As we head into a new decade, it can feel as though local community small business owners are getting left behind. National, international, and digital behemoths like Amazon and Walmart are stealing away business opportunities from small town businesses, making setting up shop as a small business owner more difficult each year.
But there are many types of small town businesses that thrive in today’s economy. You don’t have to live in a big city to become an entrepreneur – even rural areas provide plenty of opportunities to start a business as long as you know what type of business your local community needs. With the right business financing and business plan, many types of businesses can succeed in a small town.
Here are our 25 most resilient small town business ideas for any aspiring small business owner. A lot of them are service-based since services necessarily have to be local. Big online companies can’t clean your house or do your hair. And they can’t replace restaurants, bars, and the like either. These businesses don’t just survive the likes of Amazon, they’re small town businesses that thrive no matter what.
Small Town Business Ideas for Any Small Community
1. Hair Salon
No matter how small the town, people need haircuts. The demand for these kinds of services isn’t going to go away anytime soon. And best of all, there are lots of ways to start a business as a hair salon. If you’re a hairdresser with a limited budget, you can convert part of your house into a salon and start offering your services. Or, you can rent out a booth at a larger hair salon. Competition isn’t as dangerous as you can sign on with a hair salon that already has a great reputation and loyal customers. And if you’re more ambitious, you can open your own hair salon – whether you’re a stylist or not. The easiest way is to rent out booths, but you can also hire hairdressers as employees. With so many great ways to start setting up shop as a hair salon, it’s a no-brainer for many aspiring small business owners.
Just as people need haircuts, they also need to do their laundry. Sure, plenty of people have machines of their own, but there’s always a demand for a reliable laundromat. And even people who can afford to have their own laundry machines need to go to laundromats every once in a while to wash specialty items. Laundromats also become gathering places for the local community, a vital part of the fabric of a small town.
There’s actually more business opportunities for small business owners to start a pharmacy business in a small town or rural area than in a big city. Giant chains like CVS and Walgreens are few and far between in a small community and the locals like to know who they’re dealing with when it comes to their healthcare. Community pharmacists are going to have a much easier time of it and can provide added value compared to their big-brand counterparts.
If members of a small community want to know their pharmacists, you can imagine how important it is to know and trust childcare providers. There are tons of opportunities to start a business in childcare as a member of the local community. Enterprising small business owners can open full-fledged daycare centers and preschools, while stay-at-home parents can expand their income by caring for additional children in a less formal arrangement. This “cottage-industry” approach to childcare would never work in a big city, but it’s surprisingly popular in a small community.
5. Pet Boarding & Pampering
People are increasingly treating their pets as their children, creating a major business opportunity for pet-minded small business owners. Today’s pet owners want only the best for their beloved companions – and you can make sure they get it.
Pet boarding, grooming, play-spaces, luxury shopping, you name it people will pay for it. And proximity matters for these businesses, helping you start a business in a small town without losing business to major companies in a nearby big city. The pet industry is booming and moving away from big box stores, which is great news for small business owners.
6. Cleaning Service
Cleaning is another industry that is seriously globalization-proof. People need to hire locals to clean their homes. And you can start the business with nothing more than a website, a car, and cleaning supplies.
Similar businesses include car-washes and on-demand car detailing, where you drive to the clients and clean their cars without them having to go anywhere.
7. Repair Shops
An unfortunate truth about the world is that things break. Cars, vacuums, TVs, dishwashers, washing machines, AC units, you name it. The good news is that there’s plenty of business opportunity in fixing any of these items, making it very profitable to start a business as a repair shop.
8. Tech Support
Tech support businesses are specialized repair shops but they’re worth mentioning separately because the demand for them is growing faster than ever. People increasingly rely on technology for just about every part of their lives. That means that when an issue comes up, they need it fixed – fast. So setting up shop helping the local community keep its technology up to snuff presents an appealing business opportunity for tech-savvy individuals.
9. Gas Station
Gas stations may seem dominated by major corporations like Shell and Chevron, but these companies operate on a franchise basis. That means that you can start a business without having to do all the legwork or reinventing the wheel. It also decreases the cost to start a business in your local community.
10. Thrift Store
The resale market is growing more than twenty times faster than the retail market. That makes setting up shop as a thrift store one of the best options among the small town businesses that thrive. And since you’re getting your stock from the local community, you don’t have to worry about complicated supply chains or bulk-ordering like normal retailers do. That also makes it easier for you to compete against non-local businesses, especially if you take care to curate your collection.
