The 300 Best Small Business Ideas - Part 3 | Business Town

The 300 Best Small Business Ideas – Part 3

Gourmet Jam Producer

If you’re thinking about producing gourmet jams I would suggest you consider a local angle. For example a few months ago I purchased gourmet jam that was made with locally grown blueberries. The packaging on the jar really played up the local angle.

You could sell your jams online but for this kind of product I think I would first try to sell it through physical stores.

You could probably get your jams into some independent food stores. But I would try to get it into some non food stores as well, such as gift stores, where the product might stand out more and sell more quickly. For example, I recently bought a jar of locally produced blueberry jam in the gift shop of a local winery.

jam
You can sell your homemade jams at local stores and also online. Save some for me!

As with any food product you want to start with a great tasting product. But you’ll also need great packaging. In addition to great packaging on the jar I would recommend some kind of shelf top display that brings more attention to your product. You’ll also need a competitive price – but if it’s a local product you probably won’t have to match the price of national brands to succeed.

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.

Concert Promoter/Nightclub Promoter

I remember one of business school sectionmates, Al Haymon, sitting beside me in class projecting costs for his next rock concert – and in particular the costs for a big after party which he had to do to keep the performing stars happy. Al began his concert promotion business as a side gig while still an undergraduate at Harvard College.

Never one to think small, Al was very soon booking concerts for A list rock stars. Al had a great touch dealing with celebrities and their managers and that helped propel his business ahead.

Around 2000 Al shifted his focus to boxing and in a few years developed a large business both as a boxing promoter and a boxing manager. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was among the boxers he has managed.

concert
As this photo shows one of my friends even promoted a limited crowd concert in her backyard. If you do this I’d let your neighbors know in advance so they don’t complain.

If booking huge concerts seems like a bit much, consider starting as a nightclub promoter. You can put together parties for your friends and get paid for it! Sign me up! For starters, you should have a strong following on social media. Then if you have a knack for promoting, see if a nightclub will pay you to help boost their attendance.

I’ve seen promoters begin in this business by first promoting regular nights at established night clubs, then by working a deal with a club to have their own exclusive night, then eventually launching their own club venue.

Membership Website

A membership website can become a highly profitable, high growth and very valuable business. First you need to focus on a high demand topic that people are interested in enough to actually pay for. And then you need to convince them that you are the expert source that they should rely on.

This is not an easy business to get going and to get traction in. Nor is a low risk business. At best it is going to take a lot of work and trial and error to make it work. But if you are looking for an online business with sky high potential this could be it.

It will help if you have a strong familiarity with a particular subject area. You don’t necessarily have to have deep enough expertise to actually provide all or even some of the information or resources on a membership website yourself. But you should have enough knowledge that you can make good decisions on what to offer on your website, how to present it, and how to market it.

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.

Furniture Making

One of my friends sold off his large family business that made industrial goods, and then embarked on a new career as an artisan furniture maker. He studied furniture making in a full time program and focused on very high end wood furniture. He spends as much as an entire month crafting one exquisite piece of furniture.

He displays his furniture at shows and promotes his open studio nights. He has also built up an email list that he promotes to. Clients are wealthy individuals and some upscale boutique hotels.

business idea furniture making
There is a large and diverse market for furniture. Most furniture business entrepreneurs make much simpler pieces than this exquisite antique desk.

Most entrepreneurs opening small furniture businesses produce more moderately priced items in larger quantities. They also tend to specialize in one type of furniture such as chairs, desks, tables or beds. Some sell their furniture through other retailers. Some sell furniture through their own small storefront. Others sell their furniture through their website or other online venues.

If you work at this business by yourself and don’t have a lot of customers coming by, you should be able to run it as a home business. But I would recommend you check your local zoning regulations so that you know what risks you may be taking.

Security Business

Often security guards are seen as being unfriendly and unprofessional. Maybe you can do better. This regulated field will require licenses and registrations. But it’s not the most complex business.

You’ll need to check with local and state licensing and registration requirements. Unlike most businesses you will also need a federal license – in this case a patrol license from the US Department of Consumer Affairs. You’ll also need insurance – at least liability insurance.

There are a lot of potential clients including jewelry stores, banks, medical facilities, night spots and schools. As you are starting out you’ll need to show that you are trustworthy. Providing your past work history and references will help. A professional looking website and uniformed employees also builds credibility.

So there are a few hurdles to getting started and you’ll have to hire carefully. But the demand is both strong and steady for this business. And once you nail down your marketing you should be able to grow it nicely.

To learn more see my course, Start-a-Business 101. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.

Meal Preparation

Meal preparation services are booming and the Internet is facilitating this, making it easier to attract and service customers. The market includes the elderly as well as busy working people, who don’t always want to take the time to cook.

Typically, these services offer just a few meal choices each day, but they vary the selection constantly. Especially if you can build up regular subscribers to your service, you can determine in advance exactly what your food needs will be, minimizing both food and labor waste.

meal preparation
Let me know if you start a meal preparation service near me! With my limited cooking skills I’d love to have great meals delivered to my doorstep!

Another variant on this business is to deliver meal ingredients all measured out and ready to go along with detailed instructions. This business model has become increasingly competitive with several players developing very large businesses. But that doesn’t mean you can’t compete. There’s plenty of room for a differentiated business model, especially with a product as personal as complete meals.

Learn how to start and run a business by streaming the courses at BusinessTown.

Fence Sales & Installation

To get started in fence installation I would first offer fence repair services. I’ve hired services several times to repair my various fences and it’s a good paying business. When a large tree took out two sections of the fence by my tennis court the fence company charged $1800 to fix it.

business idea fence repair and installation
Here’s another one of my broken fences awaiting a fence company to come by and fix it.

This business is a great combination of repair services, installation services and sales. Because of the strong service mix you will not be as vulnerable to low priced online stores as you would be for a lot of other product businesses.

Service your fence repair customers well, keep in touch with them, and you will be at the top of their mind when they are ready to install a completely new fence.

Home Inspection

This is a good solid business. Everyone needs their house inspected before they buy it. Many people who buy a house do not really understand how to evaluate the condition of the property. What are the likely flaws and issues? How much might they cost to get repaired?

My experience is that good house inspectors can be hard to find. Some are much more meticulous than others. A thorough job might take 4 or 5 hours. If you do a good job the word will get out.

Most states require a license. And you’ll want to make sure you know what you are doing. But it is all learnable. You can market yourself online and by promoting yourself to real estate agents and mortgage lenders including local banks.

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What are the best low investment businesses?

  • 1.  Professional Organizer
  • 2.  Apartment Prep Service
  • 3.  Dropshipping
  • 4.  Interior Decorating
  • 5.  Bartending Service
  • 6.  Carpet Installation
  • 7.  Bookkeeping
  • 8.  Lawn Irrigation
  • 9.  Life Coaching
  • 10.  Dog Sitting
  • 11.  Makeup Consulting
  • 12.  Personal Trainer
  • 13.  Freelance Writing
  • 14.  Start a Blog
  • 15.  Cookie Business

You don’t need a lot of money to start a business. I started most of my businesses with less than $2,000 and three of them I started with virtually nothing. 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.

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Translation Service

Yes, there is demand for translation services. But the reimbursement will vary widely both depending upon the language, the type of work being translated and the quality level required.

Especially when translating between more common languages, rates of reimbursement may be low. This may be especially in the case when working for people or companies that you don’t have an established relationship with. You may often find yourself competing with people from developing countries that have lower income levels.

Hence no matter what language you are focusing on, you want to try to find the highest paying work possible. Sometimes translation work can lead to other kinds of work such as freelance writing assignments or consulting work.

For help in getting your business going, start streaming the courses on BusinessTown including Start-a-Business 101. You can try BusinessTown for free.

Dry Cleaning Business

This is a solid, repeat customer, steady income business. You can make good money. But you really have to work for it. This business involves a lot of “touches” of every single item.

One of my friends took over her father’s dry cleaning business that he had built into a chain of a dozen storefronts over many years. He did all of the dry cleaning at one single location. How successful was the business? Well, I had a chance to take a trip on her father’s brand new 65 foot motor yacht – a gorgeous boat!

Business idea dry cleaner
Dry cleaning is a solid, steady income business. But it is a hands on business that will
require a lot of owner effort.

In this business you have to keep the clients happy. Some clients will spend as much as $10,000 a year on their dry cleaning. Now that would keep me happy! You also have to run your plant efficiently. This business is far from fully automated, there is a lot of handling involved.

You will also want to consider offering drop off and pick up at customers homes. Yes you can make good money in this business, but you are going to have to really work for it.

Balloon Delivery Service

A balloon delivery service is basically a simplified version of a flower delivery business. You don’t need flower arranging skills. You don’t have to deal with an inventory that is constantly becoming obsolete. It’s basically a very simple business that you can start with little money.

