42 Business Ideas Every Small Town Needs

42 Business Ideas Every Small Town Needs

So - maybe you live in a small town or you're looking to move to one, and you're thinking about starting a business.

Some entrepreneurs may not identify this right away, but there is so much opportunity in launching a new business in a small community.

Unlike a big city, there is much lower competition and usually, a big (and obvious) gap in the market that needs to be filled.

Sure, starting a business in a small community may come with its fair share of challenges, so it's important that you check all the boxes before you go all in:

  • Research the town - Understand the community & your target demographic
  • Identify your comp set - Identify their strengths, weaknesses, price-point, and what differentiates them from the rest
  • Connect with the community - Small towns may be reluctant to change. It's important to connect with the community, have a good reputation and start off on the right foot.

Here's a list of 42 business ideas that every small town should have.

Start a residential cleaning services business

Ron Holt started Two Maids & A Mop, which sells residential cleaning services and is making $600,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 500 employees.

I can still remember my first day on the job. I had just been hired as a Chemist for a particle analysis laboratory.

The job made a lot of sense at the time. I had recently graduated college with a Biology degree, and there’s only so many careers the degree can take you. So I took the first job offer that was presented to me and proudly bragged about my $22,500 annual salary. It seemed like so much money at the time, and I just knew that I was going to climb the corporate ladder quickly.

The true secret to my success has been to simply outwork and outpassion everyone in my path, every single day for nearly twenty-five years


Ron Holt, on starting Two Maids & A Mop ($600,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a profitable real estate investments business

T. Cory Lewis started T. C. Lewis & Co. Real Estate, which sells profitable real estate investments and is making $500,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 36 employees.

I’m from a very small town in the Appalachians called Sylva, North Carolina. If you’re not familiar with that region, it’s a very diverse area. Sylva is in the north end of Jackson County, and Cashiers (and neighboring Highlands) are in the south end. Sylva is blue-collar, and a factory-type (now tourist) town and Cashiers/Highlands is a spot where some of the wealthiest people in the world have vacation homes and are all members of one of the ultra-exclusive private clubs.

Growing up, I worked at my family’s convenience store. I saw a lot of the folks headed through to Cashiers and Highlands up from Atlanta for the weekend, and a big portion of them seemed to be making their money in real estate. Some were making money buying the mountain land around my town at a low price from local farmers who had no use for the steep mountains, developing a portion of the top, and then selling it off for astronomical amounts of money to other rich people. I was amazed by that. And I couldn’t understand why no one locally had tried this himself.

I come from a fairly long line of entrepreneurs on both sides of my parent’s families. My great-grandfather on my dad’s side quit school after the fifth grade, and then he went on and started a convenience store business that I still help operate 85 years later as it has passed down to my grandfather, my dad, and now myself and my brother. And my grandfather on my mom’s side owned a heavy civil construction company building large-scale projects like interstates throughout the mid-1900s. My uncles and cousins still operate a part of that business, too.


T. Cory Lewis, on starting T. C. Lewis & Co. Real Estate ($500,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a photo booths business

Scott McInnes started TapSnap, which sells photo booths and is making $350,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 18 employees.

My first business was a disaster!

It was a small restaurant that I opened in 1995 at 25 years old that shut down 2 years later. I was broke, jobless and in debt. I didn’t have a specific idea of what I wanted to do, but knew that I still wanted to be an entrepreneur. I spent a couple of years working, reading business books and magazines, and looking for another opportunity.

I didn’t have much money so I could really only consider opportunities that I could start for a small amount of money and build on. And, it was also important to me that I found something that I could do as a side business. Now I guess that would be called a side hustle.


Scott McInnes, on starting TapSnap ($350,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a local gifts nationwide business

Samuel Davidson started Batch, which sells local gifts nationwide and is making $150,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 2 co-founders and has 6 employees.

During the summer of 2013, my co-founders (Rob Williams & Stephen Moseley) and I were discussing all the great things our hometown of Nashville had to offer, especially in the way of small-batch, handmade gifts and treats. But, there was no one-stop shop to get all of these items (you had to run around town or attend certain farmers markets or festivals).

Lo and behold, we actually hit the 200 mark our first month. The local media covered what we were doing and sales jumped to 600 for the second month and then 1,000 or month three (well beyond our original goal!).

Could we come up with a way to consolidate all of these local, small businesses making awesome products under one roof?


Samuel Davidson, on starting Batch ($150,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a premium menswear business

Valentin Ozich started I Love Ugly, which sells premium menswear and is making $300,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 20 employees.

I began I Love Ugly as a clothing brand in 2008. Prior to that, it was a magazine interviewing artists that I found on MySpace.

I knew nothing about clothing, but I could see what the silhouettes and designs looked like in my head.

I quickly found out there was little money to be made in magazines and for some reason felt clothing would be an interesting space to play in, and I Love Ugly would be a very intriguing name for a fashion brand. Although I studied Graphic Design, I knew nothing about clothing, but I could see what the silhouettes and design looked like in my head, plus I was a pretty good illustrator and had graphics ready to be printed on T-Shirts. I had no interest to learn how to sew, as I knew it would slow me down while I was growing the business. Instead, I went out and looked for someone that could, and discovered the art of delegating. Most people think that when you start out you need to know how to make the product, but it's not necessarily true. I believe it’s more important to have a vision of what you want and learn how to get other people to make it.


