Hot List 2008

Some new, some tried-and-true—here’s our list of the best tips, trends and tomes for the year.

If put on the spot, you could probably rattle off your favorite sports team, pizza topping or movie without much of a problem. But what about the tech gadget you can't live without? The business book that changed the way you run your company? The website that made you twice as efficient as you used to be? We've compiled a list of 100 “need-to-know” items, ranging from tools and trends to green gadgets and gizmos, to keep you up-to-date on what's hot for an American small business owner today. Plus, we've included plenty of fun diversions—best quick getaway vacations (we know you need one), fitness trends, convenience foods and more. The vast majority of the products listed are made by small, up-and-coming businesses, so you can feel good knowing that you're supporting a company like your own. Use this handy guide when you need inspiration or motivation!


Gadgets


Tech tools you never knew you needed


WildCharge
Tired of your cell phone and PDA charger cords taking up space and getting tangled? WildCharge is a wire-free charging and power pad—just place your phone on it and it'll charge it up. $89.99. wildcharge.com


BUG
The winner of the Emerging Technologies category for this year's Best of CES Awards, this product from Bug Labs enables the user to create his or her own customized gadget. The platform starts with a minicomputer, the Bug Base, onto which you can snap multiple modules, such as a digital camera or an LCD screen. You can then program your own software to run your personalized gadget or download software from the Bug Labs site. Base starts at $299. buglabs.net


jetBook
Weighing in at 7.5 oz., jetBook is one of the lightest e-books in the world. Slimmer than even a standard paperback, it easily fits in the palm of your hand for an incredibly comfortable reading experience. The built in flash-memory allows you to store not only books but .txt and .pdf files as well as .jpegs—making this a useful tool for business documents as well. $299.95. jetbook.net


NEAT Receipts
From receipts and expense reports to business documents and business cards, you can now keep organized, digital files in a database on your PC. Simply send documents through the scanner and NEAT Receipts software will automatically handle the rest. $229.95. neatreceipts.com


iGolf neo Golf GPS
Perfect for golfers of any experience level, this tool instantly provides precise distances to the front, center and back of the green, no matter where you are on the course. $149.99. iGolf.com


inPerson Revolutionize
This wireless system from Creative offers a high-quality screen for high-resolution video that can be connected to a larger screen or projector. Your meetings won't always have to take place in the boardroom, either—due to its WiFi capabilities, the portable device can take your meetings anywhere—perfect for the business owner on the go. $899.99. creative.com


boynq iCube II
Having trouble finding the right at-home stereo speaker for your iPod? Not anymore. The iCube II can accommodate every iPod model made—including ones that are now off the market—and also boasts superior sound clarity. $59.99. boynq.com


iRobot Roomba Discovery
These robot vacuums are as entertaining to watch as they are useful for vacuuming—in other words, extremely! Run it overnight to vacuum your store's floors or use it to spot clean a specific area. Or, try the iRobot Dirt Dog, which sweeps patios, decks, workshops, garages, basements and other industrial floor surfaces. Starts at $119.99. iRobot.com


Bose Quiet Comfort 2
Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones The second edition of these headphones (originally designed for airline travelers) feature more benefits than ever before: high-quality audio, reduction in outside noise and a convenient fold-flat design for storage in its slim carrying case. $299. bose.com


iWave Cube Personal Microwave
No room for a kitchenette in your business? No worries; the iWave Cube is the world's smallest patented microwave. It measures one cubic foot—about the size of a box of tissues—and weighs just 12 pounds, offering portability and a sleek design. $129.95. icubedllc.com


Deluo MouseGPS for Laptop
Not your typical USB mouse for your laptop, this innovative model includes a GPS function—no monthly fees or Internet service required. Options include the best-selling Microsoft Streets & Trips software to make getting on-the-go directions a breeze. $89.99. deluogps.com


VUDU
You may already rent on-demand movies, but with VUDU, now you can buy on-demand movies, too. The box provides instant access to more than 6,000 movies and TV shows, with hundreds of titles in high-definition that you can either rent for $1-$5 or buy for $5-$20 and store in VUDU's 250-gigabyte hard drive. $295. vudu.com


Quick Weekend Getaways


Forget Disney—small businesses dominate these vacation locales


Mt. Hood/The Gorge Region of Oregon
This area offers something for everyone from children and couples to art aficionados and outdoor enthusiasts. The area includes historic buildings, a bustling shopping district featuring boutiques, designer shops, antique shops, art galleries and over 30 restaurants. traveloregon.com


Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Seventy miles in length and divided into upper, mid, lower, outer and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, the cape has become a hotspot for vacationers in the northeastern states. If you're not enjoying a relaxing day on the beach, then dive into one of their numerous festivals. Also be sure to check out the historical sites that have played important roles in American history. capecod.com


Branson, Missouri
From '57 Heaven, the world's largest collection of 1957 automobiles and memorabilia, to live shows such as the Presley's Country Jubilee, there is sure to be something for everyone in Branson—including plenty of local places to grab some grub and do some shopping. branson.com


Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
It's not hard figure out what 14 million visitors a year already know—this place has it all. If outside activity is what you crave, you can hit the beach or play golf at some of the greatest courses in the U.S. Myrtle Beach's outside market allows you to explore local business at its finest. Then, sit back and enjoy some of the best seafood on the East Coast. myrtlebeach.com


Sedona, Arizona
If you're searching for history, art or yourself, then Sedona is where you need to be. Known world wide for being a spiritual mecca, this picturesque city has it all. Don't forget to visit the Out of Africa Wildlife Park. visitsedona.com


Saugatuck and Douglas, Michigan
Known as “The Art Coast of Michigan,” the area features fine dining, exquisite lodging, special events and many attractions like golfing, dune rides, boat cruises, hiking, along with loads of unique shops. Although it has become a popular vacation spot, the area has maintained the undeniable charm of small-town rural America. michigan.org


Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
“The water park capital of the world” and a top family vacation spot for years. Spend the day shopping on Broadway, enjoying little shops such as the Goody Goody Gum Drop to cure your sweet tooth or Humbird Cheese for authentic Wisconsin cheeses. wisdells.com


Jackson, New Hampshire
Located in the White Mountain region of the state, Jackson and the surrounding towns are home to countless bed and breakfast inns, country stores and farmstands. Make sure to visit the White Mountain Cider Company in the fall for authentic, New England treats! jacksonnh.com


Deals on Wheels


Affordable cars, efficient cars and even both


smart fortwo
It's probably already turned your head as you've seen it zipping down the road. This new pint-sized powerhouse seats only two, but averages 36 mpg and is perfect for city-dwellers—parallel parking should never be a problem again! $11,590. smartusa.com


Jeep Compass
The U.S. Department of Energy rates the 2008 2WD edition of the Compass as the most fuel-efficient among SUVs (excluding hybrids). Averaging 23 mpg city/28 mpg highway, the compact SUV also offers high performance, a roomy interior and dozens of options for upgrades. $17,055. jeep.com


Toyota Corolla
Dependable, fuel-efficient (28 mpg city/37 mpg highway), and only improves with each model, this car is an all-around deal. Now in its tenth generation, the Corolla is purchased by more than 200,000 Americans each year for its reliability and value. $15,250. toyota.com


Miles ZX40ST
Perfect for landscaping and light hauling, the Miles ZX40ST electric truck launched in April. The vehicle runs about 60 miles on a charge and tops out around 25 mph, but if all your business is local, the long-term savings in gas and maintenance can't be beat. $18,400. milesev.com


ZAP Xebra
The electric vehicles made by ZAP (which stands for Zero Air Pollution) are great for both your wallet and the environment. Designed by Lotus Engineering, the Xebra line of cars retails for less than almost any car on the market, and your gas bills will be nonexistent. $11,200. zapworld.com


Lexus GS 450h
This hybrid luxury sport sedan boasts a V6 engine, 340 horsepower and can go 0-60 in 5.2 seconds. It's a fantastic deal for its high performance and fuel economy, averaging 25 mpg city/28 mpg highway. $54,900. lexus.com


Tesla Roadster
For the environmentalist with deep pockets or a need for speed, the Tesla Roadster is an electric car that can not only travel 220 miles on a single charge, but can go from 0-60 in 3.9 seconds. The 2008 model is already sold out, but Tesla is taking reservations for 2009. $98,000. tesla.com


Dodge Dakota
According to The U.S. Department of Energy, the 2008 2WD edition is the most fuel-efficient standard pickup on the market, with 16 mpg city/20 mpg highway. The 2008 Dakota also features a new engine that offers 31 percent more horsepower and 13 percent more torque than the previous model. $19,000. dodge.com


Foods on the Go


Tasty, convenient and sometimes even healthy—what's not to like?