Colorful balloons by their very nature suggest fun, happiness and celebration! And because they are not quite as common a gift as flowers, they also have more of an element of surprise.

You can buy special shaped balloons, oversized balloons and balloons with festive wishes written on them. You can also combine the balloon arrangements with other products such as candy to create higher price point options.

You can run this business out of your home. You can start it almost instantly. But like any business I strongly suggest you think it through carefully before you begin. Learn the basics about running a business. Give some thought as to what packages you will offer.

Then you really want to spend some time learning about marketing online. How well you do your online marketing will likely be the most important determinant of how successful this business becomes. You’ll want a really attractive and fun looking website. You’ll want it to make sure it ranks well in local Google search results. And for this business I’d be on social media too.

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.

Software Business

You might be thinking…How can I possibly start a software business – I don’t know a thing about computer programming. That’s OK. You don’t need to. I started a software business, creating and selling software business, with almost no knowledge of how to write code.

You can hire the people to write the software code for you. The trickier part is coming up with a clever idea for a product that will sell. Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s one thing to write the basic software code for a product. It’s quite another to debug it. Often the debugging can take longer than the initial programming. And you’ve got to make sure that your software is rock solid before you sell it.

So how do you sell your software? Almost all software is sold online. But the nature of the sale depends quite a bit on the type of product. To sell consumer and small business software you can use the basic digital marketing tools such as a website, SEO, emails, social media and digital marketing.

Selling narrowly targeted software to corporations you really need to carefully track down buyers on LinkedIn or by purchasing lists of company executives. You will also want to try for reviews on industry websites.

Do whatever you can to get testimonials for software. Maybe offer your software in a Beta version to potential users in exchange for their feedback, suggestions and hopefully a testimonial.

For more see my courses on BusinessTown, which you can try for free.

Craft Beer Pub/Craft Beer Store

A few years ago, I overheard a conversation in a gym about a fellow who had first planned to open an Irish pub, of which there are close to a million (well almost a million) in Boston. However he later changed his mind and opened a pub focusing on craft beers.

It was wildly successful! In addition to being a unique idea at the time, he also chose an excellent location and developed a solid food menu. Unless your overhead is extremely low, you are probably going to need to serve food to make a go of this business, so yes you can be extremely successful–but it is no small undertaking.

business idea craft beer
A common trend among craft beer bars is to feature local independent brews, such as at this bar in Portland Maine.

A few years later a couple women started a craft beer store nearby me in a Boston suburb. They overwhelmingly sell craft beer but they also offer a small selection of major beer brands and a small wine selection for their customers’ convenience. They’ve done well and have gone on to open a second location.

Now if you are feeling really ambitious you might want to add an on premise brewery to your enterprise. But having met the founder of Sam Adams I can tell you that brewing your own beer will take a little bit of work and expertise.

Find out more about starting a business on BusinessTown.

Business Plan Writer

I believe that every business, even a simple part time one, should have a business plan. Businesses that have a plan are on average significantly more successful than ones that don’t.

You can learn how to write an excellent business plan. And I advise people to take the time to learn how to do it and not hire a business plan writer.

However some people don’t want to write their own business plan. Often they don’t feel confident assembling the financial projections. And that’s where you come in. You work side by side with your client to come up with the best plan possible for their business.

To get going as a business plan writer I would develop a specialty. For example, maybe you can offer a low priced flat rate service for people looking to start a fairly simple business. Or maybe instead you offer a more consultative hourly approach targeting people raising money for larger startups. You could also consider targeting entrepreneurs by industry.

For help in putting together an excellent business plan – for either a client or for your own business – see my course, How to Create a Business Plan. This course includes a fill-in-the-blanks template, a sample plan and full instructions and templates for assembling the financial statements.

Online Dating Consultant

It seems like everyone is meeting on online dating sites today. But at the same time there are plenty of people who can’t quite seem to find the right someone. And you can help! I know this market is big because one of the hottest areas for my book publishing company was books on relationships, such as How to Get Married in a Year, Why Love Is Not Enough and Why Men Love Bitches (sorry about that title – the female author insisted on using it).

As an online dating consultant you will help your clients build their online presence and attract the perfect match. You could offer a full service with in depth interviews, evaluations, strategies and on-going advice giving. Or you could offer flat rate pricing for basic services such as for writing online profiles.

Helping people get the right photo is important. And increasingly having a great video can make a difference too. For putting together a great video for someone you could charge a significant fee.

How will you find customers? You can start by word of mouth with everyone you know by reaching out on social media and every other way you can. But to get serious about this business you’ll want to develop a more comprehensive digital marketing strategy.

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.

Vintage Toy Maker

Parents and grandparents are only willing to buy their kids so many computer games! What they would really prefer to be buying are beautifully hand crafted vintage toys that the kids can use their own imaginations to play with! Hand crafting takes time, so carefully figure out what interesting toys you can bring to market at a reasonable price.

business idea vintage toys
Parents and grandparents love to give their offspring vintage toys, such as the handcrafted wooden toys pictured here.

I still have my favorite toy – my model railroad engine that I received when I was five years old. Now you may not want to make model trains – but there are plenty of other vintage toys that you can produce and find a good market for. Wooden toys and dolls and dollhouses especially come to mind.

You could sell your vintage toys on your own website, on websites like Etsy, through independent toy stores or out of your own shop.

Personal Shopper

The high end of this business is choosing the latest styles for wealthy fashionistas who are too busy to do all their own shopping. But many personal shoppers end up buying more mundane items – from groceries to household cleaning items. Which part of the market you choose to focus on will have a considerable impact on your business model.

If you are doing basic shopping – more akin to running an errand service – your customers will probably be much more price sensitive and “get the job done quickly and efficiently” focused. This kind of business I would try to build with simple online marketing – including listings on existing websites like TaskRabbit.

But if you are trying to make a go of this as a fashion buying business it’s totally different. Softer factors like personal sense of style, creativity and the ability to develop a great rapport with clients will make all the difference. To build a fashion buying business I would try to network like crazy including through social media.

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.

Home Based Pizza Business

Here’s a great alternative to the restaurant business – pizza delivery. I had a friend in Ft. Lauderdale who told me about a former restaurateur he met who decided to go into the pizza business. He had been fairly successful with a couple full service restaurants he had owned and was able to sell them for decent money. But he found the pizza business to be more attractive and a lot easier to run.

What really makes this a great food business is that you don’t need a storefront at all – or any of the overhead associated with it. You can run it out of your home if local regulations permit. Or if not, you can rent commercial space in an inexpensive location.

To get this business going do your homework and nail down your plan. Perfect your pizza cooking and carefully design your packaging. You’ll want to primarily rely on digital marketing – which is very doable even if you have never done it before. You could supplement this with flyers delivered door to door in the specific neighborhoods that you are targeting.

This is a repeat customer business so to break into the market you can afford to make extremely generous deals to attract new customers.

I would suggest you experiment to find what deals get the most attention.

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 Business Town.

Mini Market

Right around the corner from me is a little mini market. Even though the prices are higher than the supermarket, I love to shop there because I can walk to it. This mini market is open from early in the morning until late at night 7 days a week. Often the owner, who looks like he’s around 30 years old, is working there himself.

He told me that he hoped to make enough money running this one mini market location to be able to retire and retire well by the age of 40. Sounds good – but I’m not sure why he wants to retire. Now he spends most of his day sitting behind the counter and chatting with customers or watching TV during the slow periods.

Even a single mini market location can produce an excellent income.

Seriously a small mini market looks like a simple business. But if I was running it I would plan everything out to the greatest degree possible. I would give a huge amount of thought as to what to stock, what to give better display to and how to price things. Then I would test and experiment all the time.

For example a few of the most commonly bought items, like milk, that people are very conscious of the price on I would price low. Then I would place them in the back of the store so that people would walk by a lot of other goods they might consider buying to get there.

To learn more consider my course How to Create a Business Plan. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.

Land/Real Estate Speculation

My grandmother who was a school teacher and my Great Aunt Betty who had a small craft business speculated together in land as a side gig and made good money at it. What is interesting is that neither one had much money or a background in real estate.

They would identify parcels of undeveloped land – such as enough for 10 to 100 house lots – and then buy it, hoping to eventually sell it to a developer. As I recall they usually doubled their money, typically holding the land for about 1 to 3 years.

They had a big disagreement over whether they should sell one of their larger land parcels or hold onto it for several more years. They ended up selling. If they had held on for just a few more years they would have made 10 fold on their investment and a million dollar profit.