Valentin Ozich, on starting I Love Ugly ($300,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a hair salon business

Chelle Neff started Urban Betty, which sells hair salon and is making $300,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 58 employees.

I was led to this career path as a business owner from my sheer motivation to do better in my life than what I had grown up with. My parents had me when they were teenagers and we lived meagerly while I was young.

I knew that if I wanted to go to college, I would need to find a way to pay for it myself along with my cost of living. I naturally had a knack for doing hair and art, so when I was 16, I had the chance to enroll in cosmetology school while in high school, and by 18, I was fully licensed. This was much more affordable for me than the traditional college route, so that’s what led me to pursue it.

When I received my license in 1995, I started working behind the chair at Supercuts. I slowly worked my way up the ladder to high-end salons. Five years later, I got a small suite at the Gallery of Salons and was an independent contractor. That was my initial stepping stone to running my own business.


Chelle Neff, on starting Urban Betty ($300,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a bicycles business

Jonathan Shriftman started Sole Bicycles, which sells bicycles and is making $250,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 14 employees.

In 2009, fixed gear bicycles started gaining popularity from bicycles messengers and city dwellers. If you wanted to ride a fixed gear bicycle, you had to buy an old road bicycle frame, rims, grips, and build a bike from scratch.

When all the shops asked how fast we could deliver our initial Sole bicycles, we knew we had product-market fit and a customer in hand. Our first container of bicycles sold out in less than two weeks…. 157 bicycles.

I started looking into that process and realized to build the bicycle I wanted, it would cost $1500, money I didn’t have as a college student. So I got resourceful and had the idea to go right to the source. I googled “bicycle manufacturer” and discovered a website where I could connect with bicycle factories, globally.


Jonathan Shriftman, on starting Sole Bicycles ($250,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a restaurant catering delivery business

Tim Taylor started Spork Bytes, which sells restaurant catering delivery and is making $250,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 7 employees.

Working in the foodservice industry was something Chris and I experienced during our time at the University of Oregon where we worked in the catering department together one summer. After graduation, Chris began working in the hospitality industry while I went off to start a corporate career in finance.

Shortly thereafter, Chris began to notice that many local restaurants were struggling to effectively and consistently secure lunch catering orders from business in their area. From my vantage point, the example I shared earlier about eating the same pedestrian office lunches was something I personally experienced on a regular basis. Was it really that hard to coordinate good food from local spots? Apparently so.

Seeing a void and a potential opportunity sparked many conversations between Chris and I. Then, in early 2014, after numerous discussions about “could” and “should” we, Chris moved to Portland to live with me and we started Spork Bytes out of our garage. Literally. We used some of our initial funds to purchase equipment and stage catering setups in the garage to practice and learn what we were about to go sell to businesses throughout Portland.


Tim Taylor, on starting Spork Bytes ($250,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a local coffee business

Mike Mwenedata started Rwanda Bean Coffee, which sells local coffee and is making $90,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 20 employees.

I am from Kigali, Rwanda and came here to the United States in 2011 after finishing college searching for a new opportunity. When I first arrived I saw so many coffee shops in Portland, Maine, and Boston. I saw the price that people would spend on a cup of coffee or latte ($3-6 each) sometimes multiple times per day.

This got me thinking about the Rwandan Coffee Farmers back at home and how hard they work, often more than 10 hours per day equally over 70 hours in the field per week.

Know your numbers and work on coming up with realistic projections. Money will run out quick, and it is much better to expect and be prepared for the worst and than be really happy if any better happens.


Mike Mwenedata, on starting Rwanda Bean Coffee ($90,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a meal preparation business

TJ Clark started Healthy Chew, which sells meal preparation and is making $60,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 7 employees.

My name is TJ. I am currently serving as the Chief Executive Officer and 50% owner. I was originally hired to help my business partner Peter wash dishes and make breakfast. Peter had been meal prepping for about 1 year before he brought me on board. When I was hired, I saw that he was a fantastic chef, handled sales, and was able to grow without efficiency.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. That one Facebook video doubled our client base overnight.

I filled in the gaps and taught him how to properly scale the company, hire more employees, and both structure and organize it into a self-sustaining business. I lacked the sales and cooking experience he had. So we were very yin and yang.


TJ Clark, on starting Healthy Chew ($60,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a craft beer business

Diego Benitez started Progress Brewing, which sells craft beer and is making $120,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 5 employees.

I graduated with a PhD in chemistry in 2005 and after working in academia for a few years as a nanotechnology researcher, I joined a small angel venture investment firm as a technology analyst.

One option was to get a regular job, or… we could start a brewery.

I participated in the founding of a few angel-backed companies and as the venture fund dried up, I joined one of the portfolio companies as Chief Technology Officer. The company, Amicrobe, Inc. is focused on developing biomaterials to address antibiotic resistance.


Diego Benitez, on starting Progress Brewing ($120,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a green tech products business

Borja Eraso started tutiendaenergetica.es, which sells green tech products and is making $110,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 11 employees.

