Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. They aren’t just tech geniuses with seed money from millionaires.
Most entrepreneurs start in their hometowns with a handful of employees. In fact, according to the Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, 89% of firms have fewer than 20 employees. While Hollywood might want you to think that entrepreneurship only happens in Silicon Valley, the majority of the time, it’s happening right down the street.
Thousands of successful businesses launch every year in small towns across the country. If you’re considering starting a business, you should know that by launching a company in your hometown, you can change your life and the lives of your neighbors.
Here are 30 small town business ideas to change the economy of your area.
1. HVAC Repair and Maintenance
HVAC is the acronym for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. In short, you’re fixing heating or AC issues for homes and commercial properties.
You can complete your HVAC certification within 6 months–2 years. During this time, you can build up your business model, acquire the right equipment, buy a fleet vehicle, and build your online presence.
If you specialize in residential HVAC, you’ll need to be ready to work nights and weekends—because air conditioners can break at any time.
HVAC repair teams typically have steady business throughout the year, but calls will peak during extremes like the winter and summer months.
Plumbing is another service that everyone in your small town needs. While many people can change a flapper or fix a leak, you can expect emergency calls throughout the year for various pipe and water heater-related problems.
It takes longer to become a plumber—typically around 5 years. During this time, you will complete your plumbing trade school requirements and spend a few years as an apprentice.
After you’re ready, you can launch your own outfit and begin growing your book of business.
3. Car Repair
Car mechanics are another necessity for towns across the US. If your small town is in a rural area where people have to travel several miles to and from work every day, a car repair business could be a gold mine.
Without access to public transportation services, residents need reliable vehicles. They also can’t afford to drive to the next town for car repair—especially if their vehicle isn’t working.
Great car care is important for longevity and resell value on automobiles. Help your friends and protect their investments by starting a car repair company.
4. General Repair
If you aren’t interested in cars, consider opening a shop that repairs various appliances and home items. Active Right to Repair bills are moving through different states, and more people want to repair items instead of throwing them out and buying new ones.
If you enjoy taking apart items and learning how they work, opening a repair shop could be a fun career choice with applicable value in your town.
5. Secondhand Stores
A secondhand store is another unique business idea for small towns. You can build up your inventory by attending garage and estate sales. You can also hold swap events where people donate clothes and items in exchange for store credits.
Secondhand stores provide affordable buying options for residents while allowing you to procure your inventory at a low cost.
6. Signage and Printing
Both residents and businesses need signage and printing services. Local families print signs for student graduations or weddings, while businesses need signage for their store locations.
Businesses also need business cards, T-shirts, and other marketing materials with their brand name and logos. You can help local businesses in your area grow by starting a signage and printing business.
7. Real Estate Agencies
If you want to launch a business with low startup costs, consider becoming a real estate agent. After you complete your license, you can work with families and businesses to buy and sell property. Eventually, you may even decide to get a brokerage license so you can broker other real estate agents.
This career is optimal for areas with high growth levels, as you know your town better than most people who want to move there. If you’re an outgoing person who loves marketing, starting a real estate firm could make a lot of sense.
You can also start a franchise with a real estate company. Opening a Keller Williams or RE/MAX location is one of the top small business ideas for small towns.
8. Home Inspection Services
There are multiple professions related to the real estate process outside of becoming a realtor or broker. You can also receive your home inspection certification and help buyers learn about the homes they put offers on.
As an inspector, you will check everything from the roof to the plumbing and the electrical wiring. The information you provide can help buyers request repairs or better negotiate deals with sellers.
Landscaping is another popular choice for entrepreneurs launching a new business in a small town. After all, who likes doing their own yard work?
Good curb appeal can increase the value of a home, and lush landscaping is the dream for most homeowners.
You can start a basic landscaping business that offers weekly lawn care to local residents, or you can become a specialized consultant who develops blueprints for lawns and turns them into welcoming outdoor spaces.
