The 300 Best Small Business Ideas - Part 5 | Business Town

The 300 Best Small Business Ideas – Part 5

Bridal Show Promotions

Weddings are a huge business. And bridal shows and expos can play an important role in helping the bride to figure out where she is going to spend her money. These shows are generally local in nature. You make your money by renting space – such as in a meeting room or the ballroom of a local hotel – then renting out the space by the table or by the booth to local merchants.

Bridal shows can be critical to attracting wedding business for florists, caterers, dress shops, cake producers, limousine companies, decorating firms, wedding venues, wedding planning services, videotaping services, photographers, bands, DJs, hotels, restaurants, travel services and more.

Like the other “show” businesses on this list you need to make sure your first few bridal shows are a big hit. Most importantly this means that any attending merchants are happy with the amount of traffic and inquiries that they receive. So don’t skimp on marketing until you are sure you will be able to attract plenty of prospective brides to your shows.

If you can please the participating merchants this can develop into an extremely lucrative long term 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.

Snow Plow Service

My landscaper came by to clear off my driveway a few minutes ago. The owner of the service did the basic plowing with the plow on his pickup truck. Then he sat in the car while his two helpers cleared off my steps and walkways.

You could also offer salting and sanding. I have a long, steep curving driveway that can get very slippery so I am happy to pay a premium to get my driveway salted and sanded. Most residential customers will not need salting and sanding but larger commercial customers will usually expect you to offer it.

If the snow fall in your area is erratic snow plowing may be a difficult business by itself. But it combines well with lawn care as part of a full service landscaping business.

If you are in a climate that consistently gets a lot of snow each year, then this could be a viable business for you. But if the snowfall is inconsistent you could get stuck with having a nice new snowplow truck and no business. Because the income can be unpredictable and because the business is seasonal this is one of my less favorite stand-alone businesses on this list.

But if you combine snow plowing with some warmer season services for customers – such as mowing lawns and other landscaping work – then I like this business model a lot more.

Fabric Coverings

Good quality new furniture can be expensive. So rather than replacing sofas and chairs, many people prefer to save money and just replace the fabric, often changing colors in the process. This is a great service business. If you do a good job you’ll not only get repeat customers but you’ll build your business by word of mouth.

Fabric coverings is another good, steady income business.

You will need some real skills in this business, such as being able to measure, cut, sew and attach fabric. And customers will seek your recommendation for what color of type of fabric works best for them.

This business also lends itself to specialization. For example, I met a fellow on Cape Cod who did a thriving business making replacement boat covers. With the opportunity to show “before and after” photos and the opportunity to offer different styles and colors, this is a great business to promote on a website and especially on 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.

Coworking Space

I’ve worked out of several coworking spaces and gotten to know this business and here’s the big picture. You are signing long term leases yourself, while subleasing the space on short term leases or even month to month. That means if you catch the real estate cycle really well you could be golden. If the real estate cycle turns against you, you could have a big problem.

Still I like the business. I see lots of demand. It makes sense to divide space up and have unrelated companies and entrepreneurs brought together. But there are a lot of details to this business. There is a fair amount of tenant turnover. Tenants expect services such as coffee and snacks and relevant events.

Another thing to keep in mind in this business is that the business model differs significantly from one coworking space to the next. Some focus on small office rentals. Others focus on access to open seating arrangements. Some focus more on price, others on a higher quality office environment.

Baby Sitting Service

Not everyone wants to find a babysitter by responding to a hand-scribbled note on the bulletin board at the local coffee shop. That’s where you come in. Set up a babysitting service that includes vetting your sitters and giving your customers confidence that they are dealing with safe and dependable service providers.

Set up a website that instills confidence in potential customers. It can be simple but it needs to look professional. Include some great photos – make sure you get permission for them. And get some testimonials from satisfied customers.

Make sure you do background checks on any sitters you use. See that they show up on time. Be available at all hours to handle any questions. And keep your customers happy.

To start your Baby Sitting service right, check out my courses including Start-a-Business 101.

