The 300 Best Small Business Ideas - Part 4 | Business Town

The 300 Best Small Business Ideas – Part 4

Pest Control Service

This is a great business and I can’t tell you how many times I have used pest control services for my residences as well as commercial locations. The rates vary hugely from one locale to the next, so carefully survey nearby markets to determine which market may be the best opportunity for you. Usually when I hire a pest control service I expect to pay a one-time fee in the $200 – $300 range and to be done with it – unless the pest problem reoccurs.

business idea pest control
At least in my town there is strong demand for pest control. If doing the actual work doesn’t appeal to you, no problem – you can hire hourly people to do the day to day work.

However, recently when I called a new pest company, they tried to sell me an ongoing service, saying that my mouse problem was not going to go away overnight. They wanted an upfront fee plus additional payments every quarter. Turning pest control into a subscription service could work out great for the business owner but for my needs it seemed a bit of an overkill.

The total price for the first year was in the $1600 range – and I’m talking about my house not for my business. My guess is that since they asked for the address first that they tried to sell me a more expensive service after instantly determining that I lived in a high end neighborhood. At that price I think I’d rather make friends with the mice!

I would love to have you open a pest control business and compete with this company. I bet you could offer a pest control annual package at half that price and still have an extremely profitable business.

To learn more check out my courses at BusinessTown which you can try for free.


What are the top tips for business success?

  • 1.  Start with a great business idea
  • 2.  Make your business unique
  • 3.  Create a complete business plan
  • 4.  Make your product incredible
  • 5.  Test your marketing
  • 6.  Experiment & try new things
  • 7.  Don’t rush getting started
  • 8.  Learn everything you can

To learn more see my courses including Start-a-Business 101, How to Create a Business Plan and The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing. You can start watching these courses and all other courses on BusinessTown for free.


Demolition/ Wrecking Contractor

One of my friends with a background in manufacturing started a business removing waste from building sites. He had no background in construction and fairly limited financing. But he had confidence in what he could do.

He would basically show up with a small crew and a large dumpster. The crew would load the waste into the dumpster and away it went. How simple!

Next he progressed into also offering dismantling services focusing on industrial buildings that were being replaced with newer ones.

Like other construction related services, one of the keys to success is very carefully bidding for your work. You also need to make sure you get paid–general contractors can be highly successful one minute and then short on money to pay bills the next.

Kayak and Canoe Rentals

I’ve rented boats and bicycles and I’ll tell you, this can be a very profitable business. You don’t need a waterfront location. You can rent from a highly trafficked location on the side of the road, providing roof racks for your customers’ cars.

Kayak and Canoe Rentals
As this picture shows your kayak and canoe rental location does not have to be on the water. You can provide customers with roof racks for their cars.

How successful you are in this business will have a lot to do with your location and your marketing. For marketing I’d do your website really carefully and do everything I could to optimize it for SEO. I’ve rented kayaks as well as a sailboat and a powerboat this past summer and every single time I made my decision solely based on the information on the company’s website.

I would also have a great looking sign and do some outreach to groups that might be interested. I’d probably put some posters up on local bulletin boards too.

To learn more about how to start a business and how to create a website that attracts customers, see my course, Start-a-Business 101. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.

Specialty Food Store

Specialty food stores have been around forever! For example a favorite specialty food store of my grandfather was S. S. Pierce which was established in 1831 and survived in one form or another until the 1980s. I remember my grandfather would travel a distance to patronize it even though similar foods were available at the local supermarket.

Today there are many types of specialty food stores you could try – either online or as a traditional storefront. But before you plunge in, do your homework and develop a carefully thought out business plan. If you are not sure your local market can support a food specialty that you are considering, try to find an example of a similar store that succeeded in a market with similar demographics.

business idea specialty food
In your specialty food store you could offer a very wide variety of foods such as this small store near me does. Or you could focus on one particular type of food – which I especially recommend if you are doing this business online.

Of course you could try this online. And you could also start with a great looking display of a variety of specialty foods that you place in existing food stores. The profit margin on this kind of arrangement might not be high but the overhead and the risk will be low. And if it works it would be a good first step before opening your own storefront location.

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 Lead Generator for Local Businesses

Some local businesses don’t want to go through all of the necessary steps to do their inbound marketing themselves. They would rather have you just do it all for them and deliver leads to their doorstep. If you go into this business I would suggest that you consider building your expertise for a particular industry, instead of a particular location.

For example I have a friend who sells individual and small group life insurance. A lot of his business comes from lead generator services. He pays them a flat fee for each lead whether he ends up closing the sale or not.

If it was me, I would launch my lead generation business totally online, starting with an awesome website, with an active blog on relevant topics. Then I would work carefully to optimize the website for SEO.

Transporting Senior Citizens

Not all senior citizens are completely comfortable taking ride services like Uber or a local taxi service. They might like a little extra care, such as help being walked to the vehicle or help carrying groceries.

They might need someone who will wait for them while they do their errands or even accompany them around a store as they choose what they are going to buy.

Sometimes what might be most important to them is just having a driver who is polite, friendly and gives them someone to talk to. Or they might really appreciate the comfort and familiarity of being transported by the same driver every time.

One of my friend’s father’s did a study on life satisfaction among senior citizens. Guess what the number one most important thing was? Health? No. It was access to transportation. So with this service you can provide an extremely important service for seniors and make good money at the same time.

Nail Studio

This might not be a glamorous business but it is high demand and there are a lot of people making money doing it. Furthermore it’s a solid repeat customer, steady income business.

business idea nail salon
Even with a storefront, online marketing could be important for building the clientele for a nail salon.

Once you get a customer you can usually hold onto them for a long time. Hence it’s worthwhile to offer a great deal to lure customers in for their first visit. I met a woman who had a storefront nail salon on a fairly busy street in an upscale Boston suburb. Nonetheless almost all of her customers were initially attracted by deals she offered on websites like Groupon.

However even if you want to use websites like Groupon, I suggest you have your own nicely done website too – it will help legitimize your offer and make it look more enticing.

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

Financial Planner

For the clients of most financial planners, successful investing will involve selecting mutual funds or ETFs, not individual stocks or bonds. That means to become a financial planner you don’t need to be a Wall Street wizard. But you will need a solid understanding of the basics.

In particular you will need to understand the importance of diversification including an appropriate mix of fixed income versus equity investments. And you will need to understand your client’s risk tolerance so that you are sure to guide them to appropriate investments.

It will take some time to become educated in this field, but especially if you do not get involved in evaluating and choosing individual stock investments, it is very doable even if you don’t have your MBA.

Recording Studio

I’ve seen people have very mixed results in operating recording studios. The ones who have been most successful usually have some excellent contacts set up before they start their venture – not enough to fill their studio time – but enough to give them a decent base to get going.

Some of these people have started their recording studio as a part time business, others as a full time business. Some are more focused on the recordings of music. Others are more focused on recording advertising. For example when I made my own radio advertisements for one of my businesses I rented recording time at a studio.

The people who don’t do as well with a studio tend to fall in love with the idea before getting some contacts lined up. Before you spend money and time investing in building out your studio I would go out and talk with people in the industry and get comfortable that there is a demand for a new studio in your area.

Hat Making/ Hat Sales

There are all kinds of directions this business can go! You could sell hats to retailers, you could sell them online, you could sell them to event planners to liven up their parties. You could eventually even open a hats-only store!

When my kids had their clothing boutique they bought really cool hats – really hip, high end baseball style caps. Some of them they bought from a cap maker located in Soho in New York City. This cap maker sold his hats online, through his storefront and also through other retailers. It appeared to be doing extremely well and developed significant brand recognition.

business idea hats
My kids sold these cool caps at their clothing boutique.

Because shops that exclusively sell hats are a relatively unique business I would make an extra effort to get lots of free publicity for this business. With a narrow niche business like this you need to make sure that if you are doing it as a storefront business your local market will be large enough to support it.

Home Entertainment Service/ Home Theater Installation

I had a home theater set up on my third floor room after having the entire floor built out (it had been an attic) including the installation of a $30,000 theater system. So cool to watch! There’s a big market for home theaters and home entertainment systems and plenty of opportunity to focus on a particular niche.

home entertainment
Here’s part of my home theater. Expensive and worth it! Another great business that combines sales, installation and service.

You could focus for example on entertainment systems with speakers and controls throughout the entire house. Or you could focus on highly elaborate home theaters that look like a vintage commercial cinema.

You could sell your services online. Or you could do a deal with a furniture retailer or home goods place and arrange to sell your services in partnership with them. For example, I made my decision to purchase home theater equipment after seeing a display at a large local furniture store. To sell one of these expensive systems will probably take a few steps – so make sure you have an awesome website and be set up to try to grab people’s email addresses and phone numbers. Then plan out how you will carefully follow up with each inquiry.