As I drive around the resort area of Cape Cod where my grandmother and great aunt did most of their land speculation, I see hundreds of beautiful homes on the land parcels they once owned. Sometimes my grandmother would insist that the developer buying the land from them use a street name that she selected. So for example in Dennis Massachusetts the street “Captain Preston’s Road” is named after a seafaring ancestor of mine.

Real Estate Speculation
If you speculate in raw land consider areas where developers are building the most homes, such as fast growing areas around Phoenix Arizona where I took this picture.

Speculating in undeveloped land can be a risky business. The upside can be huge but especially if you get caught in a down real estate cycle, the downside can be huge too. That’s why it’s difficult to get bank financing for raw land. Speculating in income producing property such as rental houses, apartments or commercial buildings is somewhat less risky and much easier to finance.

I have also watched a young friend get into real estate investing with just about no money. How does he do it? He extremely carefully identifies well priced properties then pitches the investment to wealthy investors. If the properties appreciate over time as expected he gets a nice share of the profits – usually in the 20% range. Not bad for no investment.

Apartment Preparation Service

Every time a rental apartment turns over there is work to be done. It might range from filling in nail holes in the walls to emptying leftover trash. And there’s always plenty of cleaning to be done.

Landlords frequently contract this work out to an apartment preparation service. So if you can do a few simple repairs and aren’t afraid of using elbow grease, then you can make a good income with this business.

The more services you can offer the more marketable you will be. But you can always find other people to do any of the work you don’t want to do yourself.

apartment preparation
You’ll need a variety of supplies for your apartment preparation service. But for doing all of the typical work that turning over apartments requires, landlords will pay you good money.

To increase your marketability, offer several services, including carpet cleaning, wall washing, painting and wallpaper repair, and overall cleaning services.

It may take you a while to develop a client base, but assuming you do a good job for your landlords, they will stick with you. You’ll build not only a business with a great income stream, but also a business that you could sell if you get tired of it.

To get clients you could start with the usual digital marketing such as building a website and optimizing it for local search engines. But then I would also recommend you do sales outreach such as with emails to apartment building owners and managers.

To start this business and learn how to attract clients see my course, Start-a-Business 101. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.

Doggie Bed and Breakfast

A lot of people don’t want to leave their puppy at the busy kennel along with all the other dogs. They are willing to pay a premium and even drive a distance to a place where they believe their dog will be pampered. And that’s why there’s a demand for doggie bed and breakfasts.

This business is also a great add on service if you are starting a dog walking or dog sitting business. With this business however you will need to look into your local zoning laws and regulations.

business idea doggie b&b
Radcliffe would certainly not want to stay at a busy dog kennel. An upscale Doggie B&B would be much more to his liking.

To promote this business you can pass out flyers at the dog parks. Then contact other dog service providers about your business including dog groomers, veterinarians and pet shops. And also do the usual digital marketing – starting with a website.

Start streaming the courses on BusinessTown to learn more about how to start this or any other business.

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What are the rewards of owning a business?

  • 1. Be Your Own Boss
  • 2. Have a Business You Love
  • 3. Let Your Creativity Shine
  • 4. Live the Lifestyle You Want
  • 5. Get Directly Rewarded for Your Effort
  • 6. Create Products You Are Proud Of
  • 7. Learn New Things
  • 8. Meet Interesting People
  • 9. Enjoy Excellent Income
  • 10. Build Long Term Wealth

The rewards of having your own business go way beyond the monetary rewards. To learn more about starting 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.

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Makeup Consulting

Having been on television and done many videos, I can appreciate that makeup consulting isn’t just for women! With the Internet leading to more and more video production, makeup consulting is becoming more important than ever!

You can offer makeup consulting at your client’s location, at your home or at a storefront. You don’t necessarily need formal training to offer makeup consulting but you need to know what you are doing and be good with people.

Events such as weddings, house parties and children’s parties are all opportunities for makeup consultants. There are a lot of specialties you could develop too. For example you could become known for doing makeup for theater productions, for videotaping, or TV programs.

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.

Pool Cleaning/Pool Sales and Installation

Pools require quite a bit of maintenance and cleaning. The chemicals need to be checked all the time. And leaves and other objects can accumulate in pools very quickly and need to be removed. The good news is that people who own pools usually have a good bit of money and they really like to keep their pool in sparkling clean condition.

While pool cleaning is a very simple business, selling and installing pools is a more complex business. But of course you can combine all three. I like this business because you are able to sell a fairly expensive product not just competing on price because of the installation factor and the service component. Furthermore you can get ongoing income from maintenance and cleaning.

Pool Cleaning Sales & Installation
You can make a lot of money installing pools plus get a good steady income for cleaning and servicing them.

There are basically two types of pools to sell – in-ground and above ground. The bigger money of course is in the much more expensive, in-ground pools. While they might seem related I would tend to focus on one or the other. I think if I was looking to buy an in-ground pool I would not take a pool company as seriously if they also sold the cheaper above ground pools.

Still another variant on this business is cleaning, maintaining, selling, and installing hot tubs and jacuzzis. At one of my homes I had a large, beautiful wooden hot tub and I found it difficult to find service for it.

If you want to get ready to start this business – or any other business – start streaming the courses on BusinessTown. You can try them for free.

Beauty Salon/Mobile Hair Salon

Beauty salons are a huge and highly profitable business. The common way to get started is to go to beauty school and then work for an existing salon for a while. Next you might consider renting a chair at an existing salon as you further develop your clientele and your reputation. Finally you could open your own salon.

Another interesting alternative is offering a mobile hair salon. The most pressing demand for mobile hair services is for people who can’t get out such as seniors living at assisted living facilities. But a lot of other people like the convenience of getting their hair done at home too.

business idea beauty salon
You could have your own storefront beauty salon, rent a chair at an existing salon or offer beauty services on a mobile basis.

In its simplest form you just take your supplies and work directly in the customer’s home. If you want to get fancy you could equip a van into a mini hair salon – but most people don’t bother to do this.

Another market is preparation for events such as weddings. And still another market is creating an event around hair styling itself – such as a “girls night out” type event.

Learn more about starting a beauty salon – or any other business – with my course Start-a-Business 101. Try it for free on BusinessTown.

Human Resources Service

A small business typically doesn’t hire a full time HR person until it reaches about 50 people in size. Until it reaches that size a company might contract for an HR person one or two days a week through a human resources service.

One of my friends with experience in HR built up a good business on this model. It helps if you are a good networker or are comfortable approaching small business owners to sell them your service.

To get going in this field you need a basic understanding of key HR functions and, like any staffing kind of business, you need to be good at working with people.

My friend and her husband were active in local business organizations and this really helped her land clients without much marketing effort. I can tell you from my experience, this is a great service and very much needed by companies large enough to have a few employees but too small to have a full time HR person. In fact I hired part time HR people from her for my own businesses from time to time and it worked out great.

Interior Decorating

Wouldn’t it be cool to come up with ideas for gorgeous room designs and help your clients turn their home into the place of their dreams?

Many people have started their own interior design business without prior experience. But the field is becoming increasingly sophisticated. More and more designers have some kind of educational background.

Plus design software is increasingly important. I tried a design software package when I was planning a move to a larger business office and I found it took a little more time to master than I thought it would. But you can figure out these design software packages – although it may take some patience.

Interior decorating and design is very competitive and it may take a while to build a clientele. But once you have developed a good reputation you could be in high demand and make very good money.

To get started, put together some incredible designs for some rooms in your own house and perhaps for a friend. Take some great photos and put them up on your website. Then get the word out by networking and through digital marketing.

To find out more about starting this business – or any other business – see my course Start-a-Business 101. You can try it on BusinessTown for free.

Real Estate Sales

There are a lot of real estate firms out there and no wonder – there is a lot of money to be made. Some firms present themselves as focusing on the buyer, others give more effort to getting listings. Most firms are happy to do both.

So how do you stand out from the pack in this highly competitive field? And do you need experience? My mother began selling real estate after my youngest sibling went away to college and within a couple years she became the top selling real estate agent in town. She knew a lot of people and she was great with them – with every client she became deeply immersed in their dream to find the perfect home.

Networking is still important today – but digital marketing is also a very important part of the mix for today’s successful real estate firms. Your website needs to look fabulous. And you really want to work on your SEO so you place high in Google search results. You’ll also want to build an email list and social media following to promote your listings and your business.

business idea real estate
Real Estate guru Danny Griffin achieved huge success by developing compelling strategies and tactics. He shares his success secrets in a BusinessTown Today episode.

To learn more, check out the BusinessTown Today show “Unplugged, locked up and starting over” where real estate guru Danny Griffin shares his secrets for success. You can start watching this show for free, along with all of the courses on BusinessTown.

Lending Money/Debt Counseling

There are all kinds of ways you can make money in the money lending business. Each type of lending is very different and has its own unique characteristics.