Gas Station

This is another industry that has seen its best days. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still make money even as the business downsizes. If I was going into this business I would first consider buying an existing facility at a great price. You have to be very careful that the land is not polluted by hiring an environmental engineering firm.

The mix of businesses from one gas station to the next can vary greatly. Many gas stations derive the majority of their income from service. Other ones have a significant tire service.

business idea gas station
There are many different add-on services you can offer at a gas station.

Equipment and car supply sales can add to revenue. I recently bought a pint of dry gas to help keep my gas lines flowing in the winter months. Self service air pumps and vacuum cleaners are another source of revenue.

Many gas stations have a good stream of revenue from selling snacks and beverages. And some gas stations sell used cars. A few rent cars.

Commercial Real Estate Broker

This is a boom or bust business. A nephew of my wife went into this business right out of college and just couldn’t get any momentum going. On the other hand an older friend of mine who had previously owned a retail furniture store has quickly become hugely successful at commercial real estate.

My friend is highly charismatic, he could carry on a conversation with a tree, and he is always meeting new people. He also worked for an established broker for a year or so before going on his own, which is a typical path in this business. While it can be difficult to build momentum initially, the potential upside is much higher than selling residential real estate.

One path I have seen some successful commercial real estate brokers go is buying promising properties themselves either for the income potential, appreciation potential or perhaps to reposition for a different type of commercial use.

Grants/Proposal Writer

My brother – a university professor – is applying for grants frequently and over the years he has landed many of them, usually from some part of the US federal government to support research and studies in everything he is working on from autism to material science.

Grant writing can be tedious and some of the grant proposals can be quite long. And you never can tell in advance if you are going to receive a grant. But there is a ton of money out there in free grants and not just from the federal government.

So grant writing is also a big business. To get going you’ll have to have strong writing skills and be comfortable writing about the type of grant you are applying for. That doesn’t mean you have to be an expert – you are not going to be the grant recipient.

Related to this is proposal writing – usually to land contracts. This is highly similar to grant writing but often for seeking contracts you are competing against a roughly similar proposal so it requires extra effort to show why your client can offer the best solution.

Speaking of free grant money, I know that many people starting their business are concerned about funding it. So I do discuss the many possible free grant sources for funding your startup in my course, Start-a-Business 101. You can try this course for free on BusinessTown.

Coffee Shop/Wine Bar/Florist Shop

This is an example of combining two or more seemingly unrelated businesses that can benefit one another. I came across this particular combination of businesses in the Cayman Islands, all done in an attractively decorated one room space.

During the day they served coffee, pastries and a few other light foods. And they also sold flowers and plants. The coffee/food business with its higher traffic brought in a steady flow of customers who I am sure would make some impulse buys of the beautiful plants and flowers that were displayed in the space. In addition the coffee shop was a much more attractive place to visit and sit in because of the plants and flowers.

At night the beverage focus shifted from coffee to wines, allowing the space to be utilized during hours when most coffee shops sit vacant. The wine bar customers would also benefit from the beautiful ambience of the fresh flowers and plants. And after a couple glasses of wine I’m sure some customers decided to buy some flowers they had not planned on purchasing earlier.

So I think this is an awesome, highly synergistic model for three combined businesses. However, I feel a need to caution you about combining different businesses especially in one physical location that do not go well together because I see many entrepreneurs doing this poorly.

Often entrepreneurs get bored or frustrated with their initial business model and then they add another product or service line that is unrelated and does not combine well with their initial business. Generally they would have been better off rethinking the basics of their first business model and carefully constructing a new business plan that both made more sense and could be as successful as they hoped.

Creative Arts Day Camp

You could run this as a seasonal camp during the summer. Or you could offer it as a creative arts day camp after school or on weekends.

I suggest doing surveys to find out what age groups of kids and what specific art activities have the most appeal. You can also see what other art centers are offering.

Even before you hold your first art camp you can put all the interesting projects you are going to have the kids create on your website – because you are first going to create all the arts projects yourself to make sure they are feasible and to get the kinks out of the process.

You may be able to run this business from your home but you should check your local zoning ordinances so the you know what risks you may be taking.

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.

