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The Best Small Business Opportunities (20+ Awesome Business Ideas)

by Sean Falconer | Last Updated November 7, 2017
The Best Small Business Opportunities (20+ Awesome Business Ideas)

Ready to leave that 9-to-5 grind behind you and start your own business?

If so, then this list is for you.

Here is my list of the best small business opportunities that  won't break the bank to startup today.

To make this list, the opportunity needed to:

  • Not require a large amount of startup capital
  • Not require extensive training or education
  • Has the potential to reach profitability quickly

Many of these ideas could be operated out of your home. These are not get rich quick schemes, but viable businesses where you can earn a nice living, be your own boss and make all the decisions.

Let's get started!

20+ Awesome Business Opportunities

Childcare Center

Childcare Center

If you enjoy being around children, this is a great low-cost business to start today. In urban areas, the cost of living can be high, forcing many couples to both work, making child daycare a booming industry.

You will be limited in terms of growth since you can only legally care for so many children at once, but demand for these services is high.

Qualifications/Requirements:

In the U.S., daycare facilities and staff require proper licensing and certification. The requirements vary from state to state, so you will need to investigate what is required for your home state.

Expected Income:

$13-25 per hour depending on experience and location.

Rates vary a lot depending on your location. There's a great calculator available at Care.com to get an idea of what you can expect.

Resources:

Non-Medical Senior Care

Non-Medical Senior Care

Like daycare, elderly care is also a booming industry. In the U.S. people over the age of 65 account for about 15% of our population and this is expected to grow to 24% by 2060. 

Similar to childcare, it's a low cost business to get started. Services can vary, they typically include things like companionship, meal prep, medical reminders, some housekeeping, running errands, shopping, and other personal needs. 

As an operator of a senior care business, you can do the work yourself or hire employees that you manage so there is growth potential.

Qualifications/Requirements:

To start a business in this industry you will need insurance and be bonded.

Expected Income:

$20-40 per hour depending on location.

Resources:

Bikes Sales, Service and Rentals

Bikes Sales, Service and Rentals

The bike commuting community has grown massively over the past 10 years. This is especially prevalent in urban areas. Many U.S. cities are working hard to increase the number of folks using their bikes.

If you are an active person that enjoys biking, bike sales and rentals could be a great business to start. Even if you are not mechanically inclined, you can hire a bike mechanic to help you expand into service.

To cut down on startup costs, you can potentially start a shop like this from your home. If not you'll need a bit of capital to get going with rental space. I have a friend that runs a bike rental and touring company out of a shipping container.

Qualifications/Requirements:

Not a lot of required in terms of qualifications here. Best to have some working knowledge of bikes and basic service.

Expected Income:

$20-25 per hour depending on what your shop provides. Retail bikes sales is a tough business with margins in the 35% range, but rental and tours can be a great business.

Resources:

Body Decorations (Piercings and Tattoos)

Body Decorations (Piercings and Tattoos)

Long gone are the days when tattoos and non-traditional piercings were associated with some kind of deviant behavior. Today, this art form is not only a billion dollar industry, but in the U.S. over 40% of households have at least one member with a tattoo. That's nearly double what it was back in the 1990s!

There is a lot of potential in this industry if you are artistic and enjoy body art.

Qualifications/Requirements:

Most tattoo artist apprentice along a professional. This typically takes 3 years or more, but afterwards, you have the skills and freedom to work your craft from almost anywhere.

Expected Income:

This can vary greatly based on experience and skill level of the artist and parlor. Well known artist will make hundreds an hour for a tattoo. It may take a bit of time to ramp up your business, but once you're established, on the low end you can expect to be making $25 per hour but on the high end over $100 per hour.

Resources:

Gourmet Coffee Shop

Gourmet Coffee Shop

Not too long ago, gourmet coffee in the U.S. was a big ol' can of Folgers. Today, in many cities, the "third wave of coffee" has taken over, where coffee is not only something you consume to keep yourself alert, but is an artisanal foodstuff.

If you love coffee and enjoy chatting with people, opening a gourmet coffee shop could be a great business. One of my closest friends quit his corporate job and opened his own small coffee shop. He was profitable immediately, and although he works long hours, he loves getting to know everyone in his community by serving them up a quality cup of Joe.

Qualifications/Requirements:

You'll need to learn how to make different types of coffee drinks like cappuccinos, lates, and macchiatos. If you've never used espresso machines and the like, there will be some learning curve, but you can likely find someone in your social network that can help you out.

Expected Income:

If you own a single small artisan shop, you can expect to make between $18-25 per hour depending on the city you are operating out of. 

Resources:

Dog Walking and Pet Sitting

Dog Walking and Pet Sitting

Pet sitting by itself can be tricky to turn into a fulltime business but when paired with dog walking, it's a natural fit. As a multi-pet owner, I depend these services to help me when I travel. 

