Under-the-Radar Hot Industries For Small Business Profits

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's often the least sexy, lack of brand-recognition businesses that present the best growth opportunity. Or in other words, today's entrepreneur looking for a new business venture or career shift might want to pass on the Dunkin' Donuts' franchise license and learn how to administer antibiotics to sheep and pigs, or use a microscope to test an R&D-phase consumer product for toxins.

Veterinarian health care, ambulance services and laboratory-based product testing are industries ripe for profitable returns.

The barriers to entry are high, but that shouldn't deter aspiring entrepreneurs.

"These are growing industries with favorable operating conditions that present opportunities. If entrepreneurs can overcome the high barriers to entry there is significant growth and profitable opportunity to offer specialized services in these industries," says Doug Kelly, an industry analyst at IBISWorld in a recent report on the growth opportunities.

Here is a brief rundown of opportunities in these select industries.

1. Veterinary services

Continued growth in pet ownership and consumers' increasing willingness to pay for pet services, including health care, means strong growth prospects for the veterinary services industry.

Vet service providers have been able to increase their prices by gauging strong consumer demand. More importantly, a majority of these services are paid for out-of-pocket as opposed to the hassle of dealing with insurance companies. Those who can offer specialized services will have a leg up against competitors.

"Despite high barriers to entry, the top four industry players only account for an estimated 8.3% of industry revenue, which presents industry operators with opportunities to gain market share through acquisitions and transitioning toward group animal-care practices that can offer enhanced services and achieve economies of scale," the report says.

The vet services industry also includes another growing area: laboratory and diagnostic testing for licensed veterinary practitioners.

To be sure, start-up costs are high. In order to operate profitably labs rely on long-term fixed contracts, meaning securing contractual relationships with different vet practitioners in the area. The labs also need highly trained staff and state-of-the-art medical equipment, Kelly says.

Major players in the vet services space include Idexx Laboratories (IDXX) and VCA Antech (WOOF) , and smaller firm Abaxis (ABAX) .

The problem for vet health services is the limited number of certification programs in the U.S. (which seen in another light could limit the threat of new market entrants, IBISWorld says). The second problem is the high cost to obtain certification.

Still, if you can get past likely having a big student loan bill, the biggest opportunity for animal-friendly entrepreneurs is the labor shortage in veterinarians that specialize in livestock health, particularly in rural and agricultural areas.

"America's shortage of food supply veterinarians has become a crisis, and it's expected to get worse. This shortage leaves some agricultural areas of the country without a local veterinarian to treat local livestock populations, which puts America's food safety in danger. Studies have shown that the current shortage of food supply veterinarians will grow by two to four percent every year, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association's website.