Amy's Hot Cereal Organic Bowls
For a quick and healthy breakfast or midday snack, family-owned Amy's Kitchen now offers Hot Cereal Bowls for oatmeal, cream of rice and more. Even easier than instant oatmeal packets, these meals come already packaged in the bowl and feature great consistency every time. amyskitchen.com


Luna Bars
Available in many great flavors, Luna Bars contain high-quality, all-natural ingredients instead of high fructose corn syrup or trans fats. The snack is 70-percent USDA certified organic, full of soy protein and 23 vitamins and minerals. lunabar.com


Naked Juice
Now celebrating 25 years, this maker of 100-percent juice drinks and smoothies is still committed to its principles: no added sugar, no preservatives and no artificial flavors. nakedjuice.com  


Pirate's Booty
These delicious, air-puffed treats from the small business Robert's American Gourmet are the perfect snack during the workday. Also available in Veggie Booty, Caramel Booty and more. robscape.com


Nabisco 100-Calorie Packs
Perfectly portioned for a sensible snack, these treats are already available for Ritz crackers, Oreos, Chips Ahoy and other favorites. nabiscoworld.com


Jeni's Ice Creams
Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, this small business has both traditional flavors and a wide range of seasonal editions, including Wild Berry Lavender, Lime Cardamom and Sugardaddy's Brownie Cream Cheese. Don't worry if you're not a Buckeye—they'll ship the ice cream nationwide. jenisicecreams.com


Campbell's Select Healthy Request Soups
Offered in Mexican Style Chicken Tortilla, Chicken with Egg Noodles and Italian Style Wedding Soup, these offerings have 40-percent less sodium than their standard counterparts. campbellsoup.com/select


James' and Fralinger's Salt Water Taffy
The original salt water taffy company, family-owned and operated since the 1880s, still makes their treats with the original delicious recipes. The company is also renowned for their extensive candy menu—try the almond and coconut macaroons! seashoretaffy.com


Sabra Hummus To Go
These handy, portable snacks come in six mouth-watering flavors, complete with crunchy pretzel crisps for dipping. sabra.com  


Kashi Thin Crust Pizzas
These wood-fired pizzas come in three varieties: Tomato Garlic Cheese, Roasted Vegetable and Mushroom Trio & Spinach. Not only are they all-natural, they're high in fiber and protein, too. kashi.com


Enstrom's Almond Toffee
Founded by Chet and Vernie Enstrom in 1960, this Colorado-based company is known for its original-recipe almond toffee and wide selection of tasty chocolates. enstrom.com


Sparky's Root Beer
Launched by the Knox family in 2000, Sparky's Root Beer went from a homebrewer's hobby to a successful business. The delicious brew is available in several stores in Northern California, and can be purchased online. sparkysrootbeer.com


Green Goods


Earth-friendly inside the office


Mythic Paint
Choose green the next time you repaint! Not necessarily in color, but in the type of paint you use. Mythic Paints are 100-percent nontoxic, contain low levels of volatile organic compounds and have very low odor, leading to a healthier interior of your home, store or office. Starts at $16.99/quart. mythicpaint.com


Voltaic Generator
This is the first solar-powered bag that's strong enough to charge a laptop. Large enough to hold a 17” notebook computer inside it, the carrying case can also charge a variety of hand-held electronics, including cell phones and MP3 players. Plus, not only are the solar panels eco-friendly, the bag's material is made from recycled soda bottles. $599. voltaicsystems.com


Chaba Letter Holder
Chaba Art Décor and Design Collection uses reclaimed wood from torn-down buildings, schools, boats and homes, and re-manufactures it into wall art, office products, home decor items and more. $38. chabadecor.com


ecopod e1
Tired of your recycling bins taking up too much space? Great for everyday use in the home and office, the ecopod e1 transforms recycling as we know it. With a durable, removable pod and crush-pedal to condense materials such as plastic bottles and metal cans, as well as a separate bin for newspapers and cardboard, the ecopod e1 makes recycling easy and efficient. $328. ecopod.org


Kill A Watt
Find out exactly how much each appliance in your home or office is costing you in electric bills. Just plug any 115-volt AC electric appliance up to 15 amps into the Kill A Watt meter and the large LCD screen will display the power consumption of the appliance by kilowatt-hours, allowing you to calculate the electricity cost of the appliance, by the day, week, month or year. $39.95. p3international.com


tEcoArt
Finally, a use for your outdated computer. tEcoArt recycles old computer hardware into desk art, business card holders and more. Perfect for any tech-related business or geek at heart! $15.50. tecoart.com