Dog walkers in major cities typically charge between $20-25 per walk and can usually take between 4-6 dogs on a walk up to three times a day. 

If you love animals and being outdoors, it's a great opportunity. 

Qualifications/Requirements:

There are not necessarily specific required qualifications, but many dog walkers will have CPR/First Aid. You will likely need a driver's license and a reliable vehicle that can carry a variety of dogs.

Expected Income:

This can be tricky to track down as salaries online can be misleading. A lot of dog walking and pet sitting is cash-based, so reported incomes vary. In major cities, you can be making $25-30 per hour.

Resources:

Personal Trainer

Personal Trainer

If you love working out and living a healthy lifestyle, then personal training or fitness instructor could be a great fit for you. 

There's a tremendous amount of flexibility in terms of how you setup your business. You can work one-on-one, run bootcamps, classes for groups, or start your own boutique gym. I have many friends that have left their traditional jobs to work in the fitness industry as coaches or have started their own Crossfit gyms and none of them have regretted the decision.

Qualifications/Requirements:

There's no universally accepted set of qualifications, but you will likely need CPR/First Aid, insurance, and have some kind of training certificate.

Expected Income:

Many boutique gyms turn a profit within the first year. If you're going the pure personal trainer route, on average a full time trainer makes about $50,000 a year or $20-25 per hour.

Resources:

Hair Stylist

Hair Stylist

This is an industry that's not going away anytime soon. It makes a great home-based business if you have the space. You'll just need a business permit, dedicated room with a sink, a comfortable chair, and some space for your supplies.

Qualifications/Requirements:

All States require hair stylists to be licensed. You will need to complete a training program of cosmetology or a barber program. These are typically 2-year programs.

Expected Income:

$13-15 per hour. This can of course vary greatly depending on your skill level and city.

Resources:

Massage Therapist

Massage Therapist

I was nearly 30 before I had my first massage, but now I'm addicted.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, massage therapy has grown 19% over the past 10 years. There is some training involved, but like many of these businesses, once you've passed your certification you have lot of flexibility in terms of how you want to work and where.

Qualifications/Requirements:

Regulations vary a bit state to state, but most states require massage practitioners to complete a 500-hour massage training program. You may also need to pass a state exam.

Expected Income:

Starting income will be between $15-20 per hour, but with potential for a lot more if you receive more training and specialize in certain therapies.

Resources:

Personal Shopper

Personal Shopper

Love shopping? If so, then this might be the right business for you.

Lots of busy people will hire personal shoppers to help them out with buying gifts or assisting them with other purchases. Personal shopping can go beyond shopping for an individual, often designers will hire them to help them track down specific items. Also, corporations use personal shoppers to help purchase gifts for customers, investors, employees and other business relationships.

Qualifications/Requirements:

The great thing about this career is there's no formal training, you can start tomorrow. Having a great knowledge of what's on the market for gifts and what's trendy will help, but not completely necessary.

Expected Income:

$20-25 per hour. 

Resources:

Facilities Support

Facilities Support

Facilities support can mean a few different things from cleaning, security, painting, moving and building maintenance. Any apartment or office building is going to need services like this. It's an industry expected to grow by 30% by 2026.

Qualifications/Requirements:

Background in maintenance or construction is beneficial. 

Expected Income:

$30+ per hour.

Resources:

Freelance Writer

Freelance Writer

If you are a skilled writer, then there's lots demand for people like you. Most businesses need help writing copy for websites, advertising, print materials, press releases and content. 

There's websites like UpWork where you can pick up contract work as a writer to get your foot in the door and perfect your craft. As you gain experience, you can build up relationships and establish long term contracts with businesses.

Qualifications/Requirements:

Strong writing skills. A degree in English or journalism can help.

Expected Income:

You can make several hundred dollars per article, but most of the time, you won't be writing 8 hours a day. Average income is going to be around $25 per hour.

Resources:

Online Marketing and Social Media Services

Online Marketing and Social Media Services

With services like Yelp, Twitter and Facebook, online marketing and social media management is more important than ever for most businesses. However, most businesses lack the expertise and time to dedicate to managing these services. This is where you come in.

You will need to understand these services inside and out and have established a proven track record. One way to do this is start with friend's businesses so you can learn your craft and show some results. From there you can grow slowly.

Qualifications/Requirements:

There's no specific training, but you should have an interest and deep knowledge of the latest social media platforms.

Expected Income:

30+ hour. 

Resources:

Event and Party Planner

Event and Party Planner

If you are a social person with great organizational skills, then event planning could be a great business to start. 

Event planners put together all kinds of events from weddings to corporate conventions to children's birthday parties. It's a growing industry with lots of potential clients.

You will need to be a very detail-oriented, well-organized and great communicator to be successful.