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.

Real Estate Appraiser

There are real estate websites today that estimate the value of properties online using formulas. But these valuations are more guesses based on rough estimates than true valuations. Banks reviewing mortgage applications, people going through a divorce, settling an estate or experiencing financial issues, may all require a more accurate appraisal.

A real estate appraiser will evaluate the subject property in depth and then compare it with the most similar properties that have recently sold known as “comps.” The appraiser will then assemble a highly detailed report.

Real estate appraisal is a good field that you can make excellent income at. But the better, more established players in any particular area do tend to get a disproportionately high amount of the available work so it may take some time to build your practice. But you can accelerate this by networking with mortgage lenders, lawyers and real estate agents. And by creating a thorough and professional looking online presence.

If you have no experience doing appraisal work it might take a while to go through the steps to get started. In most states you need to be licensed and they may require that you complete some relevant classes.

Music Teaching/ Music School

Refusing to accept that I had no musical talent, my parents took me to many music teachers over the years, from a home based piano teacher to school based trumpet teachers. If you are patient with young students or talented enough to work with more experienced musicians, this could be a very satisfying way to make some good money.

You can find customers by either working through schools or doing your own digital marketing or putting ads on places like Craigslist. You’ll also want to develop firm policies on cancellations. You might want to give lessons at your home, at a school or even at the student’s home.

business idea music teaching music school
The demand for music lessons is huge. This music school near me is based in a house which is on a commercially zoned street.

If you are teaching young students your work time may be something like from 2PM to 6PM. So if you are doing this without any employees you will likely have plenty of time for a part time job – or for another freelance gig or business.

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

Gift Show Organizer

You can offer a gift show for the general public or for the gift trade. Sometimes I’ve seen people do both either by allowing general admission on all days or by restricting general public admission to just one day of the show.

gift shop
As a gift show organizer you sell booth space to companies selling their products into local gift stores. It’s a great niche business and can become highly profitable.

My sister tried offering gift shows for the general public, renting space in a local hotel. She made money by selling booths to companies that make products for the gift trade including local artisans and sales rep firms that sell products into the gift trade.

For your first show you only need about 20 interesting venders to create a good feeling about your show. But you need to make sure the space doesn’t look empty – so partition or drape off any unused space.

Here’s the real key to success with these shows. You need to make your exhibitors happy with the number of potential customers they see at your first few shows. If you can do this they will come to your shows for a long time.

So if you’re serious about turning this into an ongoing business then don’t be afraid to aggressively market your first few shows even if you have to operate them at a loss. You can always trim your marketing for future shows once you find out what works. Also vendors will be willing to pay more once they feel confident that your show is worthwhile.

Aquarium Maintenance

The big money in aquarium maintenance is commercial accounts, but some individuals will want their aquariums cleaned too. I’ve seen large aquariums at restaurants, hotels, dentists offices and pediatricians offices. You can start this business with a basic understanding of fish care.

As your expertise grows you may consider additional services such as recommending new fish, new accessories or even setting up a whole new aquarium.

You could also raise and and/or sell new fish to customers. When I was growing up, a family in my neighborhood had over 10 aquariums in their house that they used to raise fish in that they would sell to pet stores.

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.


What are the best retirement business ideas?

  • 1.  Craft Business
  • 2.  Home Bakery
  • 3.  Senior Companion Service
  • 4.  Art Lessons
  • 5.  Financial Planner
  • 6.  Laundromat
  • 7.  Angel Investor
  • 8.  Interior Decorating
  • 9.  Business Coach
  • 10.  Walking Tours
  • 11.  Antique Dealer
  • 12.  Handyperson
  • 13.  Jewelry Making
  • 14.  Career Counseling
  • 15.  Cooking Classes

Why totally retire when you could be running a fun little business? It will be easier if you plan and start it right. Learn how with my courses including Start-a-Business 101. You can start watching this course and all the other courses on BusinessTown for free.


Spice business

There are people who have made millions of dollars starting a spice business out of their house. It’s doable but like any product business it will take careful planning, a distinctive strategy and some time to build the business.

You need to check if your locality permits food production out of your home. If not consider a small commercial facility. Most people going into this business will sell their spices online. But some people have succeeded with storefronts and more often with selling their spices through established retailers.

business idea spice business
This large spice store near me took over a space some years ago that was previously occupied by a restaurant and has had a strong business ever since. Considering you are selling very small and easily shippable packages this business seems a natural for online sales.

No matter how you sell your spices your packaging and presentation will be important. And also you should create a compelling story about your spices. Are they all natural for example? Is there a health angle? Are they from a particular geography?

Another alternative and a less time and money consuming way to test the waters is to resell other people’s spices. But you still want to carefully plan and differentiate your business even if you are selling other people’s products.

Association Management Service

Many business and nonprofit associations are too small to hire a full time administrator but still have a lot of administrative work to be done. Some of the business groups I belong to, such as the local chapter of The Young Presidents Organization and The Harvard Business School Association of Boston, hire an association management service.

The association management services hired by these groups have usually been a solo entrepreneur or in one case a mother/daughter team. However on occasion such as for staffing a large event they might also bring a friend along to help.

For these businesses, the management service processes membership dues and event payments, fields questions about events, arranges logistics for events, and attends events and welcomes members. Payment is usually on a monthly retainer basis. It’s a great steady income business.

Test Prep Coach

This is a great part time business that can pay very good money. For my kids, we hired coaches who were usually still students themselves, and had very little paid test prep experience. But I did make sure to hire test prep coaches who had scored exceedingly well themselves on the exams being targeted. You don’t have to be good at every subject. Just find one exam that you can study up on and excel at, and that’s all you need to become a great test prep coach!

You could also build this business into a multi coach test prep business. Some test prep services offer classes in addition to one-on-one instruction.

You could expand this business over time into helping students write essays and more. One of my classmates from business school runs a test prep/college admissions coaching service and charges $50,000 for her all inclusive package.

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.

Sports Equipment Sales/ Service

I like the sporting goods business. One of the guys from my business group took over his family’s massive sporting goods business that has been making products since 1946 and continues to do incredibly well with it. His business sells products through mass merchants, independent stores and online. They design the products themselves, then outsource most of the production to Asia.

With this business you can sell online or you can sell through a storefront. If you can go out and connect with local sports teams, you can not only get some good business but you can also increase your visibility. In the small town I live in, the town soccer league has arranged to have all of the kids soccer jerseys available for pickup at the local sporting goods store. What a marketing coupe!

business idea Sports Equipment Sales
Within one mile of my house there are two independent sporting goods stores. This larger one, plus a much smaller one in the village center. Both have done a thriving business for many years.

You might also consider servicing sports equipment. For example you could sharpen the blades on skates and the edges on skis and adjust ski bindings. And you could also sell used sporting equipment. To get attention for your business, you could arrange talks in the store on popular sports topics like soccer, outdoor hiking, or bicycling. There are a lot of ways you could create excitement about your sporting goods store.

To learn more about starting this business – or any other business – start streaming the courses on BusinessTown.


A lot of business people are good at producing their product or delivering their service, but less good about keeping careful accounting records. That’s where you come in.

Bookkeeping is increasingly becoming an online business that you can operate from home. You don’t need high level accounting skills but you do need to be very organized and meticulous. You may work with your clients – typically small businesses – every week or two, pay their bills, send out their invoices and keep their accounting records.

With this business you can grow it in three ways. First you can constantly be marketing to get new clients. Second you can grow by making your clients happy and getting them to refer their fellow entrepreneurs to you. And third you can grow your services to each client as their businesses grow.

Graphic Designer

One of things I enjoyed the most of being in the book business was working collaboratively with both in house and freelance graphic designers to create outstanding book covers. The work was particularly interesting because you had the challenge of both creating covers that were highly attractive and also conveyed the message of whatever the book had to offer.

Yes, graphic design is hyper competitive. But everyone wants a little different style. So, if you get a highly appealing design in front of your prospective audience you can be successful. For this business, I would go crazy having a fabulous looking website with a totally “kickass” front page! Then I would use SEO techniques, social media, and every other marketing tool I could think of to drive traffic to it.

You may be very skilled in different types of graphic design and a number of different styles. But in your marketing messages, such as on your website, I would suggest that you overwhelmingly focus on the type of graphic design and styles that are most likely to open the door for you. Show too many different styles before you have your foot in the door and you may mute your most sellable message.

To turn your graphic design skills into a business see my course Start-a-Business 101.

Cake Baking Business

I can barely “cook” a frozen dinner, but you may have the cooking skills that I lack! People will pay good money for a really awesome cake for special occasions. Get some great cake pictures up on your website, promote your skills to event planners and build your clientele!