One option is lending money to small businesses. I knew an entrepreneur who ran his own sales rep agency in the book publishing business. As a side gig he would sometimes lend money out to other entrepreneurs running small businesses. This usually worked out OK for him but not always. I remember he lost money making a loan to a struggling lighting retailer.

On the other hand I have an Aunt whose father began lending out money and also investing in small businesses in Costa Rica after he retired from a career as an oil executive. He made more money doing this from the age of 65 to 75 than he had the entire rest of his life until then.

One of my neighbors started his finance business making home mortgages. He was successful enough to launch a full service bank, which he has now expanded with a number of branch offices. One option is making short term personal, unsecured loans. A common variant on this is “pay-day lending” where lenders advance money to people who are typically looking for funds to hold them over to the next paycheck. These are usually storefront locations, closely regulated and not allowed in all states. This can be a solid business, but the regulatory climate is shifting against these businesses, so evaluate the risk of future regulatory changes, before hanging out your shingle.

Personally I am not a fan of payday lending because of the high interest rates involved which can lead people into an endless cycle of debt. Perhaps instead, if you want to really help people, you can start a profit (or nonprofit) business helping people to restructure their debt.

With this business you would give people advice. Then you would help them approach creditors to ask to have some of their debts either forgiven or have a new payment plan put in place. You might also help them consolidate some of their high interest rate debt (such as credit card debt) into a lower interest rate bank loan.

All Day Breakfast Restaurant

I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t like the restaurant business, I think it’s too risky. But the all day breakfast restaurant is a niche that I do find more appealing.

business idea all day breakfast
An all day breakfast restaurant may be a good profitable niche.

Part of the reason is that I often want a great breakfast later in the day and yet I frequently can’t find a convenient place to go. You can enjoy high profit margins in this business because inputs for breakfast menus cost little money.. Breakfasts are a lot easier to prepare than gourmet dinners.

I also like that an all day breakfast restaurant would potentially be busy for many hours during the day. And I like that the market is less competitive than for full service dinner restaurants.

Vending Machine Owner

You can make good money at this business. But you will need great locations that provide enough volume to make it worthwhile to service them and provide a decent return on your investment. Like any business I would really plan this out carefully including a detailed business plan.

But really every single location is its own little business. Each location will have its own little target market. For example at one company you may install one vending machine in the company lunch room, another in the coffee room and another in the company’s gym. Each location will be best served with different products and perhaps different sizes or types of vending machines.

So I would do a mini business plan for each location – like the one page business plan that we include a template for in the course, How to Create a Business Plan. It might sound tedious but that’s how you succeed. For example, for our book publishing business we had an overall business plan that was updated each year. But we also made a new mini business plan for every single book that we were considering publishing.

vending machine
The key to making money as a vending machine owner is to extremely carefully plan out each location as though it were its own little business.

I have even seen some entrepreneurs successfully sell snacks at companies without any machine at all…totally on the honor system. Still another variant you could do is provide coffee, soft drinks or basic snack food for a company location and ask the company to pick up the cost as a benefit for its employees.

To gear up for this business consider streaming our courses Start-a-Business 101 and How to Create a Business Plan. You can try them for free on BusinessTown.

Career Counseling Service

When I started my book publishing business we first focused on books for job hunters so I got to know a lot of career counselors well. In fact one of my employees learned enough about job hunting from me that he landed a job as assistant director of undergraduate career services at Harvard.

I even published a book once that was a directory of local career services available in the Boston area both for profit and nonprofit. Another example of how there is sizable demand for career counseling.

A lot of people who go into career counseling begin their career working for college or university career service. But you don’t have to. If you are college educated and have held a few different jobs in a couple of different industries you probably have the basic requirements to become a career counselor. Oh and you also have to be good with people, patient and emphatic – so that rules me out!

I was recently at a Harvard networking event and was talking to a woman who was running her own career counseling business – at the age of 85 and still going strong!

To get customers for this business do the usual online marketing and also network with college and alumni career services in your areas.

Boat Maintenance/Cleaning Service

I’ve owned a lot of boats (and even built a couple) and I’ll tell you – most boat owners want their boats totally shipshape! And yet boats tend to get dirty easily! Which leads to a great demand for boat maintenance and cleaning. To make a go of this, you want to have a good concentration of customers in one town, at one harbor or ideally on one dock.

So, do a great job (this is a finicky crowd), don’t sell on price, be dependable and you will build word of mouth. I would also do as much work as possible wearing my company T-shirt, when boat owners are around cleaning their own boats…such as on Saturday mornings.

business idea boat maintenance cleaning
Owners of boats of all types and sizes are prospective customers for your boat cleaning service.

This business is an obvious one for add-ons. You could clean boat bottoms. For smaller boats you could pull them up on a trailer for cleaning. For larger ones you would need to use scuba gear. Then you could add some basic repair work.

Webinar Business

You can sell webinars online but you will need a highly sought after topic that people are willing to pay for. In addition you’ll have to build up your credibility with your audience. And you’ll have to develop a potent sales “funnel.”

Most people who succeed selling webinars build up a relationship with their audience over a period of time such as with social media posts, blog posts or by emails. They might be able to sell a product such as a webinar to a new member of their audience. But often they spend weeks or even months building the relationship and being seen as a trustworthy expert before an audience member will purchase a product such as a webinar.

Another common alternative is to first offer a shorter free webinar which promotes your paid webinars. Another approach is to incrementally sell higher and higher priced products. For example you might first provide a short webinar or article for free. Then you might sell a webinar or perhaps some useful templates for a very low price, such as $7. Then you might sell a longer webinar for a mid level price, for let’s say $300. Then you might sell a series of longer webinars for $2500.

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.

Murder Mystery Producer

Guest interactive murder mystery productions are very popular and no wonder–they are a lot of fun. You could do this on your own, renting a public venue and all that. But instead I would recommend that you partner up with a local business, such as an inn or restaurant, which could use an event like this to promote their business.

One of the best markets for murder mystery producer is groups. For example one of my international business groups hired a murder mystery producer for an evening’s entertainment as part of a multi day conference in England. It was a big hit, everyone loved it.

This is a fun, unique business. Ideal for a part time endeavor. You gotta get excited about this business to make it happen. I envision guests wearing historical era clothing and serving an outstanding dinner meal.

When you are getting going, test a few different themes and then see what resonates. This is the kind of business where you want to pull out all the stops and offer a first class experience and not be as concerned about keeping to a low price point.

With this kind of business it might take you a while to see what works, to iron out the kinks and put together the winning package. So don’t be too concerned if your first few events are not profitable. Initially focus more on creating a fabulous guest experience.

Knitting Lessons/Knitting Store

The closest I came to knitting was repairing rips in the sails on my boat. But there are a lot of people who want to knit and crochet—and you can show them how!

You could start with a class at your house or perhaps at a local knitting store. Maybe offer an entry level course at the local adult ed program to get going and build your reputation. And of course you could offer courses online. You could also do one-on-one lessons online or offline.

business idea knittin lessons store
This cute knitting store near my house has been selling knitting supplies and offering knitting classes for many years. Great name – I should mention it in my naming course!

I think one of the keys to making students happy in these kinds of classes is to give them a project that is doable within the time frame of the course and their skill level but is also something they will be proud to take home. You’re probably not going to get rich in this business but you could earn a nice side income and enjoy teaching an appreciative audience new skills.

You could also launch your own knitting store either online or with a storefront selling knitting supplies – plus offering knitting lessons.

Consider checking out the courses Start-a-Business 101 and The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing. You can try them for free on BusinessTown.

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What are some really fun business ideas?

  • 1. Import/Export
  • 2. Interior Decorating
  • 3. Home Bakery
  • 4. Craft Making
  • 5. Murder Mystery Producer
  • 6. Craft Beer Pub
  • 7. Online Boutique
  • 8. Coin/Stamp Dealer
  • 9. Jet Ski Rentals
  • 10. Party Bus
  • 11. Pet Clothing
  • 12. Rare Books
  • 13. Photography
  • 14. Ice Cream Shop
  • 15. Art Lessons

I’ve enjoyed just about all of my businesses. But these businesses could be extra fun! To find out how to get your dream business going see my course Start-a-Business 101. You can start watching this course and all the other courses on BusinessTown for free.

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Plant Watering Service

I am currently sitting in my co-share work space and beside me sits a green potted plant about 15” in height. Every day or two, the commercial watering service person comes by and pours a little water on the plant. Once a week or so, the service person may take out his plant clippers, and trim a leaf or two. Wow! I think I could master this work! And I bet you could too!

In addition to plant watering you may want to also offer feeding, pruning and dusting to keep the plants as healthy as possible. You could also make suggestions for new plants.