10. Construction and Development
For the past few years, more people have opted to move to small towns from big cities. These towns are typically more affordable and offer more space for families. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated this trend by allowing people to work from home. Now people from all backgrounds are choosing homes in less populated areas.
Now may be a great time to start a construction or development business if interest in your town is growing. You can help your chamber of commerce keep up with demand and help your town grow into a thriving center within your region.
11. Junk Removal
Junk comes in all forms—from bulky furniture and refrigerators to leaves and clothes. If you invest in a large box truck or van, you can offer junk removal services to business owners and residents who don’t have time to get rid of items on their own.
You can also help people who physically can’t lift items. Eventually, you can grow your business by hiring other junk removers and growing your fleet of vehicles.
12. 24-Hour Diners
Diners are popular eateries in large and small towns alike. Look at your local economy and consider whether your area could benefit from a 24-hour diner.
For example, if you have a nightlife industry where people get off work late, you could attract a night rush. If there is a local factory that has shift work, you could have multiple dining rushes throughout the day. Even having a location near an interstate can attract weary travelers.
13. Specialty Restaurants
Success in business is all about offering something unique. What do you sell that no one else in your area has? You may be able to carve a niche in your area with a specialty restaurant that offers flavors that aren’t easy to get nearby.
Research current food trends and consider what local residents would like. You could potentially open the next best restaurant in your area by offering a vegan menu or creating a fusion between 2 international cuisines.
The number of breweries in the United States has skyrocketed in recent years. According to the National Brewers Association, there were only 1,511 breweries in the country in 2007. By 2020, there were 8,884.
Many of these breweries specialize in small-batch beer and support their local communities. If you have a passion for good beer and want to turn it into a business, consider opening a brewery in your area.
Check local laws before you debut your brewery. You may benefit from opening a brewpub that sells food alongside your beer or caterers to families.
15. Bars and Nightlife
You don’t have to make your own beer or wine to enter the nightlife industry. Identify the needs of your town to see what kind of business would thrive. If your region caters to tourists, consider opening a craft cocktail bar where visitors can Instagram images of unique drinks. If your town needs a dance floor, open a bar that offers late-night dancing and socializing.
Location is a key part of opening a nightlife spot. Look for other bars in your area so you can create a full night out experience with your business.
16. Coffee and Breakfast
If you are looking for a sector that has a high profit margin, consider opening a coffee shop or brunch restaurant. Coffee is exceptionally popular in the United States (just look at the proliferation of Starbucks and Dunkin’).
Adding a breakfast component is also a safe option with a high profit margin. Eggs are one of the cheapest ingredients out there, but restaurants can charge $10–$15 for breakfast egg platters.
Look into the business of breakfast in your area.
17. Bed and Breakfasts
If you live within a few hours of a city, consider setting up a bed and breakfast and marketing your boutique hotel to couples looking for weekend getaways. You can work with your local chamber of commerce to develop marketing materials to encourage visitors.
Weekend getaways are popular because working adults don’t have to take off work, and they are more affordable than major vacations. Check out this list of best small towns for getaways to learn how to market your area and lure visitors.
18. Local Tours
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly small business idea, consider starting a local tour. This will obviously depend on your location and whether tourism is a part of your local economy, but if you have the right environment, tour guide businesses can be very profitable.
You could launch a nightly ghost tour like the ones offered in Savannah or New Orleans or use your love of nature to take visitors hiking and kayaking. With the right tours, your company can become a top-rated travel experience in your area.
19. Event Planning
Even small towns can have big events. From weddings and bar mitzvahs to graduation and bachelor parties, there is no shortage of festivities that need planning. If you can manage vendors and balance budgets, event planning might be a great business for you.
While you might not need a customer-facing storefront as an event planner, you may need a storage area for all of your supplies (unless you plan to rent tables, chairs, etc. each time).
Florists often work alongside event planners for major events. However, you can also work alongside local businesses while helping residents in your area.