HYmini
This handheld device stores wind energy to its internal battery to recharge your electronic gadgets. Just 20 minutes of exposure to wind is enough to power an iPod for half an hour. $75. hymini.com


Herman Miller C2 Climate Control Device
No more fighting over the thermostat! The C2 is a personal comfort device that allows the user to adjust his or her personal air temperature and experience enhanced air quality. Plus, the economic design saves on energy efficiency. $280. hermanmiller.com


MotoArt C-119 Reception Desk
Make a statement right when your clients walk in the door! MotoArt salvages parts from airplane boneyards and remanufactures them into office furniture, art and more. Price available upon request. motoart.com


Umbra Garbini
This sleek, desktop-sized trash can is designed by Karim Rashid and made from corn plastic, a compostable and renewable resource. $5. umbra.com


Online Options


Downloads and websites to simplify your business


FuelBank.com Gas prices keep rising and rising, and fuelbank.com provides you with a way to purchase fuel in bulk at a locked-in rate. Users can pick up their prepaid gallons at any gas station and swipe their Fuel Bank card at the register or pump. The user's Fuel Bank account is debited, the transaction is approved and a receipt is printed. Fuel Bank then arranges the transfer of funds to credit the gas station that redeemed the fuel.


Sidestep.com
Need a bargain for your next vacation or business trip? This site searches over 200 travel websites to bring you the best travel values on the Web.


WalkScore.com
Type in the address of your office or house, and the site will find the walking distance to the nearest grocery stores, post offices, restaurants and more. It will also assign a score based on the “walkability” of your location.


GasPriceWatch.com
Allows users to select a location and view the gas prices at various gas stations in your area, helping you make the most cost-efficient decision when filling up your vehicles. Meetings & Greetings TSNN.com Need to find a trade show or a training? Look no further. TSNN.com markets itself as “the ultimate event resource,” and with good reason: the site lists more than 15,000 trade shows, exhibitions, public events and conferences for dozens of industries.


 Dodgeball.com
Tired of having to call or message everyone individually when planning an impromptu get-together? Dodegball.com is a one-stop site to coordinate social interactions with friends and coworkers through your mobile devices. Now available in 22 cities.


Upcoming.Yahoo.com
This site serves as a community for discovering upcoming events. Plus, it can help small business owners find out about events going on in their specific industry.


Get Organized


Backpackit.com
Don't have an intranet for your company? You do now. The web-based Backpack program allows you to easily store and share information across your company through its color-coded group calendars, text message options and centralized storage capabilities.


Zohopeople.com
This program offers a convenient way for small businesses to manage their HR and recruiting. Users can manage employee demographic data, automate the recruitment process and more. Bonus: the program is free for companies with fewer than 10 employees.


When-Is.com
Need to plan a springtime event in 2009, but not sure of what day Easter is supposed to be? This site lists all the religious and civil holiday dates for the next six years.


41pounds.org
Sick of junk mail and catalogs clogging your mailbox and recycling bins? Here's a great way to stop it: 41pounds.org will contact dozens of companies on your behalf to stop up to 90 percent of your junk mail.


Zillow.com
Looking to sell your home or business? This site will show you the selling prices for properties recently cold in your area, and even gives up-to-date estimates on what your property is worth.


Tech Made Easy


Pligg.com Create your own business blog! Download Pligg's free open-source content management software and take your company's website to the next level.


myABCspace.com
With myABCspace, you can easily create a landing page for your business. Display basic information such as phone numbers, product and service offerings, as well as simple graphics and videos. The user-friendly application can help even the most technology-shy business owner create an effective website.


FileHippo.com
A place to download the newest versions of the top software programs for free. One unique feature is that they keep the old versions of programs, so that you can go back to it if you don't like the new version.


Pando.com
This program allows you to quickly send large files over e-mail or instant message. Perfect for small businesses, the Pando Publisher option allows you to stream full-screen high-definition videos from your website and can cut your bandwidth bills by 90 percent.


DigitalTips.org
The Consumer Electronic Association's website provides you with a free buying guide to all kinds of electronics. Learn how to choose and how to use MP3 players, high-definitions televisions, GPS systems and more.


eHow.com
Everything from “How to Install Carpet” to “How to Not Get Ripped Off When Filing Taxes” is covered on this immensely useful website, complete with articles, instructional videos and product reviews.


WhiteSmoke.com
Nothing says “unprofessional” like mistakes in spelling or grammar. Polish your marketing materials, service menus and more with this software program. The Business Writing package includes a text enrichment database streamlined for Business English and a wide range of document templates designed specifically for business writing.