Liquidation Business

It is absurd how much money you can make in liquidation! One of my friends made hundreds of millions of dollars as a partner in a firm primarily specializing in liquidating retailers. Typically, a liquidator comes into a business and buys everything that is unsecured. Then if the company is a retailer, they hire the company’s staff themselves to run a going out of business sale.

business idea liquidation business
The liquidation business can be insanely profitable. But you’ve got to focus on a niche and build deep expertise in it.

Like so many businesses specialization is important. And in this business it can be really important because liquidating different types of assets can be very different.

For example you could specialize in liquidating office furniture, in personal estates, in antique collections, in industrial goods, in retailers, in vehicles, in homes or in buildings. This business is filled with niche opportunities.

Charter Bus Service

I met a young woman who took over management of her family’s bus company. This company had been around for so long that “street railway” was still part of the company’s name. They continued to operate a few dozen scheduled bus routes, but the vast majority of their income came from charter bus services.

This is a big business. Once you line up some good clients like schools and corporations you can have nice little goldmine for yourself. But it can take some time to develop relationships. And even if you arrange some financing, it’s going to take some capital to start this business.

To get going in this business you can, and should, do your best to create an excellent online presence. But to make a significant business out of this you are going to have to get out there and sell. That may include contacting key decision makers on LinkedIn, sending out targeted emails, making sales presentations, developing proposals and making follow up phone calls.

Mailbox Rental Service

Personally I can’t possibly imagine going into a seemingly dated business as this during the digital age. But there are probably few other people who are starting these businesses so you’re not going to face a ton of competition. Better yet, maybe you can find an established mailbox rental service you can buy for a great price.

mailboxes
It might seem dated, but people are still making money renting mail boxes. And it mixes well with other ancillary services, such as providing shipping services.

One thing I have learned over the years is the latest and hottest new business idea is probably not the best bet for getting rich. And sometimes you can make a lot of money in a slow growing business, a no growth business, or even in a business that is dying.

A huge advantage of the mailbox rental service is that you have a captive audience, visiting your establishment on a regular basis, that you already have a business relationship with. This means you are in a great place to sell them just about anything – from business printing to providing shipping services to selling used cars to providing loans.

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.

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What are the best retail business ideas?

  • 1.  Amazon Store
  • 2.  Resale Store
  • 3.  Flower Shop
  • 4.  Dropshipping
  • 5.  Gift Shop
  • 6.  Used Boat Sales
  • 7.  Antique Dealer
  • 8.  Used Industrial Equipment
  • 9.  Bookstore
  • 10.  Garden Center
  • 11.  Kitchen Store
  • 12.  Mini Market
  • 13.  Knitting Store
  • 14.  Liquor Store
  • 15.  Pet Store

Online or offline retail is highly competitive. So you need to really carefully plan, start and run your retail 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 and all the other courses on BusinessTown for free.

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Messenger Service

You would think that in this day and age of electronic communication that messengers were something of the past—but no, messenger services are still alive and vibrant. In some larger cities bicycle courier services are still popular. Law firms, financial firms, ad agencies and large corporations have lots of items that need to be delivered around town.

You don’t need a Harvard MBA to start a messenger service – or just about any other business on this list. The daughter of one of my friends started a bicycle messenger service in Boston with several of her friends, just a couple months after graduating from high school. What a great way to keep the connection with your high school friends and start a good business at the same time!

This is a relatively easy business to break into and land some customers. And you should be able to start it with only a small investment. But it’s a little tougher business to grow quickly and expand profit margins. You’ll have to operate this business very efficiently. You’ll need to strike a balance between keeping your customers well served and keeping your costs low. And between keeping your prices low enough to attract customers but high enough that you can make decent money.

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.

Horse Trailer/Cargo Trailer Service

This is a good specialized business with a specific, clearly defined market to target. It might be tempting to start out by going out and buying a great looking trailer perhaps along with a new pickup truck to go along with it.

But despite the fact that it’s generally easy to finance vehicles as well as trailers, I would suggest you test the waters by first doing some marketing and renting the trailer and possibly the vehicle you need for your first few jobs.

