Many people believe they cannot find a great business idea.
Well, I’ve got great news for you. It’s simply not true!
You can find a great business idea!
In this article I’ll give you all kinds of great business ideas. But first let me introduce myself.
I first started simpler businesses such as house painting and renting bicycles. Later I started more complex businesses such as book publishing and online businesses.
I have found that having money and experience are not the most important factors for succeeding in business.
What matters more is choosing a great business idea.
Before looking at the list of ideas, I suggest you take our quiz to immediately find the perfect business idea for you.
QUIZ: WHAT BUSINESS IS BEST FOR YOU?
Here are my 300 best small business ideas:
Wouldn’t it be cool to have your own clothing brand? Today it’s easier than ever. You can contract out production and sell online. You can sell through platforms such as Amazon and eBay or your own website, or you can even sell to traditional retailers.
You can start your clothing line small and grow it at your own pace. Ralph Lauren started his fashion empire with a few neckties that he personally sold to stores in New York City. Phil Knight began Nike part time, continuing to work his day job as an accountant. He initially sold some track and field shoes that he imported from a sneaker company in Japan.
You too can start your own clothing business even if you don’t have experience in the industry. For example, my friend Rudy Glocker switched from a career in finance to begin his own apparel line, Burgeon Outdoor. Rudy focuses on outdoor apparel designed for the mountain region in which his company is based.
I suggest you launch your clothing business with a very few, fabulous items. Find a manufacturing source that will produce a quality product consistently. Like any business, give it some extra effort upfront, really carefully designing your business and your first products.
Develop a comprehensive marketing plan. Even if you decide to use an existing platform such as Amazon or eBay, I recommend you also build your own online presence including a website, an email list and social media – which is especially important for clothing. This will not only help attract new customers, but also build repeat business, and create positive word of mouth.
If you want to line up traditional retailers, consider getting a booth or a table at clothing shows for the trade. Initially you’ll probably want to skip the larger shows like Magic and get space at smaller, less expensive shows.
To learn how to start your own clothing line – or any other business – check out my course Start-a-Business 101. You can start watching this course and all the other courses on BusinessTown for free.
Book publishing is one of my personal favorite business ideas and not just because of the money I made. But also because it is an incredibly fun, constantly changing business.
I started my book publishing business part time, when I was still at business school. I had no related experience and only $1500 to invest. My first book, The Boston Job Bank, was a guide to employers for job seekers.
I personally visited local bookstores to persuade them to stock my book. The stores agreed to carry it after I made the book available through wholesalers. However, initial sales were slower than I expected.
So I needed to promote it! I reached out to local television and radio show producers and persuaded them to feature me on their programs. And I tried every other free marketing tactic I could think of – from sending flyers to college placement offices to placing notices on public bulletin boards. It worked! My first book soon became a #1 local bestseller.
My book publishing company, named Adams Media, quickly grew. I carefully developed unique strategies that allowed me to achieve much higher profit margins than even the largest and most established competitors. I eventually sold it for $40 million.
If you are thinking of starting a book publishing business today on a limited budget, consider beginning with eBooks. It’s easy to get them published and listed on places like Amazon.
Make sure you choose a highly sellable topic. Then start building an audience even before you release your book. Put together a website and build traffic to it. Also consider using email marketing and social media. Then as you publish your book, continue to promote the daylights out of it! Get all the free publicity you possibly can.
Achieving highly profitable, long term success can take some work. But like with any business it is doable, especially if you first learn the basics of how to start a business and how to do marketing.
To learn how to start your own business see my course, Start-a-Business 101. You can start watching this course and all the other courses on BusinessTown for free.
So what is dropshipping? Dropshipping means that you sell a product, typically online, but you don’t stock the product or fulfil the order. Instead you forward the order to the manufacturer, a wholesaler, or another retailer, who delivers the product to the customer.
Can you make a fortune in your own dropshipping business? Yes it is quite possible. For example, CNBC interviewed Nick Peroni, who has found tremendous success. Peroni who previously was a soldier in the US army, began his dropshipping business part time.
After a few years he went full time, test-marketing a number of products before finding some big successes. For example he sold $150,000 of fleece lined leggings in less than a month. And he sold over $1.9 million of a garden trimming attachment in six months.
So the big question isn’t can you make a fortune in dropshipping, but rather will you make fortune. Like in any business, you will increase your chances of success hugely, if you first learn how to start a business and if you carefully evaluate the market, your potential customers, your competitors, your potential products and your possible sources. Then you need to develop a well thought out strategy and a business plan.
Peroni cautions that many people who try dropshipping are “lazy” and they don’t look at it “like a business.” Some of these people sell fake or low quality goods and post fake reviews. That’s a bad way to build a business and a bad way to find happiness!
If you start your dropshipping business carefully and meticulously will it be an instant success? Probably not. Any product business, including dropshipping, is likely going to be riskier and take more work to succeed in than a simple, repeat customer, service business. But the potential upside can be huge.
You are almost certainly going to have to test and tinker with different products, different sources, different pricing, different ad copy and different ad venues to make a go of it. And you’re going to need to be patient – spending very little money until you are sure that you have found the formula that works.
So to get started first do your homework. Learn what you need to know to make this business a success and then plan it carefully. Begin with a very few, carefully chosen products. Then test different promotional venues. Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are among the many possibilities. Plus test different ad copy and different pricing.
If your dropshipping business takes off, you may want to change your model to stock and fulfill orders yourself. It’s not that hard to do. For my book business we always stocked and filled our own orders – including when I was starting out of my basement apartment. Alternatively you could have a third party do it for you, such as Amazon’s FBA service – which also provides inventory and fulfilment for goods not sold on Amazon.
The next step you might want to consider is to design your own goods and arrange for a manufacturing company to produce them. At the end of the day, this will allow the largest profit margins and provide the most sustainable and solid long term business model.
To help get your business going, start streaming the courses on BusinessTown including Start-a-Business 101 and How to Create a Business Plan. You can try BusinessTown for free.
Dog Walking Business
Dog walking might be a very simple business but you can be quite successful with it. I have a young niece who started her dog walking business and almost immediately grew it into a lucrative full time business. She also makes extra money doing occasional dog training, dog sitting and overnight dog boarding.
Of course it’s a good part time business too! You can get started walking one dog and grow it from there. It doesn’t get much easier than this.
What makes dog walking a really great business? Most of all you have regular repeat customers. So if they like you, they will keep using your service forever and they will recommend you to their friends at the dog park.
As you build up your list of loyal customers you are not only increasing your income, you are also building the value of your business. That means if you get tired of walking dogs, you can sell your business for a good bit of money. A number of dog walking businesses have been sold for over a million dollars.
What’s the key to success in dog walking? Keeping your clients happy and finding new customers – which means digital marketing! Dog walking is the perfect business for digital marketing – you have a very specific and highly passionate target market.
You can target social media and online ad network ads directly to dog owners in your zip code. And you can develop content they would love to read about like the best dog parks nearby, great places to take your dog for a walk, local Vets, pictures of local dogs and more!
To learn more about how to start a dog walking business see my course Start-a-Business 101. You can start watching this course and all the other courses for free on BusinessTown.
A moving company is another great business that you can start small and grow at your own pace. You can even keep your day job and focus on the highest demand moving days – weekends and holidays. Most moves are local, so the market for local moving services is huge.
You can start this business with no money by renting vans or trucks as you need them. This will allow you to get the exact size vehicle you need for each move. Truck rental services like U-Haul will also sell you insurance and provide supplies. You can hire helpers by the day or the hour.
I recommend you charge by the hour rather than by the job. This way, if the customer underestimates the number of items to be moved, you still earn the same hourly rate. Offering packing services is a nice add-on for extra income.
Let me give you an example of someone I know who began his own moving company, Larry O’Toole. Larry began his career as an engineer but wanted to try something different. While he was thinking about what to do, he tried offering moving services by renting his roommate’s van. Today his moving company has 20 locations in major cities coast-to-coast, over 100 trucks and almost one thousand employees.