Yes you can get paid to water plants! You’ll just need the sales and marketing energy to line up customers – and that is very doable too!

Plant watering is an example of a great simple service business. It’s easy to do and requires almost no investment. Your big expenses may be your watering can and your pruning shears. Plus you get repeat customers which means a steady income.

If you take a very simple business like this one and plan and start and run it exceptionally well you can do very well with it. You don’t need a complicated business to become highly successful. But you are much more likely to succeed with any business if you first learn about how to start and run a business, if you put together a good business plan and if you build a solid marketing approach.

To learn more about how to start and run a plant watering business – or any other business – see my courses including Start-a-Business 101. You can try them for free on BusinessTown.

Event Organizing

While you may first think of wedding planners or reunion organizers, there are many, many types of event planners out there – for anniversary parties, business events, graduation parties, birthday parties, bar/bat mitzvahs – the list goes on and on. A lot of people don’t have the time or the inclination to do all the work to pull together a big classy celebration – so that’s where you come in.

You arrange the venue, the caterers, the bar service, the bands, the decorations, and all the specialties that people want. In fact, one of the keys to being successful in this field is to be creative in finding unique service providers to make events truly memorable.

Some people break into this space after doing related work. For example I knew a woman who branched into this field after helping organize events for the mayor’s office in Boston. Or you could start running small events, such as home-based children’s parties. You may want to start part time and build this business over time. The upside is huge but you want to make sure you do a fabulous job of each and every event as you build your business.

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.

Cell Phone Business

There are all kinds of different ways to make money with cell phones. Let me start with the very simplest. That would be selling cell phone cases. This kind of business works well with a small kiosk at a busy location such as at a shopping mall.

You could also sell cell phone cases online. Alternatively you could produce your own line of cell phone cases. You could consider offering a cell phone repair service. For example when my smartphone screen broke after one of the times that I threw it, I had it repaired at a small shop specializing just in smartphone repair.

Or you could sell cell phones. You’ll have to work out with the various major networks how to set the phones up on their network. But it’s very doable.

business idea cell phone
Repairing phones is one of several very diverse business opportunities involving cell phones.

In addition to selling cell phones, you could also sell service packages on existing cell networks. Of course you’ll have to contract with the service providers but that’s very doable too!

Then, if you’re feeling even more ambitious, you could sell your own cell service brand and compete with Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and the other carriers. Now this doesn’t mean you need to start building your own cell towers and the like. Instead, you can buy access to an existing cell phone network and resell it under your own brand.

One of my business school classmates left the corporate world and decided to start his own cell network, reselling time he purchased on an existing network. He focused on serving small and mid-sized businesses and started his marketing effort by approaching his business and personal friends including me. He’s done well with it and now has expanded into offering video conferencing services.

So it’s a lot to digest – a lot of opportunities to make money with cell phones. Some of them such as selling phone cases, phones or service on existing networks might seem very simple. But you still need to think out your business carefully and figure out how you are going to differentiate your business in this highly competitive space.

For more see my courses, Start-a-Business 101 and How to Create a BusinessPlan. You can try them for free on BusinessTown.

Leather Goods Making/Leather Goods Selling

I think leather goods is a really cool business and that includes both making them and selling them.. I played poker with a friend of my cousin once who started and operated his own two leather stores while he was still in his mid twenties. He primarily sold briefcases and related items. He leased prime locations including an especially busy spot in Harvard Square and did quite well with the business.

On the island of Nantucket I loved the leather goods shop that was on one of the side streets for many years. First the ambience was awesome. The store was finished with natural woods. The store window included a vintage model train – and you probably know by now that I love model trains!

The most important aspect of the store was that the owner artisan made most of the leather goods in the store such as belts and wallets. But he also supplemented his own products with some very carefully selected products made by others including shoes, a few clothing items and some bags.

In this business you could start out online or with a storefront just reselling the goods made by other leather producers. Then over time you could produce some of your own products. Either way you could build a really neat business.

Angel Investor/Venture Capitalist

If you think you have a reasonably good ability to judge which early stage businesses have the best chance to succeed, then this could be a good business for you. But especially if you are investing in “big new idea” high tech startups at early stages you need to hedge your bets.

No matter how carefully you do your research it can be very difficult to choose the winners. Hence you want you to spread your investment capital out among a number of well chosen companies.

While in college my son worked for two venture capital firms including one that focused on the earliest stage companies. VCs that focus on the earliest stage are typically very disciplined and invest much smaller amounts of money in each deal than do VCs that focus on later stage companies. Often they only invest in one round of funding for any firm but will help arrange financing from other firms for add-on rounds.

Angel investors are private individuals, typically successful entrepreneurs or professionals, who invest small amounts of money – often $25,000 to $100,000 – in early stage companies. Many angel investors connect with other angel investors either informally – such as sharing ideas – or more formally – such as pooling funds together and making investment decisions jointly.

To succeed as an angel investor or VC you need to aggressively study and do your due diligence on any investment you make, and then recognize, and hedge your risks.

To learn more – including how to get your business financed by VCs or angel investors – check out our courses How to Finance Your Business: The Best Options, How to Raise Venture Capital, Finding Investors for Your Startup and Equity, Debt and Alternative Financing. You can try these courses for free on BusinessTown.

Tow Truck Business

Between dead batteries and blown tires I’ve used tow truck services more times than I care to remember! In fact as I write this it reminds me that my Maserati is going to need a battery jump tomorrow to get running again!

Here’s the auto service truck to give my Maserati a battery jump. It’s another good repeat customer, steady income business.

In any event, this is a great business with high demand and steady income. Even a used truck may cost a fair bit of money – but a tow truck can be easily financed or leased.

And while you may be tempted, you don’t need a shiny new truck – people will judge you by your reliability and your website more than how new your truck is.

With this business you can seek contracts with groups such as AAA, with companies that have fleets of vehicles, rental fleets, auto dealers and government agencies. You can later consider partnering with a repair service or adding your own repair facility.

Pet Clothing

If you are looking around for an attractive niche business, pet clothing seems like a natural. It’s a much smaller market than clothes for adults or children. There are lots of independent and chain pet stores you can sell too. There are also established wholesalers who can sell your goods into pet stores for you.

Plus you have a highly specific, highly motivated audience. You can pinpoint these people with online marketing. And I just envision a really cool looking website of dogs and perhaps cats prancing around wearing your pet clothing. That’s gotta get some attention. Especially when you promote it on social media!

Designing the clothes should be fun too. And the actual hardest work – the manufacturing of the clothing – you can contract out.

Learn more about starting this business – or any other business – by streaming the courses on BusinessTown.

Professional Organizer

People love to be organized but often they never find the time to make it happen. And a lot of people just aren’t very good at it either. You can help people organize their house. And in the process, you can make them feel more organized about their life! What a great service!

messy closet
I could certainly use the service of a professional organizer!

If you are able to keep your home neat and organized, then you can do the same for others. To get started take pictures of a super organized room in your house or take before and after pictures after you help a friend organize a room. Then do a great job for your first few customers, develop some raving fans and put some great testimonials on your website.

I have seen people start their organizer business part time, then build enough income to go full time and then have so much business they had to hire other organizers to work for them.

You can further scale this business by expanding into organizing business offices or selling add-on services such as cleaning, removing junk or installing complete closet or wall organization systems.

To turn your knack for organization into a business see my course Start-a-Business 101.

Stairlift Business

Purchasing and installing a stair lift is a major decision for a mobility impaired customer. Offering excellent service including carefully presenting the best alternatives and being quickly available for follow up service can help make your stairlift business stand out from the competition and build positive word of mouth.

business idea stairlift
Here my daughter is trying out her grandmother’s stairlift.

Once again this is another example of a business with both a strong sales element and a strong service component. The service component is both the installation and ongoing service.

With a business that requires installation and service it is much easier to differentiate yourself from competitors and to avoid competing just on price. That’s one reason that these kinds of businesses tend to be highly profitable.

Walking Tour

This is a business you could start in literally two hours with virtually zero investment. If I woke up one day with amnesia in a city where I knew no one and with no money I might do this business to immediately earn my lunch money!

In the public library on the resort island of Nantucket, I watched a man create a flyer for his walking tour business on a free public access computer. Then he went outside and posted the newly created flyer on the public bulletin board.

A few hours later he greeted his customers as they gathered on the advertised street corner, collected their money, and then took them on the walking tour. Not sure how to set up your walking tour? Get a history or even a self-guided walking tour book at the public library.

If this is all it takes to start a business, then why isn’t everyone doing it? The answer is most people do not want to take the initiative to try something new and to start a business. But that’s ok because that leaves more great business opportunities for you and me!

To get going with your Walking Tour service – or any other business – check out my course Start-a-Business 101. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.