Consider developing a specialty such as wedding cakes, ice cream cakes, cakes for kids birthdays, holiday cakes or cakes for large corporate celebrations.

business idea cake making
Specialty cake baking is a fun niche. You can sell directly to consumers or through local food stores.

To promote this business I would consider finding a charitable cause that is holding a highly promoted event that you can make a really huge and impressive cake for and then get a lot of publicity for yourself in the process.

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.

Manufacturer’s Rep/ Sales Rep Firm

A manufacturer’s rep is basically a freelance sales person who sells products for a number of different companies. A sales rep firm is an independent sales firm that employees multiple sales people to sell products for a number of different companies.

This is an absolutely tremendous below the radar business opportunity. And it’s in almost every industry from books, to clothing, to sporting equipment, to furniture, to mining equipment to food products. You usually get paid on a commission basis. But the commissions can become huge.

For example, for my book publishing company we contracted with a mix of sales reps and sales rep firms to sell our goods to bookstores. Then we used a separate set of firms to sell our books into the gift trade. Then we used still others for more specialized trades.

These independent sales reps played an extremely important role in building our business. Plus almost all of the independent reps and all of the owners of the sales rep firms (who employed their own sales reps) made very good money. And they generally loved their work.

Usually the largest firms in any industry have their own sales forces. Then the mid sized firms may use a mix of their own sales people and independent sales reps. The smaller firms may only use independent sales reps.

The typical way to break into this industry is to start by selling goods for the very smallest firms. Then over time you may be able to attract the business of larger firms and also the companies that you represent may grow in size too.

Grocery Delivery

Between people preferring to order their groceries online and an aging population not wanting to lug their groceries around this is a big business. And once again a very simple, repeat customer steady income opportunity.

You could approach this starting in a small way by building it one consumer at a time. Or you could partner up with grocery stores and become their recommended grocery delivery service. Alternatively you could provide delivery for non retail food sources like diaries, fruit and vegetable farms, bakeries and more.

Grocery delivery is a highly competitive business. You might be competing with large national firms as well as part time entrepreneurs. But don’t be deterred. There’s plenty of business for everybody.

To find out how to start this business – or any other business – check out my course Start-a-Business 101. You can start watching this course and all the other courses on BusinessTown for free.

Boat Tours

There are all kinds of different boat tours you can offer. For example in the accompanying picture I’m on a full day boat/snorkeling group tour on a schooner in the Caribbean. I also recently went for an evening cruise around a harbor off of Provincetown on Cape Cod on a 40’ sloop, rated for 6 paying passengers.

I enjoyed a private day charter of a trimaran off the coast of St. Martin. I’ve also done group boat tours in the South Florida everglades. Closer to home on Cape Cod I’ve taken the small cabin boat from Sesuit Harbor known as “The Lobster Boat” for the seafood lunches and dinners served on board.

There are many different kinds of boat tours you can offer. Here I’m on a schooner off Aruba.

One of the more exotic boat tours I’ve done was in a submarine off the coast of Aruba. Seeing the marine life close up underwater was amazing. But the best boat tour I’ve done was when one of my friends put together a small group to charter The Sea Cloud, a 316’ traditional square rigged barque sailing ship. Luxuriously outfitted and fully staffed we had a spectacular week exploring the Mediterranean.

While the entrepreneurs that run all of the above boat tours I mentioned are making money, some are doing much better than others. The Sea Cloud operator and the submarine operator appear to be doing extremely well – but these businesses require large investments and all kinds of permitting and expertise. The large group day boats such as the snorkeling boats usually do fairly well.

The smaller capacity sailboats are more difficult to make a lot of money at. Offering evening cruises on a 40’ sailboat rated for just 6 people is not going to make you rich. And even that size boat will require a good sized investment. Offering day or overnight charters to an individual party could also be hit or miss. If you manage to get a lot of bookings you could do quite well, but that might be very dependent upon your market, your competition and building up repeat customers.

Transcription Service

This is still another of those really simple business concepts that has more potential than you probably would have guessed. Basically you attend live events or listen to audio or video recordings and transcribe them.

Yes there is software today that can do some degree of transcription but it’s never as good as you’d like it to be so the human touch can improve the quality significantly.

One of my friends started a transcription service by transcribing presentations at professional conferences. Usually he would contract for the work with the conference organizer which was typically a mid to large size company. He’s done well with the business and it’s grown nicely over time.

Carpet Installation

There is solid demand for this business and no wonder — installing carpet, including stretching it out to fit just right—is harder than it looks! I found this out the hard way trying to save money by installing my own carpeting years ago.

Demand comes not just from homeowners but also from commercial businesses. You can land installation work from carpet retailers, from online business service directories, or from advertising on places like Craigslist.

You could break into this business by marketing directly to consumers, but the bigger money comes from contracting out your services to carpet retailers and general contractors. You will have to have a little bit of experience under your belt before you can take on the bigger commercial jobs. But if you can install carpeting well and efficiently you should be able to grow this business nicely.

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.

Mobile Pet Spa

Mobile pet spas are a hot business. And no wonder. A lot of pet owners want to pamper their pets. But they don’t necessarily want to take the time or the energy to take them to the pet spa themselves. So a mobile pet spa coming to them is perfect.

Just seeing the colorfully decorated mobile pet spa truck in your neighborhood is a reminder that Rover is overdue for a little cleanup!

business idea mobile pet spa
I ran into this busy mobile pet spa vehicle in Manhattan.

A nice thing about mobile pet spas is that they provide a super photo opp for the pampered pets. And of course that means that digital marketing and especially social media is a great way to promote this business.

Apartment Building Owner

You might like the idea of steady income from owning an apartment building but not like the hassles that come with it. In that case, you buy the building and hire a management company to handle the day-to-day hassles.

How well can you do in this business? I once tried to sell one of my online businesses to a 40-year old real estate billionaire. He started out when he was in college buying a couple of small multi family homes, putting up little of his own money and primarily using a bank for financing.

I have another friend who went into this business after getting tired of his landscaping business. He started with almost no money buying a very beaten up two family house that a bank had foreclosed on and was eager to get rid of. The bank provided 100% financing.

My friend had no money to hire people for repairs – so he quickly taught himself how to replace broken toilets, repair walls, replace broken glass and do whatever other work needed to be done. He’s worked hard at the business. He’s bought some projects with a partner and some without. And now after 15 years he owns or co-owns over 5,000 apartment units. Not bad for starting with nothing.


What are the best business ideas for students?

  • 1.  Mobile DJ
  • 2.  Virtual Assistant
  • 3.  Dog Walking
  • 4.  Car Detailing
  • 5.  Tutoring
  • 6.  Social Media Service
  • 7.  Lawn Service
  • 8.  Video Production
  • 9.  Chef for Hire
  • 10.  Dropshipping
  • 11.  Content Marketing
  • 12.  Cookie Business
  • 13.  Personal Trainer
  • 14.  SEO Service
  • 15.  Cleaning Business

I started a lot of businesses while still a student and you can too! To learn how to get going see my course Start-a-Business 101. You can try this course and all the other courses on Businesstown for free.


Content Marketing

Every company needs content for their website to attract search engine traffic and develop a bond with their customers and potential customers. Hence the market for creating web-friendly content has exploded with both large firms and independent content marketers helping to fill the need.

Specializing in the needs of a particular industry can help jump-start your business, but many companies are willing to hire content marketers who are good researchers and can write well, even if they lack specific industry expertise.

Content marketing is really part of the freelance writing industry. But by calling it content marketing and by thinking of it specifically as Internet marketing content, you give it a focus and add value. It’s also a great business to start and run part time.

To learn more, start streaming the courses on BusinessTown including Digital Content Strategy, Search Engine Optimization, How to Write Better Blog Posts, The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing and How to Succeed as a Freelancer. You can try all these courses for free on BusinessTown.

Fish Market

A fish market is another great example of a specialty food retail or wholesale business opportunity. You don’t have to live near the ocean to be able to source and sell fresh seafood. For example I met a fisherman running a sport fishing boat off of Cape Cod. He particularly liked to catch large tuna fish – but then he would ship them halfway across the world.

He arranged to sell his tuna fish over his cell phone to a fish broker even before his boat had returned to the harbor. The fish broker then arranged to have the tuna fish packed with ice and flown by air freight all the way Japan, which was the best paying market for fresh tuna.

business idea fish market
Harborside Fish Market on the harbor in Portland Maine has built a large year round seafood business.

Near another one of my houses on the island of Nantucket, I met a woman who operated a fish market for a number of years. She bought fish directly from the fishermen and sold them to individuals through a small store front. She also developed a nice wholesale business selling to restaurants. You could of course skip the store front and just wholesale fish to restaurants.