Then as you build momentum you will be taking on less risk when you invest in your vehicles. Furthermore you’ll have a better idea of what kind of trailer will be best for serving your customers.

Ice Cream Snack Business

For this business you provide a cooler to independent stores that sell food and keep it stocked with ice cream treats. You check stock regularly and you charge the stores only after items sell. This way the store has no risk and no worries about the inventory you select. Ice cream snacks should allow you a good profit margin and still keep the independent store happy with their share of the sales.

business idea ice cream cooler
Here’s a cooler from an ice cream snack provider service that I saw on Cape Cod.

In this business you want to watch very carefully what is selling best out of every single location and then constantly adjust the particular items and the quantity of each item that you provide.

You should be able to finance your coolers either with bank financing or leasing them from the cooler manufacturer. And if you don’t have too many locations you should be able to easily start and run this business part time.

Beauty Supply/ Beauty Products

This is another large and competitive field so you want to choose your niche carefully as you develop your business plan. You could try to do this business totally online. But in such a competitive market it is going to take an effort to stand out.

You could target storefront based beauty salons and try to sell to them directly. The challenge here is that most established beauty salons already have developed relationships with other beauty product wholesalers. Might they take your product? Yes but they will need a compelling reason to do so. And they will be more likely to take on your product if they can order it from their existing wholesaler.

Another possibility is going after home based beauty salons. This market is less established and more likely to be open to buying products from a new supplier. The challenge is the home based market can be more difficult to identify and they have smaller budgets.

To find out how to get this business – or any other business – up and running, start streaming the courses at BusinessTown including Start-a-Business 101. You can try BusinessTown for free.

Collection Agency

This is one of those businesses that not everyone wants to do, so the profits tend to be above average. And the business doesn’t have a great reputation. For example we tend to think of the harassing bill collector making phone calls or even in person visits demanding payments.

But today collection work can be much more sophisticated. Your collection service could specialize in collections by email or text messages for example. Maybe you consider positioning yourself as the most polite and ethical collection service.

In any event make sure you know the legal restrictions on collecting bills that can be significant and also vary quite a bit from one state to the next.

Fitness Equipment Rental

Good fitness equipment can be expensive. But worth it! I really think that one of the reasons I have done well in business, including running multiple businesses at one time, is that I try to work out every single day. I used to go to gyms. But I would rather work out in my own fully equipped gym at my house. It saves a lot of time.

Not everyone who wants home gym equipment can afford it however. And that’s where you come in. You buy equipment and then rent it out. How do you finance it? If you have decent credit yourself you should be able to find debt financing at a decent rate. Furthermore as your business grows and as you continue to make your loan payments on time you should be able to get even lower rates.

So it’s essentially an arbitrage opportunity. You finance your fitness rental equipment as one package at a low rate, and then you rent it out to your clientele at a higher rate. My experience in the rental business is you need to pay careful attention to what happens at the end of the rental period—is the equipment still rentable? Is it sellable? And what happens when the equipment breaks down? Work out these details and this could be a solid and very scalable business.

Campground

Campgrounds are a big business and even a single campground can offer a sizable business opportunity. The investment may be more than you had in mind but you can usually get some bank financing. And if not you can turn to private investors, lenders and other alternative finance sources.

campground
Campgrounds can be a great way to make a lot of money. While it might be expensive to buy or build a good campground, they are relatively easy to finance. This campground I came across is located in New Hampshire’s majestic White Mountains.

Campgrounds offer lots of opportunities for differentiation – so you don’t have to compete head to head with every other campsite.. You can focus on serving RVs or campers in tents. You can offer larger campsites or small campsites. You can offer various kinds of sports or water activities, bicycling, hiking, nature hikes, activities just for children or just for adults. You can offer various kinds of food on site.

Or you can offer entertainment. One of my favorite bands, The Mavericks, I have heard play at Indian Ranch, a large campground in Webster Massachusetts.

Book Packager

My book publishing business often bought books from book packagers. What is a book packager? Typically, a book packager would sell to a publisher a completed and edited manuscript with the pages already laid out, and a book cover all ready to go.