How has Larry been so incredibly successful in this highly competitive field? For starters, he chose a great name, Gentle Giant. A great name can serve as a built-in advertisement for your business for years to come.
Larry also set out right from the beginning to clearly set his company apart from his competitors, including building a strong employee team, and building a premium level of service. This allowed him to build a loyal base of repeat customers, enhanced word of mouth promotion and allowed him to charge premium prices.
To learn about starting a business see my course Start-a-Business 101. You can start watching this course and all the other courses on BusinessTown for free.
There’s always demand for creative handmade jewelry. I’ve seen not just one, but several people, build a successful jewelry business out of their home. And today there are seemingly unlimited venues for selling your jewelry.
You can sell your jewelry on websites like Etsy and eBay. Some people get started selling at craft fairs and flea markets. I’ve seen other people sell through jewelry shops. Jewelry retailers will look for a significant discount to retail, such as 50% or more. Initially merchants may only take your product on consignment – which means they don’t pay you or take ownership until the jewelry actually sells.
Whatever sales approach you take I would recommend you also support it with your own website and marketing efforts, including building an email list and a social media presence. This will help you develop repeat customers, add new customers by word of mouth and build credibility.
Holly Christensen is an example of someone who changed careers to pursue her passion by starting her own jewelry business. Holly began by making jewelry on her kitchen table and personally selling it at local craft shows. Her unique touch was to include sand from popular beaches within her jewelry. People told her it was a crazy idea.
However, Holly stuck to her vision of beach sand jewelry and has been very successful. She has developed a solid base of repeat customers, has over 20 employees, and sells through retailers throughout the world.
Want to learn more about Holly and her jewelry business? Watch her segment in the course, How to Succeed as a Woman Entrepreneur. You can start watching this course and all the other courses on BusinessTown for free.
Start a Blog
Ariana Huffington started a blog with her friend Ken Lerer in 2003 after a failed political race for governor of California. They pulled together news stories and gave political commentary naming their blog The Huffington Post. In 2011 they sold it for $315 million.
A blog is a great example of a business that you can start small and grow at your own pace. Popular blog topics include fashion, food, travel, music, sports, local interest, hobbies and much more. Choose a narrow or specialized topic and stick to it. Let your personality shine and include specific, actionable advice or pointed commentary.
My experience with blogs is that great topics and writing is seldom enough to build a sizable audience. You should learn basic SEO (search engine optimization) techniques so that your posts rank well in Google search results. Plus you’ll want to know how to best use email and social media marketing.
To monetize your blog there are a number of options. The easiest is to sign with an advertising network such as Google, Facebook or Outbrain and let them do all the work for you. You will have to have a lot of traffic however to make much money by selling advertising.
Another popular option is affiliate marketing. You provide links on your blog to other businesses that sell products or services and they pay you a commission on each sale. You can approach affiliate marketers directly, such as Amazon. Or you can use an affiliate marketing service such as ClickBank or ShareASale. These services offer thousands of products with commissions as high as 70%.
You can also sell your own products or services from your blog. For example, you could sell your own webinars, courses, ebooks, handcrafted goods, or consulting or coaching services. On the island of Nantucket I watched Gene Mahon build a successful blog business called Mahon about Town. An avid photographer, Gene filled his blog with fresh photos, developed a strong following and sold ads to local businesses.
Yes! You can succeed with a blog business. But you’ve got to take it seriously, learn about digital marketing and run it like a business, not a hobby. To learn more start streaming the courses on BusinessTown including Start-a-Business 101 and The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing. You can try BusinessTown for free.
Car Detailing Business
One of my wealthiest friends is a car nut who loves nothing better than to spend a Saturday morning washing, waxing and then taking a spin in one of his exotic cars. His older son developed an interest in cars too and while in high school got a job cleaning up and detailing cars at an auto dealership. Still in high school he later started his own car detailing business, making great money.
People who love cars love to keep them in great shape. And if you love cars too, and are incredibly meticulous, then this could be a great business for you. But let me be really clear. These customers will pay you good money. But they will not compromise on quality. And you have to try to please them. If they like you, word will spread quickly and their friends will want your services.
If you are just starting out I would not try to hide that from your customers so that they will have realistic expectations. You will be surprised how understanding your customers will be if they understand you are just starting your detailing business.
This business is a natural for digital marketing because you can really target your most likely customers – owners of high end cars. Executive transportation companies may be another possibility. You can also do some guerilla marketing – walk around parking lots and stick a brochure or your business card on the windshield of sports and luxury vehicles.
To learn how to start your car detailing – or any other business – see my course Start-a-Business 101. You can start watching this course and all the other courses on BusinessTown for free.
Coffee Shop/Tea Salon
A coffee shop or tea salon can be a profitable and fun business. But with all the competition in this space today, you need to carefully think out this business before you start it. Just being nice to customers and working hard is not enough to guarantee success.
In at least one important dimension you need your coffee shop/tea salon to stand out from the competition so strongly that potential customers will go right past the competition to patronize your business. Will you offer special craft coffee? Will you offer exceptional pastries? Will your interior design be particularly inviting? What’s your plan?
Next you need a great location. A great location is not necessarily a cute little shop that happens to be vacant or a large space you can get a great price on. In this business you want traffic. Lots of traffic. And ideally foot traffic. Before you lease a place, I suggest you personally go over there and count how many people walk by your potential location during the key time periods.
One of the most successful independent coffee shops near me is Diesel Cafe in Somerville, Massachusetts. This large and thriving coffee shop has an eclectic atmosphere that fits in well with the hip/collegetown atmosphere. They even have a pool table, a black and white photo booth and all kinds of funky items. The coffee is great.
Plus they have some solid food choices including avocado toast, bagels, sandwiches, salads, and smoothies. From my observation, the nearby Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks have only a fraction of the business that Diesel Cafe enjoys.
If you want to learn more, take a look at my courses including How to Create a Business Plan, which you can try for free on BusinessTown.
eBay Selling Service/Trading Business
I’m crazy about my model trains so I’m constantly buying more pre-owned items on eBay. Often I’m buying from entrepreneurs who operate their own eBay selling business.
These eBay sellers take pictures of the items, set up the listings on eBay, and arrange for packing and shipping. They might charge sellers either a commission or a flat fee. Since they pay the seller only after a sale is made, they have no inventory and no downside risk if items don’t sell. So it’s an excellent, low-risk way to make good money.
To start an eBay selling service, first try listing some of your own unwanted belongings. And then next expand to family, friends and friends of friends. To expand further start promoting your service with digital marketing.
A completely different eBay business is trading – in other words buying and selling items. The key to this is to develop some sort of specialty, learn the pricing and then buy cheap and sell at a fair market price.
A trading business might take some time to really master. So when you are starting be careful that you don’t overpay or tie up your money in slow selling products. That being said, you can make a lot of money trading items on eBay. For example one of my friend’s sons made enough money trading items on eBay while in high school to pay his entire college tuition to Bentley College – and that’s a four year private college where the tuition is no bargain!
To learn how to start your business check out Start-a-Business 101. You can try this course for free on BusinessTown.
Custom T-Shirt Business
Can you really make good money selling custom T-shirts? Yes you can! A friend of mine, Jeff Jacober, started a custom T-shirt business right after college. He reached sales of $20 million a year. Then he sold the business when he turned 40 and made enough money to buy a sailing yacht and cruise around the Caribbean for a year, buy an airplane, and invest in several new business ventures.
Custom T-Shirts are perfect for selling online, but you could sell them locally too. Even if you are going to focus on your local market you might want to initially skip the cost of a storefront and try running this business from your home. You could approach local businesses, social groups and sports teams. Wouldn’t it be great to get a sale for your town’s entire youth soccer league?
You can learn how to print T-shirts in minutes. I know because in college I printed T-shirts for my softball team, The Dark Horses. If you are really feeling lazy you can even contract out the actual T-shirt printing and focus exclusively on making sales and customer service. But I recommend you take a little time to learn how to print them yourself.