Basement Remodeler

My father spent year after year remodeling our basement—and I’m glad he did because that’s where I located my model railroad! Basically he put in tiling for the floor, installed a drop ceiling, put up wall paneling and installed a large closet.

The one thing he didn’t do himself – and neither should you – is the electrical work – you need a licensed electrician for that. But it’s a small piece of the overall job.

A lot of homeowners would love to have a great finished basement but they aren’t willing to invest the huge amount of time it takes a novice to remodel their basement – that’s where you come in!

Remodel your own basement, put together a website with the before and after photos, and hang out your shingle!

Another variant on this business is basement waterproofing. This business will require some serious expertise. But the income potential is substantial.

To get going with this business – or any other business – see my course Start-a-Business 101. You can try it for free on BusinesssTown.

Business Coaching

What I find interesting isn’t just how many people are using business coaches. But who is using them. Often, I find it’s the best and brightest entrepreneurs who hire a business coach. One of my best friends who is a really savvy entrepreneur meets with his business coach once per month.

This business coach also runs an unrelated service business. For my friend he has been particularly helpful in giving him feedback on different strategic options and especially on where to focus his time and his energy. They meet either by phone or in person. He charges $200 for one hour.

Another guy I know who runs a small digital marketing firm, and again is an extremely bright and savvy entrepreneur, has at times hired two business coaches. One to help with the overall strategic and tactical level decisions for this business. The other to specifically help to improve his selling skills.

business idea business coaching
Business coach Bernie Heine held senior positions in strategic planning and marketing at major corporations before opening his own business coaching business. Bernie also teaches several courses that are available on BusinessTown.

To get going in this business, consider the usual digital marketing but also make yourself visible such as networking at business events and giving public presentations. Consider offering small group consulting packages for lower prices to get clients warmed up to doing business with you. Also avoid people who are just starting out – experience has shown they don’t want to spend much money and will likely not become a good consulting client until they gain some traction.

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.

Virtual Assistant

Being a virtual assistant not only gives you the flexibility of working from home, but often you get to set your own hours. Virtual assistant work is frequently part time, so it could be a way to get some income coming in while you develop a plan for another business.

The biggest issue with this business is that you will face a lot of competition. And some of the competition will be from less developed countries and be willing to work for lower levels of compensation.

So if you do get into this business I suggest you develop some expertise or specialty so you won’t have to compete as much on price. That being said if you want a little income to hold you over until you start another business with more upside potential, being a virtual assistant could work out well.

Learn more about how to start a virtual assistant service – or any other business – with my course Start-a-Business 101. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.

Building Decks/Playhouses

I really like the idea of the outdoor deck business. I envision beautiful wood, wonderfully stained and maybe an attractive awning or roof. Make sure you are working from well engineered plans. And follow any local building regulations.

To get started you could build a deck for yourself or build one for a friend at a discounted price. Take great pictures and show them off on your website.

Building Decks
The new owners of this house I once owned had the deck significantly enlarged and enclosed. Just outside the picture is the very cool treehouse that we had built.

A related business is building playhouses. We had a carpenter build an awesome treehouse for our kids when they were younger.

Some companies have turned building playhouses into a big business. For example not too far away from me is Creative Playthings, a company that started as a small woodworking shop in 1951. They have since become a national leader in making playhouses, swing sets and related equipment. Their products look beautiful and I’ll bet it’s a really rewarding type of business to be part of.

Start streaming the courses on BusinessTown to learn more.

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What are the best part time business ideas?

  • 1. Moving Business
  • 2. Senior Companion
  • 3. Pet Sitting
  • 4. Freelance Writing
  • 5. Cake Making
  • 6. Professional Organizer
  • 7. Cleaning Service
  • 8. Personal Trainer
  • 9. Career Counseling
  • 10. Jewelry Making
  • 11. Bartending Service
  • 12. Walking Tour
  • 13. Music Lessons
  • 14. Mobile Auto Washing
  • 15. Business Coaching

I’ve done really well with a number of part time businesses. But here’s the thing. You’ve got to learn about starting a business and carefully plan it out – just as you would a full time business. To learn more see my courses Start-a-Business 101 and How to Create a Business Plan. You can start watching these courses and all the other courses on BusinessTown for free.

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Martini Bar

Everyone wants to feel special now and then. If you can create the right setting, you could make your customers feel great and be happy to pay top dollar for a sophisticated beverage! Get everything just so–the name, the furniture, the wall coverings, servers’ attire, the lighting, and the background music. If you get all the details right, this could be a really fun and highly profitable endeavor.

business idea martini bar
Doesn’t this bar seem like the perfect setting for a martini? How would you like it?

But I’m not going to say it’s necessarily an easy business to succeed in. You’ve got to do everything right. And especially if you are not serving food, your income can be a lot lighter on weeknights.

Furthermore, there is something about the bar business that makes it hard to predict which bar will succeed and which one won’t. This is the kind of business where you can do everything “right” and you still might face disappointing results. Or you could have obvious flaws in your business and it still might succeed big. The bottom line is that at the end of the day it can be a little finicky and unpredictable. Still I have seen some well done martini bars remain highly successful for many years.

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.

Online Games

The biggest gaming companies spend millions developing their latest offerings and lots more money promoting them. Can you compete? Yes, you can. A recent college grad we hired had just launched her own game, and was getting hundreds of thousands of downloads.

Sure, it’s a whole additional level to get people to start paying for your games, but it can be done. A good way to do it is to offer a basic game for free and then offer add-ons or more advanced versions or extensions of the game for a price. Then maybe when you launch your second game you try doing it on a fully paid basis.

This is the kind of business where if your game hits, it could hit very big. But it can be difficult to get your first few sales and to build traction. It’s also sometimes not clear in this business what is going to work until you try it.

Coin Dealer/Stamp Dealer/Collectibles

This is a great part time or retirement business. But you could turn it into a more sizable enterprise over time. I loved to collect stamps and coins when I was a kid. In Boston, the dealers’ stores were all side by side on Bromfield street.

toy soldiers
Here’s some of my toy soldier collection. Years ago I also enjoyed collecting stamps and coins as well. How fun to turn your collectible hobby into a business!

Today some coin and stamp dealers still have retail locations but many others work primarily online, from home. However you do it, you want to get a really good feel how the pricing works in the marketplace. In other words rather than just having a copy of suggested prices you want to start slowly and learn pricing first hand.

You also want to get an idea for what is quickly sellable and what may take some time. Because especially when you are starting out you don’t want all of your money tied up in slow moving inventory.

Of course this can be a really fun business…American President Franklin D Roosevelt would spend many enjoyable hours alone with his stamp collection.

Learn how to trade collectibles as a business. See my course Start-a-Business 101.

Child Learning Center

Early childhood learning is a growing, attractive space. And if you are excited about helping kids reach their full potential, it could be a great business for you. With such high interest this is a competitive space, so you need to specialize. Perhaps specialize in children with learning disabilities, slow learners, creative play, or “gifted” kids.

If you are just getting going in this space, you may want to start with a Saturday only option. This way you can test the waters before you get too deeply committed – maybe even hold onto your day job for a while.

business idea child learning center
Learning centers for children is a hot space. There are several different approaches you can take to this business.

Another option is to try this for a summer vacation time business. If you go this direction you may want to add a really fun dimension to your offerings such as computer programming, arts and crafts or robotics.

Lingerie Store

While most people are familiar with the mass market lingerie outlets such as Victoria’s Secret, really well done upscale lingerie stores are harder to find and could be an excellent business opportunity.

The wife of one of my friends opened up her own fine lingerie stores in a well-to-do suburb. She did well enough to go on to open up two more locations in nearby towns.

Whether you are going to open your business strictly online or at a storefront, you want to match your audience closely. If you are going to open up a physical store selling upscale lingerie you are going to need not just a fairly upscale town, but a decent sized one too. And if you are going to sell online you need to clearly go upscale or mass market – and not try to be all things to all people.

Day Spa Business

The day spa business is hot as more and more overworked people seek rejuvenation for their tired bodies. I would pull first time customers in with very sweet deals, then try to tie them in with a membership model, such as so many day spa visits per month for one flat rate.

Building out a day spa can be expensive and will usually cost more than you budget, so with your first spa I wouldn’t get too carried away with remodeling. Instead make the spa nice, but not lavish, and then offer great service.

business idea day spa
You don’t need a top location or expensive build out for a day spa. But you do need to make your spa look inviting and soothing.

I met a fellow who did extremely well with a single location day spa business. He made a sizable investment in his spa signing a long term lease on one of Boston’s commercial streets and doing expensive build out.

To find out more start streaming the courses on BusinessTown.

