries IT and communications Entrepreneurs with innovative ideas for the IT and communication industries should be extremely excited about 2011. People are increasingly looking for ground-breaking software or quick and easy methods of contacting one another, both for business purposes and for their home life, and if the explosion of internet and mobile communication is anything to go by, this industry looks set to rule the roost next year. The emergence of smartphones, and the growth of mobile applications have been met with great gusts of approval by businesses and individuals alike, and the highly anticipated launch of the iPad last year added a whole new dimension to the app world. What's more, the government has recently announced plans for superfast broadband to be made available to every community in Britain by 2015. While the private sector is expected to deliver broadband to two thirds of the UK, certain rural areas will receive public funds to build a ‘digital hub' with fibre optic internet connection. This is great news for rural small businesses. Ministers have said the aim is for the UK to have the best broadband network in Europe. With the rate technology is advancing, who knows what interesting developments we're in store for next year?

Green Power Increasing government incentives, such as £200m of funding for wind power development, and £1bn for a green investment bank, coupled with changing public opinion towards all things environmental, means that green technology is the hot trend of the moment. Billions of pounds have been pumped into renewable energy and green tech businesses in recent years, despite the economic downturn, and investment in the sector continues to grow. There are several venture capital firms that look to invest in green companies, such as Bridges Ventures, Scottish Equity Partners and Wellington Partners, which is good news for environmental entrepreneurs. Carbon neutral cab company Climatecars, and renewable energy provider, Ovo Energy, are two great examples of green start-ups already rocking the industry.

Manufacturing Recent research has shown that trading conditions in the manufacturing industry are particularly robust, and the sector is widely expected to help lead the way towards economic growth. This certainly presents an array of opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to enter the industry. In fact, the Engineering Employers Federation has forecast that engineering and manufacturing will outperform the rest of the UK economy next year. What's more, the manufacturing industry was recently labelled the “unsung hero” of our economy by the Confederation of British Industry, and it looks set for a bumper year in 2011. London-based company, Spinning Hat, that designs and manufactures gifts, projects a turnover of £5m next year, and is taking the industry by storm. One thing's for sure, there's plenty of room on the scene for new ventures.

TransportTime is becoming more precious in our increasingly chaotic lives, and so businesses that offer a convenient service to make people's lives easier are well on course to flourish. In recent years we've seen the emergence of a number of successful businesses offering convenient and economical transport solutions, such as Shiply, the online transport marketplace, WhipCar, which is fast becoming the UK's largest ‘car club', and Blink, which dubs itself Europe's first air taxi service. The mounting cost of travel, including recent announcements of rail-fare increases, serves to further enhance the potential opportunities for businesses in the transport sector.

HealthcareThe human race is becoming more and more aware of health concerns. With the advancement in technology and medicine, and an ageing population, healthcare and wellness is an industry with huge opportunities. Whether you sell healthy goods, or develop preventative care products, the sector presents many exciting prospects for anyone wanting to set-up their own company. Online pharmacy, Chemist Direct, and specialist doctor's recruitment company Pathology Group, are two examples of start-up healthcare businesses that are quite literally booming.

Businesses Mobile app companyIn the words of Apple: “There's an app for everything”. This snappy slogan sums up the potential that lies within mobile applications, for hungry entrepreneurs with a taste for all things technical. With the proliferation of smartphones and tablet PCs, mobile apps have burst onto the scene with extraordinary vigour, while the creators continually strive to offer more imaginative, innovative and sometimes darn right peculiar programmes. At Startups we've seen some fantastic businesses launched in this sphere recently, such as The App Factory, and we believe this is an industry that will continue to flourish well into the future. Here's our guide to setting up a mobile apps business.

Market stall If you're looking for self-employment, running a market stall can be a great way to make your own living. Aside from the obvious appeal of being your own boss, a market stall offers flexible working hours, and the opportunity to spend each day in the open air, among like-minded folk and in a friendly working environment. Obviously, it's important to find great products that you're passionate about selling, but the setting up costs are relatively low, and there are certainly places in every local area for market traders. The continuing economic uncertainty has led many people to shop at markets as prices tend to be lower than in bigger retailers. What's more, increasing interest in local, organic and hand-made produce, means 2011 will be as good a year as any to break into the market stall industry and set up your own mini-shop.

eBay / Amazon marketplace business eBay, the UK's number one e-commerce site, and Amazon, both offer quick and easy ways to make a living, without costing an arm and a leg. Sellers of all sizes can use these online shopping sites, from individuals to established businesses, and more and more people are choosing these platforms as regular money-making ventures. Recent statistics revealed eBay has 17 million live listings on its UK site, and 120,000 registered businesses selling their products via the platform, and with approximately 18 million unique monthly visitors, the potential scope of businesses is enormous. The recent government announcement to provide superfast broadband to all areas of the UK means that anyone, no matter where they are based, can set up an eBay business or Amazon marketplace business with relative ease but enormous potential.

Olympics-related business There's one event on everyone's mind in Britain, and that's the fast approaching Olympic Games of 2012. The evidence from previous years has shown that the Games can be extremely lucrative for businesses in the area. When Australia staged the 2000 Games, small and medium enterprises in New South Wales and Queensland secured around £550m worth of business, while Sydney made more than £2bn from tourism. These figures show that the Olympics present a multitude of opportunities for businesses of all sizes and from varying industries, including construction, hospitality and retail. It's well worth getting the ball rolling as soon as possible, so to ensure you don't miss the boat, check the London 2012 website regularly for tendering opportunities.

Home improvement business The property and banking sectors are widely expected to remain sluggish well into 2011, so it's likely that fewer people will be looking to move house. Instead, both time and money will be spent on home improvement, be it fitting new kitchens, re-decorating rooms or re-tiling floors. This is great news for handymen, or for people thinking of setting up their own home improvement business, because no doubt there will be an increase in demand for plumbers, painters and carpenters. Add to this the government's recently unveiled proposals to increase the number of apprenticeships to expand the UK's skill base, and you have the recipe for a new generation of skilled and potentially self-employed workers.


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