Qualifications/Requirements:

A degree is hospitality is a plus, but not strictly necessary. You need to be able to network because you will need to build up a list of contractors that you can rely on. A lot of this business is word of mouth based, so the more reliable you are, the more successful your business.

Expected Income:

$25-30 hour.

Resources:

Commercial Cleaning Service

Commercial Cleaning Service

Commercial cleaning is similar to residential cleaning except at a much larger scale. You will typically be responsible for dusting, vacuuming, emptying trash cans and possibly replenishing basic supplies like paper and soap.

You will need to be comfortable working off hours as these services typically work late after office hours are complete. Most jobs are contract-based and it may take you some time to land that first contract. 

Qualifications/Requirements:

Background in maintenance, cleaning or construction is a plus. You will need to obtain a business permit and business tax registration certificate.

Expected Income:

$20-25 per hour.

Resources:

Valet Parking Service

Valet Parking Service

Valet parking services are essential to people running special events. In major cities, valet parking is very common. 

To get your business off the ground, customer service and having a friendly personality will be essential. You can start out by pitching your services directly to different events. You will likely need a small crew of 2-3 drivers.

Qualifications/Requirements:

You will need a driver's license and third-party liability insurance.

Expected Income:

$15-20 per hour plus tips.

Resources:

Food Truck

Food Truck

The food truck industry is booming in major cities. There's specialized food trucks creating all kinds of delicious treats. If you love to cook and have a unique idea (e.g. pulled pork poutine), then this might be the perfect opportunity for you.

There are several advantages over a traditional restaurant, the most obvious one being that you can go where you customers are. Your overhead is typically much lower, you require less staff and no one expects a food truck to have a huge comprehensive menu. You can specialize.

You will need some startup money to purchase a truck and secure all the proper licenses.

Qualifications/Requirements:

Besides the ability to cook, you need to obtain a variety of licenses and permits. You need to register as a business, have a business license, vehicle license, seller's permit, food handler's permit, health department permit, and fire certificates. There are also sometimes specific food truck laws by city, so make sure you understand the ins and outs of your city before proceeding.

Expected Income:

Income varies greatly depending on the type of food you are selling and how popular your truck is. The most popular trucks do really well. 

Resources:

SEO Consultant

SEO Consultant

These days, pracatically every business has a website, and how do people find businesses? They do it through search engines like Google.

If your website can dominate the search results, you can grow your business significantly for a low cost. However, it takes a lot of work and expertise to dominate search and that's why so many businesses need the help of an SEO expert.

As an SEO consultant or expert, you will work with businesses to help them strategize their plans for SEO, help them develop pages or content that will rank well, map keywords to business opportunities and build links to help the site rank well.

It's a business that you can easily run from your home and a lot of is word of mouth based. If you are successful with one client, they will recommend you to others.

Qualifications/Requirements:

A background in marketing, writing or engineering can be a plus, but not necessary. You will need to learn a lot about SEO and marketing, but most of this you can learn online for free or through courses like SEO that Works by Brian Dean.

Expected Income:

$50-100 per hour.

Resources:

Interior Decorator

Interior Decorator

Home makeover shows have thrusted interior design into the mainstream. Hiring an interior decorator is no longer just for the rich. Plenty of people desire a beautiful home but lack the knowledge and skills to make it happen.

If you are creative, have a great eye for design, are well organized, then this could be a business for you.

Qualifications/Requirements:

There are interior decorator certification training programs, but not all interior decorators have gone through programs like this. It is beneficial to understand basic architecture and be able to use things like CAD software. You also need to be up-to-date on building regulations.

Expected Income:

$25+ hour.

Resources:

Career Coach

Career Coach

Career coaches work with clients to help them assess their professional situation, help their career development, and perhaps even help them create resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles and prepare for interviews.

Typical career coaches will have backgrounds in human resources, career services, or perhaps specific industries if they specialize. There's a lot of listening involved and there's definitely a counseling side to the business.

Qualifications/Requirements:

Be an excellent listener. Also, most career coaches and counselors have a bachelor's degree in psychology, counseling, or human resources.

Expected Income: 

$25-30 per hour.

Resources:

Bounce House Rentals

Bounce House Rentals

Who doesn't love a bounce house? 

Bounce houses are popular with children's birthday parties (and adults love them too). I've also seen them at corporate events.

It's an incredibly easy business to setup. Typically you will need to deliver the bounce house, set it up and return at the end of the day for pickup. Profits can be $250 a day. 

It may be difficult to turn this into a full-time job, but it's a great part-time income and you can expand into other party rental supplies to go full-time.

Qualifications/Requirements:

You will need to purchase a bounce house. Low end models run about $2,000 and large fancier models can be up to $15,000. You will also need a vehicle to transpaort the inflatable equipment.

Expected Income: 

$250 per rental.