As with many things in life, the start of tutiendaenergetica.es was a consequence of a number of circumstances. Back in 2010, I was living in the UK working as a Revenue Manager for a local hotel chain - I studied International Hospitality Management in university, by the way. I had a good progression in the hotel business since leaving college, working my way up in the London hotel scene. I worked for world-renowned companies such as Jumeirah and InterContinental (IHG group) and by the age of 27 I was making $43,000 + incentives per year (which was an acceptable wage for someone my age within the hotel business at the time), taking care of the Revenue Management strategy of 2 hotels totaling +700 rooms.

However, in my last position, I was very miserable and soon grew quite apathetic about the job itself. In the beginning, I blamed the working environment, which I disliked, but with time I realized that I had pursued a professional path that I wasn’t cut out for in the long-term. That was a tough moment of clarity for me. I was well aware that any career move to different disciplines would mean a sudden drop in income and a few years of waiting to regain a certain seniority level at the new job.

Back home in Spain, my dad had resigned from his job in banking around 2006 and had founded a company (fotona) specializes in designing and installing Solar PV projects. Given my background, I knew nothing about solar at the time (neither did he!), but I did accompany him to his first business trips to trade fairs in China or Germany as an interpreter during my holidays, and helped him exchanging emails with suppliers and investors on his behalf at nights.


Borja Eraso, on starting tutiendaenergetica.es ($110,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a state-inspired apparel business

Brian Wysong started Tumbleweed TexStyles, which sells state-inspired apparel and is making $93,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 2 employees.

Growing up, in Fort Worth, Texas, I have always had a passion for business, sales and fashion.

I loved getting the latest pair of shoes and making sure my outfit was top notch going to school. I also loved the idea of selling my ideas and trying to negotiate deals with my parents or friends. My childhood buddies would agree that I was a sweet talker, hard worker, highly competitive and a very disciplined person in life, athletics and work.

No one is really prepared to own a business. I had a marketing degree with work experience in the field of business and marketing. I was even a teacher of the subject matter. Those things helped me get started, but the day-to-day experiences and the process of trial and error has really been the true tale of our success.


Brian Wysong, on starting Tumbleweed TexStyles ($93,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a sustainable moisturizers business

Kismet Andrews started LoLo Body Care, which sells sustainable moisturizers and is making $92,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 4 employees.

My Grandmother taught me to make Face Cream when I was about thirteen. While I enjoyed the time we spent together, moisturizer was not something I used and while it was wasted on youth, the impact of women lining up outside her front door was not; it’s one of the things I remember most.

Fast forward to the ’80s, and you’ll find me working for a large medical center. I had a creative side and was asked by the Administration to decorate two medical facilities for the holidays. When I inquired about funds to make this holiday magic happen, I was told to “have a bake sale.” Baking cookies is not my thing so I reformulated my Grandmother's face cream into solid moisturizing bars - which by the way, were just beginning to show up in the marketplace.

Making them at night in my kitchen, I sold them during my lunch hour at a table strategically positioned between the front door and the cafeteria and on weekends at Medical Center sponsored events. I pulled a volunteer team together to help decorate and sell, and each year we raised enough money to fund the raw ingredients and decorations.


Kismet Andrews, on starting LoLo Body Care ($92,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a scheduling for maid services business

Amar Ghose started ZenMaid, which sells scheduling for maid services and is making $67,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 6 employees.

I’ve always been quite entrepreneurial. I started as a kid selling candy to my middle school friends actually. Despite that I hadn’t been able to create a real business that really stuck until ZenMaid.

In 2012 I came across a post on Reddit. A guy was starting his own maid service and documenting the entire thing. By chance a friend of mine saw the same post and started working on the technical side of the business (building a website and etc). My friend quickly realized that he didn’t want to deal with the people side of the business however. He tagged me in to help with operations and sales/marketing. From there I was quite quickly made an equal partner as he had yet to launch.

Don’t fall into the classic trap of spending months building or working on something, only to find out when you launch that no one is interested.

At the time I was doing sales for a tech startup so closing business by phone was my jam. From there I quickly learned basic man management skills to work with our cleaners.

Fast forward 1 year and I was no longer living locally. I’d moved closer to home (the SF Bay Area) for a much better day job. I was 400 miles away from our maid service and that caused tension with my partner. Ultimately I gave up my portion of the maid service (which shut down shortly thereafter).

It was at this point that another friend approached me about what became ZenMaid. He felt he could build a better management platform than the one he’d seen me using. And he was confident that I could sell and market the software given my skill set and industry knowledge.

Hence ZenMaid was born (initially named MaidDesk though I doubt that’s ever been mentioned anywhere publicly before now :-) )


Amar Ghose, on starting ZenMaid ($67,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a junk removal business

Sal Polit-Moran started A+ Enterprises Junk Removal & Demolition, which sells junk removal and is making $41,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 3 employees.

I graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in May of 2017 with a degree in Networking & Systems Administration. During my time at college, I worked for a very large snow plowing business. My boss at the time taught me the ins & outs of running a scalable business, and halfway through my college career, I decided I wanted to be self-employed.

After graduating from college, I took a full-time position doing Systems Administration work for a large company. Within 1 week of working at this company, I realized I could never do this for the rest of my life. I came up with a plan to quit my job within 1 year by starting some type of business.