In my book business we sometimes bought projects from book packagers, but unlike most book publishers we mostly created our own ideas in house.

Book packagers tend to sell more complex book projects, such as books that are heavily illustrated or books that are “packaged” with another component. For example, we bought a book about chess, boxed with a small chess set, from a book packager. This can be a great business but you need to have a solid understanding of what is going to be sellable in the marketplace.

To sell your projects you should reach out to acquisition editors at book publishers via email, via phone and at book shows. Have an attractive website all set up so you can catch their interest and show off your projects.

You can make decent money in book packaging and do really well if your book takes off. But it is a highly competitive field. So to start this business successfully, you want to plan it carefully and develop highly distinctive products.

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.

Barber Shop

For me the key to being a great barber is having a terrific personality and something new to say. I love going to my barber, he’s 85 years old and full of life. He’s always got an interesting story to tell. Plus he’s got this cute little dog that really likes me.

He cuts my hair too but by the time I leave his shop the haircutting is almost an afterthought. Once when he was closed and I wanted to get my haircut I tried the barber down the street – he was even older at 88 years. He cut my hair fine but he didn’t have quite the spark as my usual guy.

Now I do think some barber shop customers are more concerned about how their hair looks as opposed to the whole barber shop experience – but those guys probably have more hair on the top of their head than me.

business idea barber
For a barber shop the signage can be critical for pulling in customers. And the conversation can be important for keeping them.

So how do you land customers here? The tried and true way is to have a great location. But a truly great location could be too expensive. So instead I might aim for an “OK” location where your sign can be seen on a busy street – but not the most expensive street. And yes I would set up a good looking website. It doesn’t have to be fancy, a one page website could be fine for this 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.

Bee Farm

Bee farms are more popular than you might think although I never really quite understood the fascination with them. For example at one of the larger coworking spaces I worked out of, someone was running a bee farm on the roof beside the common area.

Like starting a lot of other food businesses, I see the key to selling honey is to be able to emphasize the local angle. Local foods are so popular and they can command premium pricing.

I do want to emphasize that if you do decide to start a bee farm be safe. My maternal grandfather ran a bee farm for a while (in addition to his civil engineering business, his cranberry bogs and his real estate investments). He wasn’t one to worry much about anything – including getting stung.

And he ended up getting stung a lot. Eventually he reached the point where even a single bee sting became a life or death matter and required an immediate rush to the hospital.

Winery

This is one of the more difficult businesses on this list. In fact it’s one of the most difficult businesses to do, period. But I’ve met a number of vineyard owners who have successfully done it. Often – but not always – they had a family history in the business before they started their own vineyard.

business idea winery
A winery is a challenging business. But I have met many successful operators. This is another photo from a Portugal trip where we had some fantastic wines.

First, it will take about 3-5 years to grow your grapes. Secondly, you need the right climate. Third, selling what you produce is like a whole separate business.

However, people do like to visit and buy wine from local wineries. And I have seen some wineries that are initially producing just a small amount of wine themselves, jumpstart their business and supplement their sales by reselling wine from other vineyards.

Start getting ready to launch your dream business by streaming the courses at BusinessTown.

Flea Market Organizer

If you want to meet some really different, fun entrepreneurs this could be the business for you. Plus since flea markets are mostly held on weekends this could be a highly profitable part time business. Even in the Internet age a lot of people enjoy going to flea markets.

Like the other “show” businesses I have talked about on this list you want to make absolutely sure that your first few flea market shows are a big success – so promote the daylights out of them. You’ll also need to be able to sell space to vendors – but it’s not that hard. Just go to other flea markets in the region and pitch them your show. It might take a few attempts and a little patience but it’s very doable even if you don’t have sales experience.

I would certainly do a lot of digital marketing for a flea market. But because of its local, homespun nature I would do a bunch of creative low and no-cost guerilla marketing. I talk about my favorite 50 guerilla marketing tactics in my course Start-a-Business 101. And you can learn all about online marketing in my course, The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing. You can try both courses for free on BusinessTown.