Of course instead of doing custom T-shirts you could try to sell your own designs. This is a riskier approach but the upside potential is huge! For example, I met the brothers, Bert and John Jacobs, who started the Life Is Good T-shirt business with $78 and 48 T-shirts.
Initially they struggled selling their T-shirts on college campuses. They lived out of their van to save money. Eventually they came up with the “Life Is Good” name and since then have built an enterprise with sales of over $100 million a year.
To find out more about beginning a business, start streaming the courses on BusinessTown including 7 Steps to a Perfect Business Name and Start-a-Business 101. You can try BusinessTown for free.
If you can add 2 plus 2 and get 4 most of the time or can read “See Spot run!” then you have what it takes to be a tutor – at least for first graders! And if your skills are more advanced then you can tutor at higher levels. Or you can just hire other people to do all the tutoring for you!
You can tutor almost anywhere. You can tutor online via video, such as on Zoom. You can go to your clients’ homes or they can come to your home. Or you can meet in a coffee shop or a library.
The demand is huge. We hired tutors to help my kids improve their college entrance test scores. One year, when they decided they weren’t learning much at school, we hired a tutor to home school them. The tutor was an MIT college student who had never tutored, but nonetheless was fabulous.
Tutoring is still another example of a very easy-to-start business. Yet you can grow it as large as you want by hiring additional tutors and ramping up your marketing. For example, I sold a career magazine business that I started to Kaplan Inc. Kaplan has grown into a world leader in tutoring with over 12,000 employees and over 1 million students.
Like any business you will be more successful if you first learn about business and then plan it carefully. You’ll want to think about things like what type of students to focus on, what subjects to offer, how to set pricing, and how to write a business plan. And you’ll need to learn some of the basics about how to market your business online.
If you want to find out more, consider my courses including Start-a-Business 101, which you can try for free on BusinessTown.
Want to express your creativity and make some money at the same time? How about a craft business?
Years ago my Great Aunt Betty made and sold a variety of creative craft items. She sold them both through a small shop on her property and also directly to a few stores. I remember her taking some highly decorated wicker pocketbooks she had made to be sold at Bonwit Teller, once one of Boston’s most famous women’s stores.
Today the opportunities to sell your crafts are seemingly endless with the expansion of the Internet. With websites like Etsy.com, it is simple to sell your own crafts. But if you really want to turn this into a business, you should develop your own online presence. I would suggest starting with a website. Then adding an email list. Also consider social media.
You can also sell your craft items offline. You can start by selling at local art and craft fairs. And you can also approach retail stores yourself. Or once you have a good product line put together, you may want to consider contracting a sales rep firm that focuses on the gift trade.
A sales rep firm will sell your products to retailers for you on a commission basis, usually 15% of the wholesale price. I successfully used sales reps firms to sell my books into the gift trade. You can find these firms at the larger gift shows or you can approach them online.
To learn more about how to start a craft business check out my course, Start-a-Business 101. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.
This is another perfect business that you can start small, even part-time, and then grow at your own pace.
You can start with just a basic lawn cutting service. All you’ll need is a second hand lawn mower and a grass catcher. You don’t need a fancy truck or trailer. My friend’s landscaper carries his lawn mower in the trunk of his car.
You can grow this business quickly by both adding customers and adding services. Typical add-on services include leaf collection, yard clean up, edging, weeding, snowplowing, and applying fertilizer. The next level of services you could offer would be flower, bush and small tree planting. The highest level of services would be landscape architecture/design, designing and creating beautiful landscapes for higher end homes and commercial locations.
You can make big money cutting small lawns! Even just cutting a few lawns yourself you will likely be able to earn more per hour than many people earn at professional jobs. Add in a few basic services and your income can quickly add up. For example, last year I paid my landscaping service $13,785 for just one residence. They did grass cutting, yard cleanup, and snow plowing but nothing fancy – I hired other services for fertilizer application and irrigation.
So how do you get going with a landscape business and how do you get customers? Of course you start with a business plan. Then give a lot of thought to marketing. I would suggest you use both online and traditional marketing.
If you like this idea take a look at our courses including Develop a Complete Marketing Plan Under $2k which includes a sample marketing plan for a landscaping business. You can try this course and all the other courses on BusinessTown for free.
Over 200,000 entrepreneurs are making sales of more than $100,000 a year through Amazon. You can get started selling on Amazon with very little money and even a single product. And you can customize the look and feel of your Amazon online store front. You also have the option of having Amazon fulfill your orders and ship your products.
The fee structure changes frequently and varies by product and country. Recently in the US for example, an Amazon seller is charged a “referral fee” of typically about 15% of the selling price. The seller is also charged a monthly flat fee of $39.99 for a professional selling plan, or alternatively $.99 per product on the individual plan. Amazon fulfillment (called “FBA”) primarily charges per item shipped but there are other charges as well, such as for long term storage fees.
While it is relatively easy to set up an Amazon store and start selling some products, it is more difficult to build a sustainable, highly profitable business. Selling on Amazon (or anywhere else online) is super competitive. So don’t set up your store until you have developed a solid plan.
To develop a great plan for your store, first evaluate your market, your target customers and your competitors. Next seek out opportunities where you can develop a true competitive advantage. Then, take the time to develop your thoughts into a cohesive strategy and a well thought out business plan.
If you carefully design your business model and product selection, customers will likely start to find you through Amazon’s search engine. You can also pay Amazon for additional advertising and exposure on their website but you need to make sure that it is cost effective for you.
Consider doing your own digital marketing beyond Amazon such as through your own website, through social media, through email marketing or through online advertising.
To help get your business going, start streaming the courses on BusinessTown including Start-a-Business 101, How to Create a Business Plan and The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing. You can try BusinessTown for free.
There are all kinds of ways to turn photography into a business. You can do portrait photography, commercial shoots for businesses, real estate photography, or wedding photography. You can sell photos through stock photo services. You can even do photojournalism or sell your outstanding photos in the photo art world.
When we decided to get pictures of our kids, we went to a local portrait photographer who used one of the rooms in her house as her studio. She charged a significant price – but the great pictures made it worth every penny of it. Excellent lighting, good positioning and getting the kids to smile made a difference!
A common myth is that anyone who has a smartphone can be an awesome photographer. But the photos I have taken certainly prove otherwise! So if you’re not a great photographer, you may want to brush up on your skills by taking a few classes.
You could start your photography business as a side gig but to be sure it turns into a real business instead of a hobby, you need to be serious about it. So write up a business plan that includes the specifics of what kind of customers you will target, what services you will offer, what your marketing message will be, what packages and pricing you will offer, and how you will get your marketing message to your audience.
If you want to find out more, take a look at my courses including, Start-a-Business 101 and How to Create a Business Plan. You can try them for free on BusinessTown.
Bicycle Rentals/Bicycle Repairs
Let me tell you about my first business – a story that has valuable take-aways for any business you are considering starting.
I began Bob’s Rent-A-Bike when I was 19 and on summer vacation from college. It was a little scary because I had no idea what I was doing. I took my life savings – just $1,000 – and bought a bunch of second hand bicycles – all that I could afford.
Then, I arranged to have a motel, a gas station and a sporting goods store serve as rental locations. But my competitors had better rental locations already lined up. And they also had shiny new bicycles. Almost no one was renting my bikes and my business was going nowhere.
So, unlike my competitors, I tried offering free delivery of bicycles to customers at their motels and campsites. My customers loved it and my business took off!
This example shows why it is so important in any business to develop a unique business model. You shouldn’t start a business and try to follow what your competitors are doing. And you shouldn’t just try to “be better.” Instead you want to be different in a way that really matters to your customers. In other words you want to design your business around a true competitive advantage.
To design a business with a competitive advantage, you first need to evaluate your market, your target customers and your competition and then seek out new opportunities. Then, you want to put together a solid strategy and develop it into a complete business plan.