I did tons of research and realized that the area I am located in (Scranton, PA) is extremely underserved by junk removal companies.


Sal Polit-Moran, on starting A+ Enterprises Junk Removal & Demolition ($41,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a cars business

Albert Williams started Best Deal Car Service, which sells cars and is making $250,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 9 employees.

I am 43 years old, born in Kingston, Jamaica. I migrated to this country when I was 8 years old. I take pride in saying that I’m a product of the NYC school system and a graduate of St. John’s University. I am married and have 2 children, Abigail 8 and Alex 4.

There was no plan B, C or even Z. What I knew for sure that I was not going back to work for anyone but myself as I enjoyed the freedom that being an entrepreneur afforded me to spend with my now 1 year old daughter.

I didn’t come up with the idea of starting Best Deal, but opted to purchase it to grow it into a successful business. The journey from IT Director of a global company to the owner of a car service (taxi company) with 35 drivers went something like this. My best friend of over 35 years, David called me one day and said that the agency that he works for has started to move routes (trips) away from 8 passenger buses to 4 passenger sedans. Doesn’t your friend own a car service he said. Yes he does I said, then you should buy it. After about a year of hearing what I should do, I decided to check it out myself.


Albert Williams, on starting Best Deal Car Service ($250,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a food and drink tours business

Jessica Baumgart started Delicious Denver Food Tours, which sells food and drink tours and is making $30,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 1 employee.

My background is in marketing and communications, which has helped me immensely as I grow my business. I was working a standard 9-5 job and feeling pretty unsatisfied when my then boyfriend (now husband) and I got the idea to quit and travel for a year.

On that trip around the world, I started to question why I was working in a career that was making me unhappy and resolved to start really listening to what my passions were.

We planned and saved over the course of two years (and got married in the meantime). Right after the wedding, we sold everything we owned, quit our jobs and went backpacking through 25 countries on a year-long trip around the world.


Jessica Baumgart, on starting Delicious Denver Food Tours ($30,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a vintage lighting business

Nick Griffiths started Any Old Lights, which sells vintage lighting and is making $35,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 3 employees.

I must have written millions of words in my lifetime - for magazines, newspapers and my books - and I loved every minute of it. But kids come along and maybe the city life isn’t ideal for them growing up.

That’s the beauty of starting a business - you have to cram knowledge into your aching grey matter, day in, day out. And it’s really exciting. So new and different and initially bewildering. But cracking it is a major buzz.

So in Summer 2011, my family moved to Cornwall, a delightful and quirky county that takes up the final chunk bottom-left of the map of England, where my wife, Sinead, had grown up. Now the kids have beaches and boats and crabbing. And I had…


Nick Griffiths, on starting Any Old Lights ($35,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start an axe throwing business

James Anderson started Forged Axe Throwing, which sells axe throwing and is making $60,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 6 employees.

I’ve always wanted to run my own business. I think I have a general problem with authority.

The first job I ever had was teaching windsurfing in the summer for a summer camp, then in the winter I would teach snowboarding for a small hill in Ontario. This was my first exposure to the tourism industry.

We had a lineup out the door for ages and introduced hundreds of people to our venue. We even ran out of waivers because we couldn’t anticipate how busy we were going to be.


James Anderson, on starting Forged Axe Throwing ($60,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a backcountry ski touring equipment business

Michael Hagen started Hagan Ski, which sells backcountry ski touring equipment and is making $35,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 1 employee.

I remember “learning” to ski in the backyard at about the age of 3. My initial love of skiing came from stories my parents told of skiing in Colorado in their 20s. We grew up on a farm in very flat south central Minnesota. It was almost two hours to the nearest ski hill (valley) so I spent a lot of time skiing behind a snowmobile, making jumps in the fields. Being pulled by a rope engrained a back seat skiing style that I am still fighting to this day.

I study and try to emulate the success of brands who have earned a solid reputation with a focus on quality and specialty products instead of following the mass market routine.

When my brothers and I got older, we took a few family trips in our station wagon to Colorado and I was hooked. I couldn’t believe how big the ski areas were. Extremely impressive coming from farm land so flat I could see three towns from our house. For several years I read every single word, including the ads, of Ski and Skiing magazines.


Michael Hagen, on starting Hagan Ski ($35,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a food tours business

Joe Griffith started Wander New Mexico Food Tours, which sells food tours and is making $20,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 1 employee.

I never thought I would have my own business, much less a tourism business. It was born of necessity, a bit of luck, and good timing.

You can have the best product in the world, but that won’t do you any good if customers don’t know about it.

First, some important context – this is technically my second attempt at entrepreneurship. Back in 2011, when I was living in Dubai, I had the idea of starting an online food delivery business – basically UberEats, for Dubai. At the time there was only one serious competitor, Foodonclick.


Joe Griffith, on starting Wander New Mexico Food Tours ($20,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a bee inspired goods business

Kara Brook Brown started Waxing Kara, which sells bee inspired goods and is making $33,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 3 employees.

Waxing Kara grew organically from my work as an artist. I paint with encaustic, a paint made with beeswax, and in 2010, I started beekeeping on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to harvest wax for my encaustic paintings.