Invisible Fencing

One day a couple of big and scary-looking Doberman Pinschers came walking down the street seemingly out of nowhere. It turned out the electricity had gone out in the neighborhood and the dogs had left their property because their electric fence was turned off.

This is a specialized niche of the fencing business, but so differentiated that it is basically a totally separate, non-competitive business—and that’s the best kind of niche to find! Your market is dog owners, and probably more frequently the owners of larger dogs and the owners of multiple dogs. So it’s easy to focus your marketing.

In fact I think I would consider invisible fencing to be more part of the pet industry than the fencing industry. So you may want to form marketing partnerships with local pet stores, such as persuading them to set up an in-store display of your service.

Nutrition Counseling Service

My friend’s wife developed an incredible passion for the importance of proper nutrition and went on to earn an advanced degree in the field. She opened a nutrition business and tried some marketing but her business progressed slowly.

Then she teamed up with a local health club and her business took off. I think that being associated with the health club not only introduced her business to customers but because it was part of the health club it made it seem like something the customers should take more seriously.

She later further increased the scope of her business by offering a testing product that could pinpoint dietary issues with great specificity.

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.

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What are the best media business ideas?

  • 1.  Book Publishing/eBooks
  • 2.  Start a Blog
  • 3.  Smartphone Apps
  • 4.  Freelance Writing
  • 5.  Podcasting
  • 6.  Membership Website
  • 7.  Video Production
  • 8.  Webinar Business
  • 9.  Event Organizer
  • 10.  Bulletin Board Service
  • 11.  Social Media Influencer
  • 12.  Professional Speaking
  • 13.  Audiobooks
  • 14.  Daily Deals Website
  • 15.  Content Marketing

I’ve had a lot of experience with media businesses and I can tell you it’s not easy to get started and gain traction. But once you do start to gain momentum these businesses can really take off. To learn more, start streaming the courses at BusinessTown. You can try BusinessTown for free.

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Tattoo/ Tattoo Removal

It seems like everywhere I go I see more and more tattoo shops. And especially when you’re at a health club you might notice a lot of people have tattoos and some of them are very fancy.

Some localities allow tattoo shops and some don’t. How important is a storefront? Unless you are in a really competitive market, a second floor office location may be just fine. You can save a lot of money on rent and put some more energy and effort into your digital marketing outreach.

tatoo removal business
Rob Harris discusses how he started his tattoo removal business, Disappearing Inc., on BusinessTown Today.

At the same time some people have tattoos that wished they didn’t have and that leads to another interesting business opportunity – tattoo removal. You can watch an interview with the owner of a tattoo removal business owner on one of the BusinessTown Today shows, as part of the BusinessTown courses

Mobile Billboard Service

You can put a big sign on top of your truck or pull it around on a trailer. This is particularly effective for local businesses because you can offer pinpoint marketing—driving around the same business block for example. You could also contract individuals to have commercial signs mounted on their cars.

For example, a Boston radio station arranged to have hundreds of small VWs get painted with their logos by paying each car owner a monthly stipend. How big can this business go? Well CNN/Turner Broadcasting founder Ted Turner made his initial fortune in the billboard business!

To sell your services you could approach the merchants directly and you could approach advertising agencies. My experience is that ad agencies are particularly receptive to good new ideas, because their clients appreciate that they are being creative. And of course you can do your own digital marketing. Chances are some prospective customer is searching online for this service right now.

Gardening Consultant

Gardening is really big. Many people like to do their own gardening but they can use a little bit of help! That’s where you come in! Maybe you specialize in flower gardens or vegetable gardens, or even something more exotic.

You can help put together a garden for individuals or for businesses. The large auto dealership near where I grew up had a beautiful and elaborate Japanese style garden installed.

A lot of people are getting into gardening. They have some money to spend but they are not necessarily expecting to pay for a gardening consultant. So to ease them into the idea of hiring your services I would suggest you consider offering a flat rate package of services – such as 3 in-person 30 minute consultations on your garden. That way buying your consulting services is as easy as buying a garden rake.

If you are not sure your expertise is quite strong enough then fill the gaps. Consider a course or a book for any areas that you need to brush up on.