Florists provide flowers to hotels, restaurants, and businesses that want to create a warm experience for customers. They also have peak seasons (like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day) when their flowers are in high demand.
Becoming a florist could be an ideal business idea if you love working with plants and have an artistic eye for colorful displays.
21. Beauty Services
Regardless of where you live, everyone wants to look good. You can become a hairstylist within 2 years, but some programs can help you get certified in as little as 6 months. Barbers also have set guidelines for training processes and state licensing.
One of the benefits of a beauty certification is that you can work in established businesses. Many stylists and barbers rent chairs in existing salons. You can decide whether you want to open a salon or simply rent space while you grow your personal brand.
22. Spa and Salons
Outside of hair care, there are other salon and spa services you can offer in your small town. You can become a certified massage therapist and help residents relax and reduce their pain levels. You can enter the field of cosmetology, providing nail styling or makeup. With the skills you acquire, you can eventually open a full-service spa and salon for people in your area.
23. Pet Care
People love spending money on pets. On average, most pet owners spend $1,000 during the first year of owning a pet. Pet owners need supplies (beds, food, leashes, etc.), as well as medical care and grooming.
Depending on your experience and education, you can start a pet care business. At a basic level, you can walk and watch pets for local owners. You can also open a retail store that offers unique treats and toys for cats and dogs of all sizes.
24. Artisan Crafting
Do you have a skill that few other people have, like knitting or woodworking? If so, consider starting a business related to artisan crafts.
You can use local materials (like knitting blankets with sheep’s wool) and sell your gifts and crafts to tourists. If you aren’t in an area that attracts tourists, you can turn your local crafts into a global trend by opening up an online business or Etsy store.
25. Organic Products Development
Alongside artisan crafting, you can develop organic products. You can use local resources (like honey made by local bees or milk from local cows) to develop face creams, moisturizers, and other products that people can use on their skin and in their bodies.
This is another instance when you can keep your products local and open a physical storefront, or you can sell items online and let the world enjoy what you have to offer.
26. Bicycle Sales and Repair
In 2020, bicycle sales skyrocketed as people stayed home during the pandemic and looked for ways to exercise outside of the gym. More than $4 billion worth of bikes were sold in 2020 between January and October, a 62% increase from the previous year.
Consider opening a bike shop to tap into this bike boom and help residents keep them in good shape with your repair services.
27. Tutoring and College Prep
Most parents don’t want to relive their high school algebra days. Most probably didn’t do well enough to tutor their kids now—especially considering some of the changes in technology and concepts.
If you have a knack for a specialty subject like math or science, consider starting a tutoring service in your area. You can travel to meet with students at their homes or ask parents to drop them off with you. You can also offer private SAT/ACT prep for college-bound teens in your area.
28. Green Innovations
If you care about the planet and want to protect Mother Nature, look into starting a green specialty business. You can install and maintain solar panels to promote clean energy or create compost bins for local residents. Even reusable bags have a lasting market and can sell if you develop unique designs.
Childcare is one of the most important services within an economy. Parents trust you with the lives of their kids each day. By dropping their kids off, parents can work to earn money for their families. Studies show that having access to childcare increases the mobility of women and allows them to participate in the local economy.
Offering childcare could send ripple effects through your small town as more people can work. Give parents the relief they need knowing their child is in a safe place each day.
30. Community Services
If you notice tservices are lacking in your community, step in to offer them. This could mean creating after-school care for kids who are too young to stay at home by themselves. You could open a traveling medical van that offers basic doctor and dental care to residents who can’t leave their homes. Start with a problem and brainstorm ways to solve it.
Start Your Business With a Budget
It’s possible to develop a business plan and launch a brand for $5,000 or even less. Map out your expenses and learn your costs to get a feel for how much money you need. If you’re ready to seek funding for your business, check out the online lending portal at Lendio. We can help you find a microloan, business credit card, or line of credit to get your brand up and running.