I became captivated by honey production and the plight of honey bees in this country. I learned about the importance of bees to the sustainability of our food supply, and the preciousness of honey, especially its nurturing and healing properties. Before launching Waxing Kara, I became a honey bee advocate and began raising bees on a small scale and have increased each year until 2020 when I will manage 18 hives on our 102-acre farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. For the bees, I began planting food sources such as sunflower, bergamot, and lavender. The goal was to cultivate a complex, organic environment that provides bees essential nutrients through nature. We have planted at least 40 acres of wildflowers, fruit trees, and berry bushes, an incredible habitat all for bees (and other winged creatures) with consistent blooms from May through October.

There isn’t one single life experience or educational achievement that has put me where I am today. Instead, it’s been a series of inspirations along the way. There was no master plan. In hindsight, everything that happened has flowed like honey to lead me down this path.


Kara Brook Brown, on starting Waxing Kara ($33,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start an asian influenced wedding dresses business

Vivian Chan started East Meets Dress, which sells asian influenced wedding dresses and is making $50,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 0 employees.

My co-founder, Jenn, and I met and became best friends during our freshman year at Yale. After graduation, Jenn had started her career at Google before working at several smaller startups and then joining a coding bootcamp. I started my career in education and nonprofits before joining an early stage startup that was later acquired by Facebook. Around this time, Jenn and I started working on the concept that would later become East Meets Dress.

When we first started, we had no experience in fashion, e-commerce, or entrepreneurship. We simply had our own experiences as consumers.

The idea for East Meets Dress (EMD) originated from Jenn’s personal struggles when she was looking for a modern version of the cheongsam, a traditional Chinese wedding dress. She wanted to wear a cheongsam for her wedding tea ceremony to honor her parents and heritage but finding a modern design that fit her aesthetics turned out to be near impossible. At the time, her options were limited to suspicious onlines sites or stores in Chinatown with poor service and a narrow selection. Ultimately, Jenn resorted to custom making her cheongsam at a local tailor. I was her Maid of Honor and we both felt that Asian-American brides shouldn’t have to be confined to low-quality options or scouring Yelp to find the one tailor who could make a quality cheongsam from scratch.


Vivian Chan, on starting East Meets Dress ($50,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a prank gifts business

Adam Elliot started D*** At Your Door, which sells prank gifts and is making $25,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 3 employees.

I grew up on a farm in Southwest Iowa. Being from a small town, there aren’t many things to keep you busy, so you had to be creative. This always led to drinking cheap beer you stole from someone’s parents, ramping old cars on the dirt road bridges, and sometimes... prank wars. I guess that’s where I started thinking gag gifts were funny.

After art school, I moved out to California to be a photographer full time. I failed. Failed miserably. After one year on the west coast, I hated photography, I was broke, and had taken a job as a telemarketer. It was the worst.

What started as a joke quickly became a viable business with real opportunity.


Adam Elliot, on starting D*** At Your Door ($25,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a handmade gifts in wood business

Sarah Davidson started Australian Woodwork, which sells handmade gifts in wood and is making $20,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 2 employees.

We two, that’s us, Gregory and Sarah, have always liked traveling and exploring this wide brown land of ours, stopping in little towns, sampling the local produce, looking through local galleries, visiting the big regional markets. These wanderings resulted in the pleasing discovery of a strong culture of skilled woodworking that existed in Australia which prompted us 27 years ago, to open a stall in Sydney’s Rocks Market with the idea that lots of other people would appreciate it too.

We went on to open our Darling Harbour store and then our purpose-built Hunter Valley Gallery, (both now closed) and of course, our online shop.

The genesis of our online shop originated with the next generation, our son, who we happily acknowledge dragged us, with only a little kicking and screaming, into the 21st century, but we remain a small family business with all that implies - we know our products and our woodworkers intimately and customer inquiries will always be attended to by one of us.


Sarah Davidson, on starting Australian Woodwork ($20,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a southern themed candles business

DShawn Russell started Southern Elegance Candle Company, which sells southern themed candles and is making $100,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 20 employees.

I started Southern Elegance right after my son was born as a hobby. Initially, I made a bunch of random bath and body products in addition to the candles. When I decided to get serious, I looked at everything and decided to just focus on one product and chose candles because they had the potential to be the most profitable. I chose a niche that I could speak authentically about. My ideal customer was easy to identify because it was basically me. (But, don't use that a marketing strategy. It just happened to work in this case) I was born and raised in the South. I LOVE living here and couldn't imagine living anywhere else. I created a company around all the things that I love to do.

Choose your partners carefully and trust your gut. I made very bad decisions by going against what I thought I should do and listening to “experts” and lost a ton of money.

I was working in education at the time and I absolutely hated it. One day walked into work and quit my job to make candle making a full-time career. I had absolutely no background in sales, manufacturing, marketing or anything business-related. I basically had no clue as to how it was going to work or if this was even a viable plan. Everything was a learning curve, and I spent hours learning a new skill then implementing it.

With very limited resources, (basically no money) I went to the school of Google and Youtube. I took some online classes on Branding and Wholesaling. I hired a business coach and I literally hit the streets selling. For the first year, I would sell my candles at any Church function, fair, festival, school bazaar… I did not care. I sold candles outside in the middle of the summer and the dead of winter. I also sold on any and every online platform that would accept me. Etsy, Amazon, Faire, Modalyst, Houzz, etc. All the money I made went back into building the brand, I was lucky to have a husband to pay the bills but it was tight financially. When I finally felt comfortable I approached stores to carry my products. And we slowly built a base of stores to sustain the company.