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.

Arbitration Service

Everyone knows legal proceedings take forever, can be very expensive, and the outcomes can be uncertain. I became involved in litigation with a software developer and it looked like we had no alternative but to go to court. It looked like it was going to be a mess, cost huge amounts in legal fees and take many months in litigation.

However, our opposing attorneys suggested we hire an arbitrator. I couldn’t believe what a great solution it was! We ended up with a much better result than I expected. And I bet it ended up costing the opposing party less money than a trip to court would have as well.

So obviously I think this a highly valuable service – you are really helping people and businesses, saving them money, time and emotional stress. And at the same time you can make excellent money for yourself.

An arbitration service lends itself well as a nonprofit business too. You can still earn good money by paying yourself a salary.

Musical Instrument Leasing

I tried to play many musical instruments including the piano, the trumpet, the baritone horn and the trombone before finally realizing that I had no musical talent at all and was better off putting my energy into starting businesses, building boats and playing with my model trains,

But I remember week after week my parents would make leasing payments to the companies that owned the first musical instruments that I played. What a great income stream these musical leasing companies have!

The key to get going with this business is to build relationships with schools and school music directors, who can recommend your services. Chances are a larger school isn’t going to recommend you unless you have a track record, so you will probably have to start with some very small schools.

Musical instruments, especially those that are rented out, are highly financeable for low rates, so this is a business you can get into with very little money, and expand aggressively. Also common in this business is a lease-to-buy plan. This means that after a certain number of payments – typically several years worth – the customer finally owns their instrument. But you can bet that with either option the leasing company can make plenty of money.

Tow Boat Operator

In the US, the coast guard redefined their mission to be rescuing people not rescuing boats, so this has further increased the market for tow boat operators to respond to disabled recreational boaters and bring their boat back to port.

Running around on the ocean with a high-powered tow boat seems like a pretty fun way to make a living to me! I see these tow boat operators all the time at marinas along the coast – so somebody is making money and having fun in this business!

The way to really make this business work is with the subscription model – customers pay a monthly or seasonal fee in advance for any towing that they might need.

Jewelry/Clock/Watch Repair

When my Rolex needed repair, I was determined to save some money so I went to an independent repair service. I happened to be in South Florida so I was able to visit the repair service in person to drop off my watch.

business idea jewelry watch repair
I love my watch! But it does need to be serviced every few years, guaranteeing a good stream of income for my watch repair service.

The repair shop was a relatively large operation with half a dozen technicians on premise. Only a small portion of the repairs were for local customers – most watches were shipped in from all over the US.

I also had to arrange to have my father’s grandfather clock shipped to me. Just to have the clock shipped required an expert to carefully dismantle it and pack it. Then I used a specialized shipping firm. And of course I needed another expert on the receiving end to put it back together.

You get the point – there’s lots of demand for watch and clock repair services!

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.

Shipping/Freight Forwarding Service

Arranging for shipping, especially overseas, is complex and the rates can vary widely, even for nearby truck shipments. A shipping or freight forwarding service can find the best shipper for you, arrange the paperwork and a lot more.

This can be a great business, with long term customers and steady work, but it can take a while to build up a large clientele. Often shippers tend to stay with the same logistics company unless they have a good reason to change.

In my book business when we made all but the smallest shipments overseas we would use a shipping service.

Television Repair

People still want their televisions fixed. Consumers don’t want to throw out their TVs at the first time of trouble. To get customers put together a simple website and maximize it for SEO so you show up on the first page of local search engine results.

I wouldn’t go too crazy about learning to repair every possible brand of TV. Instead I would focus on the most popular brands. Then I would be more likely to expand it into widely used devices such as computer monitors.

Consider seeking out businesses that operate a large number of TVs – especially motels. It would be ideal if you could sell service contracts for these large volume TV users – giving yourself a steady base income.

Recycling Pickup

There is strong demand for recycling but the market is changing over time and what is a great recycling business today, may not be such a good recycling market a few years from now.