A good related business is bicycle repair. The demand is constant providing you with a strong, steady income. You could start by only taking on the easier repair jobs. I quickly taught myself how to do basic repairs when I had my bike rental business – it’s not that hard to do. Then for more complex repair jobs you could contract them out to other repair shops and keep a percentage of the repair price.
You could also try selling bicycles. If you are operating out of your house I would recommend you focus on buying and selling used bicycles. I found it difficult to sell new bicycles out of my home. But I discovered that I was often able to sell second hand bicycles for quite a bit more than I paid for them.
To learn more see my courses including Start-a-Business 101 and How to Create a Business Plan which includes a complete business plan for a bicycle rental business. You can try these courses for free on BusinessTown.
A consulting business can be very lucrative and rewarding. One of my friends does organizational consulting for small to mid-sized businesses and he charges up to $1,000 an hour. He prefers to do his consulting work only 15-20 hours a month and spends the rest of his time doing volunteer work for non profits and avidly following outdoor athletic pursuits such as mountain hiking and cross country skiing. Of course when you make that kind of money you don’t need to work too many hours to afford a great lifestyle.
I know a lot of other consultants who have done well with specialities including sales, logistics, human resources, executive coaching, small business coaching, international business customs, facebook marketing, website strategies, email, accounting, logos, and more. I have also hired a number of consultants for my various businesses.
So what does it take to become a successful consultant? The path I have seen many people take is to start an independent consulting business after many years of working in the field. By that point in time they have not only developed a lot of expertise but they also have built up a network of industry contacts.
However, today I increasingly see many people becoming successful consultants much earlier in their career – sometimes right out of college. Why the shift? For one, the digital world has exacerbated the rate of change, increasing the demand for consultants with new knowledge. Plus online marketing has made it much easier to attract clients.
Also I have seen people with less experience develop their consulting practice and get new clients by offering attractive flat rate packages for their first assignment, rather than just charging by the hour.
Even though you may be a highly experienced consultant you still should come up with a detailed business plan. In your plan clearly spell out the value proposition that you are going to offer clients and how you are going to get the word out.
Then put together a LinkedIn profile that is less an “attendance record” and more a “sales pitch” for what you can accomplish for clients. You will also need a website to appear credible. Several of the consultants I know regularly send out emails or brief newsletters. I would also try to arrange publicity on industry websites. Then reach out with email, phone, social media and networking.
To find out more, start streaming the courses on BusinessTown including How to Start a Consulting Business, LinkedIn Profiles that Get Sales, Start-a-Business 101 and How to Create a Business Plan. You can try BusinessTown for free.
One of the few things better than smelling grandma’s oatmeal cookie recipe baking in your oven is seeing the money roll in as customers order those delicious treats. Especially if you love to bake this could be a very satisfying and doable business for you.
If you can bake in your house you can start and operate this business with a low overhead. Then you have a variety of options for selling your food. You could sell it online and ship it out. Or you could sell and arrange for delivery to local food stores or restaurants. Well done food products are relatively easy to sell into local food outlets. Plus the upside is huge.
Regulations on operating a commercial kitchen from your home vary considerably by state and type of food. If you run into a glitch consider leasing space in a commercial kitchen – still much less expensive than leasing retail space for a storefront.
Just being a great baker is not the only necessary ingredient for success in this business. You also need to nail down the business aspects of the endeavor. You will want to analyze the market, your target customers, your competition, pricing and packaging really carefully to find your best opportunity. You’ll need to come up with foods that not only taste great but also present well or are packaged well and are truly distinctive.
You are much better off launching with very few exceptional food items rather than a full line of products that are closer to average in quality or uniqueness. If your first items are not well received it will be difficult to sell additional products.
I have a food savvy friend who produced a good food product but it did not sell well at retail. In hindsight if she had launched her product slower and more carefully, priced it lower, and given more attention to packaging I think it would have worked really well.
I find the Pink Pie company started by the husband/wife team of Michael McGowan (Executive Chef) and Paloma Machado-McGowan (CEO) to be an excellent example of a carefully thought out food product, their mini pies. Their little pies not only taste great but they look great too. Their packaging, presentation, and marketing looks terrific. And I really like the name they chose for their business. They launched their mini pie business at The Yellow Green Farmers Market in South Florida.
A home based food business can be massively successful. But do your homework and plan your business carefully before you start selling food.
To learn more see my courses including Start-a-Business 101 and How to Create a Business Plan. You can try these courses for free on BusinessTown.
What are the most profitable business ideas?
- 1. Consulting
- 2. Catering
- 3. Subscription Box
- 4. Import/Export
- 5. Clothing Line
- 6. Employment Agency
- 7. Amazon Store
- 8. Rehabbing Houses
- 9. Tools/Equipment Rental
- 10. Day Spa
- 11. Social Media Influencer
- 12. Carpet/Upholstery Cleaning
- 13. Pool Cleaning/Sales/Installation
- 14. Liquor Store
- 15. Pest Control Service
Your actual profitability in any business will be largely determined by how well you plan, start and run the business. To learn more, start streaming the courses on BusinessTown. You can try BusinessTown for free.
Social Media Business
Do you enjoy hanging out and putting up posts on Facebook and other social media platforms? Then why not get paid for it? Just about any business that sells something would like to be on social media. But a lot of business owners don’t know how or don’t want to spend the time to do their own social media. So it’s a huge market.
What I really like about the social media business is that this is typically not a one-time sale. Most customers will want to retain you on a regular basis to keep their social media postings fresh. So you can develop a nice steady income. Plus you can do most of the work from home.
So how can you get started with social media as a business? You can approach a local small business and tell them they will get a great deal because they are your first customer. Or you can start by doing some work for a friend’s business. Or you can set up a web page for your own social media business and start promoting that on social media.
Like any business you should come up with a plan and a way to differentiate yourself. Maybe you specialize in promoting independent flower shops for example.
Learn more about how to use social media to promote any business – including your own business – on BusinessTown. I offer a solid introduction to all of the major social media platforms in my course, The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing. We also offer 5 other courses on social media marketing. You can try all these courses for free.
When my son and daughter were in high school, they started and ran their own boutique selling hip sneakers and premium streetwear clothing which they named “Half-Way Crooks.” They opened an actual storefront but you could of course operate this kind of business totally online.
It’s a really fun business. It’s cool to decide which apparel items you like and want to stock and which ones you really want to showcase. For example, my kids stocked a really sharp-looking black high top sneaker that they sold to 15 year old boys as well as 60 year old women.
Developing a successful boutique is less about selling individual items and more about putting together an environment and a collection of clothing that people want to be part of. In other words, it’s about selling lifestyle. The design of your store and your website, the selection of your apparel, your marketing, and even the appearance of your staff, should all work in concert to sell a lifestyle.
If you are renting a storefront, traffic and especially foot traffic, is critical. Even if you are one block away from the busy streets in town, then you are too far away. When in doubt go for a busy location first, as opposed to a “cute” location or a much lower lease price per square foot.
In fact, I suggest that before you lease a storefront, you personally count how many people walk by each hour during your prime shopping times.
If you are selling online you also need traffic. But in addition you will need to develop a relationship with your audience. Unlike with physical foot traffic to a storefront location, it may take time to get a website visitor to buy from you. So you’ll want to connect with your audience, not just through your website, but also through email or social media.
To learn more about how to start a boutique or any other business, see my courses including Start-a-Business 101, The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing and How to Create a Business Plan. You can try these courses for free on BusinessTown.
You may be wondering, did my kids write a business plan for their little boutique? They certainly did – I remember them asking me to leave the room so that I wouldn’t get in their way while they were writing it.
Resume Writing/LinkedIn Profile Writing
Is this a small side gig or a business with a big upside potential? Let’s take the case of Richard Lambert.
Richard started writing resumes as a side gig in addition to his full time job teaching English. He started out on Fiverr offering both a resume and cover letter package for just $55. Over time, he raised his rates, added other services like writing Linkedin profiles and ramped up his marketing. After two years of part time work he went full time and five years later he was netting $2 million in annual income.