DShawn Russell, on starting Southern Elegance Candle Company ($100,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start an ice cream business

Stephen Layton started The Good Scoop, which sells ice cream and is making $16,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 1 employee.

The backstory for The Good Scoop is that one of my good buddies from school and I were kicking around the idea of starting a business together, we went through a lot of different concepts and ideas along the way. After some time, we came upon ice cream. The conversation actually started with the idea of us buying out an existing ice cream shop in the Sacramento area but quickly evolved into making our own. We started making ice cream on the weekends and having a lot of fun while doing. Then came the realization that this might be a great business that could help put smiles on people's faces.

I had been working in the consulting industry for a number of years and I knew I wanted to do something different with my life when I went to Portland Oregon to visit some friends in February. They took us down to Salt & Straw ice cream and the line was out the door even though it was a rainy Portland winter's evening. That really got me thinking, if an ice cream shop could be that busy in the winter in Portland, how about the summer in the Central Valley of California?

When I returned back to Sacramento, I really dove into the local market looking at who was there making ice cream and although there were a lot of really great ice cream shops in the region, I felt like there was some room for some innovation along the lines of what some scoop shops in New York City, Los Angeles, and Portland were making. It was from these ideas, and playing around with the concept that I decided to help bring artisan ice cream to the Sacramento region. There are a number of other individuals in this area working in the same market, which I personally think is great. I think the more Artisan ice cream makers we have the better off we all are.


Stephen Layton, on starting The Good Scoop ($16,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a tutoring business

Adam Shlomi started SoFlo SAT Tutoring, which sells tutoring and is making $100,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 2 employees.

I come from an entrepreneurial family. My father works for himself and my maternal grandfather started a clothing factory. Working for myself has always been encouraged by my family, but before I could get started, I needed to learn a skill. At Georgetown, I study international politics and business. Most students with these backgrounds go on to work at prestigious firms like J.P. Morgan. I really didn’t know what kind of business I could start, and frankly, planned to work as a (boring) data analyst after graduation.

If you have an idea but don’t have the knowledge to execute, use that idea as motivation and go learn how to turn your vision into reality.

Tutoring first came to mind because I had spent significant time working for other tutoring companies and cutting my teeth/learning how the industry works during my teen years. I first started tutoring when I was 15. I was hired by College Experts, a local test prep center in Davie, Florida. My first student was three years older than me, and I spent our first session teaching him how to use his calculator rather than trying to explain any complicated formulas. Being a student myself, I was able to bring a student’s perspective to tutoring. I worked for College Experts until my senior year of high school when I began tutoring on my own and finding clients on Craigslist.


Adam Shlomi, on starting SoFlo SAT Tutoring ($100,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a high quality sustainable products business

Emma Saunders started The Green Collective, which sells high quality sustainable products and is making $15,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 1 employee.

As a mother (three boys under 10) you are suddenly thrown into a world of consumables and your awareness levels go through the roof of everything from health, wellness and ideals.

New Zealand has a clean green image that you proudly uphold as a Kiwi traveling and working the world so to come home to live in 2007 was a starting point to dig deeper into what that means.

'Reduce, reuse and recycle' has always been one of my motto’s, then add 're-purpose, re-fresh and re-create' and you start to get a sense of how I see the world and it’s possibilities.


Emma Saunders, on starting The Green Collective ($15,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a handcrafted food delivery business

Lyla Wolfenstein started Full Belly Fare, which sells handcrafted food delivery and is making $14,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 3 employees.

After more than a decade in catering and food service, I left the industry to raise my children. During that time, I focused my passion for food on feeding my family and friends. In addition to my food prep background, my other professional focus has been on human services from an early age. I started out at the tender age of 17 workings with adults with mental illness (actually providing job training via a catering micro business!), and went on to work with homeless adults in a variety of roles, and finally, after my children were born, I worked for more than a decade with new families, providing allied healthcare services, parenting education, and more.

Once my children were grown, I was inspired to merge my human service background while turning back toward my roots in food. At the time, I had several friends struggling with chronic illness, who had very specialized dietary requirements and lacked the ability to meet their own needs in that realm. Seeing this gap in service in the community reignited my desire to offer anyone and everyone the pleasure of good food, made with love, that meets each individual person’s unique needs!

I did a crowdfunding campaign that offered gift cards for the service in exchange for “pre-investment”

Full Belly Fare was born from my desire for everyone to have access to flavorful, wholesome foods at a lower cost than restaurant food of the same quality. I knew there was a need from personal observation and it quickly became apparent that I had not overestimated that need! Full Belly Fare has many long term customers, who receive most or all of their weekly nutrition through our service! We also have many customers who come to us because loved ones purchased gift cards for them during a time of transition. I am constantly reimagining how to meet the varied needs of the wider community, and am deeply inspired by the stories I hear from customers about what brought them to Full Belly Fare and how our service has impacted their lives.