Resources:

Photobooth Rental and Operator

Photobooth Rental and Operator

I haven't been to a wedding the past five years that didn't have a photobooth. They are also popular at corporate events, holiday parties, and even at bars and restaurants.

Photobooth rentals cost up to $800-1,000 for an evening. However, the overhead to operate one of these businesses after the equipment has been purchased is extremely low.

You can build or buy your photobooth. Purchasing a pre-built photobooth can cost anywhere from $5,000 up to $12,000, but you can build one for a fraction of the cost. There's plenty of online guides that will show you how.

Qualifications/Requirements:

You really just need the photobooth. You can start by doing friend's events and word-of-mouth will spread from there.

Expected Income: 

$100 per hour, but you will not typically be working 40 hour weeks.

Resources:

Freelance Software Engineering

Freelance Software Engineering

A lot of software engineers start out working for corporations as salaried employees, but many eventually become self-employed contractors. Technology makes it easy to do this type of work remotely, and sites like UpWork help with picking up contract gigs.

It's a growing industry and there's lots of companies looking to hire engineers for short-term and long-term gigs. You will need to build up a portfolio, but once established, you can make a very good living.

Qualifications/Requirements:

Computer science degrees are typically 4 year college degrees. There are shorter options and online training programs for specific types of development like websites or apps.

Expected Income:

$50+ per hour.

Resources:

Teach English Online

Teach English Online

English teachers are in high demand, especially in Asia. Websites like iTalki make it easy to get started. You can of course teach other languages as well, it will depend on your expertise.

The great thing about services like iTalki is that you can operate a business like this from home with very little equipment or upfront cost. 

Qualifications/Requirements:

Strong command over the language you wish to teach.

Expected Income:

$15-20 per hour.

Resources:

Virtual Assistant

Virtual Assistant

Virtual assistants are people that typically do just about any administrative type work, but usually remotely and mostly hands off. They can schedule meetings, type out emails, answer phone calls, research stuff online, book travel, do data entry, customer service, etc.

To get started as a virtual assistant, there's lots of websites that can help. Check out this article for some pointers.

Qualifications/Requirements:

You will need basic technology skills, but experience and qualifications are low. Typically you will learn what is needed.

Expected Income:

$10-15 per hour.

Resources:

Other Small Business Ideas and Tips

Below I've included some additional tips and resources to help  you get started with following your dream of creating a small business.

Do I need a business plan?

A business plan is always a good idea. It's important to research the market in your local area to figure out whether the business you want to start is feasible. If you want to start a tattoo shop but the area of the city you want to work in already has half a dozen, then maybe you need to rethink your locale.

You will also need to have a plan for what licensing and equipment you will require and have a general plan for how to get things going so you can be on the road to profitability.

Check out Starting a Business 101 for more information.

Where can I get a small business loan?

There are a lot of options to getting a small business loan. The best option will depend on a number of factors like how much you need, your prior credit history and how quickly you need the money. Fundera has a great article detailing 10 different loan options here.

Why should I start my own business?

I'm not going to lie, starting your own business and keeping it going can be a lot of work. You may work harder than at any other point in your life and potentially for less income. My mother worked 6 days a week for 30 years to keep her small women's clothing boutique store going and never made much money, but she loved it just the same.

There's a real sense of pride with doing your own thing and building your own vision of what you want your company to become. You potentially get to create jobs, contribute to your community in a positive way, be a role model for your kids, and develop amazing invaluable skills.

With a small business, you are often forced to learn new skills that you never thought you would. If you enjoy a challenge, lifelong learning and independence, then you should consider your own business.

How do you go about starting your own business?

Did you know that 99.7% of businesses in the U.S. are classified as small businesses? Small businesses are everywhere and they are the backbone of our society.

However, most small businesses fail, so it's important to know what you are getting into first.

Here's a brief set of stages you will need to complete to start your own business. You can get more details here.

  • Do your research
  • Make a plan
  • Plan your finances
  • Choose a business structure
  • Pick and register your business name
  • Get licenses and permits
  • Choose your accounting system
  • Get your team ready (if you need one)
  • Promote your business

Final Thoughts

Starting a small business is not for everyone, but if you have the entrepreneurial spirit, then I recommend you consider taking the plunge. Sure, it can be hard work and stressful, and while you will undoubtely suffer some low lows, there's also amazing high highs. 

Few things are as satisfying as seeing happy customers coming from some idea that you created and executed on. No one can take that from you.

In the list of business opportunities discussed here, I tried to stick to practical and accessible businesses, but there's of course no limit to what you could start. Take your passion, find others like you that are interested in it, start small and grow from there. 

Good luck!

Topics: small business

Sean Falconer

Written by Sean Falconer

Sean Falconer is Founder and CTO of Proven. He is a proud Canadian and reformed academic. He is passionate about making hiring for small businesses simple, streamlined and frictionless.

 

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