Soap and Lotion Making

What’s your favorite color and scent of soap? Wouldn’t it be fun to play around with variations to make it even better? And then you could take your finished product and go show it off to potential customers.

You could sell your products online on websites like Etsy, on your own website or online store, at your own physical storefront, through other retailers or through arts and crafts fairs.

soap business
You can sell your soaps and lotions both at retail stores and also online. Packaging and positioning are important.

Packaging is very important. So is how you name and position your products. So plan it all out carefully before you begin.

Life Coaching

As people are demanding more fulfillment in their lives and have more options to consider, they are increasingly turning to coaches. You can build your skills in this field by reading up on it, signing up for some life coaching yourself, or taking a course about how to teach life coaching.

Life coaching is a natural for part time work because many people who have the money to pay for it are working full time jobs themselves. So, evenings and weekends could be your prime working hours.

To get going in this business you can do the usual digital marketing. But I would give an extra effort to include several short compelling videos on your website and your promotions. You may also want to consider giving free public presentations on the topic or offer a short class at your local adult education program. Doing this will not only help attract clients but it will also help establish your credibility.

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.

Smoothies/Juice Bar

To succeed at this business, I would carefully perfect a few interesting drinks. Then I would search hard for a location with very high foot traffic. I would much rather have a tiny location with lots of traffic and high rent per square foot, than a much larger location with the same total rent but less traffic.

I was talking with a woman who had been running a small successful juice bar for almost 20 years. From what I could see her business flow was steady but not great. However, here’s what I found particularly interesting – she was able to survive for many years on a slow traffic street in a Boston suburb that many retailers have failed on – including some retailers that have succeeded in other locations. What’s my point? This can be a resilient, solid business.

business idea smoothie juice
Here’s a fun looking and creative take on the juice bar concept near me.

In this business you really need to position yourself carefully. For example, are you going to focus on great tasting sweet dessert-like drinks? Or are you going to offer more natural, healthy drinks? You really won’t sound convincing if you try to go in both directions. To get going with this business even with the tiniest of locations you’ll need an investment of at least $10,000.

To learn more about starting this business check out my course Start-a-Business 101.

Art Lessons

One of my friend’s mothers offered art lessons primarily to elementary school age children in her home after school. She had a steady clientele and they made some really cool art! You may already have an art specialty that you want to teach to others.

Or you may find that you are better off learning the basics of a new art skill and teaching that, or offering a survey course covering a number of art skills—most of the market will likely be beginners anyway.

Art Lessons
My grandmother gave me a few art lessons but I never picked up her talent. Here’s one of her paintings, many of which she sold at local galleries.

To spice this up you could offer different types of art programs each season. For example one season could be drawing, another could be water colors, another could be pottery.

Bulletin Board Service

When I was promoting my job search books I started to put up advertisements on bulletin boards around local colleges. My advertisements were soon spotted by people who were running their own bulletin board servicing businesses. Eventually I hired these services to do the bulletin board posting for me.

bulletin board
A bulletin board service is a simple business to get up and going. Furthermore people still read posters and business cards and patronize businesses that advertise on bulletin boards.

A slight variant on this service is providing a neatly organized rack of brochures promoting local businesses which you place in high traffic locations and keep filled with brochures.

I met an entrepreneur from France who was developing a more high tech version of this service. He provided a digital display with up to date traffic and public transportation information along with advertising for local businesses.

Storage Service

What a great business. It’s like an apartment building without people, without running water, without heat and without electricity! In other words, money flowing in without the headaches! And with today’s sophisticated lock and security systems, you may be able to operate this business without any staff onsite.

I have used storage services both for personal items and also for my businesses, including for when I was running my book publishing business out of my apartment and I ran out of storage space.

In suburban and rural areas storage facilities are often multiple garage-like structures with completely independent access to each. In urban locations storage facilities may offer self service separate rooms but with a common building entrance. Or they might be a fully staffed operation that stores items in shared rooms.

business idea storage
Self storage is a big business and one of the easiest businesses to operate.

It will cost some money to build a new storage facility but you can finance most of your costs and perhaps all of your building costs if you already own the land. Some self serve storage facilities operate profitably for years and then the owner makes an even larger profit on the appreciation of the real estate when he or she goes to sell it.

Start streaming the courses at BusinessTown if you want to learn more about a self storage service or any other business.

Social Media Influencer

Yes there are some people making millions of dollars after becoming a highly popular social media influencer. But this is also one of the more difficult businesses on this list.

First you need a huge following. Not just a few thousand people – but lots of people. Secondly you need to develop a strong connection with your audience so that they are likely to respond to your suggestions. Third you need to be in a space that is monetizable. For example food and fashion could work well, politics not so much.

But if you can build a huge devoted audience on a hot topic you could be golden. There are advertising companies that specialize solely in buying promotion for company brands with social influencers.

To learn more start with my course, The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing. And then consider checking out our other courses on social media.

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What are low risk, steady income business ideas?

  • 1. Laundromat
  • 2. Property Management
  • 3. Dog Grooming
  • 4. Social Media Service
  • 5. Tutoring
  • 6. Tow Truck Service
  • 7. Landscaping
  • 8. House Cleaning
  • 9. Storage Service
  • 10. Beauty Salon
  • 11. Car Detailing
  • 12. Personal Trainer
  • 13. Aquarium Maintenance
  • 14. Vending Machines
  • 15. Used Car Rentals

These are excellent repeat customer, low risk, steady income businesses. To learn more about starting 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.

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Promotional Products

You’ve undoubtedly seen the frisbees, pens, t-shirts, coffee mugs, hats and carrying bags that companies are handing out at trade shows and other events. With every company trying to get in front of potential customers and get remembered there is an enormous opportunity for promotional products.

One of my business friends has built a sizable promotional products business over a number of years. Common products include company ID/promotional products and also products used as incentives and rewards for employees and customers. He offers a relatively wide product line and focuses on sales and servicing his customers. He contracts out all the manufacturing and his customers are usually mid to larger sized corporations.

He took him some time to build his business. But once you get your foot in the door and serve your customers well this can be a great business.

mug
Wasn’t that a funny logo that BusinessTown used to have? You’d never guess that I am kind of a train nut! This mug is another example that businesses of all sizes buy lots of promotional products.

I suggest you try to offer as wide a range of quality and distinctive products as you can. And servicing the customers is important too.

Companies are very particular when it comes to how their logo looks on their products. And they will often have a rush order that must be delivered quickly such as in time for a trade show or other event. So you need to source and maintain relationships with highly dependable suppliers.

To get going you can start with basic online marketing. But I would supplement that with reaching out to target customers with email and on social media such as LinkedIn.

To learn how to get going with this business start streaming the courses on BusinessTown.

Tools/Equipment Rentals

One of my friends built up a very successful construction equipment rental firm in New Hampshire. When times are good these businesses tend to do fabulously well. Furthermore they are easy to expand because the financing either through loans or leasing is easy to obtain.

business idea equipement rental
The construction industry has a huge need for rental equipment of all types such as this Bobcat.

The problem is when the economy turns south. Then construction activity falls hard. And construction equipment rentals fall even harder – because some construction firms only use rental firms to supplement their owned fleets when demand is strong. Furthermore the pricing of used equipment plummets during slowdowns, so you can end up stuck with idle equipment that you can’t sell and you can’t rent – but you must still make loan or lease payments on.

Just because a business is cyclical doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider it. But it does mean that you want to be careful about how much debt you take on. And you want to really carefully project out expected future cash flows in multiple scenarios, including a possible weaker case.

This reminds me to tell you that anyone starting a business should learn how to project future cash flows. It’s not that hard and I show you exactly how to do it in my course, Start-a-Business 101.

Wedding Planning Service

Wedding planning seems like a lot of fun to get into, but it is also a lot of work, stressful at times and competitive. Nonetheless an established bridal consultant can earn very good money.

While this can be a fun business, it is not always an easy business. Some clients will be more difficult than others – especially the ones who are constantly changing their minds. You could charge a flat rate or work on an hourly basis. One wedding consultant I knew added to her income by also renting limousines.

To get going you need a fantastic looking website with beautiful photos. You’ll need to get permission to put client’s photos on the website and when you are first getting going, consider photos from your own wedding or from friends. Try to avoid using any stock photos if you can.

To learn more see my course Start-a-Business 101.

3D Printing Business

In 3D printing you have basically two different routes you can go – you can either provide the equipment and expertise. Or you can use the equipment and expertise to create things.

You can make the printers themselves. For example, some years ago I met a young woman who licensed technology from MIT to create a state-of-the-art 3D printer. Or you could make 3D printer accessories.

You could sell 3D printers, accessories and supplies. You could also provide training in how to use them.