For example, the message below still means a great deal to me - and I receive similar fairly regularly - this is from a customer who is the (older grown) son of a 90 something-year-old woman and he sent her meals every week, throughout her last days in hospice even, via Full Belly Fare! It is always so thrilling for me to hear about a real person who is truly helped by the food we make - not just as food/nourishment but mentally and emotionally!


Lyla Wolfenstein, on starting Full Belly Fare ($14,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a mobile karaoke business

Kelli L Bielema started The AirScream, which sells mobile karaoke and is making $12,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 2 employees.

The two of us met while working at Deloitte. I (Kelli) was an operations manager with an extensive background in event and entertainment production including creating live experiences at Universal Studios Hollywood. Vanessa was a year one CPA fresh out of the University of Washington who realized within just a few months in at the fall tax deadline that this was not her jam. She decided to jump ship and start a DJ & Karaoke Service. Barely a year later, I left the firm, as well as my then part-time event production company, began to take off & I was finally able to commit to it 100% when I got a contract with Boeing.

In just months after both launching our businesses respectively, our client rosters began to grow. Vanessa’s company and namesake moniker, Baby Van Beezly, dove into the private and corporate event vendor realm, spinning party tunes and wedding marches. My clients with my company, Shindig Events, began to move away from private individuals to corporate entities such as PopCap Games, Adobe, Boston Consulting Group, Oculus, and Facebook. I was able to hire Vanessa for all sorts of gigs over the course of the next 6 years.

While Vanessa’s Baby Van Beezly biz began to really take off, my Shindig Events were coming to a close. After 7 years I was ready for a change, a stress break and launched back into day-job land, where I currently reside. But there’s always that itch to do something creative and event-related so a side hustle was inevitable.


Kelli L Bielema, on starting The AirScream ($12,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a boutique clothing business

Gia Paddock started Boutique Rye, which sells boutique clothing and is making $10,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 0 employees.

My backstory has absolutely nothing to do with what I am doing now, but that is what makes us so unique. I went to college for education and became an elementary school teacher. I taught 4th grade for three years. However, I knew that was not meant to be my “forever” job.

Something I have always enjoyed was shopping. I mean what girl doesn’t have this as a hobby?! I had always thought it would be amazing to have my own boutique and get to wear new clothes almost every day.

I started thinking about this crazy idea when I got pregnant with my son, Riley. I knew I didn’t want to teach forever and this was my way out! During the summer I quit teaching, I got a job at a local boutique just working part-time, and it was here where the wheels starting turning for this idea. I saw how much I loved going into work every day and how much I enjoyed helping others pick out outfits for different occasions.


Gia Paddock, on starting Boutique Rye ($10,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a powered garden tools business

Dr. Michele M. Morgan started THE MAXBIT, which sells powered garden tools and is making $15,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 5 employees.

I was gardening on the weekends for extra money as a single parent and wearing myself out with hand held tools. This work led me to seek a solution, saying over and over, “There must be a better way??” This went on for months and then one Wednesday night, while sitting in church, this idea dropped from heaven. I ‘saw’ an image in my mind’s eye that conceivably would work!

The tools on the market were shovels and trowels and auger bits. None of which would dig a perfect hole, take the dirt out of the hole and leave a flat bottom. Time after time, I would dig, redig, and redo, to please the customer on the design of the flower bed.

Have a clear vision and purpose. This will keep you on track and keep others off your track. Having clear vision helps you say no to opportunities that don’t advance the vision. Do what you do best and always be available to help others do the same.


Dr. Michele M. Morgan, on starting THE MAXBIT ($15,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a mini dirt bikes business

Stephen Wright started Micro Bikes UK, which sells mini dirt bikes and is making $8,500 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 1 employee.

I discovered mini bikes by chance really. I didn’t know they existed until we began selling them in 2014. It was 2 years later that we founded Micro Bikes.

We were not ready for the product to be a success at the time. My initial product research brought me to Ride on Cars, so my focus was on them. However, our suppliers also sold mini bikes, so I added a couple to our eBay store (back then) and they flew off the shelves.

I sold them for one year before realizing that I hadn’t planned for their success. Instead of pivoting straight away, I took some time away and came up with a business plan centered around mini bikes, got some seed investment and Micro Bikes was born.


Stephen Wright, on starting Micro Bikes UK ($8,500 revenue/mo) full story

Start a greeting cards, prints and clothing business

claire jordan started claire jordan designs, which sells greeting cards, prints and clothing and is making $0 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has employees.

My cards happened as a suggestion.

I started painting in like 2010 here and there for extra cash and I specialized in furniture. I have not had any formal training in art. I would bid on jobs, research techniques and dive straight into the project. I taught myself how to refinish lamps and furniture and did custom jobs for a year. I once painted a custom MSU cowbell for Dak Prescott. I grew up in Yazoo City, MS and was living on my family's farm. I had lost my father to cancer and decided to venture out and leave Mississippi, my home for 31 years, I then moved to Asheville, NC to start over.

I continued to paint furniture and eventually had to stop due to a saturated market and I realized this wasn't the direction I wanted to go. I was working at The Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC in a gallery for hardly any pay. I was at a point in my life where nothing seemed to be working and I was feeling defeated. I was working on custom animal abstracts for Christmas gifts and a coworker suggested greeting cards. I had been painting animals for years and I thought the idea was genius. You create 1 image and make replicas of them. sold!


claire jordan, on starting claire jordan designs ($0 revenue/mo) full story

Start a local plant nursery business

Debbie Odom started CamelliaShop, which sells local plant nursery and is making $5,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 2 co-founders and has 0 employees.

