You needn’t focus on big ventures to earn big bucks: The SME sector is currently thriving, and this guide to small-town business ideas will show how you can build your success story.
With 30 fantastic options for small-town startups included, the guide should provide something for everyone. Let’s get started.
The growth of eCommerce opportunities has opened the door for SMEs to target a global audience. However, small-town communities can be a breeding ground for profitable businesses that don’t need a worldwide reach to thrive.
Instead, small-town startups allow you to tap into a concentrated local audience, keeping your shipping expenses down, while capitalizing on your knowledge of their pain points to generate greater conversions. Many entrepreneurs who take this path also enjoy a better work-life balance.
Statistics back up the anecdotal advantages:
Furthermore, 2022 promises to be a hopeful year for small towns and their businesses, as we seem to be at the start of “a positive cycle of greater economic vibrancy in small towns and rural America, leading to more people wanting to move and start businesses in small towns.” In short, if you are looking for business ideas, small-town startups have become a standout choice. If you want to launch one - now is the time.
There are plenty of unique business ideas to consider for your small-town venture, but your first priority is to align them with your needs. The following questions can be used for analyzing any candidates:
If your small-town business venture can tick all of the above boxes and feels right for you, there’s every chance it will deliver positive returns.
Earning in a small town isn’t reserved for mom-and-pop shops with decades of history. In fact, entrepreneurs from various backgrounds and across multiple industries can make use of these top 30 ideas for a thriving business:
There are almost 150,000 single-location full-service restaurant businesses in the US, and it is arguably the most obvious business idea of all. Eating out is the perfect way to celebrate special occasions or take a break from the monotony of modern life. Visitors from other places need a place to eat in your small town, too. You can cater to these needs, either with a fine-dining spot, food stand with homemade specialties, or something else entirely.
When opening family restaurants, though, small-town entrepreneurs need to account for the existing eateries in the area. Finding a gap in the market, perhaps serving the type of foods you look for when going out of town, can work wonders. And don’t forget to add a takeout option!
Coffee shops account for over 37,000 businesses in the U.S., and most of them don’t belong to major franchises. The thousands of small chains and independent coffee shops testify that opening a coffee place might be the best business for people in small towns. After all, the average person drinks nearly two cups of coffee per day, meaning there is a considerable opportunity for regular customers.
A coffee shop can also sell snacks and become a place for digital nomads to work. With the right interior design, your setting can transform into a bar for the evenings. By working the daytime and evening crowds, you should have an excellent chance of success. However, catering to both audiences will be more costly, as you’ll have to get a liquor license, employ more people, etc.
Those with more funds at their disposal might consider what franchises in their small towns are for sale. An already established name brand often comes with the advantage of a built-in customer base. Many other aspects of the business will already be settled, too. Over 10% of all companies in America are franchises, and you could become part of this thriving market.
Home decorating is incredibly lucrative. As a small-town contractor, you can focus on painting, interior design, assembling furniture, or offer a full-service package for redecorating. If you can help homeowners or landlords get that dream home, or hike up their property prices, respectively, there should be no shortage of work. After all, Americans spend over $400 billion on home renovations each year. You can also look at roofing and double glazing installations as alternative services in this arena.
The fact that you don't need a commercial office can save you a lot of money, too. Outside of that, your biggest concerns would be getting all the business permits from your small town’s local licensing office and finding a way to spread the word about your new venture.
People need accountants to handle their personal and business financial matters, particularly their tax returns. It is one of the many service-based businesses that thrive despite the rise of online accounting solutions. Most people prefer a local company and people they can talk to in person to trust with their finances. As long as you provide excellent client support and genuine compassion, this is a phenomenal opportunity to earn big.
In fact, the average accountant can expect to earn $70,000+ per year. Of course, this is only possible when you have the necessary skills and qualifications. Nonetheless, if you’ve relocated to a rural area or no longer wish to commute for your current accountancy role, starting a firm of your own can work wonders. You only need a few clients to thrive.
A lot of small-town entrepreneurs may look down on the prospect of opening a cleaning company. However, this industry is expected to show an average CAGR of 6.5% in the following decade. Moreover, it’s a career you can start with minimal experience and without significant expenses. You simply need the cleaning equipment and transportation.
