9 Awesome Business Ideas for 2012 As the economy improves, so are the odds of starting a successful new business. If you're looking for a great new business idea, here are ten we think will be hot in 2012. Our predictions are based on recent data, research and anecdotal evidence suggesting growth fields and big opportunities to start a new business. 9. Employee-monitoring services Employees are increasingly mobile. In fact, it is estimated there will be 1.3 billion mobile workers by 2015. So how are employers supposed to keep track of what their workers are doing? The answer provides myriad business opportunities for entrepreneurs. One company, Exaktime, recently debuted a mobile time clock. There are also vehicle-tracking time clocks and time-clock apps. But employers often don't have the staff or the time to manage all this new data and distill it to what is needed for payroll and billing. A company that could provide employee-monitoring services, as well as some additional outsourced human resources functions, would be in great demand right now. 8. Traveling salon As people live longer, there's an increasing need for senior services of all sorts. And not all are related to health care. One such service, a mobile salon that travels to customers' residences to do their hair or nails, has nothing but growth potential. As aging baby boomers move into the senior citizen category, there will be a growing need for these mobile services that help keep boomers looking good without requiring them to make a trip to the salon. 7. Vending-machine business Increasingly, health-conscious and time-strapped Americans are looking for quick food on the go that is healthier than the soda and chips you usually find in vending machines. This has spawned a whole new industry of health-oriented, unique and specialized vending companies that offer franchisees the chance to own and service as few as one or two machines. One such franchise, Fresh Vending, has had big success putting healthy vending machines in schools, offices, public buildings, etc. Owning a vending- machine business offers franchisees the opportunity to start small and test the waters. 6. Smartphone repair Smartphones have become indispensible for both business and personal use. But have you ever tried to get one fixed? It can cost as much to fix a smartphone as it does to buy one. Smartphone-repair services are starting to crop up around the country, but for now, this market is wide open. 5. Contracting If you've tried to hire a contractor lately you probably already know that something odd is going on. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many contractors went out of business during the height of the recession and those that survived got lean and mean. Now, as the economy improves and Americans are spending money to improve their homes, they are having trouble finding contractors – electricians, plumbers, roofers, painters and more. Contractors say they are facing a shortage of skilled labor and having trouble finding employees to rebuild their former skeleton crews. This creates an opportunity for skilled workers who are ready to take the leap from being an employee to owning their own company. Starting small is probably the best way to test the waters. You can grow after you've proven your success. 4. Testing business Apps, websites, e-commerce…they've become must-haves for any business. But often, they don't work. The reason is that businesses don't test their applications or software carefully enough. Testing services are in hot demand. One company, SOASTA, offers cloud testing services for clients. There's room in this market for growth. A service that specializes in niche testing would have an edge over broader testing services. 3. Freelancing You may think freelancing isn't really a business, but with so many companies looking for freelance or contract employees of all sorts, it's not hard to imagine that you could build a whole company around providing freelance services of one sort or another. According to Freelancer.com, which lists more than a million freelance projects on its site, the most in-demand freelance services are: data entry, academic writing, Excel projects, data processing, Web search and Facebook-based jobs. Hourly rates start at $30 an hour and stretch into the hundreds. 2. Business services A lot of companies cut back on support staff during the recession and many are reluctant to rehire, even though they need help. This is creating a business opportunity for anyone who can provide marketing, human resources, healthcare management or any other service a business needs. According to Stephanie Scott Harbour, owner of the New York Mom Corps franchise, there is a big demand for services in marketing, finance and human resources. "We are seeing increased client demand for specific functional roles – particularly marketing, finance and human resources. We are hearing from our clients that these departments have been downsized over the past few years, and are now in (sometimes desperate) need of additional support," she said. 1. Mobile consulting It's been said before, but it bears repeating: mobile is now a non-negotiable for almost any business. Finding ways to go mobile is a challenge for many business owners. If your company can provide affordable mobile solutions to businesses that need them you'll find mobile consulting a rich business opportunity. According to Jamie Turner, founder of a company called "The 60-Second Marketer," there will be ongoing need for mobile assistance. "Research from the 60-Second Marketer indicates that there are more people on the planet who own a mobile device than who own a toothbrush," said Turner, who co-authored the new book "Go Mobile" (Wiley, January 2012) with Jeanne Hopkins. "So it's safe to say that your prospects are using mobile. If you're in business, it's your job to be where your prospects are. Your prospects are in mobile right now."