Nanny Service

One of my friends and his wife liked having a nanny so much that they kept a nanny to help out around the house even after the kids went off to boarding school. This same friend told me they went through 23 nannies in 22 years! Yet they still considered it to be a wonderful experience. No wonder there is a demand for nanny services!

This business is all about trust. Background checks will play an important role. But you will also want to find nannies that will be a good match for each particular customer.

If you don’t have successful placements under your belt, you can build trust in other ways. Show off your background, describe your thorough vetting process, and have a very professional looking website and marketing materials.

Selling on Etsy

The selling costs are remarkably low on the Etsy website. But you will be competing with some awesome looking crafts, so make sure you create some great stuff that is highly distinctive. Then take perfect photographs and write up snappy descriptions. Try to build a following by developing a related line of goods. Also consider setting up your own website to add further legitimacy to your business, to increase your add-on sales, and to build repeat customer relationships.

Because it’s so easy to start selling items on websites like Etsy, it’s tempting just to keep quickly throwing items on the website without a well thought out strategy or business plan. Don’t fall into that trap. If you want to sell some items as a hobby or for a couple extra dollars fine.

If you want to turn selling on Etsy or any other website into a business then do it right. Think through the best approaches, do all the analysis work and then come up with a distinctive strategy and a well thought out business plan.  Even with a detailed well thought out approach to this business you should be able to start it for very little money.

Learn more about how to start a business with my courses Start-a-Business 101, How to Create a Business Plan and The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing. You can try them for free on BusinessTown.

Golf Driving Range/ Golf Course

I can’t believe how busy the driving range near me is. They must have 50 driving stations. And they don’t even have a real golf course, although they do have kind of a long pitch and putt course. You might think you don’t have enough money to finance a driving range. But you can lease the land and drop a little shed on the property to get started.

business idea driving range golf course
If you’d like to get into the golf business but aren’t quite ready to build a full sized golf course, consider opening a driving range.

I don’t go to a driving range very often and that’s probably why my golf game is so weak and inconsistent but a lot of other people do. And it surprises me to see these places are busy not just at the start of the golf season in the spring but right through the fall as well.

Another twist on this is to offer an indoor “virtual” driving range. This business combines well with offering videotaping and golf lessons.

Then of course you could build a whole golf course but that’s a huge undertaking. So instead maybe you only build a 9 hole golf course. Or a par 3, 9 hole golf course. Or a pitch and putt. Or a miniature golf course. There’s a lot of possibilities here.

Shoe Store/Sneaker Store

When I was at Business School I came up with the idea of publishing a phone directory for a local women’s college that would be supported by advertising from local merchants. I hired a young woman from the college to sell advertising and she was fantastic at it!

She had honed her sales skills working at her family’s shoe business Teddy’s Shoes in Cambridge Massachusetts. Teddy’s was started in 1957 and has prospered for a long, long time by specializing in dance shoes. This is another great example of how specialization and differentiation is so important for business success.

When my kids started their little clothing boutique when they were in high school a lot of their sales were hip sneakers. Kids – as well as adults – were buying these sneakers to be fashionable not for sports or recreation. And no wonder, whatever your style, there are a lot of cool sneakers out there.

You can sell shoes and sneakers online – plenty of people do. But it’s also natural for a storefront location.

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.

Flower Growing

How cool would it be to have a flower garden and get paid for it? Well that’s what you’ve got when you raise flowers commercially.

business idea flower growing
Don’t these flowers look beautiful? Wouldn’t it be great to grow flowers?

Those flowers the florist sells have got to come from somewhere so why not from you? And if you can get the florist to explain to customers that the flowers were locally grown then you have an added marketing angle. Of course in some locations you’re probably going to want to have a greenhouse. Sure it will cost a little money but it would be one cool work environment.

Now if you’re just getting going in flower growing you might not want to start by selling to florists. Their needs might be a little too demanding as you are staring out. Instead maybe you could start by providing flowers for table settings for restaurants or as a nice little decoration for local hotels or stores or offices.

Liquor Store

I know that a lot of people view owning a liquor store as an automatic license to make money. It is true that you can do very well with a liquor store and most people do. But not everyone succeeds at it. For example on BusinessTown Today, Danny Griffin explains how too much inventory and undercapitalization led to problems in his liquor store business – before he went on to achieve huge success in the real estate business.

business idea liquor store
Even though the number of liquor stores that are licensed are limited, you still want to develop a carefully thought out business plan and run it just as aggressively as you would any other competitive business.

Just because the number of liquor licenses issued is strictly limited does not mean that you run this business as though you have a complete monopoly. People can and do drive around to different liquor stores and an increasing number of other venues for buying liquor including online. So if you run your liquor business right, you can be massively more successful than if you don’t.

So basically this means you need to develop a strategy and a well thought out business plan to make your liquor store as successful as it can possibly be. Will you specialize in wines? Liquor? Or beer? What categories will you stock more or less in than your nearest competitors? What categories will you be most price competitive on? What will you emphasize in your in-store displays and your marketing?

If you want to learn more about creating a complete business plan see my course, How to Create a Business Plan. You can try it for free on BusinessTown.

Leaflet Distributing

I suppose I can say I did this business once too. Or more specifically my father paid me to deliver promotional flyers for his candidacy for town meeting member. The flyers worked and he won! The cool thing about leaflets is you can truly pinpoint marketing for your clients not just in a particular town, but to houses in a particular neighborhood, or on cars in a particular parking lot!

Another thing you can do is offer a service passing out flyers to pedestrians on busy commercial sidewalks. You might notice that people passing out flyers are often doing this in pairs. This is because they feel less intimidated to interact with strangers if someone else is doing so nearby.

Like so many entrepreneurial ventures some towns come up with all kinds of ways to try to restrict entrepreneurs. But the degree of enforcement varies quite a bit from one place to the next. For example some towns may prohibit placing flyers on car windshields. Others may prohibit distribution of flyers to homes.

Corporate Insurance Brokerage/ Corporate Insurance Agency

Even small businesses need all kinds of insurance and you can help them by getting them the coverage that will help save their business on a rainy day. To succeed in this business, you need to be outgoing and network well. You also need to come across with a smart, consultative sell, not a hard-core pitch. It will take some time to build a corporate insurance brokerage, but this kind of business offers both high income potential and the possibility of someday selling it for a high multiple of earnings.

This insurance brokerage firm in Littleton New Hampshire advertises home, auto and business insurance. In smaller towns insurance firms tend to offer broader product lines.

Insurance brokers and insurance agents are not the same thing. Insurance brokers represent the client and usually need to be licensed. Insurance agents represent one or more insurance firms.

Going the insurance brokerage route will give you more freedom to offer a wider variety of insurance products and better serve your clients. If you hope to work with mid sized or larger companies and you hope to build this into a sizable business, you would be better off going the insurance brokerage route.

With this business you’ll want a strong online presence but you should be ready to make sales calls as well to build your clientele.

Antique Refurbishment

You will need some expertise to get going in antique refurbishment, but some skills can be learned fairly easily, such as stripping off old paint or varnish, and refinishing. In this business you can offer antique refurbishing as a service for individuals and businesses such as antique dealers. Or you try buying antiques that need work, refurbishing them and then selling them for a profit.

business idea antique refurbishment
This antique desk had been my grandfather’s. To the left of the desk you can see the top part of his old wooden putter. The painting features the Titanic about to embark on its fatal voyage.

While there is some antique refurbishment you can do with minimal skills, there is other refurbishment work that can require an incredible amount of skill. I have watched and attended presentations by restoration specialists at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and it is hard to believe how intricate some of their work is.

In fact one of this museum’s largest sources of income is doing restoration work for other institutions. For me I find it challenging enough to do a little bit of restoration work on some of my older model trains.

Sales Trainer

While there are all kinds of training that corporations will pay for, I am focusing on sales training because the demand is so widespread. It is an absolutely critical function, even for small businesses. If you don’t have great contacts at larger companies I would suggest you target smaller firms, such as those with sales forces of 6 to 20 people. Small enough so that everyone isn’t trying to sell them training, but large enough that they are likely to be willing to pay for it.

In running my book publishing business I got to know several people who did really well with their own sales training businesses. To build their businesses they promoted it several ways including writing their books that we published, giving talks at business and trade group meetings and of course making sales presentations to sell their services.

To learn more about how to master selling to help other businesses or to improve your own sales, see our courses including How to Make Sales and Land Customers and Sales Strategies for Founders. You can try these courses for free on BusinessTown.

Uniform Service

Renting and servicing uniforms is a giant business! Yet it is a relatively simple business so there is no good reason why you can’t break into it. Companies that provide employees with uniforms often also arrange for them to be cleaned and pressed every single day. Now that’s what I call a great repeat customer, steady income business!