There’s a lot of demand out there for resumes and it’s a great online business. So many otherwise talented professionals are simply not very good resume writers. I should know because in addition to personally reviewing thousands of resumes, my book publishing company became the leading publisher of resume books.
So this is where you come in! You help your clients turn their experience, skills and capabilities into terrific job-winning resumes. Sounds easy doesn’t it! It is. Here’s 3 secrets to get you going. Number one – make sure you have plenty of appropriate search engine friendly keywords in the resume. Number two – keep it short but not too short – except for top executives I would keep resume length to one page.
Number three and perhaps my most important secret – make sure that the resumes you write are not just “attendance records.” In other words don’t just list the job responsibilities for past positions. Instead focus on what the clients accomplished, achieved, and changed. That’s what lands jobs.
There’s also huge demand for LinkedIn profile writing. You can write LinkedIn profiles that will really power up sales for entrepreneurs and freelancers and also help professionals get attention in their industry. So how do you start a resume service or a LinkedIn profile writing service? First you come up with a plan. Are you going to focus on freelancers or top executives or recent college grads? Are you going to have long discussions on video or the phone with clients or are you going to restrict contact to email? Are you going to price low end or high end? And then of course you need to come up with your online marketing approach – and it’s gotta be great because it is highly competitive!
For more help see my courses including The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing and LinkedIn Profiles that Get Sales. You can try these courses for free on BusinessTown.
Are you passionate about fitness and do you like working with people? You could be a great personal trainer, helping people get fit and feel good about themselves.
Today you can offer personal training online, such as via Zoom. Or you can train clients in their homes, in your home or at a local gym. Like many businesses you can easily run this service part-time.
The big issue I see when people are starting this business is that while they may be good personal trainers they are not always so good at marketing themselves. They are not always sure of how to write an effective marketing message and how to deliver the message to potential customers.
Yet, a compelling marketing message can make all the difference. A friend of mine recently signed up for online one-on-one personal training completely because of a compelling advertising message she saw on Facebook. The ad promised that in 8 weeks she would achieve tangible results and feel like a new person.
Often you have to experiment with different offers, different marketing copy and different marketing venues to find what works best. Sometimes, before you can make the sale, you need to develop a relationship with a potential customer. You can do this by providing relevant articles and videos on your website, as well as informative emails and social media posts.
To learn more about how to sell yourself and build a relationship with your prospective customers, check out the courses Developing Your Marketing Message, The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing and Start-a-Business 101. You can try these courses for free on BusinessTown.
Bed & Breakfast
I’ve seen some people really do well and tremendously enjoy owning their own bed & breakfast. I’ve also seen other people find it was more work and more difficult than they anticipated.
Before you start or buy a bed & breakfast, you need to have realistic expectations. In this business you may very well make as much money as you anticipate. And financing may be relatively easy to obtain. However, the business may involve more work and issues than you anticipate.
People expect personalized attention at a B&B and they expect everything to be just so. Some guests will be more demanding and problematic than others. You’ll need to deal with guests changing and cancelling reservations. You will get special requests and you’ll need to decide how far out of your way you want to go to please your customers.
With guests coming and going, your building and property will have more wear and tear than a private home. An older property especially will need more repairs. Cleaning is a never ending chore. Will you hire someone or will you do the cleaning yourself?
Then there is the breakfast part of the business. Some B&Bs offer a fairly simple continental breakfast but many offer a full hot breakfast. I’ve gotten to know Ann and Roy who run the beautiful Scargo Manor B&B on Cape Cod. Ann serves an awesome unique hot breakfast. But to do so, she starts preparing the night before – every single night in season.
For Ann and Roy one of the greatest rewards of running a B&B has been the people they have met. People who choose to stay at a B&B tend to be warm, friendly and outgoing. Another aspect of running a B&B that can be rewarding is upgrading your decor and making it interesting. Several B&B’s I’ve stayed at have a unique themed decor for each room. Upgrading your decor can increase your business, lead to more repeat customers and allow you to charge higher rates.
You’ll need to be aggressive about marketing as you start your B&B. And like other lodging businesses, you should constantly monitor the going rates in your locality and adjust your prices accordingly. Overall, a B&B can be very rewarding if you start out with realistic expectations.
For help in attracting customers to your B&B, consider looking at my course, The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.
Cleaning can be hard work but you can also make good money because not everyone is willing to do this kind of work. To make even more money you can develop a specialty such as cleaning offices, industrial sites or even hazardous waste removal.
In its simplest form, you can start a house cleaning business with a single client. Most customers will want their home cleaned regularly so this is another good repeat customer, steady income business. You can charge by the hour but most house cleaners charge by the job. That way both you and the customer know exactly what the charge will be in advance.
Most people first grow their house cleaning business by adding a couple helpers to work alongside them. This way, they can keep a close eye on the quality of the work and remain the primary contact with the customer. You can of course grow this business much more quickly by adding additional crews. Many entrepreneurs have built their cleaning businesses into multi-million dollar enterprises.
Another possibility is office cleaning. One of my friends built a highly successful solo business cleaning the offices of small businesses at night. These businesses trusted him with access to their offices so they were willing to pay him good money. He only worked 4 or 5 hours each night and still made an excellent full time living.
Other specialties include industrial cleaning and even hazardous waste removal. I had a neighbor who was incredibly successful doing hazardous waste removal. As his experience grew he bid on increasingly large jobs. He typically bid fairly low because he discovered that landing a contract would usually lead to no bid, highly profitable add-on work.
Somewhat related, another one of my friends started a business removing debris from construction sites. He later expanded his work to include demolition work. He had no related experience – his previous business was selling specialized firefighting equipment. Yet he quickly was able to grow his debris removal business into a multimillion dollar business.
You can be very successful and grow your cleaning business nicely if you first learn the basics of how to run a business, including how to attract customers. To learn more see my course Start-a-Business 101. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.
Turn Your Hobby Into a Business
Whatever is your hobby you can almost certainly turn it into a fabulous business. But to make a successful transition from a hobby to a business, you need to develop a carefully thought out plan.
Years ago an American entrepreneur turned his first hobby of drawing cartoons into a business making animated movies.
Later the same entrepreneur took up my favorite hobby, model railroading, focusing on very small HO scale (1:87) size trains. Then he became interested in larger model trains and built an outside railroad – large enough to ride on. He enjoyed sitting on his small steam engine and acting as engineer, pulling model train cars carrying guests around his large property.
Finally this entrepreneur decided to turn his model railroading into a business and built an almost full size replica steam railroad to fully encircle his new amusement park – which he named after himself, Disneyland. A key reason for Disney’s success is that he spent years in advance extremely carefully planning out everything about Disneyland.
Another model railroader who turned his hobby into a business is George Selios. I’ve gotten to know George by visiting his incredible model railroad. I’ve also run into him at model railroad shows where I’ve found him sitting at his display booth selling his products.
Several of the best buildings on my model railroad were made from the kits that George sells. Several decades ago George started his company, Fine Scale Miniatures, putting together incredibly well crafted, highly detailed model kits of historical New England buildings in HO scale (1:87) for model railroad buffs.
George would spend 6 months every year very carefully planning one incredible new building kit. Then the next 6 months of each year he spent building one of the most spectacular model railroads the world has ever seen.
Other model railroaders have turned their hobby into a business in other ways. Some of them trade used model trains. Others build model railroads for people who don’t want to build their own model railroads.
Chances are there are some great business opportunities related to your hobby. Whatever hobby you want to turn into a business remember to plan out the business very carefully before starting it.
To discover how to turn your hobby into a business try my courses, Start-a-Business 101 and How to Create a Business Plan. You can try them for free on BusinessTown.
One of my son’s friends at Stanford created a new app every week typically generating hundreds if not thousands of dollars in sales. But if you really want to build this into a business, I do not recommend this approach of quickly creating lots of apps, especially because selling apps is more competitive today.