Cleaning companies may offer services for home, office, and commercial cleaning, or various other niches. The desire to maintain cleanliness is at an all-time high in the wake of the pandemic, and most clients will require repeat services. Whether it’s a weekly visit to their shop or a monthly visit to a residential property, their value to you will be tremendous.
Every driver loves their vehicle, but they will inevitably face a few maintenance issues from time to time. Small-town businesses in this arena can include mobile mechanic services and local garages. Either way, you can make good money from completing regular repairs or annual servicing.
There is also a chance to gain a markup from the spare parts you use. A car mechanic can make around $69,000 per year, while the owner of a larger service may see even bigger returns. A small-town car repair shop could create a monopoly in your local area, especially once the community trusts you to get the job done and not rob them blind. This is the foundation for sustained success.
While restaurants are great, they will tie you to one spot. With the right strategy in place, starting a small-town food truck business may be the better solution. It offers you the chance to participate in local events, move your business to the areas that attract the most foot traffic as the seasons change, and even look for opportunities in surrounding towns. This flexibility can help you overcome many problems.
On the other hand, starting a food truck business will require you to master marketing and know your audience. However, if you have a passion for a specific cuisine, it can be your ticket to quick and sustained success. Once you’ve built your reputation in the local area, happy customers will keep coming back for more.
Ride-hailing services have been a popular small-business idea for generations, and the digital age has transformed this arena for the better. You can now start a small taxi company in your rural area or look to join an existing service like Uber or Lyft. This gives you multiple options to choose from and allows you to take on as much responsibility as you can handle.
The taxi industry market share has grown with a CAGR of 8.8%; this has much to do with the fact that many people want to avoid public transportation in the pandemic world. Your service could include minibus driving for airport transport, company events, or social activities like bachelor and bachelorette nights.
If your small town attracts many tourists or business visitors, you can take advantage of this with an Airbnb business. If you own an unused property, it is a potentially lucrative environment to break into. The expansion to using two or more properties is straightforward too.
The number of domestic vacations booked by Americans is far higher than before. The industry has been stabilizing recently, and you’ll only need to fill the property for a part of the month to cover mortgage and business costs.
Everyone needs some professional hair and beauty time occasionally. Small-town entrepreneurs can open up their own salon or share the space with another local business owner. Alternatively, your business can be mobile - you can visit clients in their homes and render your services there, thus saving plenty in overhead costs for space. This can be particularly beneficial in rural areas.
As a hairstylist or beauty technician, you still have to analyze your small-business competition to ensure there is enough demand to accommodate another service or expert. Assuming that there is, you can start earning money immediately. All you need is a toolset, and potentially rental space, and you’ll be good to go.
People in your small town will be eager to have someone look after their pets. Pet grooming accounts for 42% of all pet care services, so this will naturally be the best place to start. However, you can also look at dog walking, cat sitting, and related services to boost your returns.
Even if you live in a small town with just a few thousand residents, there will be hundreds of potential clients for you to reach. If starting a salon is too expensive, you could run the venture from your home or consider a mobile service where you visit clients. If you struggle to create a regular flow of customers in your small town, you can serve people in surrounding towns, too.
They say necessity is the mother of all inventions. Therefore, you should ask: “What business does every small town need?” A reliable convenience store is easily one of the top items on the list, as grocery stores comprise over one-third of all brick-and-mortar stores. Of course, your town will already have some. But if there’s a location where adding a grocery store could attract many customers, embrace it.
You might be most familiar with 7-11, but independent stores dominate 60% of this market. They are also one of the easiest businesses to start, because you know that there is a market for them - even if there’s one nearby, convenience stores can never be too close to home. When you also sell gas, they can be one of the best rural town business ideas.
A career in personal training can be appealing for many reasons. It is one of several business ideas that help the community, as you would be helping clients live healthy lives. Not to mention that getting paid to stay fit and connect with people is wonderful.
The average annual salary of a personal trainer is over $68,000, and you can add to your earnings by becoming a certified nutritionist. As well as targeting your local audience, a strong online presence can open the door to additional services like online training and making exercise programs for apps.