Good Reads


Books to build your business and your character


See You at the Top
Zig Ziglar, one of America's most renowned motivational speakers, authored this book about how strength of personal character can translate to success in business. One of our favorites—in fact, the book's premise, “You can get everything in life you want if you help enough other people get what they want,” is the guiding principle behind America's Best Companies. ziglar.com


The Art of War:
Written more than 2,000 years ago by Chinese warrior-philosopher Sun Tzu, this book continues to be one of the most influential guides on strategy in existence. Used by everyone from politicians to business owners, it provides strategies for victory through understanding the psychology of conflict. amazon.com


Think & Grow Rich
Originally published in 1937, this classic motivational book by Napoleon Hill gives a practical outline for high achievement and financial independence. The book's basic concept is that all thoughts are things; following the steps described within the book can make any idea that you have come to life. amazon.com


Secret Service: Hidden Systems That Deliver Unforgettable Customer Service
Written by John R. DiJulius, owner of a chain of Cleveland-area salons and spas, this book provides business owners with effective ways to deliver an amazing experience for your guests. Moreover, he stresses the importance of employee satisfaction and how it relates to that of the customer. Learn how any dedicated owner can grow his or her business by having exemplary customer service. johndijulius.com


Work to Live: The Guide to Getting a Life
A must for anyone on the verge of burning out. Joe Robinson takes an honest look at workaholic culture and provides strategies for achieving a healthy work-life balance without sacrificing your job output—or your sanity. worktolive.info


The Best Business Books Ever: The 100 Most Influential Business Books You'll Never Have Time to Read
For the especially time-crunched, this guide summarizes the key ideas in the books that have made a lasting impact on management thinking and practices. Plus, if you're looking for the right book to read for your business, this is an excellent starting-off point. amazon.com


Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don't
Jim Collins and his team sorted through nearly 1,500 companies, focusing on 11—including Fannie Mae, Gillette and Wells Fargo—that grew over time. They found that these top brands had many traits in common, including a strong corporate culture that encouraged their workers to grow. Learn how to strengthen your own corporate culture and follow suit. amazon.com


Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want
James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II co-authored this book, exploring the belief that consumers choose whether to buy a product or service based upon how “real” they perceive the offering to be. Looking at companies like Disney and Starbucks, they explain not only how to be authentic, but how to convey it to your customers. amazon.com


Predictably Irrational
Are we really in control of our actions, or does our brain trick us every day? Dan Ariely, a professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management, explores the power of placebo effects, why honor codes work and the reasons for our quirky behaviors in this new book. predictablyirrational.com


Fitness Flash


Keep yourself and your employees in shape


Practical Golf OpTee
Perfect for any golfer! By touching the lever of the portable OpTee with your club, it automatically sets up golf balls on a practice tee—letting your stance and grip remain unchanged between swings. $49.95. optee.com


WellSteps
Set up a fitness program for your company, teaching employees how to get in shape and maintain healthy behaviors. When employees change behavior, health is better, work goes more smoothly and even relationships improve! Price varies with programs. wellsteps.com


Zumba
This new fitness craze combines aerobic dance with Latin salsa and merengue to result in a high-energy, fun workout. As of February this year, Zumba has sold over 3 million DVDs, accrued more than 11,000 instructors in 35 countries, and has over 2 million students practicing the dance on a weekly basis. $59.85 for DVD set. zumba.com


Sahara DryEar
If you've ever suffered from swimmer's ear, you know how irritating it can be. This rechargeable ear dryer, invented by an ear surgeon, eliminates the moisture trapped in the outer ear canal and minimizes chances for ear infections. $99.99. dryear.net


FitBALL Seating Disc
When sitting on the FitBall Seating Disc, you can strengthen core muscles, exercise legs and improve your balance and coordination without leaving your office chair. $26.95. balldynamics.com


Lifeline Portable Gym
Who knew that all the gym equipment you needed could fit inside your gym bag? Lifeline's Portable Gym includes everything for both strength training and cardio: A set of triple grip handles, a door attachment, a 30-inch take-apart lifting bar, a jogging belt, a five-foot cable, an instructional DVD and manual, and a carrying case. $39.95 lifelineusa.com


Treadmill Desk
Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic came up with the idea of a “Treadmill Desk,” with which he slowly walked on a treadmill while working at a desk built around the treadmill. He concluded that the average user of the Treadmill Desk, working and walking for eight hours per day, could lose up to 57 pounds in one year! This blog follows the progress of everyday people who have crafted their own device. treadmill-desk.com


