Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Straw homes, bongo drums, horror movies and climate change (Long post, but you can quit any time)

You can build businesses on trends – if you can tell a fad from a trend.
A fad, of course, is when one person you know is doing something new or different: e.g., having their baby at home, trekking to Nepal, building a barn. A trend is when you know two people doing it.

Browsing through the “Class Notes” of the latest issue of York University's alumni magazine, I discovered numerous offbeat careers and lifestyle changes that reflect dozens of trends and changes in society.

So here’s a list of interesting choices some people are making these days. Which do you think offer the best business opportunities?

Class of 1970: A female grad is building a straw-bale home.

1978: A musician has just released a new DVD, The Art of Bongo Drumming.

1981: A PhD is teaching archival sciences. A BA grad working for a disaster-services organization also runs a private psychotherapy practice. A couple just bought a Kumon Math and Reading Centre franchise.

1982: A grad is working on South Africa’s National Transportation Master Plan, made more challenging due to South Africa’s hosting of the World Cup in 2010.

1988: One grad is a “Six Sigma Black Belt” with PricewaterhouseCoopers. An MBA grad works for a Texas software company from his home in Thornhill, Ont.

1989: An MBA grad has returned to the west coast to “resume retirement” after taking a break to work on a two-year engineering contract in Ontario.

1992: One grad started her own concierge business in Toronto. Another grad has a job in dispute management for the Canada Revenue Agency. Another grad exchanged vows with his life partner in the Himalayas.

1995: A grad left teaching to go into housing construction.

1996: One grad reported she is working “in a job she enjoys.”

1997: A BA grad has become director of a Centre for Conflict Resolution Studies at UPEI.

1998: A science grad is working as a contaminants-surveillance biologist for the Great Lakes. Two guys named Steven just got engaged. A self-described “artist with disabilities” has just released her third CD.

1999: A BA grad is a technical writer in Australia.

2002: An honours business grad is running several used-car dealerships in Indonesia.

2003: A BA grad is working in marketing for a sci-fi and horror film festival. A science grad is managing Telus’s wholesale U.S. marketing strategy.

2005: A law grad is now a policy analyst for the climate change division of DFAIT in Ottawa.

What’s it all mean? As mass markets fragment, a list like this demonstrates that there are more emerging market niches and new opportunities than any of us can really imagine.

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