People need help in many aspects of life. With the right education and experience, you can be the person to provide it. As well as being one of the most profitable businesses, beginning a counseling firm allows you to help others. Four in ten Americans (42%) have sought counseling for mental health issues at some point in their lives.
However, accessibility is one of the biggest obstacles to getting adequate support for people in small towns and rural areas. On the bright side, this means you can quickly establish yourself as a valuable resource for the people in your area. Your focus can be marriage and relationships, addiction, anxiety and mental health, or even financial coaching. There are as many areas of counseling as there are of life.
Photography and videography are incredible skills to possess, and accessibility for amateurs is greater than ever. The stills and videos you take can capture magical events like weddings and birthday parties or be used to help local businesses promote their companies. Either way, perfecting your craft should be the first step toward creating a success story.
The average professional wedding photographer can earn over $60k. If you have a monopoly in your small town, though, you may be able to increase those earnings. However, camera and photography equipment - as well as editing tools - won’t come cheap. So, you will need to get some initial funding, and follow tips to save as much as possible in the beginning, while you make a name for yourself.
People move around less frequently in rural areas than they do in cities. Considering that the population is also much smaller, you may be excused for thinking that moving companies aren’t a great idea. However, every book of entrepreneur tips will teach you that there is always room for success as long as there is an audience. And there is, as people will often want to move away from that town, and into a more populated area.
In the same vein, professional movers in rural areas may find that they have a higher number of interstate moves, so individual clients may be worth more. Besides, you can look to complete commercial building relocations and refit services.
Even if fewer people are buying and selling homes in the area, there are also fewer agents. Roughly two-in-three Americans own property, and the ratio is even higher in rural areas. So, your small-town real estate agency business can still find a fair-sized audience. Depending on your commission, you won’t need to facilitate many sales for a profit.
The only real issue you’ll have compared to a city agency is that you may not be in a position to focus on one property type. You may need to deal with houses, apartments, and commercial real estate. Still, people will turn to you when buying a property, and your ability to help them while also aiding the local economy will be a nice bonus.
Working families need daycares for their children, but they can be few and far between in small towns. Childcare is a $58.6 billion industry, though, and you can enjoy a slice of it. When you’re calculating the costs of starting your business, the primary factor in your balance will be whether you operate from home or a rented space. Most will start with the former before moving to the latter once their small-town startups reach the desired level.
Catering is one of the most flexible industries to get into. Aside from the ability to focus on different cuisines and dietary conditions (e.g., gluten-free recipes), you can target your service at multiple events. Birthday parties, engagements, weddings, funerals, graduations, and other special occasions are all commonplace.
Starting a meal-prep business is another form of this idea, and you can integrate it with other small businesses. For example, personal trainers can prepare and deliver healthy meals to help clients with their weight loss or strength-building routines. Catering services can start as micro-businesses, but have excellent growth potential, either by becoming franchises or turning into restaurants.
It’s a harsh fact of life that we will all die, and funeral services are never out of place. If your village or rural area doesn’t have a good service for this, it could be the ideal business opportunity. While this may seem a little morbid, it’s one of the business ideas that help the community by supporting families through their most difficult times. Doing your job with compassion is extremely important, too.
On a more sobering note, the average funeral costs $7,848. In other words, you won’t need to handle too many of them each month for your small town business to become profitable.
One of the first things to do in a small town as far as your career is concerned is to think of ways to turn the skills you already have into a business. Tutoring is one of the easiest ways to do this, as it allows you to establish a work-life balance you prefer.
Tutoring can include teaching art, music, a secondary language, confidence, or a host of other skills. Again, you can use your online presence to offer your services outside your immediate location.
The value of the fashion industry in the US is $409 billion. As well as fashion items, you can look to take advantage of the local climate conditions by selling attire and accessories suited to rural life.
As far as good business ideas for a small town are concerned, clothes stores that reach a broad demographic are great. Don’t limit yourself to a specific age range, gender, or size. Keep in mind that a small town will probably benefit more from affordable fashion over luxury lines, so make your clothes reasonably priced, and you’ll be well on your way to profit.
Amazon is the biggest online retailer on the planet, but it started as a bookstore. That alone is evidence of the potential for book stores to thrive. They are some of the most popular small-town shops, especially when managed by an owner who cares about reading and finding just the thing for their audience to read.