Instead, I suggest you really carefully create and market a few apps really well – starting with just one. My son’s friend by the way no longer creates apps. Instead, he landed a product management job at Google.
So how do you approach creating apps as a serious business? First set aside any particular idea you have for an app. Instead, start with the potential customer. Who is the audience? For example, selling an app to individuals or small businesses or large corporations are all very different.
Then, think of what benefit your app could deliver to your target audience. Is it a benefit they might actually pay money for? Evaluate the competition. How would your app be different or better than theirs?
Next, plan how you are going to market your app. You’ll want a highly compelling and extremely attractive landing page complete with screenshots and user reviews – start with reviews from your friends if you need to. Then, optimize your page to rank at the top of search engine results. Next, you want to build an audience – which can take time. Social media is particularly important for selling apps.
The great news is that it is possible to make a lot of money selling apps but you want to approach it as a business and be patient with it. Furthermore, if your apps are successful you can almost immediately sell them for good money to another app developer.
If you want to get serious about creating apps as a business, consider taking a look at my course, Start-a-Business 101. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.
I’ve been on a lot of incredible tours over the years, typically sponsored by a business group or museum. Every single one has involved a tour operator business and usually more than one. Sometimes these groups hire single person tour operators, sometimes they hire large tour operator companies.
There are all kinds of different services you can offer as a tour operator. For example, when I was in charge of a tour to Montreal for one of my business groups, we hired a local tour guide to help us develop an interesting itinerary including educational, cultural and historic venues. She then made all of the arrangements with the venues and also made arrangements for restaurants and ground transportation.
More recently I went on a food and wine/bicycle tour of Portugal arranged by a local restaurant and an established bicycle tour company. We toured wineries, had incredible meals, sampled lots of fabulous wines, saw some historical sites and even did a little bicycling.
In setting up a tour company you’ll want to really carefully think through your options when developing your plan. Will you sell tours directly to individuals or to groups? Will you offer bus tours, bicycle tours, walking tours or a combination? Will you focus on historical sites, cultural venues, food and wine, or outdoor adventures? The options are endless – which makes it a good business for finding and establishing a niche.
To get started with your tour operator – or any other business – see my course Start-a-Business 101. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.
Freelance Writing Service
Years ago my grandmother, who was a school teacher, made extra money selling stories mostly about old Cape Cod to both regional and national magazines. Today, the big opportunity for freelance writers is for online content marketing.
Companies of all sizes want to put articles on their websites and add posts to their blogs to drive traffic and attract customers. For example, a business that sells office furniture may commission articles on the latest trends in office décor or perhaps on how to choose the best seating for various office tasks.
While it may be ideal to have expertise or familiarity with a particular industry, most people who write content marketing for specific businesses do not have in-depth knowledge. Instead they rely on input from the client and on doing their own research.
What almost all businesses have in common is that they would like their articles and blog posts to show up in relevant searches in Google and other search engines. So the more you can learn about search engine optimization (SEO), the more marketable you will be.
To market your services, put together a professional looking website that includes samples of your best work. Ideally you should include testimonials from happy clients. Mentioning particular industries you have written for and individual company names would be helpful too.
To learn more consider checking out our courses, How to Succeed as a Freelancer, Start-a-Business 101, The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing and Search Engine Optimization/SEO. You can try all these courses for free on BusinessTown.
Food Truck/Food Cart
A food truck or food cart is a great low-cost and flexible alternative to a restaurant. You can get started with very little money by buying or leasing a used truck or just going with a food cart. And if one location doesn’t work then you can just move your truck to another place. Whereas with a restaurant you might have to wait until the end of your ten year lease to move to a better spot.
Should you start with cutting edge cuisine or something simple? Should you offer just a few items or an extensive menu? How should you set prices? What would be the best location? These are all important topics that you want to carefully consider as you analyze your market, potential customers, and your competition. Then, you should develop your business plan.
If your food truck will be located at a highly competitive location with a number of other food options nearby, then I would first consider having a more unique, specialized cuisine with a few outstanding items. If on the other hand you are the only food option servicing the same customers every day, then I would recommend including a good mix of more basic items and a larger menu so your repeat customers wouldn’t have to eat the same food every day.
If you start out with a fairly basic well used truck, your startup costs should be in the $10,000 range. But they could be less if can arrange to lease or finance your truck.
You may be a great cook, but to succeed, you want to become a great business person too. To learn more check out my course, Start-a-Business 101. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.
Another business I started on a college summer vacation was my house painting business which I named “College Painters.” It’s another great example of an easy-to-start business idea.
I lined up my first house painting job with no references and no claims to experience by underbidding established painting businesses and sounding confident that I could do the job. The closest experience I had was painting my model trains and a couple of rowboats.
Sure enough, house painting turned out to be pretty simple. The key to a good job I found was careful preparation – specifically sanding down any old, loose paint.
In addition to having no experience, I also had no money. For my first painting job I got the customer to advance me enough money for paint and supplies. I found some old ladders and I carried them around on the roof of my car.
My car incidentally was a mess – one side was all smashed in after being hit by a Coca Cola truck. So when calling on prospective customers I had to be sure to park the car to hide the damage.
Every painting job I took on that summer was profitable, but there were a couple that I wished I had bid a little higher on.
On some jobs I later discovered that I had bid less than half the lowest competing bid and less than one fifth of the highest bid! So it was clear to me that the more established painting companies were pocketing some serious money! And it quickly became clear that carefully bidding on jobs was an important part of making this business successful.
If you want to learn more see my course Start-a-Business 101. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.
I just sent some flowers out this afternoon. I did a Google search for a locally based florist. The first one I found online I decided not to patronize because their website didn’t impress me. They showed some sample flower arrangements but they were not clearly labeled, described or priced. The second local florist’s website was a lot better done so I ordered my flowers through them.
I want to SHOUT FROM THE ROOFTOP: YOU NEED A FABULOUS WEBSITE FOR ANY BUSINESS!! This is true for your floral shop – or virtually any other kind of business – and no matter how small. It’s not that hard to do. Let’s be clear about this: the first website I went to was not good enough and it received 0% of my business. The second website was good and it got 100% of my business.
That’s why in my course on digital marketing the first thing I talk about is how to make a great website. It’s not that hard to do. It doesn’t have to be a big website. It doesn’t have to be a complex website. But it needs to get the job done. And that includes doing whatever you can so it shows up at least in local search results.
If you do a good job with your flower shop it will lead to requests to provide flowers for special events including weddings, parties and company events. You can also ramp up your sales for such special events by reaching out to wedding and event planners and local venues that host large groups.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Business
I first hired a search engine optimization firm in the 1990’s for a website business I started called CareerCity.com, a job posting website that I sold a few years later. SEO was a great business then, and it’s still a great business today.
Every business wants to show up as high as they possibly can for important keywords on Google and other search engines. For popular search words the competition is fierce. So companies large and small hire SEO businesses to help improve their search engine rankings.
Some businesses will hire SEO firms on a one-shot basis to optimize their website or to compliment their own in-house SEO efforts. But what you really want is to get a monthly retainer to work with a firm on an ongoing basis to maximize their search engine placements.
What’s the key to success in this business? First, you want to deliver good results for your clients – without doing any “black hat” tricks that will get them penalized on Google or other search engines. Secondly, you want to manage expectations. If your client expects to rank in the #1 global position for an extremely popular and monetizable keyword, you need to patiently explain that this is not likely to happen.
Finally, you need to get clients. Obviously it would be ideal if you could rank high on search engines for the keyword “SEO.” Of course it’s quite competitive. But for local searches for SEO and related terms, the competition is much less daunting.
Another common way to get SEO clients is to get subcontract assignments or referrals from a full service digital marketing firm. To get this kind of work, you’ll need reasonably good expertise and you’ll have to start networking.
Many prospective clients will first try to do SEO on their own. So you can try to attract clients by writing articles, emails, and social media posts about SEO. You could also offer webinars or seminars.