You can specialize in certain types of uniforms and/or certain types of services. For example, you could rent or sell uniforms to companies and handle all of their cleaning and pressing needs. Or you could just provide the cleaning needs.

You have probably noticed the trucks of uniform services driving around town. But to get started in this business you can start out picking up and delivering laundry in your used car. And if you are starting small you can start just using your own washing machine and dryer. I would however suggest that you invest in your own company uniform – or at least a nice looking shirt with your company name on it.

Billiards Parlor

Yes there are still billiards parlors! I have patronized a few of them and found it’s a good way to relax with friends or even with my kids.

But here’s the thing. The real money in a billiards parlor typically comes from serving drinks or providing food. But by offering billiards you set your business apart from other places that sell food and beverages.

business idea billiards parlor
A billiards parlor can be a fun business. But most of the income will be from food and beverages not from billiards.

Nonetheless since you are still in the food or the beverage business, you want to do really well on this dimension – not just view it as an afterthought.

There is a large and very successful billiards parlor near me. But I think a critical part of their mix is the exceptional high quality pizza they serve. They also derive good income from drinks and billiards but their pizza is what draws in customers for a full meal – not just a slice of pizza.

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.


What are the sections of a business plan?

  • 1.  Business Concept
  • 2.  Vision/Milestones
  • 3.  Market & Customer Analysis
  • 4.  Competitive Analysis
  • 5.  Strategy
  • 6.  Products/Services
  • 7.  Sales & Marketing
  • 8.  Financials

Every business – even a simple one person business – needs a business plan. For help in creating your business plan see my course, How to Create a Business Plan. You can start watching this course and all the other courses on BusinessTown for free.


Window Washing

Washing windows for retail stores and office buildings is about as simple as it gets. Just get your cleaning supplies and knock on the doors of commercial establishments, asking if they want their windows cleaned. Then for your big step to advance this business arrange a regular washing schedule.

Yes, window washing is a real business. Some people do knock on business doors offering to wash windows. But most washing is done on an ongoing, scheduled basis.

On the other hand, washing windows can become more complex when it comes time to wash the outside windows on tall office buildings. When I’ve worked inside large office buildings I always marvel when these guys suddenly appear on the outside windows out of nowhere – kind of like superman leaping up a tall building in a single bound.

I’ll tell you though if you decide to go into window washing of skyscraper windows, I am not going to compete with you. I think at this point I’d rather keep my feet on the ground and maybe focus on giving historical walking tours.

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.

Prefab Home Sales/Construction

A private equity firm that I was involved with invested in a prefab home construction business.

This is a powerful business concept. By doing much of the house construction process in a fully equipped, controllable environment, the building process can be much more efficient. Furthermore, by using prebuilt modules, a builder can still construct a gorgeous customized house.

You can get involved in this business by building the prefab homes or modules yourself, or as a housing contractor using prefab modules. I am amazed at some of the huge, luxurious homes that I have visited that were built using modular construction.

I do want to mention that the prefab home construction business that we invested in was significantly undercapitalized and ran into problems during a sharp downturn in the real estate market. The lesson here is that especially in highly cyclical businesses like real estate you should try to be well capitalized and reduce expenses quickly if your revenue starts to fall.

Coffee Business

I notice an increasing amount of independent coffee brands on supermarket shelves and no wonder – everyone likes a different coffee. It is very doable to start your own coffee brand.

business idea coffee business
As you can see I drink a ton of coffee and I’m always trying new brands including smaller ones. It’s no wonder this is a booming business.

It’s also fairly easy to get some local independent stores to try it. You might want to consider clearly identifying your coffee with where you are based to make it easier both to get into local stores and to help differentiate yourself to local customers.

You’ve got to really perfect not just your coffee, but also your packaging, and your pricing, before you place your product at stores – because if it doesn’t sell it will be difficult to get the stores to give you a second chance.

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.

Flea Market Vendor

This could be a lot of fun, playing store merchant every now and then, by getting a space at a flea market. There are general flea markets to attend, plus more specialized ones. For example, being a model railroad buff, I notice the many model railroad vendors who travel to model railroad shows around the northeast, selling new or used model railroad supplies.

Many of these vendors take this business very seriously and earn a good full time living at it. Some use it as a way to supplement and promote their online store. You could make your own items to sell, trade used items, or sell new items that you buy wholesale. The options are endless.

Even if you have another venue to sell your goods, such as online, taking space at a flea market may be highly beneficial. Here you not only get to sell your goods but you get to interact and get feedback in person from people who are interested in buying your products.

Banquet Facility

In Boston one of the very best high skyscraper restaurant locations was taken over by a banquet facility company. The owner of this business grew up in the restaurant business and after watching all the issues his family went through in that business, he thought the banquet facility route was a more attractive business to pursue.

A banquet facility is an interesting alternative to the often difficult restaurant business. You get to match your labor and food costs closely to your income. The hours of operation are fewer. And it’s a much less stressful business.

Furthermore if business should be slow you can go out and sell groups and make deals to fill up your space. If your area isn’t saturated with banquet facilities this could be a great option to opening up a full service restaurant.

Trophy Engraving Service

This is another great “personalization” business. Historically this business has been conducted out of local store fronts but today you could run the business online from your home.

business idea trophy engraving
You might be surprised how much money there is in the trophy business

The market for this is overwhelmingly youth sports clubs but you could also try to sell to corporations, adult sports clubs and others. Do the usual digital marketing but consider a targeted outreach by email or on LinkedIn to decision makers at organizations you want to connect with.

This business is a great candidate for starting part time. You can start small and then ramp up your promotion and your customer base at your own pace.

Lawn Service

Yes, I know I already included landscaping business on this list but I wanted to list lawn service separately, just to emphasize this very simple business. Some people might laugh at this business but I can tell you that you can make big money cutting small lawns!

You can start with one mower cutting your neighbor’s yard and expand it from there. I think it’s amazing how much a reliable lawn mowing service can charge. And I will tell you there are some entrepreneurs running lawn mowing services who are making more money than many of the senior executives at some large corporations.

For a little help in finding customers consider my course Develop a Complete Marketing Plan for Under $2k. I include an extensive marketing plan for a lawn cutting service in this course. You can try this and all the other BusinessTown courses for free.

Personal Concierge

Where did all the time go? For the many people who just don’t feel they have enough time to do it all, a personal concierge is a great solution. Busy people will pay a premium to have a dependable and trustworthy person who can run a wide variety of their errands.

Senior citizens, busy executives, even working parents all could benefit from a personal concierge. You might start this service by offering simple errands. And then perhaps you later expand your services to offer more complex tasks like making travel and entertainment arrangements.

Maybe you’ll even take on some of the household management responsibilities such as coordinating household contractors, babysitters etc.

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.

Airbnb Hosting

Do you have an extra room in your house or condo? You could rent it out by the day like the Airbnb model, or you could rent it by the week, or you could rent it by the month. Then maybe you could use the income to help subsidize your expenses as you start another business!

business idea air bnb
Here’s a picture of an upscale multi level apartment that I rented for a bachelor party in Montreal.

It may not be the primary business that you want to be focusing on long term – but it may be an easy way to get your feet wet with your own business.

You could just list your room or apartments on established websites like Airbnb. Or you could save the fee by promoting it yourself with your own website and using some basic online digital marketing.

You don’t need a fancy house or apartment to get going. One of my friends does quite well renting out a basement apartment – and makes enough money to be able to travel around the world for a couple months each year.

Home Health Care Service

This is a good solid service business. But it is competitive, you need to have fully qualified service providers, and you need to get licensed. No matter how good a service you run, when you deal with the elderly especially there is always legal risk. You can mitigate the risk by incorporating, by getting insurance and by being sure your staff follows accepted medical protocols.

One of my friends has his own home health care service franchise. You can make a great income in this business over time. And you don’t need to buy a franchise to do it.

In this business very few customers are going to choose a home health care service just on price. Other factors can be very important. Factors such as the perceived quality of the service providers, the professionalism of the business and the trustworthiness. You can go a long way to convey these important attributes on your website. And then you can reinforce them as you respond to inquiries and make follow up calls by being as professional, courteous and well informed as possible.

Interior Room Painting/Wallpapering

Interior room painting or wallpapering lends itself to part time work better than exterior house painting. Often a homeowner wants just one room done. And you are not weather dependent—so you know you will be able to get a job done on Saturday for example, come rain or shine. As your experience grows you can charge a lot of money for quality interior painting and wallpapering.

When I had my College Painters summer business we contracted with a builder of luxury condominiums to paint and wallpaper some of their units. Since myself and my small crew had no idea how to wallpaper, my mother gave us a quick one hour crash course. It’s not that hard to do a basic wallpapering job.