Over 900 million books are sold in America every year. To give your local store a chance of thriving, you can focus on books relevant to your local area and the bestsellers for customers in your target range. Stationery and craft materials can take your sales to another level, and you could also start a reading club to build excitement.
Like cleaning, gardening is a job that many people simply won’t do. Homeowners may not know where to start or simply feel unmotivated. Meanwhile, business owners probably don’t have the time to take care of landscaping by themselves, too. If you love making outside spaces look beautiful, a gardening service could be one of the best small-town startups for you.
In fact, it is one of the few sectors where small-town business owners may have easier opportunities than city workers. The average homeowner in a smaller community boasts more land with their property. Therefore, each client may require more work or a greater level of service. Your earning potential goes up to $50k, on average.
Making accessories is a chance to be creative while keeping the materials and small-business marketing costs fairly low. As well as making online sales, you can show your wares at your local market, too.
There are almost 20,000 jewelry stores in the US, and most consumers actively look for products that come with a high level of customer care. If you can describe the designs, material choices, and other key features with passion, people will appreciate the handmade aspect even more. You can also offer repairs or jewelry cleaning to maximize your earnings.
A candle business may not be the first thing you think of if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, but the market for it is certainly there. After all, seven in 10 households use candles, and they also make inexpensive yet thoughtful gifts.
Making candles does not require huge starting capital, and you’ll probably be able to avoid taking out startup bank loans. This is another solution that can begin as a local venture before growing into something larger. You could attend trade events or markets a few towns over, or launch an Etsy store to gain more sales.
Some of the best small-town business ideas focus on helping other companies. Your town is probably blessed with dozens of small businesses without in-house marketing departments. From creating mobile-friendly websites, to helping them design storefronts and printed materials, marketing expertise can be invaluable. Whether you run a one-person operation or team up with other creatives in the area is your choice.
Small-town entrepreneurs who know about cars will discover that selling them is one of the most profitable businesses, especially if you become the primary vehicle vendor in your area. The key is to know the type of vehicles suited to the rural lifestyle and your clients’ preferences.
For example, even though the electric vehicle marketplace is growing rapidly, these cars won’t be as appealing to drivers in rural areas, where charging stations are not readily available. As with all business ideas, understanding your customers' pain points will be pivotal to your success. Of course, you can also upsell shoppers on accessories, insurance, and finance.
Waiting for parts deliveries or support for faulty devices is always frustrating. However, it creates a window of opportunity for running an electronics repair store. You can fix anything from smartphones to household appliances, so long as you have the skills - or hire someone who does.
The role can be a lot of fun for anyone who enjoys tinkering, not least because each project presents unique challenges. The industry is worth $18.9bn, and your work could save your neighbors a lot of time and money. In turn, this makes you a valuable member of your local community; better yet, it’s probably a service that will never go out of business.
Many good business ideas for a small town are the same as those in a big city. However, the approach to managing your startup may be different. The key is to be authentic and honest in every aspect of care, while also calculating the costs to keep your venture viable.
As long as you focus on something practical, enjoyable, and financially lucrative (at least in theory), nothing can hold you back.
The answer depends on your skills, experience, and budget. However, service-based jobs that give back to the community and improve the lives of the locals will serve you well. Car repairs, daycares, and food delivery services are all excellent choices.
Some of the best ideas for shops in small towns include convenience stores, hair salons, pharmacies, book stores, clothes stores, and repair shops.
Most home-based businesses can be started for well under five grand, and you could also look to service-based options, ranging from tutoring to counseling. If you don’t need commercial spaces, your only costs will usually be licensing and materials.
A business that focuses on something people need, rather than luxuries because disposable income levels may be lower. If you can do this while turning a passion into a hobby, you should be set for success.
Julia A. is a writer at SmallBizGenius.net. With experience in both finance and marketing industries, she enjoys staying up to date with the current economic affairs and writing opinion pieces on the state of small businesses in America. As an avid reader, she spends most of her time poring over history books, fantasy novels, and old classics. Tech, finance, and marketing are her passions, and she’s a frequent contributor at various small business blogs.
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