Six Fast-Growing Markets for Small Business

LOS ANGELES (TheStreet) -- Hindsight is always 20/20 when it comes to starting new businesses. Who knew, back in the day, that online pet supply store Pets.com would flop, while eBay (EBAY) -- which this week auctioned an "empty Altoid box believed to have magic properties" -- would thrive?

Entrepreneurs can mitigate risk by going where the action is. To that end, here are the business categories expected to grow fastest during the next decade, according to the market research company IBISWorld, which analyzes 708 industries.

6. Video games (predicted growth: 112.9%) -- Led by Activision Blizzard's ( ATVI) Call of Duty 3, U.S. sales of video games and gear has more than doubled to $19.66 billion last year from $7.98 billion in 2000, according to market researcher NPD Group. IBISWorld expects the boom to continue, but entrepreneurs should note that the video game rental industry is expected to shrink by 32.8%.

5. Environmental consulting (predicted growth: 120.3%) -- It's probably a pretty safe bet that nobody's aiming to be less green in the coming decade, and it's probably a safe bet that we'll continue to see an increase in environmental regulations and incentives from the federal government. And it's probably a safe bet that a lot of companies have no idea how to clean up their acts, which is where environmental consultants come into play.

4. eCommerce and online auctions (predicted growth: 124.7%) -- While it took a hit during the recent recession, the industry grew fivefold in the past decade and it's still growing. IBISWorld attributes expected escalation in this sector to the fact that more consumers are comfortable with PayPal, the eBay subsidiary that processes payments for thousands of online vendors. So Grandma can go ahead and sell her mittens on the Web without having to worry about credit card-related security issues.

3. Biotechnology (predicted growth: 127.6%) -- The aging population will boost demand for medical advances. While the sector may be dominated by big guys like Amgen ( AMGN), Genentech ( DNA), Syngenta ( SYT) and Baxter International ( BAX), IBISWorld predicts that small businesses will thrive by specializing in outsourced processes. And maybe entrepreneurs will find the next big lifesaver in a university lab.

2. Retirement and pension plans (predicted growth: 133.7%) -- A sobering study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute last year found that only 13% of Americans are confident that they'll have enough money to live comfortably when they retire. At the same time, 72% said they had maintained the percentage of their salary that they contribute to retirement plans, and 18% said they had increased it. In short, if there's one thing we can count on, it's an aging population - and apparently it's a population that plans for the future.

1. Voice over Internet protocol providers (predicted growth: 149.6%) --Here's an industry that grew a whopping 179,036% between 2002 and 2009, according to IBISWorld. While the Federal Communications Commission may tighten regulations on VoIP, the future is still bright for this cheaper alternative to traditional phone service. Not surprisingly, IBISWorld predicts wired telecommunication carriers to be the worst performing industry players in the next decade. Comcast ( CMCSA), Time Warner ( TWX), Cox Communications, Vonage ( VG)and Skype may dominate the service provider category, but there should be plenty of room in the market for small equipment makers like Agito Networks.

-- Reported by Carmen Nobel in Boston.

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