Even if you are not starting an SEO business you may want to discover how to rank at the top of Google search results.
To learn more see our short courses Search Engine Optimization, How to Build Your Local Web Presence and The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing. You can try these courses for free on BusinessTown.
What are the easiest businesses to start?
- 1. Dog Walking
- 2. Babysitting Service
- 3. Moving Business
- 4. Selling on eBay
- 5. Plant Watering Service
- 6. Senior Companion
- 7. Junk Removal
- 8. House Cleaning
- 9. Mobile Car Washing
- 10. Dropshipping
- 11. Virtual Assistant
- 12. Bicycle Rentals
- 13. Tutoring
- 14. Walking Tours
- 15. Grocery Delivery
You can make good money with one of these simple, easy to start businesses if you plan, start, and run it well. Learn more about starting a business with my course Start-a-Business 101. You can start watching this course and all the other courses on BusinessTown for free.
Once again, this is another business you can start small with little money in your home. And you can grow it at your own pace, just about as large as you want. For example Bright Horizons has grown to over 1,000 locations and over $1 billion in annual sales.
No matter how you measure it, daycare is a big business. In the US alone daycare is a $40 billion dollar a year industry with over 56,000 commercial locations and 21,000 locations run by nonprofits.
Daycare has that very important great business characteristic — repeat customers and steady income. It’s also flexible. You can start a daycare practice in your home, at a leased location or at a location provided by a third party such as a corporation that would love to have convenient daycare on its premises.
Years ago when I purchased my first home (a two family so that I could rent out the larger unit for income) the woman next door ran a daycare business out of her house. She also took care of her own kids so she saved money on paying someone else for daycare at the same time.
To get going, you will need to check out your state regulations and get licensed. You’ll need insurance such as for liability and worker’s comp, if you have employees. You’ll need specific policies on issues such as late payments, sick children, possible injuries, and late pickups. And you’ll want to make extra sure your facility is totally safe for children. I recommend getting down on your hands and knees like a young child and thinking about any way they could possibly get into trouble!
It might seem like a lot of things, but it’s all very doable and plenty of people are launching new daycare businesses everyday. And it’s no wonder as many people struggle to find good daycare options.
If you’d like to find out more about how to start this business take a look at my course Start-a-Business 101. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.
It seems like half the people I know are either taking yoga classes or giving yoga classes. One of my friends is taking an online yoga class every morning at 7:30. I have another friend, almost 80 years old, who takes hot yoga classes several times a week. He loves it!
Another friend runs a business teaching yoga classes almost full time. She teaches smaller classes out of a small studio she set up in her house. She teaches some larger classes at a friend’s house, who she lets join her classes without charge.
Still another friend runs her own successful one person real estate brokerage business. She teaches yoga on the side not as much for the extra money, but more because she really enjoys it. She rents space at a local yoga studio. She also occasionally will offer an overnight yoga retreat at a resort hotel.
Yoga classes are another great repeat customer, steady income business. If you can keep your participants happy, they will usually stay with you a long time and also recommend you to their friends.
Whether you are offering yoga online or offline, I would promote it with digital marketing. You’ll want an attractive but simple website and to set up an email marketing sequence. This business I would especially promote on social media starting with free posts but then experimenting with paid advertising as well.
To learn more see my courses, Start-a-Business 101, How to Create a Business Plan and The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing. You can try these courses for free on BusinessTown.
When I was a teenager repairing my small sailboat in my front yard, a middle aged woman stopped her car and asked if I was a carpenter. I paused for a second but then realizing that I might have an opportunity to make some money said “Sure!” She explained that she rented out a few cottages down the street which needed some simple repairs including replacing broken window panes.
Could I fix window panes, she asked. “No problem I responded.” Of course I had never fixed a window pane and had no idea how to do it. But that didn’t matter. What mattered was that I could try to figure it out and there was money to be made. So I went to the local hardware store and in three minutes, they explained how to repair broken windows and sold me the supplies. So that’s how I began a tiny handyperson business that summer.
Today my circumstances are a little bit different and I now I hire handypersons to fix all the little things around my houses, while I save my handyperson type energy to tinker with my model trains and my boats. After buying a large, older house, I hired two handypersons for a good portion of a year to make a lot of small improvements which were long overdue.
You don’t have to be expert at anything to be a qualified handyperson. And you don’t have to be super fast – in this business you charge by the hour. You just have to be able to do some very basic household repair work reasonably well and be willing to do very small jobs. It’s perfectly ok as a handyperson to say that you are not comfortable doing some work that is offered to you. It goes with the territory.
If you don’t want to do any actual work yourself you can still set up a handyperson business. You simply contract out the work. That way you can select the best qualified person for each particular job.
As a handyperson you’ll get a lot of repeat work. But each job is typically small so you’ll need a bunch of customers to turn it into a full time business. You can learn how to attract customers for this business with my courses such as Start a Business 101, which you can try for free on BusinessTown.
As either an online business or a retail store front, resale is a hot business. Clothing first comes to mind for this business, but you can sell just about anything else from sporting goods to furniture. I have also seen some stores successfully mix selling both new goods and resale goods. One of the most prominent examples of this is Amazon listing both new and used books side by side on their website.
There are a lot of things that I like about a resale store business. Perhaps the best aspect of this business is that you are not competing directly with lots of retailers selling highly similar items. Instead, you can put together a very unique mix of items that will give your store a personality and distinct position in the marketplace.
Another thing I like about a resale store is that it is more of an even playing field. For example, when you are selling new goods, you will likely be competing against large national or global companies that can source their goods for much lower prices than you. Not so in the resale business. In fact, by being diligent, you may be able to buy resale goods for even less than a larger company.
Still another thing I like is the consignment option. You can operate your resale store on a consignment basis. That means you don’t actually own the goods and you only pay the source for the goods when you sell them. This is especially important in areas such as women’s fashion where it is often hard to predict what will sell best. In fact many fashion retailers end up selling half or more of their inventory at discounted prices.
You can start a resale store for a relatively small investment. If you go with the consignment option you won’t have to invest anything at all in inventory. Furthermore profit margins in this business can be very high.
Like any business, plan your resale store out carefully in advance, thinking hard about what you are going to specialize in and the “look and feel” of your storefront, whether it is online or offline or both. To learn more see my courses including Start-a-Business 101 and How to Create a Business Plan. You can try these courses for free on BusinessTown.
Subscription Box Business
The potential upside is huge and massive success stories abound including Dollar Shave Club, Ipsy, and Birchbox. One of my friend’s daughters worked at Birchbox so I can tell you that these subscription box leaders have become huge businesses with millions of customers. I can also tell you that they give a lot of effort to their marketing.
And it’s a cool, fun business! You get to add your own personal touch by your product selection, your packaging design and your marketing. Plus you can avoid the hassle of producing your own products – you can just include in your subscription boxes products from other companies.
Plus, this is a repeat customer, steady income business. Every month, the product ships out and the money rolls in. This is not only a recipe for big profits – but it also means the business is highly salable should you ever get tired of it.
So what can you sell in your subscription box? The sky’s the limit. Popular boxes include skincare items, soaps, candles, makeup, shaving items, socks, children’s books, perfumes, apparel accessories, sport items, toys, coffee, chocolates, wines, puzzles and more.
An interesting twist to this business is to design a box that has very small samples from a number of different product manufacturers. This way your customer can have fun testing a variety of products and decide for themselves what they like best and would like to order more of. You will often be able to persuade product companies to give you their small sample items for either free or for a discounted price. Plus you can make money on the larger quantity re-orders as well.
So what’s the key to this business? You’ve got to really think through everything including your market niche, your product mix, your offer and your marketing. Then, you’ve got to test and test again until you find out what works best.
To find out more check out my courses including Start-a-Business 101, How to Create a Business Plan and The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing. You can try them for free on BusinessTown.