But unlike me, I suggest you get a little practice under your belt before you start wallpapering brand new luxury condos. To do really top tier wall papering and interior room painting will take a little bit of experience. And don’t forget to use drop cloths!

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.

Chef for Hire

This is a take-off on the catering business that makes it clear that you aren’t going to provide the dishes or the food. You just do the cooking.

Being a chef for hire is about the easiest way to get started in the food service business. You don’t even need to buy a fork!

In this business be careful not to bite off more than you can chew! If you advertise yourself as “gourmet chef for hire” as opposed to “outdoor hotdog catering” people will have different expectations.

So decide what meals you can really impress your clients with and stick to those. Consider putting together a website featuring the foods that you know you can really impress with.

Because so much of the demand is on the weekends this can be a great part time gig. Then if it starts to fly you can consider starting a full fledged catering service.

To find out more about starting a business, start streaming the courses on BusinessTown including Start-a-Business 101. You can try BusinessTown for free.

Massage Service

A friend and I went out to dinner with the owner and an employee from a massage service on Cape Cod. We had an awesome meal and ran up a large bill. But the restaurant owner refused to let us pay a penny of it! She and her staff worked long hours on their feet and were deeply appreciative customers of the massage service.

The point is that people really love massages! And not just people who work on their feet all day like waiters and waitresses! It’s a big business.

To get started you can offer your services through existing spas, health clubs, hotels or guest houses. When you’re ready for your first location you don’t need anything fancy. My friend leases a fairly simple facility with no fancy build out even though he’s been running a successful massage business with several employees for a number of years.

But like he did, you can add some simple touches to make for a relaxing environment. Such as repainting the walls, playing soothing music and using incense to create a pleasing aroma. For this business you need a great personal “touch.” And importantly that includes being really friendly and outgoing with your clients before and after the massage.

Cosmetic Sales

A ton of women are selling cosmetics as a simple side gig and so can you by selling cosmetics to co-workers, friends and neighbors. Maybe have a party sales event. Give it a shot and see if you can develop traction!

Or if you are feeling a little bit more ambitious think about selling your cosmetics online. You’ll need to build your story, present the products really well and learn the basics of digital marketing.

And if you’re feeling even more ambitious why not start your own product line? Revlon, currently with over $2B in sales, was started in 1932 by two brothers and a chemist who developed a new nail polish. Initially one of the brothers painted his nails to better present their nail polish to their first customers – department stores and pharmacies. Within 13 years Revlon was the #2 cosmetic company in sales in the US.

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.


What are the best service business ideas?

  • 1.  Dog Walking
  • 2.  Moving Company
  • 3.  Car Detailing
  • 4.  eBay Selling Service
  • 5.  Tutoring
  • 6.  Landscaping
  • 7.  Photography
  • 8.  Bicycle Rentals
  • 9.  Consulting
  • 10.  Social Media
  • 11.  Resume Writing
  • 12.  Personal Trainer
  • 13.  Bed & Breakfast
  • 14.  Cleaning Business
  • 15.  Tour Operator

For most people I recommend a service business. Service businesses are generally easier to start, less competitive and easier to succeed in than other types of businesses. To learn more, start streaming the courses on BusinessTown including Start-a-Business 101. You can try BusinessTown for free.


Medical Supply/Medical Store

The medical supply industry is booming as people are increasingly willing to spend money on their health and as the population ages. But because the industry is large and booming there is plenty of competition and some competitors such as the large pharmacy chains are particularly well established.

So whether you are starting a medical supply company or a medical supply store you want to research market needs carefully and then come up with your plan and your strategy. I would suggest talking with some market participants before you embark on this business.

business idea medical supply
There’s a lot of money in the medical supply business and a lot of competition. So really nail down your business plan before you start! This medical supply store near me does a thriving business.

You could operate this business totally online. But it’s also a good candidate for a local storefront especially for people who may need a little help or advice with their medical equipment or supplies.


Twice I have heard Jim Koch talk about how he founded Sam Adams beer on a shoestring and built it into a multi billion dollar brand. It’s an inspiring story! He was doing well as a young management consultant but decided he wanted to start his own brewery and make a much higher quality beer than was available at the time.

So he put away his fancy suit jacket and began personally visiting bars around Boston to try to persuade them to sell his new beer.


beer company
Schilling Beer company situated their brewery/restaurant in this awesome old mill building right on the river in Littleton New Hampshire.

If you’re totally into beer it can be a lot of fun. But it’s a lot of work too. First you need a brewmaster with deep expertise. Then you have to get your beer taste to be very distinctive and very pleasing. You need consistent quality. You need to stand out versus the many other small brewers, build a clientele, and arrange for transportation.

However the upside is the market for craft beers today is huge. And established beer distributors are much more willing to take on smaller labels.

Dance Instructor

One of my friend’s mothers who had performed as a Radio City Rockette, founded a dance studio for young girls. She ran the business for many years and grew it into a significant size business, leasing a commercial space for her studio.

Over time she developed a great reputation and attracted most of her clientele by word of mouth. She also helped put together dance/ballet performances at some local schools, building awareness of her business. In fact I once performed in a “Coal Miner’s Dance” that she put together for young boys.

If you are starting really small you could try starting this business out of your home. But unless you are in a commercially zoned neighborhood you are taking some risk with the zoning board. On the other hand renting space on an hourly basis – such as from a school, church or YMCA – might be easier and less expensive than you think.

To find out more about starting this business – or any other business – see my course Start-a-Business 101. You can start watching this course and all the other courses on BusinessTown for free.

Sport Fishing Charter Boat

Getting started in the sport fishing charter business may not be as expensive and difficult as you think. Unless you are going into particularly rough waters you don’t need to start with a large cabin boat. A large center console outboard should work out fine – just watch the weather forecasts.

business idea sport fishing
Make sure your boat is in compliance with all the appropriate regulations. In this picture the US Coast Guard has stopped my little power boat for a safety inspection.

Furthermore, you can finance much of your purchase. And if your fishing skills are a little weak, hire a boat hand with some strong local fishing knowledge. In the right location, you can charge some serious money in this business.

Interestingly at the car rental business that I patronized earlier today the owner had a picture on the wall of himself in a small charter fishing boat – along with a 500 pound tuna he had just landed.

Damage Restoration Service

Damage restoration might involve residential, commercial or industrial properties.It’s messy, dirty work that must be meticulously done, and done by someone dependable. That means it can be a high margin business. That also means it’s the kind of business where customers are not just going to go with the lowest bid.

Because it’s a high trust business you’re going to probably have to start small, build your experience, and develop a list of satisfied customers before you can start making proposals for complete house restorations and corporate work. Making connections with insurance companies can go a long way to jump start this business.

Another thing to keep in mind is that customers usually prefer a complete restoration service rather than having to hire different vendors for different aspects of the work. So consider putting together as complete a service as you can – even if initially you have to contract out much of the actual work to other firms.

Building Maintenance Service

There are a lot of building maintenance services that don’t require an electrician or a plumber and can be done by someone with basic handyman skills. You could provide that service for commercial, industrial or multi-family housing units. You could also have highly skilled people such as plumbers and electricians on call that you can provide when they are needed.

Your customers may be property management services or the building owners themselves. Often they will be commercial leaseholders who are usually responsible for their own maintenance.

You could start out with no staff at all. Perhaps you do the very simplest repairs yourself and everything else you contract out. Then over time you might add some part-time or full time employees with specialized skills allowing you to reduce your costs and increase your profit margin. This is the kind of business you could do very well with over time, but it will take a while to land a lot of customers, to set up a good list of contractors and to perfect your pricing and profitability.

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.

Turf Equipment Sales and Service

What guy wouldn’t like to have his own rider lawn mower to drive around on Saturdays? Lawn and related equipment can run into big bucks and that’s just to buy them. Then they will cost more to service and maintain. And that’s great news for you if you’re thinking about getting into the turf equipment business.

business idea turf equipment
There is a lot of money in selling and servicing turf equipment.

Now you can do a turf equipment business by itself. You can narrowly define it. Or you can also include related products such as snow removal equipment. Near my summer home the turf equipment dealer also sold and serviced outboard motors. I bet the same mechanics fixed both of them. And I bet there was a strong overlap between their turf equipment customers and their outboard motor customers.

With this business you could start with just service or with just sales. You could also sell used equipment.

Cupcake Business

There’s something magical about a cupcake that says fun and silliness and makes you feel good! You can cash in on that feeling and make others happy. But if you are specializing in cupcakes, people expect them to be excellent! And if you want to be remembered, they should be world class awesome!

For cupcakes especially being world class awesome is not just how they taste – it’s also how they look. Make sure they both taste and look fantastic.

