How to Start a Business Along a Busy Highway

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Small businesses have flourished alongside busy highways since the beginning of the interstate highway system in the 1950s. A major traffic artery brings a steady supply of new customers to business owners who are savvy enough to locate themselves conveniently while also making it easy for the staff to get to work. Entrepreneurs should choose a business plan which strongly fits the needs of commuters and tourists.

Choose a business location if you have not yet settled on a particular kind of business. The best locations are near highway exits and alongside a moderate number of other retail outlets. Avoid shopping areas that are already so heavily developed that they will compete with any business you choose, or make your business hard to find among the clutter.

Analyze the area you chose for business opportunities, looking for retail needs which are not yet being serviced. You might find ideas at adjacent exits on the highway. A business 10 miles away indicates that a service is necessary, but is not likely to directly compete with you for casual business.

Select a business that is easily recognized by drivers, and of general interest to people using the highway. Major franchise operations are a good choice, as they already have been marketed to many of your potential customers. Restaurants and food markets are typically popular, while tourists might be interested in entertainment and gift shops.

Write a business plan for the first three years of your operation. It should include any known issues relative to your highway location - for example, if there are projects in the planning stage, like commercial or residential construction, that will significantly affect traffic. Not only is this a good first step to see if your idea makes sense, it's absolutely a must if you plan on raising capital, because banks and venture capitalists alike will require a business plan before they consider investing in your business. The Small Business Administration has extensive resources on business planning.

Roadside businesses generally cater directly to the needs of tavellers. Even many whose main offerings are not food, gofts, or automobile-related products often offer products like hot coffee and cold beverages, as well as clean restrooms, both as a as a courtesy and to get prospective customers in the door.

Licenses and permits are necessary for all sortf os businesses and their various features and products. The local government is the best source of detailed information about what's required for your business. The permits and licenses will vary based on location and the kind of business you intend to operate.

Put together the capital investment necessary for your business. At minimum, you should have sufficient cash available to fund the first several months of your venture to provide the breathing room needed until you become profitable.


  • There is a lot to learn about small business, so use the resources of the Small Business Administration as you develop your plan. Highway retail business owners should consider joining the National Retail Federation.


About the Author

Ellis Davidson has been a self-employed Internet and technology consultant, entrepreneur and author since 1993. He has written a book about self-employment for recent college graduates and is a regular contributor to "Macworld" and the TidBITS technology newsletter. He is completing a book on self-employment options during a recession. Davidson holds a Bachelor of Arts in American civilization from the University of Pennsylvania.

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