A list of viable ideas for types of small businesses is limited only by your imagination, skill set and the market. It’s important to choose an area you’re interested in but it’s even more important to choose one in which you have experience. You must also consider whether the market or pool of potential customers, is large enough to make your business profitable.
Generally, the quickest road to making a profit is to choose a business that requires minimal start-up costs in a field in which you already have experience. This may seem to go without saying, but you’d be surprised at how many small business start-ups fail because the owner chose a product or service that sounded like fun but in which they had no experience.
Try to choose a business that doesn’t have a lot of competition.
Better yet, create your own specialized niche.
One entrepreneur stumbled on a niche when she started a sewing-and-alterations business in the rural area where she lived. After months of advertising and almost no business, with plenty of time on her hands, our seamstress made a fly mask for a friend’s horse. Suddenly, she had so many orders she had to hire help.
Although they sometimes overlap, small business ideas usually fall into one of two categories: products or services.
In general, product-based businesses require more money to get started than service-based businesses. Some also require brick-and-mortar stores or other types of facilities like a workshop.
Do you have experience and interest in any of these areas?
- Baking for people or pets
- Cafe, restaurant, ice cream shop
- Clothing store
- Craft brewery
- Food truck
- Gift baskets
- Woodworking / Custom furniture building
Here's a list of small business start-ups in service industries:
- Bookkeeping, accounting, taxes
- Consulting; marketing/market research, career, management
- Social media administration and management
- Tax preparation
- Public relations
IT & Internet
- Development; front end, games, apps, etc.
- Freelance IT services
- Search engine optimization consultant
- Website design and/or maintenance
Food and Hospitality
- Bed and breakfast
- Event planning
- Event space rentals
Physical Labor with limited or easy-to-learn skills
- House cleaning
- Landscape maintenance
- Moving and hauling
Specialized Skills (some require licenses, certifications or other credentials)
- Bartending for private parties and events
- Car repair
- Copy or content writing
- Graphics design
- In-home beauty services
- Interior decorating
- Massage therapist
- Music lessons
- Personal chef
- Personal trainer
- Dog grooming
- Private lifeguard
- Nutritionist/Weight-loss coach
- Real estate
- Sewing and alterations
- Sports coach
- Videotaping and editing
- Child or senior care
- Dry cleaning
- Genealogy research
- Life coaching
- Organizing; home or office
- Travel planner
- Virtual administrative assistant
In the horse fly mask example, the entrepreneur had not thought through whether her local customer base would support her sewing-and-alterations business. She was lucky to stumble upon a niche market for her skill set, but don’t count on that happening to you.
It's best to be brutally honest with yourself about whether there’s a market for the product or skill you want to offer. Ask friends and family for their candid assessment.
For example, let’s say you want to offer handyman services. If you live in an urban area with lots of apartments managed by professional property managers who have their own maintenance services, your market share is not going to be very big.
But if you live near a retirement community with a lot of single family homes and condos – jackpot!