A passed up business opportunity?

in On Entrepreneurship

Dane Carlson at the Business Opportunities Weblog invited me to participate in his “30 Second/One Question Interview” series.

His question?

One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure. What product or service have you imagined would be a good business opportunity, but you’ve rejected because it’s too off the wall?

I have to admit, I had some trouble with this question.

Everytime I thought of a crazy business opportunity that I passed up on, I found someone … somewhere … who was doing it anyway. So, and I hope Dane won’t mind this, I’m going to answer with the business opportunity I rejected that I wish someone in my area would execute really well.

One of the biggest trends of the last decade has been the emergence of the “mass affluent.” Households bringing in 6-plus-figures per year, who are willing to pay premium prices for specific experiences. In this group you have a healthy number of small business owners, dual-income professionals and others who share the following traits:

  • They are short (or worse, negative!) on time
  • They don’t want to (or don’t have time to) handle household errands
  • They have an excess of money available for the right services

Businesses that serve people who will happily trade money for a little more free and/or productive time are poised for enormous growth now and in the future. After all, if it’s a choice between paying an extra buck or two per shirt for dry cleaning or having an extra half hour with little Johnny and Susie … is there really any competition?

So, the biz opp I passed up*** that I (selfishly) hope someone takes advantage of (specifically in the Fairfax County, VA … Reston, Herndon, Chantilly area … ahem) is a personal concierge service.

I’d happily, eagerly and repeatedly pay a service to come pick up a week’s worth of errands (purchases to pack and return, dry cleaning, car detailing, grocery shopping by someone who knows how to pick good fruits and veggies, prescriptions to fill, tickets I want) and who can refer/arrange every possible service I need (a handyman to move stuff to/from the garage, mobile pet groomers, painters, etc.)

In my area, I can get any one or two of these things from a service or two. Having a single “go-to-person” … one point-of-contact … who could handle the most common household issues or refer me (and handle the arrangements) to someone who can, would be worth a substantial premium on a continuity basis.

By the way, there is plenty of opportunity for profit here. Get in the right community, and the business will rage by word-of-mouth. It is not a price-sensitive market. A good concierge could charge a retainer plus broker deals with the services they work with to a) deliver a discount to the concierge clients and b) provide a kickback to the concierge. The key to making it work is someone running it who doesn’t only follow directions well, but who can also anticipate needs and proactively recommend solutions. I dream of this person, surely others must, too. wink

Thanks for including me, Dane, I appreciate it. Hope my answer was helpful.

*** Some people might wonder why I passed the opp up if it is such a great idea. Well, that’s an easy one. I have an irrational love for entrepreneurs. For lack of the better way to describe it, they are my people. Anything that isn’t specifically about helping entrepreneurs grow the businesses of their dreams, well, it just ain’t me … and I’d rather have a 9-to-5 than do something I don’t love.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Outdoor Display February 1, 2009 at 4:06 pm

While a personal assistant/concierge might be a nice status symbol, it makes most people hiccup when they realize just how much it would cost them.  It requires a good degree of trust, and trust is basically a complex form of product development.  Overhead, overhead, overhead.

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2 Anonymous June 22, 2007 at 10:24 pm

Michael,

As far as not following a business idea,

I personally have had so many product ideas and then later kicked myself for not doing them.  Why?  Because i later saw All the same ideas i had imagined on television.  Man, if i had gone after all those ideas, i would have had been retired a long time ago!  Of course part of what kept from me from going after these ideas was the proper funding. 

And now as far as business product ideas, i still have many.  Hopefully soon i will get one of those ideas patented.

But as far as advice, here is my 2 cents.
 
Before you even design the product, there should be be careful consideration for the consumer.  Why?  They are your buyers and people should think like a consumer.  This means after the idea has been given life through the imagination, you still have to tweak the idea even more because what may be a great idea, can become an even better one.  In other words, what you think is a great product can be, but you have to think in terms of what the consumer can use and how the item can serve them even better.  So personally before i spend a ton of money having someone design a business product, i will imagine numerous possibilities of how i can change the product further for the consumers benefit.

Ivan

[url=“http://dropshipcavern.blogspot.com”
dropshipcavern.blogspot.com - A resource of free info to Learn how to start a business with Wholesale dropshipper vendors.[/url]

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3 Anonymous June 23, 2007 at 3:24 am

Michael,
As far as not following a business idea,
I personally have had so many product ideas and then later kicked myself for not doing them.  Why?  Because i later saw All the same ideas i had imagined on television.  Man, if i had gone after all those ideas, i would have had been retired a long time ago!  Of course part of what kept from me from going after these ideas was the proper funding. 
And now as far as business product ideas, i still have many.  Hopefully soon i will get one of those ideas patented.
But as far as advice, here is my 2 cents.
 