Or you can go the other route and manufacture items with your 3D printer. Making prototypes was one of the early popular uses of 3D printers but now 3D printers are even more commonly used to create finished parts and products for a variety of consumers as well as industrial goods. Some entrepreneurs are even building complete small houses with a 3D printer!

Restaurant

Let me be clear. This is not my first choice of businesses to go into, even if you are experienced in the food business. Restaurants are very risky. You need a great location, good build-out which can cost a lot of money, great food and a talented and dependable staff. Furthermore, customers can be fickle – they may love your restaurant one day and then tire of it the next.

Restaurant staffing is notoriously difficult. On top of that restaurateurs often get complaints from neighbors who object to the noise and even the smells of food cooking. I know a lot of people who have gone into this business and some have found it very difficult. But others have prospered wonderfully. For example I met the brother sister team who have been really successful with the Union Oyster House in Boston which they have operated for many years. This restaurant has been in business since 1826. So it certainly is possible to do extremely well in this business.

business idea restaurant
Lena Kikuchi discusses on BusinessTown Today how she and her husband, both of whom had engineering backgrounds, successfully launched a 200 seat Japanese style gastro pub called Itadaki in Boston. They have been highly successful despite their lack of prior experience.

If you do go into the restaurant business you want to totally nail down your business plan. So check out my course, How to Create a Business Plan. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.

Mobile Auto Washing

It’s expensive to build a car wash service – they take a big investment and it’s not always easy to get approved by the local zoning board. But it’s not so expensive to buy a bucket, some soap, some old rags and then ride your bicycle to your client’s home or office to wash their car!

The benefit to the customer is huge. Not only do they save the time at the car wash, they also save the time driving back and forth to the car wash. With this business you should be able to develop a regular clientele who wants to get their cars washed every week or at least every other week.

To boost your income consider adapting a good/better/best pricing strategy which is common in the car wash and other service industries. Maybe good is your simplest wash. Better includes wash and wax. And best could also include interior cleaning.

This could be a good part time business as many people prefer to have their cars cleaned on the weekends and especially on Saturday.

Audiobook Producer/ Distributor

With all my experience in book publishing I am not going to tell you that this is an easy business, especially with the domination of players like Amazon. It’s not. It could take a lot of energy and effort to get attention for your audio recording. So if you do decide to go into this business, I suggest that you start this business by carefully planning out all of the key aspects, especially how you are going to stand out in a highly competitive marketplace.

Furthermore the best selling audios are generally based on books. And the books generally outsell the audios significantly. So if you are thinking about this field I would suggest that you first consider publishing a book.

An ebook might be an even better first step into the publishing space. That will allow you to keep your expenses low and see if you can gain traction. Whether you are trying to sell audios, books or ebooks you need to put a lot of effort into the promotion – these things seldom sell themselves.

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.

Pet Store

If you’re into pets this could be a fun business. Many pet stores do well despite the competition from the big box stores. And no wonder – there’s plenty of room to differentiate yourself from the goods you stock, to the actual animals you sell, to the advice you offer. I would take a hard look at what other pets and supplies other competitors, especially low priced national competitors, are offering and try to develop a differentiated business model.

business idea pet store
When my daughter got her puppy we spent a lot of money at this large local pet store.

I once served on the board of a company with Phil Francis who at that time was CEO of PetSmart. Phil introduced animal grooming services to PetSmart and they turned out to have much higher profit margins than selling merchandise. In addition grooming services helped boost store traffic leading to more sales of everything else.

I really like a business where you can offer both services and merchandise. Do this business well and you could attract a loyal and dedicated customer base.

Learn more about starting a Pet Store – or any other business – with my course Start-a-Business 101. You can try it on BusinessTown for free.

Formal Wear Rental Service

You could try to do this business online…but of course the issue is getting people the right size. You could even send several sizes if they are not sure of their size. Or you could have a storefront. You don’t need a fancy location or expensive buildout. There is a formal wear rental facility near me that has been very successful for decades and is always busy despite the fact that the storefront looks like it was last remodeled about 50 years ago.

Everyone – even me – gets dressed up now and then, ensuring strong demand for formal wear rentals.

Then there is the chain men’s store that sold us all matching clothes for my friend’s wedding. After I went and got fitted for my suit and took it home with me I got a call from the store saying I had to bring the suit back because the store didn’t have the right size for one member of the wedding party.

So I took my suit back and got fitted again with a new suit so that everyone in the wedding party would match. Or so I thought! I went to the wedding and I discovered that I had a suit of a much different shade of blue than everyone else in the wedding party.

The bottom line? This is a service business. If you can service your customers well they will come back and spread the good word and you will prosper.

Instant Signs

A lot of these sign businesses are franchise operations, but you don’t have to be. The key is marketing. But you can learn to do just as good a job of marketing as anyone else without having to pay franchise fees.

You could do this business totally online or you could try a storefront. When my kids had their clothing boutique they had a large but simple sign made by a local instant sign service.

Instant Signs
In the small town of Littleton New Hampshire this business offers instant signs as well as other products.

I would suggest you have some low cost and attractive packages to promote to get people in the door or communicating with you online. Then at that point you might be able to move them up to a better and more expensive sign option. Or perhaps you can sell them additional signage such as for their vehicles or inside signage.

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.

Computer Repair

I have found that my employees go crazy when their computers aren’t working. Not only can’t they do their work when their computers are down but their morale also plummets along with their productivity. That’s why there is strong demand for computer repair services for companies and for individuals.

For some of my small to mid sized companies it was ideal to line up a reliable firm or individual to quickly respond to problems and fix them on our premises. Even when we reached the point of having over 60 PCs and a number of printers and other equipment we found a solo entrepreneur who delivered fabulous service at a reasonable price.

On top of that, he saved us money by helping us buy off brand computers. We saved money two ways on this. First they were less expensive than brand name computers. Secondly because they were all standardized we saved on downtime. Even though the computer repair guy was selling us computers at low prices, he was still able to make some money on each piece of equipment he sold us.

Alternatively you could offer computer repair services for individuals. Often computer repair services serving computers have storefront locations. But they are typically not located at the most expensive retail location in town. Even if you have a storefront you want to make sure you can be found online. That means having a great website and maximizing it for SEO. For this kind of business there are many different search words that you want to optimize for such as the different computer brands and the specific types of repairs that people are seeking. Make sure to emphasize your location for SEO too.

business idea computer repair
I am surprised at how many computer repair services have storefronts near me like this one. But even if you have a storefront you should have a strong online presence.

Serving consumers can be more difficult than serving businesses. The income is more erratic and the expectations of consumers as to what it will cost to evaluate and repair their equipment can sometimes be unrealistic. For servicing businesses I would do some outreach not just have a good website. Put together compelling email campaigns and consider experimenting with telemarketing. Target specific decision makers at larger companies using LinkedIn.

Bartending Service

Bartending services are in demand by people hosting home parties as well as for special events such as weddings. Usually the customer provides the alcohol and mixers. The only equipment you might need are shakers and blenders. You may also want to get your own serving cart – customized with your logo to promote your service.

bartending service
With a bartending service you can make easy money without all the headaches and hassles of owning your own location.

To polish up your bartending skills consider courses offered at local education programs. In some states you will be required to also take a safe serve class and get certified.

To promote your services approach wedding and other event planners and ask to be included on their list of recommended bartending services. Put up you flyers and talk up your service with local package stores and party stores. Network to everyone you know. And promote your services online, using your best SEO techniques to make sure your website will show up in local search results.

Perfect making the most popularly requested drinks plus a few of your own favorites. Put on your best outfit and then pour away!

For more on how to start this business – or any other business – start streaming the courses on BusinessTown. You can try BusinessTown for free.

Rare Book Dealer

Rare books is an easy business to get started in but may take you a while to turn it into a highly successful full time gig.

I recommend you build this business slowly. As with selling any used items I have learned that you want to have a specialty and get a hands on feeling for the pricing. Then you want to begin with merchandise that you not only can buy for a good price, but also merchandise that there is high enough demand for that you can turn it over quickly.

With this business I would start it online and then later maybe consider adding a storefront. I’ve seen plenty of rare and used book dealers succeed with both models. You can sell your books on places like eBay and Amazon or through your own website or by networking with other dealers.

If you love rare books this business could be your dream. When I had my book business one of my most successful editors gave up his career to pursue his passion for rare books – and yes, he loved it!

Continued…Read More


About Bob Adams

Bob Adams is a Harvard MBA serial entrepreneur. He has started over a dozen businesses including one that he launched with $1500 and sold for $40 million. He has written 17 books and created 52 online courses for entrepreneurs. Bob also founded BusinessTown, the go-to learning platform for starting and running a business.

QUIZ: WHAT BUSINESS IS BEST FOR YOU?

QUIZ: WHAT BUSINESS IS BEST FOR YOU?