I have a friend who owns a large beverage distributorship business. When the state government required deposits on cans and bottles retailers began accepting returned used cans and bottles. And he set up a wholesale recycling operation through the retailers he was selling his beverages to. His recycling business was an immediate and highly profitable success.

There are many different items you can recycle and each has its own characteristics. For example I have two different friends who started computer printer cartridge recycling businesses. One of them did well with it, the other struggled.

Some of the best opportunities are to recycle items used by industrial companies such as scrap metal. At my book publishing company we sold damaged books to a company that recycled paper goods.

Wedding Venue Business

This is similar to the banquet facility business but built around a facility that is ideal for weddings. People will pay a lot of money for a wedding venue that excites them! You could provide the catering and related services yourself, allow customers to bring their own caterers or require your customers work with a particular caterer that you chose.

For example, I attended the wedding of one of my friends recently which was held at a winery. But they were doing so much wedding business at such high prices (the venue rented for over $25,000) it seemed they were as much in the wedding venue business as the winery business.

Another angle to this business is to do a wedding venue marketing service. In this business model you don’t actually own any of the wedding venues yourself. You either just provide leads to other wedding venues. Or you also make all of the sales arrangements. A great business to be doing once you learn how to do digital marketing!

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.

Air Charter

You don’t need to be a pilot to start an air charter service but it doesn’t hurt if you are familiar with the business. A friend of mine, John Thomas, who started his own air charter service, got his pilot’s license before his driver’s license when he was growing up in Australia.

John then worked at an international consulting firm including doing assignments for major airlines. He bought a small jet with the idea being that he could cover a lot of the costs by charging the consulting firm when he used his plane for business.

Eventually John cofounded Waltzing Matilda Aviation chartering out his own jet. He quickly grew his business by buying more planes, offering charters on non owned aircraft and buying up other air charter businesses.

Consultant on Foreign Cultures

One of our better selling books at my book publishing company was “Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands?” Traveling business people and others want to know how to fit in with foreign cultures. With a little bit of research or overseas exposure you could offer basic courses and consulting, and then you could provide more in-depth expertise as you build your knowledge overtime.

To get started in this business I would focus on one region or just one country and build your expertise, contacts and any extra value that you could offer. To get attention for yourself I would put together a website with as much insightful information as you possibly can.

Next you might want to develop a newsletter or series of emails that provides insights to your audience and helps establish you as a trustworthy expert.

Automotive Parts Rebuilder

Auto parts are very expensive. Auto manufacturers sell parts separately for much more than they sell them as a complete car. Hence there is huge potential upside in selling rebuilt auto parts, such as transmissions.

To get this business going you will need the expertise to do the rebuilding. Then you will need to set up sales through auto service outlets. Good rebuilt parts at a reasonable price are a highly desirable commodity so while this will take a little sales effort, it is very doable.

I have two friends with a good amount of automotive and manufacturing expertise between them who formed a partnership and went into this business together. They were well positioned but it still took them a while to nail down the manufacturing aspect of it. But once you get a business like this up and running it can do extremely well.

Dog Poop Service

I couldn’t believe it when I first saw the Dog Poop 911 car! What a clever business. And what a great business name. This is another classic, very simple service business. And still another way to capitalize on the huge pet business market. Another great aspect to this business is that it is a repeat customer, steady income business. With most customers wanting to have their yards cleaned up on a regular basis, you can quickly build a good income with even a few customers.

And because you are servicing customers regularly it is relatively easy to sell add on services, such as dog walking, dog sitting and more.

Dog Poop Service
 If you can scoop dog poop, you’ve got what it takes to succeed in this business!

I want to take this opportunity to emphasize how important it is to have a great name for your business. A great name will serve like a built-in advertisement for your business for years to come. So take the time and effort it deserves to find a great name for your business.

If you want to learn more about finding a name for your business see my course, 7 Steps to a Perfect Business Name. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.

Personally I’d love to run this business and also the port a potty business. Not only are they good steady income businesses but they also provide a valuable service. Plus when people ask me what I do for a living I’d love to proudly say “I’m the dog poop and potty business!”

To learn more about starting this business – or any other business – check out the courses on BusinessTown. You can try them for free.


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?