Then especially because cupcakes are small, they need to be displayed well, whether you are selling them online or at a storefront. Make sure the whole display and any photos of it echo the feeling you are trying to create.

So why not have a little fun with a cupcake business? To learn how to get started see my course Start-a-Business 101. You can try this course and all the other courses on BusinessTown for free.

Assisted Living/Nursing Home

You may think of nursing homes as large, institutional type buildings but many assisted living facilities or nursing homes are much smaller. As my father continued to age, we felt he wasn’t getting enough attention in a large assisted living facility so we moved him to a much smaller one.

This facility was housed in a single family house in a suburban neighborhood. There were just 6 patients and typically 1-3 staff members on duty. It was fabulous for my father. The staff gave him lots of attention and did everything they could to make him as comfortable as possible.

I was deeply appreciative of the entrepreneur who ran this business and I was happy to be able to meet her and express my gratitude. That’s one of the most awesome things about having your own business – to be able to make a real positive difference in people’s lives!

Tree Service

Tree services charge a lot of money for their work. One reason is that this can be dangerous work so you need to know what you are doing and take careful safety precautions. The demand can be somewhat sporadic. For example after a heavy/high wind storm that causes a lot of tree damage, everyone has tree work that they want to have done immediately.

Don’t take on a job that is over your head–and don’t be afraid to ask someone more experienced to help when you need it. You could limit your service to jobs that can be performed from a certain height. For example my gutter cleaner has printed right on his business card that he will only work up to a height of 30’.

You can also rent lift trucks, trucks to dispose of trees, wood choppers and other equipment on a day to day basis as you need it. If you don’t have experience when you are getting started you may want to limit your work to tree removal – chopping up and carting off trees that have already fallen.

However you approach this business it is dangerous work. The tenant in a two family house I owned cut himself while running his own tree service. He recovered completely but his accident is a reminder of the need to be very careful.

Cigar Shop

Cigar shops can bring in decent and steady revenue. Better yet the profit margins are good – very good. So you can be very profitable without hitting sky high sales levels. This is a relatively easy business without too many headaches.

But choose your location carefully…and beware that some towns and cities are becoming highly restrictive on cigar retailers.

business idea cigar store
A classic approach to a cigar shop is to sell cigars plus some small luxury gift items for men. Or like Jack’s smoke shop you can offer a more diverse line of smoking and other products.

Some cigar shops also offer a small cigar lounge – with a strong air purification system. Again the regulations vary, but I notice that some localities are more lenient in allowing a small cigar lounge in establishments that are primarily retail cigar sellers.

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.

Weight Loss Program

You could do this business basically online. Any food products the participants need you can deliver by mail or UPS. If you want to add a personal touch to weight loss counseling you can do live video such as Zoom calls with your clients.

Some customers will still prefer to go to a storefront weight loss center. Perhaps it will bring more of a sense of commitment and seriousness to the weight loss process.

The business models vary from a mixture of fees to just making money from selling prepackaged food. You want to help your customers lose weight. But what is much more important for them and for you is that they feel great about themselves. So do not set unrealistic expectations. And cheer them on and celebrate every little bit of progress.

To be able to make people happy is priceless. And it’s also good for creating raving fans and building good word of mouth for your business.

Tailoring Service

Putting on a little weight, let the suit out. Losing a little weight, pull it back in. Then those new pants never seem to come in my short size, so they need to go to the tailor too! You might not be able to live at the penthouse condominium at the Ritz Carlton, but you should have a good steady income as a tailor.

I’ve taken my clothes to tailors a number of times and while they give off an air of being very humble, they also seem to be busy. I took a jacket that lost a couple buttons to a local tailor six months ago and he fixed it within 5 minutes. How much do I owe you I asked? He responded “Pay me whatever you want.” I paid him well.

To get your tailoring business going consider approaching some local clothing stores and offer to provide tailoring services for the store directly. Even if you have to offer a little lower than your usual rate it might provide you with some good income to get started with.

Financial Aid Consultant

Private schools and private colleges and universities can cost a fortune! Yet by carefully evaluating a family’s resources, reviewing school choices, assessing school financial aid offerings, and by exploring outside scholarships, a talented financial aid consultant could help a student attend a school that was previously viewed as completely unaffordable.

This is another field that you might initially not consider because you don’t have related experience – but you don’t need it. If you can help people fund their education with good alternatives and clearly understand and be able to explain everything that is involved – that’s all that matters.

If you‘ve figured out how to finance education for your own kids, you are already on the road to becoming a financial aid consultant. Then next go out and carefully research the financing alternatives so you can do as good a job as possible for your clients.

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.


What are the best product business ideas?

  • 1.  Clothing Line
  • 2.  Jewelry Making
  • 3.  Custom T-Shirts
  • 4.  Craft Business
  • 5.  Subscription Box
  • 6.  Import/Export
  • 7.  Gift Baskets
  • 8.  Candle Making
  • 9.  Shoe/Sneaker Business
  • 10.  Furniture Making
  • 11.  Vintage Toy Maker
  • 12.  Pet Clothing
  • 13.  Building Decks/Playhouses
  • 14.  Soaps & Lotions
  • 15.  Hat Making

I love product businesses. It is so cool to create a tangible item. Generally product businesses are somewhat riskier than service businesses, but the upside can be incredible. To learn more, start streaming the courses on BusinessTown including Start-a-Business 101. You can try BusinessTown for free.


Vacuum Cleaner Repair

This is a good steady service business. On the street where my summer house is on Cape Cod for many, many years there was a house that had a sign out front for vacuum cleaner repair. This was particularly interesting because this street had long ago been zoned residential – yet this sole business was “grandfathered in” by the zoning board since it was in existence before the zoning was changed.

To get started in vacuum cleaner repair, you don’t have to handle every single brand or every single repair. Some people have made a go of it just repairing one single brand. You can study manufacturer’s repair guides or watch instructional videos to get going.

business idea vacuum sewing
This combination sewing and vacuum center near me is not an example of two businesses I would recommend putting together. Often I see entrepreneurs making the mistake of combining or adding unrelated businesses.

If you want to start this business on a really low overhead and your home is not on a commercially zoned street you may want to consider offering mobile vacuum cleaner repair. You could make simple repairs immediately on the customer’s premises. And for more extensive repairs, you could take the vacuum back to your home shop.

Jewelry Making Classes

If you can make jewelry you can teach jewelry classes. You could offer classes for kids or for adults. You can even offer jewelry making parties for couples where each couple makes “his” and “her” matching jewelry items. You could offer classes in your home or in a rented space.

You can also teach jewelry classes online, including offering one-on-one lessons. If you do this consider sending the student all of the materials they will need in advance.

One of the great things about jewelry is that it appeals to all age levels. You can adjust the type of jewelry to be made to fit the age and interests of the audience. Furthermore everyone can add some individuality to their own piece.

To teach entry level jewelry classes you don’t need to be a world class jeweler. You just have to make sure that you can master the projects that the individuals in the class are working on. And you need to be friendly and patient with your clientele.

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.

Outplacement Service

The bigger market for this is companies hiring outplacement services for employees they have laid off or fired. Companies hire outplacement services to help out their ex-employees, to show current employees that they are compassionate and to decrease the chances of wrongful termination lawsuits.

An outplacement service is distinct from an employment agency because your first responsibility is to the job seeker not to the hiring employer.

It will be a lot easier to land your first assignments if you have some related experience, such as having worked in HR or at an employment agency. The real reward in this business comes when you win an assignment to outplace hundreds or thousands of employees that are laid off in a large corporate business reorganization. Contracts with government agencies are common too.

Food Coop

While you may want to operate your food coop on a nonprofit basis you still should apply good business principles to make sure your coop succeeds and serves its members as well as it can.

That means you first want to understand basic principles of how to start and run a business. A business plan is especially important so that you can develop and share a common vision with other key coop members.

Even though you might be starting a nonprofit food coop you can still make good money at it. You can pay yourself a reasonable salary. In the US, the IRS has several criteria for determining what a reasonable salary is for running a nonprofit including what people running similar nonprofits and for profits are being paid.

Pet Sitting

What could be easier? You sit in a chair and watch the dog chase its tail! OK so there’s a little more work to it than that, but still this is not the toughest job in the world–especially if you like animals! I am surprised to hear how much money people will pay for pet sitters if they believe their pets are being really well cared for.

People really would prefer not to drop their pet at a big kennel or pet store to be looked after. They want someone who cares for their pet. So be eager to pet their animal and be friendly with the customer. A well thought out area for the pets including some highly visible “play” equipment can help.

Another nice addition to consider is a live video feed so the pet owner can feel confident that you are offering the best care possible.

business idea pet sitting
How hard can it be to watch Radcliffe sit in the corner of the couch wrapped up in his blanket? This is an example of how running your own business may be easier than you thought.