Prohands Gripmaster
Whether you're a weekend athlete or someone who uses their hands a lot on the job, the Gripmaster can help you develop hand, wrist and forearm strength, regain dexterity and improve flexibility. Bonus: It's available in four different color-coded models of graduated resistance. $14.95. prohands.net


Small Biz Hotspots


Where startup companies are on the rise in the U.S


Nebraska
The recently published Entrepreneurship in Nebraska: Conditions, Attitudes, and Actions looks into the motivations for starting a small business, and finds that the climate ripe for entrepreneurship across the state. Not only do many Nebraskans start their own business with the goal of being their own boss, it's a career path often promoted to their children as well.


Bellevue, Washington
Praised by FORTUNE Small Business for its growing downtown and startup-friendly atmosphere, a major perk is that businesses making less than $135,000 in taxable incomes don't have to pay the statewide Business and Occupations tax on their gross receipts—and there's no corporate income tax, either.


Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that more than 162,000 residents moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth area between July 2006 and July 2007—more than any metro area in the country! Houston, Austin and San Antonio are also among the top 10 cities adding the most new residents.


New Orleans, Louisiana
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 40,000 people returned or relocated to the Big Easy last year—a huge jump, considering the city's population dropped by almost 290,000 in the wake of 2005's Hurricane Katrina.


Palm Coast, Florida
According to the Census Bureau, this is currently the fastest-growing region in the nation, with a population jump of 7.2 percent in 2007.


Raleigh, North Carolina
Ranked this year by Forbes as the top city for business in America, this hotspot boasts strong job growth, lower-than-average business costs and an influx of recent college grads to fuel the labor supply.


St. George, Utah
Home to 65,000 citizens, the city has grown by 39.8 percent since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many of the major employers in this western city include several locally-founded small businesses, including Mikohn, Wells Dairy and the renowned Red Mountain Spa.


Trends to Watch


Industries to keep an eye on


Pet Projects
With many people treating their four-legged friends like their own children, the pet care industry has grown by leaps and bounds. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Americans spent $40.8 billion on their pets last year, up from $38.5 billion in 2006. A growing piece of that pie is organic pet food sales, which reached $54 million in 2007—a 30-percent jump from the year prior. Check out the pet boutiques in your area—they probably rival your local fashion boutiques in their products and prices.


Allergy Awareness
With more and more Americans getting diagnosed with food allergies, it's becoming a higher priority for restaurants and food brands to clearly label their offerings—and if they're really smart, they stay away from certain foods altogether. Chicago's Uno Grill was recently named “America's Healthiest Chain Restaurant” for its trans fat-free menu and extensive allergy labeling, and niche baby food lines like BOBOBABY and Homemade Baby nip allergy problems in the bud by omitting ingredients like wheat and peanuts from the line.


Declaration of Independence An increasing number of businesses opt to hire workers classified as independent contractors rather than employees. The upside for the owner is taking a pass on paying for benefits and some business expenses, but it also results in less control over services. Good or bad for business? The jury's still out, but either way, it's going to be an interesting trend to keep tabs on for the next few years.


Spacing Out
The wealthiest of the wealthy are reaching toward infinity and beyond for the ultimate in thrill-seeking: space tourism. Space Adventures launched its first space tourist into orbit in 2001; British magnate Richard Branson launched Virgin Galactic and his pair of spacecraft in 2005; and now, small business XCOR Aerospace is getting in on the action. Based in California's Mojave Desert, the company plans to offer affordable access to space, taking clients 38 miles over the Earth by 2010.


Babies are the New Black
Not since the post-World War II baby-boom era has there seemed to be such a prevalence of baby bumps—and accessories to boot. Celebrity moms set the trends in maternity style, while magazines such as Cookie provide all the latest high-end products for today's stylish tots. Sandy Jones, author of The Guide to Baby Products, notes that new parents spend an average of $6,200 on baby-related goods and services during a child's first 12 months, and more than 4 million babies are born per year in the U.S. That's a lot of bibs and bottles.


Green Scene
It's almost a guarantee nowadays that when your company's product offering or service is marketed as eco-friendly, two things automatically happen: it warrants a higher price tag; and, clients are actually willing to pay a premium for it. The green movement presents a win-win for both the environment and your bottom line.


Do you have personal experience with any of the products or trends listed? Think you have another hot item to add to the list? Add your comments!



 

 

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