Before you even design the product, there should be be careful consideration for the consumer.  Why?  They are your buyers and people should think like a consumer.  This means after the idea has been given life through the imagination, you still have to tweak the idea even more because what may be a great idea, can become an even better one.  In other words, what you think is a great product can be, but you have to think in terms of what the consumer can use and how the item can serve them even better.  So personally before i spend a ton of money having someone design a business product, i will imagine numerous possibilities of how i can change the product further for the consumers benefit.
Ivan
[url=“http://dropshipcavern.blogspot.com”
dropshipcavern.blogspot.com - A resource of free info to Learn how to start a business with Wholesale dropshipper vendors.[/url]

Reply

4 Anonymous August 15, 2006 at 3:31 pm

Love your blog! It provides a wide strata of information!

I was thinking of a startup with re-using waste glass to make creative glass articles! But have been passing on since the past 3 years! Dunno when will be finally doing it!

Great blog keep it up!

Abby

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5 Anonymous August 15, 2006 at 8:31 pm

Love your blog! It provides a wide strata of information!
I was thinking of a startup with re-using waste glass to make creative glass articles! But have been passing on since the past 3 years! Dunno when will be finally doing it!
Great blog keep it up!
Abby

Reply

6 Michael Cage August 8, 2006 at 6:53 pm

P.S. I’ve spent a ton of time working with tech start ups. I’ll post about it going forward.

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7 Michael Cage August 8, 2006 at 11:53 pm

P.S. I’ve spent a ton of time working with tech start ups. I’ll post about it going forward.

Reply

8 Michael Cage August 8, 2006 at 5:23 pm

Christian,

Thanks for your comments.

I think the people who want this as a status symbol are the wrong market … they’ll never last. It’s people who, in their heads, are saying: I make $500 for every productive hour in the day I have … wouldn’t it make more sense for me to pay $30-50-75/hour to have someone else take care of stuff I have no business doing.

I’m thinking of the people who can’t justify a full-time assistant for their personal life, but who could justify 5-10 hours per week of very specific help.

As for the kickback, maybe it’s the language I use. I’d use this as *part* of the marketing. The key is to make it transparent and a benefit to the buyer (lower up front costs, if you want another vendor … no problem, we hold them to a very high standard, only select the best, etc.).

Reply

9 Michael Cage August 8, 2006 at 10:23 pm

Christian,
Thanks for your comments.
I think the people who want this as a status symbol are the wrong market … they’ll never last. It’s people who, in their heads, are saying: I make $500 for every productive hour in the day I have … wouldn’t it make more sense for me to pay $30-50-75/hour to have someone else take care of stuff I have no business doing.
I’m thinking of the people who can’t justify a full-time assistant for their personal life, but who could justify 5-10 hours per week of very specific help.
As for the kickback, maybe it’s the language I use. I’d use this as *part* of the marketing. The key is to make it transparent and a benefit to the buyer (lower up front costs, if you want another vendor … no problem, we hold them to a very high standard, only select the best, etc.).

Reply

10 Anonymous August 8, 2006 at 3:59 pm

Hi there!  i enjoy your blog.  I’m an MBA student at Babson (the world’s Number 1 program for Entrepreneurship), and I found your note about a personal concierge service interesting.  It’s been floated many times by many people, and the one obstacle that keeps flying in the face of this lifestyle perk is, well, price point.  The 6-figure household is so aspirational these days, that they tend to throw whatever free money they have (and often more than what they should) at consumer products that show off their money.  While a personal assistant/concierge might be a nice status symbol, it makes most people hiccup when they realize just how much it would cost them.  It requires a good degree of trust, and trust is basically a complex form of product development.  Overhead, overhead, overhead.

The kickback idea is one that violates the level of trust you’re putting in the person.  We all hear about nanny horror stories – imagine that magnified at an agency that gets broken into!  It’s a very tough sell, but where it works is where it exists – hyper-income areas like La Jolla, the OC, Westchester and Greenwich, etc.  Sometimes the classic solution is what works best – an undocumented, nice lady with a couple of personal referrals to take care of the stuff you REALLY can’t stand, like cooking, cleaning and yelling at the kids. grin

BTW, I’m a tech entrepreneur at the moment.  got any experience in that?  And more to the point, got some angel money lying around?

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