11. Hardware Store
If you’ve ever lived in a small town or rural area, you’ve probably noticed that the people there tend to be more hands-on than big city slickers when it comes to home maintenance and getting their hands dirty. And they’re more likely to trust other members of the local community to provide them with the tools and materials they need to get their projects done.
12. Flower Shop
While online flower retailers are starting to crop up, flower shops are still one of the small town businesses that thrive. That’s because people like to pick out flowers for their special occasions in person – and the bigger the occasion (and order) the more that’s the case. Date nights, proms, weddings, and other events all call for the perfect flowers. Local community florists can get plenty of business in a small town.
13. Tattoo Parlor
Like haircuts, you can’t get tattoos online. And unlike haircuts, tattoos are forever. So people want to go to tattoo artists they know and trust. That means that you can make a lot of money setting up shop as a tattoo parlor in a small town or even a rural area once you establish yourself as a trusted and reliable shop.
14. Coffee Shop
Coffee shops are just about the most reliable investments for small business owners looking to start small town businesses that thrive. America is obsessed with coffee. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a big city, small town, or rural area – people need their fix. And there’s a lot of money to be made pulling shots of espresso and serving up hot cups of joe. You’ll quickly become a local community center, earning loyal customers who come back day after day for more than just coffee.
The business opportunity in setting up shop like a bakery in a small town is immense. People are almost as passionate about their bread and pastries as they are about their morning coffee. And when you start a business in a small town as a bakery, you can supply other businesses such as coffee shops and restaurants to expand their business even more. A truly small community may not support more than one or two bakeries, but those bakeries will thrive.
16. Ice Cream Shop
Who doesn’t remember the local ice cream shop when they lived in a small town or even visited one? This type of business is quintessential to small community life and quite profitable for small business owners. Ice cream shops provide jobs for local teens, treats for local community members of all ages, and enough profits to make setting up shop worthwhile.
17. Grocery Store
People need groceries, plain and simple. Even if there are major chains within striking distance, the convenience makes a big difference when it comes to groceries so there’s a significant business opportunity in starting a grocery store business in a small town. You can also stock produce from the local community, especially in rural areas, to give you a further edge over national brands and attract customers to your grocery store.
Many small town business ideas boil down to providing a good or service while offering a gathering place for the local community. Bars are a perfect example of this type of business. Even the most smallest community will have significant demand for several bars – sports bars, cozy hangouts, and dive-bars.
These days you can’t swing an empty beer bottle without hitting a craft brewery. The microbrewery trend used to be a big city phenomenon, but now breweries are one of the major small town businesses that thrive. Small business owners can start as brewpubs and then expand their business with refillable growlers, cans and bottles from the brewery, and finally regional and national distribution.
People need to eat nearly as much as they need to drink. And they’re fiercely proud of their local community restaurants. Many small business owners have discovered the fact that restaurants are some of the most profitable small town businesses that thrive. Just make sure that you obtain the required food handling certificate in your state before setting up shop.
21. Food Truck
There’s a similar business opportunity for a food truck in a small community as there is for a restaurant. But you can start a business as a food truck with a much smaller investment – you can buy the truck and outfit it to cook and serve food with significantly less money than it takes to buy or lease a brick-and-mortar restaurant and outfit its kitchen and dining area. And since your business is mobile you can take it to where the demand is: local community events, other businesses, parks, etc.
Small Town Businesses That Thrive Due to Visitors
22. Bed and Breakfast
If you’ve lived in a small town before, you may have noticed that people from the big city think that your hometown is “picturesque”. They might flock to it in the summers or weekends for sightseeing, relaxing, or antiquing. Well, one person’s annoyance is a small business owner’s business opportunity. Bed and breakfasts are the stereotypical lodging for those big city slickers for a reason and are one of the best small town business ideas.
Members of the local community might have a limited demand for luxury boutiques or antiques, but tourists can’t get enough of them. If your small community gets a lot of visitors, you can make a lot of money setting up shop offering antiques or luxury clothing.
If there are anything tourists like more than boutiques it’s galleries. They buy local art like nobody’s business, sustaining small business owners who couldn’t make it in a less popular small community. Plus, you can give back to your local community by promoting local artists.
25. Souvenir Shop
Even tourists who can’t afford to spend a lot of money at boutiques or galleries will gladly buy local goods, crafts, or souvenirs. While you might feel a bit kitschy, you can help your local craftspeople, celebrate local community culture, and make good money along the way.
Checking for pre-approval will not affect your credit score.