There are other details to this business too – like you should have a contract that lays down in writing the limit of your responsibility for the pets, what happens if the pet becomes injured, and what fees might apply if the pet is not picked up on time.

To learn more about starting a Pet Sitting service – or any business – start streaming the courses on BusinessTown.

Tax Preparation Service

People hate to do their taxes and are happy to pay to have someone else do them. If you are handling basic returns for individuals, not businesses, you don’t need to be an accountant. And there are software packages you can get to help you process the returns. But you will have to learn how to use them and you will have to become comfortable with carefully calculating taxes and working with your clients.

To brush up on your tax preparer skills you could take a course. Then in the US you will have to register with the IRS as a professional tax preparer. This is a seasonal business. But I have seen some people make good money at it – often working it as a part time gig.

If you want to expand this business the first thing I might think about adding would be a bookkeeping service for small businesses and entrepreneurs. You may even be able to provide this service online. A bookkeeping service is a more steady year round business – a good balance to a tax prep business.

Porta Potty Rental Service

Not everyone wants to tell people that their business is porta potties! That’s OK, you can make good money doing this business. The key is being willing to go out and sell your services to prospective organizations. Once you line up a customer your chance of landing repeat business is huge.

One of the problems is demand is erratic. If you can’t service higher demand periods you risk losing business and alienating your customers. If you have plenty of capacity so that you can service peak periods then you will have a lot more porta potties sitting idle during the non peak periods.

There are all kinds of ways to market this service. You can set up your digital marketing and let customers come to you. Or you can target likely customers such as schools, sporting leagues and outside event sponsors. You can reach out to prospects with emails and phone calls.

Local Daily Deals Website

Getting great deals from local merchants is the key to making this business happen. By getting a steady flow of great deals you will find it easy to attract traffic to your website with both new and repeat visitors. And if the deals are good enough the local merchants will get a great stream of business and come back for more.

You could charge merchants a flat rate for listing their deals on your website. Or you could sell discount coupons to the public and keep a portion of the proceeds. Either way the income potential is significant. But to succeed in this business you are going to have to venture out and sell local merchants in person – I’ve done it – if you have a good product it’s not as hard as it might seem.

It’s going to take some energy and enthusiasm to sell merchants on the concept. And it’s going to take some effort with digital marketing to get a lot of traffic to your website – and you are going to need a lot of traffic to make it work. But the upside in this business could be significant if you can pull it all together.

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.

Toy Shop

People like to shop at independent stores and especially independent toy stores. My town is fairly small and we have an independently owned toy that does well. But there are a lot of other places people can buy toys so you’ve got to manage it well and watch your expenses. And I would certainly start with a small space until you get a feel for your local market.

business idea toy shop
This independent toy store has long thrived in my small town.

Since your audience will be relatively small you will need to be constantly changing your inventory so you can keep your store looking fresh and be able to sell different items to the same customers.

A toy store is perfect for digital marketing. You can pinpoint your online advertising for example to the parents of school age children in your town. And you can put together a mailing list of customers and send them information on new products and promotions.

This business could be so much fun I’m tempted to open a toy shop myself! To learn more about how to start a Toy Shop – or any other business – see the courses on BusinessTown including Start-a-Business 101. You can try BusinessTown for free.

Cooking Class Business

Cooking classes have become much more than just a way to instruct people in cooking. They have become more of a social event where for example, couples enjoy a cooking class together, get to meet some other people, enjoy sampling the food they cook, perhaps try some fine wine, and have a great experience. So carefully define whether you are selling the expertise, the experience, or both, and build your business model accordingly.

I can’t really cook at all and that’s probably why people have persuaded me to go to cooking classes. I took a cooking class at a culinary institute, a cooking class at a kitchenware store and a class on how to make vintage cocktails at a bar/restaurant. Each experience was terrific. And it seems like a great business – and one you could do part time.

Cooking classes are also a good way for both restaurants and catering services to develop an extra revenue stream on slower weekday nights.

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.

Locksmith Service/Professional Safecracker

I hate being locked out! And I hate how much money I have to pay a locksmith! Let alone how much I have to pay to have locks changed or a better lock system installed! Wouldn’t it be nice to be receiving this money instead of paying it out? Not only is there a constant need for this service, but with more elaborate door systems there is more room for upselling your customers—wouldn’t it be cool to have a keyless lock system?

This business is going to take longer to learn than a lot of other businesses on this list. You could train to become a locksmith in about 3 months. But to be able to do more advanced projects you might need several years of training or course work.

As you go to plan out your locksmith business there are a number of specialties you could focus on. You could offer a specialty exclusively or just make it something you give extra effort to promoting. For example you could specialize in simple apartment and home lockouts or business customers. You could focus on keyless entry systems. You could also get involved with selling or servicing alarm systems.

If you really want to get into a very very very tiny niche you could even become a professional safecracker. I once had a job applicant who told me that her husband was a professional safecracker. He had learned the trade from his father. She said the typical customer was a bank that had lost the combination to its safe. She said that in the US there were a total of six professional safecrackers – now that’s a niche business. And not an easy one to learn. Me – I think I’d rather stay with dog walking!

Image Consultant

Like it or not, people tend to judge you instantly on that first impression! That’s why so many executives and business owners consider hiring an image consultant. If you have a good sense of dress and appearance, this could be a good business for you!

In this business not only do you have to specialize, but you have to be known for a certain kind of look. Before you decide what kind of look you want to promote, what kind of style you want to position your business around, I would get feedback from your friends and people in your target market. Don’t just dive in with your own personal favorite style.

This is another topic that I know there’s a lot of interest in because my book publishing company sold a lot of copies of a couple books we did on this topic. Our books focused on presenting a professional image in the workplace.

Merchandise Demonstration Business

When product companies want to push new or revamped products they may hire merchandise demonstration businesses to quickly get the word out. For example they may want to hire demonstrators to show how to use their new coffee maker at food stores or answer questions about a new industrial product at trade shows.

Most simply a merchandise demonstrator may pass out food or beverage samples at a supermarket. Or even on a street corner.

business idea dpt store
This large multi level retail store I visited in Mexico with plenty of store traffic is the kind of place where you frequently see merchandise demonstrators. If you go into this business you will usually be contracted by the product companies not by the stores.

Merchandise demonstration businesses are often hired to assist and supplement in house staff at trade shows. One big advantage of this is that the product company saves a lot of money by not having to pay for travel and lodging to bring their own people.

This can be a great business with good margins. But it may take you a while to build up a clientele.

Fruit and Vegetable Business

With people getting increasingly health conscious and more interested in eating locally grown food there are several business opportunities for you. The most obvious and simplest is growing some fruit and vegetables and either selling them to a local market or selling them at your own stand on the side of the road.

Another opportunity is to set up a roadside or in-town food stand to sell merchandise that you purchase from farmers. Still another is to wholesale goods from local farmers into area restaurants.

The tagline on this truck suggests that this fruit & vegetable delivery business owner has a sense of humor! Why not have a little fun with your business?

One of the more interesting opportunities is like a subscription business model. You sell “shares” of a farm’s produce or certain types of produce to individual households offering perhaps a monthly or even weekly delivery. This option lends itself more to online promotion.

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.


What are the best food business ideas?

  • 1.  Coffee Shop
  • 2.  Food Truck
  • 3.  Catering
  • 4.  Ice Cream Shop
  • 5.  Chocolatier/Gourmet Candy
  • 6.  Wine Bar
  • 7.  Cafe/Sandwich Shop
  • 8.  Cookie Making
  • 9.  Meal Preparation
  • 10.  Craft Beer Pub
  • 11.  Home Based Pizza
  • 12.  All Day Breakfast
  • 13.  Martini Bar
  • 14.  Gourmet Jam
  • 15.  Smoothies/Juice Bar

I like some food businesses much more than others – you may notice that full service restaurants did not make this list. For more on starting a business see my course Start-a-Business 101. You can start watching this course and all the other courses on BusinessTown for free.


Design Website Themes

A website theme business can be highly profitable. However it is one of the most highly competitive businesses on this list. The barriers to entry are very low. Many website themes are highly similar to one another. In a nutshell the market is saturated. So even if you do everything right in starting this business, it might still be difficult to succeed. Nonetheless I wanted to include the business on this list because I know it is a popular idea and I wanted to share my perspective on it.

One issue is that you are competing directly with developers from developing countries who are willing to sell their work for very low prices. Another issue is that you are competing with subscription services like Envato that allow people access to multiple design themes for one low price.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t make a go of this business. But it does mean it will be more difficult than some less competitive, more service oriented businesses. To start, find a niche. Consider for example looking at Google trends to try to find a new and emerging opportunity.

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.