In 1991, I had the life-changing opportunity to become a part of Gene’s Nursery, one of the oldest nurseries in Savannah Georgia.

When I had the opportunity to leave my office job and get my hands into soil, I was happy and I was hooked.

Gene’s Nursery has its roots firmly planted in our quaint historic coastal city and it’s passion was the Camellia. Camellias are ornamental shrubs that produce brilliant blossoms during the fall and winter. They are the most unique flowering shrub species found today and are considered the Queen of Ornamental shrubs.


Debbie Odom, on starting CamelliaShop ($5,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a natural beauty products business

Mel young started Flowerdale Valley, which sells natural beauty products and is making $5,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business as a solo founder with no employees.

I always wanted to work for myself. So I was always thinking about business ideas. Not everyone wants to work for themselves and not everyone is suited to the lifestyle, so if you have the dream, make sure you pursue it!

My business started when I was working as a cook at a local reception venue. A bride wanted some local honey wedding favors, which I provided. Doing this made me find a jar supplier, register my home kitchen as a food premise, prepare an invoice, etc.

From here, I began selling honey to the public and then I experimented with other ideas (making jam, personalized wedding favors, etc) before going into skincare. I had quite a few failures in this period!


Mel young , on starting Flowerdale Valley ($5,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a gourmet kettle corn business

Katie Young started Klondike Kettle Corn, which sells gourmet kettle corn and is making $4,500 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 1 employee.

It was actually a close friend’s idea to set up a kettle corn business in the Yukon. He had seen one set up down south (Vancouver) and thought it would take off in Carcross, a small community just outside of Whitehorse, that was starting to cater to tourists coming off the cruise ships from Skagway, AK.

When other work commitments did not allow him to follow through with his business idea, I stepped in to help. Eventually, I bought the kettle corn business from him and started to attend the Fireweed Community Market in Whitehorse.

Be open to new ideas and always be searching for creative ways to keep your product interesting.


Katie Young, on starting Klondike Kettle Corn ($4,500 revenue/mo) full story

Start an urban hiking tours business

Alexandra Kenin started Urban Hiker SF, which sells urban hiking tours and is making $3,750 revenue/mo.

They started the business as a solo founder with no employees.

Before starting Urban Hiker SF, I worked as a marketing manager at Google from 2007 to 2012. By the end of my time there, I was very burned out on big company politics—and mainly on commuting (up to three hours a day), so I knew I needed to leave. I had saved a bunch of money and knew I had enough funds to take some time off.

After I quit, I took some time off to explore San Francisco. By that time, I had lived in the city for 4.5 years, but I didn’t know it that well as I spent most days at Google headquarters in Mountain View. With my time off, I explored our city’s mosaic stairways, our beautiful beaches, our “wave organ”—all the places I had wanted to visit, but never had the time to.

Take actionable steps toward your goals every day and you’ll make progress. Also, once you get started, you’ll meet people along your way to help you. You won’t necessarily find those people if you’re only doing research and not actually launching.


Alexandra Kenin, on starting Urban Hiker SF ($3,750 revenue/mo) full story

Start a niche painting classes business

Kelly started Brush Tokes, which sells niche painting classes and is making $2,500 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 1 co-founder and has 1 employee.


I got into a new relationship and was told that females tend to lack real hobbies. Not just make-up and toenails, a real hobby.

I remembered I liked art as a child so I started to self-learn how to again. Being naturally progressive, I decided it would be ideal to sell my art and eventually let it replace my workplace income of being a business teacher.


Kelly , on starting Brush Tokes ($2,500 revenue/mo) full story

Start a nutrition coaching business

Haley Hughes started RDRx Nutrition, which sells nutrition coaching and is making $2,000 revenue/mo.

They started the business with 0 co-founders and has 1 employee.

I have always been a strong-willed, hard-working, and sometimes stubborn person.

I’m definitely “The Achiever” on the enneagram test, so working for myself has been a great change for the most part. I stand up for what I believe in, especially when it comes to patient care.

After graduating with a Master’s degree in dietetics, completing a 2-year-long internship process and taking a huge exam I was so excited to start my career. My dream job (so I thought) was to be an intensive care unit dietitian, because I felt it would be challenging and rewarding.


Haley Hughes, on starting RDRx Nutrition ($2,000 revenue/mo) full story


There you have it - 42 business ideas that you can start in your small town today.

If you'd like to read our step-by-step guide on how to validate your business idea, check it out here

Samantha Walls,   Founder of Starter Story Blog
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

Discover the best strategies of successful business owners

Join our newsletter and receive our handcrafted recap with the best insights shared by founders in Starter Story each week.

Useful, convenient, and free:

Are you ready to boost your revenue?

Using Klaviyo will open up a massive, untapped sales channel and bring you closer to your customers!

We've interviewed many impressive businesses who swear by the results of the product, including Brumate, Beardbrand, and many more.

Level up your email marketing with Klaviyo!

Leave a comment
Your email address will not be published.