In 1973, the average size of a residential home in America was 1525 square feet. By 2013, this figure rose by more than 70 percent to 2598 square feet, thanks to the construction boom of the so-called “McMansions,” or oversized homes built for sale.
While expanding a house may be any homeowner’s dream, an alternative movement has been on the rise, following the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007. There are groups of people, especially among baby boomers and millennials, who seek a more simple and minimal lifestyle, as evidenced by the recent popularity of Ms. Marie Kondo, the declutter expert, and her best-seller book, The Life–Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
One such example is “The Tiny House Movement,” which reassesses the value of simple and sustainable lifestyle, and encourages people to live in small houses of 150-400 square feet. With the economic collapse, many people were forced to give up their homes and move into a rented space. Some people have started to question the stress of having to work long hours just to afford high rents.
The cost of a “tiny house” is about $10K to $25K, if you do not hire a contractor and build it yourself. Various resources, such as how-to-books and building materials, are available for sale as well. The cost is anywhere from $60K to over $100K if you hire builders that specialize in constructing luxury tiny houses.
Quite a few Americans find living in tiny homes attractive and fulfilling. They are environmentally friendly, and can be built at a low cost, without having to take out a long-term loan or mortgage. Even with little space, it is possible to create a highly efficient home by utilizing the latest technology, like solar panels.
Home & Garden Television (HGTV), which specializes in programs on homes and interiors, air two regular shows about tiny houses. We can expect their popularity to continue among baby boomers who wish to downsize and minimize their possessions, and single millennials, who have embraced the sharing economy and are less concerned with the size of their homes.
Nikkei Newspaper, February 21, 2017
While America has one of the world’s largest automotive markets, bicycles are becoming more popular every year. In New York City, new and improved bike lanes were built about ten years ago, and welcomed by its inhabitants. More recently, electric bikes – called “EA bikes” (for electric-assist bikes) or “e-bikes” for short – are gaining popularity. Propel Electric Bikes (http://propelbikes.com/), founded by Chris Nolte, specializes in e-bikes. The company began its online operation in 2011, and opened a retail store in Brooklyn in July 2015. The store not only sells bikes but offers repair service as well as a place to exchange information. It serves as a gathering spot for the cycling community.
Mr. Nolte, who is a passionate cycler himself, injured his back over ten years ago during his military duties in the Middle East. Unable to cycle a long distance on a regular bike, he switched to an electric bike. This led him to start his business. The company sells bikes by American and European manufacturers. The most popular types range from $2,500 to $4,000. Its annual sales exceeded $1 million in 2016.
While the baby boomers use e-bikes mainly for sport and leisure, the more eco-conscious millennials – those born between 1980s to early 2000s – especially those living in metropolitan areas, use them as a method of transportation. Some millennial cyclists commute 10-20 miles each way on their e-bikes, which have a top speed of 20mph. Some even say that a driver’s license is unnecessary.
In the Netherlands, the world’s bicycle capital, electric bikes are more common. There, one out of every three bikes sold is an electric bike, compared to one in every hundred in the U.S. Yet now that e-bikes are becoming increasingly lighter with longer battery life thanks to technological innovation, many expect the e-bike market to continue expanding. One study estimates that the global e-bike sales will grow to $24 billion by 2025.
Whether or not electric bikes are allowed in bike lanes depends on each municipality. It is permitted in New York City, where electric bikes may indeed become the popular method of transportation for many in the future.
Nikkei Sangyo Newspaper, November 22, 2016
Partnering with local bars across the nation, Paint Nite(https://www.paintnite.com/) offers a new type of social event where participants can enjoy painting while drinking a glass of wine.
The company was founded in 2012 by two entrepreneurs in the suburbs of Boston, and now has 110 staff members with a revenue of $55 million a year. This past August, it was ranked number two in Inc. Magazine’s annual list of 5000 fastest-growing small and medium-size companies.Every month Paint Nite organizes about 5500 events at 3500 bars in 1500 cities in the U.S. The company’s registered painting event is licensed to 250 “creative entrepreneurs” (CE), who are assigned to specific regions nationwide, and receive 70% of the sales. These CEs work with local artists and art instructors, who host the individual events and help participants complete their artwork in a fun and social atmosphere. The company takes care of maintaining its website, managing online promotions, and preparing art supplies. Paint Nite’s website allows you to select the desired date and location, the type of art you are interested in, and make a payment. The cost ranges between $45-65, including all art supplies. Food and drink can be purchased directly at the venue. Each event starts at 7pm and runs for about two hours.
Everyone works from the same image, so there is no competition as to whose work is better or worse than others. The number of participants ranges from 35 to 80. Most of them are women in their 20s and 30s. This holiday season, the company will start selling gift cards as well. Paint Nite’s intelligent and creative lifestyle business also offers a new revenue source for artists who find it difficult to earn a living from selling their artwork. Setting a win-win business relationship for all those concerned, the company has much potential for future growth.