You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to start your own catering business! One of my friend’s sons began a catering service at the age of 12 and operated it all the way through high school. Initially he offered simple meals to friends of his parents. Then he gradually expanded the meals he offered and his customer base.
Catering is a fabulous business because you can earn good money without the risks and high overhead associated with owning a restaurant. Because most of the demand is for holidays and weekends you can start this business part-time.
To stand out in the catering field consider offering a specialty such as barbeques or clambakes. It’s okay to start with limited food offerings of just your most fabulous foods. Historically, catering services have grown slowly, usually by word of mouth. But today you can accelerate your growth with digital marketing.
To break into this field create a great website with spectacular pictures of your best foods, a list of your products and suggested menus. Optimize your website so that it shows up at the top of local search results. Then reach out to all your friends and acquaintances and get them to visit your website and start talking about your new business.
To get going see my courses Start-a-Business 101 and The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing. You can try them for free on BusinessTown.
Junk Removal Business
It seems like everyone has a garage or attic or other room full of junk they would love to get rid off! And like a moving service, you don’t even need a truck to get started in this business. You could begin by either renting a truck at a place like U-Haul or buying a little trailer to tow behind your car. For a big job that you don’t want to do all by yourself, you can hire some extra help by putting an ad on Craig’s list or by going through a temp agency.
This is another classic business that you can start small, really small. You could even keep your day job and do all the junk removal jobs on the weekend. For example, Brian Scudamore started a junk removal business after failing to find a summer job on a college vacation. He later changed the company name to 1-800-GOT-JUNK? He has since grown the business to over 200 locations and over $200 million in annual sales.
In this business you can develop extra income by efficiently sorting the junk you take away into items you can resell, items you can get paid to recycle, and items that have to be disposed of.
Another key to success is landing customers. Most importantly you need to set up a digital marketing outreach that brings people to your website. Then, you can either try to sell them directly on the website or by phone or email. Even if you’ve never done digital marketing before you can learn how to do it all.
You can develop repeat business and good word of mouth if you are polished and professional. That includes having a great looking website, being polite on the phone, having a professionally painted truck, and wearing a shirt with your company name on it. Then, make sure you follow up with your past customers from time to time to see if they have more junk for you to come take away.
To learn more, see my courses, Start-a-Business 101 and The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing. You can try these courses for free on BusinessTown.
You can open your gift shop online as well as with a traditional storefront. But while I do a lot of shopping online, I’d much prefer to buy gift items from a cool local independent gift shop. A well done gift shop is a pleasure to visit. The overall ambience and the sense of discovery make it fun. If you do want to try a gift shop online I would try to recreate as much as you can the “look and feel” of a physical store.
A very talented handyman working for me was forced to give up that line of work because of health problems so he and his wife opened a gift shop. They did a lot of things right, including developing a plan, sourcing some awesome merchandise and displaying it well. In fact he used a few leftover displays that my kids had used for their clothing boutique.
But they made one critical mistake. They leased a commercial location on a busy road, but in an area that had weak foot traffic. A couple years later they relocated to the main street in the town next door and their business ramped up nicely. This an example of why it’s important to do a good job of every critical step in starting a business.
Another thing my friend did well was to build a strong online presence – which you should do even if you have a storefront location. He built a nice website, developed his email list, and did a little bit of social media. His online presence was overwhelmingly directed at driving business to the storefront not making sales online.
If you’re thinking about opening a gift shop consider visiting some of the larger gift trade shows to get product ideas – and to get inspired! When I was in the book business for example, our products would be displayed at these shows by our independent sales rep groups that served the gift trade.
To learn more see my courses including Start-a-Business 101, How to Create a Business Plan and The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing. You can try these courses on BusinessTown for free.
Don’t overlook carpet/upholstery cleaning! This is a gigantic business! And it could be a highly profitable, repeat customer, steady income business for you.
Some time ago I published a book by Don Dwyer who was the king of the carpet cleaners. He developed a carpet cleaning franchise system that had over 10,000 franchisees. How did Don become so successful?
From my meetings with Don, I attribute his massive success to two factors. First he remained deeply immersed in the details of his business. He could tell you exactly the best way to get dog urine stains out of carpets and he would be happy to demonstrate how to do it himself.
Secondly Don was good about envisioning and celebrating success – something that frankly I could be better at. He was a strong believer in setting ambitious but achievable goals for your business, such as quarterly sales or profit goals. Then he believed in celebrating your success even if you didn’t quite achieve your specific goal.
This reminds me of the critical role that inspiration and motivation play when you are starting and running your own business especially when you are a sole entrepreneur. One way to stay motivated is to watch a short video every day, such as a video from one of the different courses on BusinessTown.
A carpet/upholstery cleaning business is still one more simple business that you can start without any experience. Yes you can quickly teach yourself how to clean carpets and upholstery. And you don’t need to buy a franchise. But you should first learn a little bit about how to start a business and how to attract customers. It’s all very doable.
To learn more about starting a carpet cleaning business – or any other business – see my course, Start-a-Business 101. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.
Party Planning Business
I’ve hired party planners both for children’s birthday parties and for business group events. Since the demand for most parties is on the weekend, it’s a great business to start part time while holding onto your day job. Furthermore, it’s a great business to start small with a very limited service offering and then expand your services as you grow.
For example for children’s parties you could start by just offering magician, clown, face painting or balloon services. I met a man who ran a clown service. He actually went to clown school. Then, he started part time with just himself as the clown. Over time, he had so much demand for his services that he hired a number of other clowns.
His clowns perform mostly at bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs. He charges over $200 an hour for a single clown! For that money I’m tempted to dress up as a clown myself – besides, my father and some of my school teachers always said I was a clown!
I have attended children’s parties, especially bar and bat mitzvahs, with budgets approaching $10,000, and even in one case, with a budget in the $100,000 range. So you can see that party planning can be a big business.
You could also have a full service party planner business by contracting out for any services that you might need. For example for children’s parties you could hire a catering service, clowns, magicians, and dress up actors. You could arrange for the rentals of trampolines and jungle gyms. You could hire a band, a fireworks service and a pony ride service. This could be one big, fun party!
Party planning is a great example of a really fun business and a great business to start on the side. But even starting part time, you want to be serious about it from the beginning. You want take your time and start the business right, carefully planning out every aspect in advance.
If you want to learn more about starting a party planning – or any other business – see my course Start-a-Business 101. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.
How do you start a business?
- 1. Choose your business idea.
- 2. Analyze the competition.
- 3. Decide how you will be unique.
- 4. Write your business plan.
- 5. Line up financing.
- 6. Name and register your business.
- 7. Plan your marketing.
- 8. Start making sales.
To learn more about how to start a business see my course, Start-a-Business 101. You can start watching this course and all the other courses on BusinessTown for free.
The demand for delivery services is booming driven by online shopping and services. A delivery service can take many forms and you want to figure out exactly what kind of deliveries you want to be targeting. Don’t have a van or other vehicle? Don’t worry you can rent one, lease one or buy a cheap used one.
For example, some delivery businesses focus on servicing Amazon. Amazon touts that you will be able to make a lot of money especially if you build up a fleet of vehicles working for them. However, I have also heard reports of Amazon completely dumping delivery services when they were not happy with their level of service. This is why it’s always a good reason to diversify your customer base if possible.
There is also a lot of demand for delivery of food from restaurants. And for grocery pickup and delivery. Today, I had a bedroom set delivered to my house. It was delivered by the furniture store’s own delivery truck. But many smaller furniture companies contract out their deliveries.
Another variant is a courier service where you deliver rush items such as documents and other packages. Still another twist is medical deliveries such as test samples, medicines or even human organs.
You may be thinking you’ll start out in this business by proudly driving around a shiny new van with your company name professionally painted on the side. Not me! I would instead buy 3 cheap, beat up used vans, skip the name painting and hire some drivers. Meanwhile, I’d put all my time into lining up customers through digital marketing, networking and making sales calls.
To learn more about starting this business – or any other business – see my course Start-a-Business 101. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.